How to Reduce Range Anxiety when Driving an Electric Vehicle - Tips from a Chicago-California Road Trip

How to Reduce Range Anxiety when Driving an Electric Vehicle - Tips from a Chicago-California Road Trip
How to Plan a Lengthy Tesla Road Trip

Driving an electric vehicle can be a great experience, but it does come with some unique challenges. On our recent drive from Chicago to California, we experienced one of those challenges in Kingman, Arizona.

We had charged up to 90% (460km) for our destination to Grand Canyon (Tusayana, AZ), which was 272km away. We were aware that there were no chargers in between and so we set off on the journey. However, the GPS kept insisting that we go back to Kingman or continue on to Flagstaff, both of which would have been out of our way. After deleting all chargers, it still directed us back to Kingman. Eventually, we put Tusayana as our destination and watched the % and mileage carefully. It indicated that we would have between 7-11% upon arrival.

It turns out this is not an unusual occurrence. When charging on a multiple stop route, the car uses more than just distance to calculate a range estimate and these estimates can sometimes be inaccurate. For example, elevation changes can have a significant impact on range and the car also takes into account any previous legs where efficiency may have been diminished due to bad weather conditions. In our case, although the temperature had dropped as we got higher, it was likely much better than when we left Kingman and so the car “freaked out” when it saw the poor efficiency.

Other drivers who have done similar journeys report having different experiences. One driver noted that they did the same leg during summer 2021 and didn't experience any issues despite driving 4 mph above the speed limit and using Autopilot throughout. This suggests that warmer temperatures may help reduce range anxiety in electric vehicles.

Overall, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular as people look for greener alternatives to petrol cars. But before you take your EV out on a long trip, make sure you plan ahead and keep an eye on your range estimates - especially if you're travelling through hilly terrain or areas with bad weather conditions!

What happened on our journey from Chicago to California?

Something strange happened in Kingman, AZ where we charged to 90% (460km) for our destination to Grand Canyon (Tusayana, AZ) which was 272km away. Upon leaving Kingman, the GPS continued to "insist" that we go back to Kingman, where we had just finished charging.

Is this a common issue?

This is not terribly unusual. At times the car can show greater range anxiety than a new owner. The car uses a few other variables besides distance to calculate a range estimate and recent history to fine tune range estimates.

What could have caused this issue?

Kingman to the South Rim rises about 4000 feet in elevation, this has a significant impact on range and is factored into the estimate. Also, if your previous leg was in foul weather (rain, cold, snow), your efficiency for that leg was diminished and the car uses that diminished efficiency in calculating the range of your next leg.

What should I do if I encounter this issue?

Delete all chargers and put the Tusayana as your destination and watch the % and mileage carefully. Stay below the speed limit according to the warning message that comes on.

Is there any back-up charging system available?

Most alternate charging systems (if that's what you meant by back-up charging) are in the same locations (or relatively nearby) as the Tesla stations.