Once a pipe dream, the EV road trip is now a reality

Tesla Road Trip to Big Sur
Thomas J. Story

Think plug in cars are just for short errands? No wonder. In 2015, the Tesla Model S was the only widely available electric vehicle that could make it from L.A. to San Diego without stopping to recharge. Over the past few years, the ground has shifted. Tesla is still the range leader, but the newest Nissan Leaf now estimates a very respectable 151 miles on a single charge, and the 2018 Chevy Bolt EV is up to 238. Meanwhile, rental companies are jumping on the bandwagon, and hotels are beefing up their EV parking spots. Find a DC fast-charging unit, and you can often be back on the road in 30 minutes. Suddenly, the wide-open spaces that define much of the West are well within reach. If you’re itching to ditch the pump on your next voyage beyond city limits, these three routes will spark the imagination.

Wailea to Hana, HI

As the crow flies, the island of Maui is only 48 miles long, and its western half is loaded with charging stations. Rent a 2016 Nissan Leaf from Bio-Beetle and they’ll deliver it to the resort area of Wailea. Set out to- ward Ma‘alaea, then follow the semiarid coastal hills to Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, where you can power up while you walk down to the white sand for a quick swim. After you finish rounding West Maui, hightail it for the populous city of Kahului on the north side of the island, where you’ll find lunch for yourself and more electricity for your ride—enough to take you along the twisting rain-forest highway to Hana and, thankfully, straight back to Kahului. Once you reach the remote east coast, look out toward the crashing waves and inhale the refreshing air that you’ve helped keep a bit cleaner.

San Francisco to Big Sur, CA

An informal hack, “camper mode” has become the talk of the Tesla circuit. You park the car, engage the “keep climate on” function, then fold down the seats, inflate a sleeping pad, and spend the night in climate-controlled comfort without any annoying engine noise or waking up to a drained battery. Reserve a spot at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, but before you check in, stop by the revamped Ventana Big Sur to grab a chic lunch and a glass of wine at The Sur House restaurant. Juice up at their Tesla charging stations to fuel your eventual return to San Francisco, then drive 3 miles north for a night at the coastal campground.

Las Vegas, NV to Zion National Park, UT

The most remote DC fast-charging station might well be on a lonely stretch of road 138 miles northeast of Las Vegas, one of the country’s 10 fastest-growing markets for EVs. Take a long-range model for a desert cruise to the Shell gas station in Panaca, Nevada, via State 317. Why? Because after a quick zap, you will find Cathedral Gorge State Park 2 miles north. Its trails reveal a canyon with dramatically eroded cliffs and spires. From there, point your compass southeast toward Zion National Park, where two EV-only spaces await you at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You can power up all along Interstate 15, should the open road draw you even farther.

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