Road-tripping with a PHEV
April 15, 2023 11:34 AM   Subscribe

After reading and considering the great answers to this question, we bought the BMW 3-series PHEV. Now we're getting ready to take our first-ever road trip with the car next month, and I have questions. Lots of questions.

We have a pretty standard road trip planned where we travel on the highway, stay in hotels, spend some days driving most of the day and other days on foot exploring spots along the way. Our origin point is Chicago and our ultimate destination is Denver, with a day spent NE of Minneapolis and the rest of the time is unplanned and may stay unplanned until we're underway.

Given that profile, is it worth charging up the car along the way? Should we just rely on the ICE? If we want to charge along the way, how long does it take? (For reference, our battery is fully charged in 2.5 hours on our Level II charger at home.) How do we find chargers? Is there one network that's better than the others? Should we join *all* the networks for maximum access? Do most hotels have Level II charging stations? Should we take our Level I charging cord with us? And, finally, what else am I not thinking about?
posted by DrGail to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Generally, I would just rely on ICE, while using level 2 charging if it happened to be available where I would be parking anyway (e.g. at a hotel). The mileage benefit of charging isn't large enough to be worth structuring your trip around.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:54 AM on April 15, 2023 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Typically I plan road trips assuming I won't have access to a charger. Then if one turns up it's an exciting bonus.
posted by potrzebie at 11:57 AM on April 15, 2023

Best answer: Aging Wheels and Technology Connections did a joint video of a 1200-mi EV road trip and it's pretty informative as far as planning, charging (and charging problems), and such. Knowing what level of DC fast charging your particular car is capable of can help you route plan for more capable (if applicable to your car) fast chargers, to minimize time spent charging. (And they make a good point about, say if your car is only capable of charging at 30kW, there's no reason for you to tie up a 120kW charger if there's a lower-output charger right there.)

Having a good idea of your car's charge capacity, and charge times at various levels of fast-charging, is an important part of your route planning. If your car doesn't do fast charging really at all, and the quickest it can possibly charge is a couple hours, that's a significantly different trip plan vs. if you car can go 20-80% in 20 minutes. Having a good understanding of your car's charging curve helps a lot too; made-up example, a car may quick-charge from 20-80% in 20 minutes, but that last 80-100% takes an hour. Why waste that time, just drive it back down to 20% and charge up to 80 again.

Personally, I am ready for a stretch break after 2-3 hours of driving, and I try to plan my stops accordingly. Fuel up (or charge up), drink some water, maybe a snack, use the restroom, do some stretches, walk around the block, that's easily 20 minutes or so which, depending on how your car charges, could restore another couple hours of driving to the battery.
posted by xedrik at 2:42 PM on April 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Should we take our Level I charging cord with us?

For sure. If you ask nicely, many hotels will be willing to let you charge overnight (which should be enough to more or less fully charge the battery). Might as well reduce your gas consumption.
posted by ssg at 3:20 PM on April 15, 2023

Best answer: Have PHEV. The Level I charging cord lives in the car, but I would never bother.
posted by doomsey at 4:27 PM on April 15, 2023

Best answer: I have a PHEV (a Honda Clarity.) On longer trips I plan to use hybrid mode, and charge opportunistically as I can. I don't have a Level 1 cord anymore - it got ruined by water - so I only fast-charge.

Go and have fun. Try not to overthink this. Flexibility is THE stong suit of PHEVs. Use your new car in all the ways it can shine.
posted by workerant at 8:47 PM on April 15, 2023

Best answer: PHEV roadtrip? Do not spend a single minute trying to charge enroute. Only charge at overnight endpoints, and maaaybe during mealstops if the station is literally right there and no inconvenience at all.

When planning a trip, I do use Plugshare to find the hotels that have charging. Personally I'm always looking for Level 2 since I drive pure electric, but for you a Level 1 station (wall outlet) is all you need, since your PHEV's smaller battery will get a full charge overnight from that. Yes you'll need to bring your Level 1 cordset for that. That said, more hotels have Level 2 than Level 1. Don't get too upset if the stations are busted or blocked by gas cars; you have a PHEV, so it's really not a big deal.

In general, the whole point of PHEVs is that you charge at home, have a fully charged car every morning and do your daily commute on electrons, and totally ignore public charging infrastructure during roadtrips.
posted by intermod at 7:13 AM on April 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. You really helped me see this in the proper light and stop worrying about the mpg on this trip. I am in no way one of those annoying overachieving people who sets unrealistic standards for themselves. I would never do that. Uh-uh, no way.
posted by DrGail at 5:16 PM on April 16, 2023

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