The best US road trips for electric cars in 2022: go on a long journey with your EV
Step away from the gas pump and strap on your seat belt – the great American road trip is going electric. Interest in electric vehicles (EVs) is reaching new heights, and as companies across the country build charging stations to meet demands, hitting the highway in a zero-emissions car has never been easier.
The benefits of driving electric cars are clear. Transportation is the biggest source of planet-warming emissions in the US, and switching to EVs helps mitigate the climate change crisis by cutting back on fossil fuels. To top it off, going green saves money. Electric car owners spend roughly 60% less on gas than drivers with internal combustion vehicles – a major win as gas prices continue rising.
But EV road trips still come with conundrums. While gas stations are ubiquitous in the US, finding and using electric chargers on the road can be time daunting and time-consuming. This leads to range anxiety – the fear of losing battery life before reaching a destination. To avoid this fear, travelers must consider their car’s range (the average is roughly 250 miles), plan excursions around areas replete with charging stations and prepare for unforeseen fueling snafus along the way.
Luckily, there are still plenty of EV-approved road trips around the nation. From Atlantic to Pacific, here are the most reliable, convenient and scenic routes for EV drivers ready to leave range anxiety in the dust, all verified using Plugshare – the leader in EV charger apps.
Awe at California's coastal landscapes
The route: San Diego to Mendocino
Length: 600 miles
Hug the length of California's scenic shoreline and an EV charger is never more than 50 miles away. This road trip from sun-kissed San Diego to Mendocino County's ancient redwoods is part of the West Coast Electric Highway, stretching from Mexico to Canada. Complete the drive along Route 5 and the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) over a few days to make the most of must-see destinations sprinkled throughout the journey.
Kick your adventure into high gear at Hotel del Coronado, a sprawling beachfront resting pad equipped with Tesla chargers. While heading north to Route 1, skip LA's traffic-clogged inner city for Venice, a coastal neighborhood once clogged with oil derricks and now covered in street art. Recharge your car while walking the quirky enclave's colorful streets. Idyllic beach towns delight as the PCH shoots toward San Francisco: there's surf-happy Ventura, historic Santa Barbara and arty San Luis Obispo — all equipped with charging stations. Consider recharging at Hearst Castle while touring the 127-acre San Simeon estate once owned by filthy-rich newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. A charger awaits at the visitor's center.
The journey's second half is California at its best: Big Sur's rugged sea cliffs give way to ritzy Monterey Bay before reaching San Francisco's painted ladies. Glide beyond the Golden Gate Bridge and wild forests filled with giant redwoods flank the road to tiny Mendocino, perched on bluffs above the Pacific. If you want to go green for the trip, you've ended up at the right place. Mendocino is part of the Emerald Triangle – America's largest region for cannabis production.
Get your electric kicks on Route 66
The route: Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California
Length: 2500 miles
Not long after Route 66 opened in 1926, it became manifest destiny for Midwestern migrants. Mythologized by John Steinbeck as the 'Mother Road' in the 1930s, the arduous trek from Chicago to Santa Monica provided wayward travelers a promise for better tomorrows. It eventually became a love letter to America's automotive industry, sprinkled with small towns that flourished thanks to an endless parade of cars destined for the Pacific Coast.
Although decommissioned in 1985 to make way for faster thoroughfares, Route 66's remnants are once again a star of the auto scene. Drivers can find around 1800 chargers along the historic trail, allowing travelers to go electric on one of America's most renowned roads. Plan two weeks to make the most of the journey.
After filling your culture cup in Chicago, head to St. Louis and top off your EV while ogling the catenary Gateway Arch. Before leaving Missouri, charge up in Joplin—the local History and Mineral Museum pays homage to road-trip bandits Bonnie and Clyde, who sought refuge here in 1933. Tulsa and Oklahoma City are reasons to pause in the Sooner State before heading to Amarillo, Texas, where you'll find Cadillac Ranch – an art installation with graffiti-strewn cars plunged bumper-first into the earth. (There's a charging station 10 minutes away.)
A Tesla charging station at the Blue Swallow Motel, a Route 66 landmark from 1939, invites EV users to stay overnight in eastern New Mexico before heading through artsy-fartsy Santa Fe and toward some of the region's most impressive parks.
Take a detour to the Grand Canyon while passing through Flagstaff, Arizona, then explore the Mojave Desert's singing dunes after charging in Needles, California. Once you reach the road's terminus at Santa Monica Pier, pick up a "Road Scholar" certificate at the 66-to-Cali kiosk — tangible proof of your epic expedition.
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Follow the footsteps of Indigenous tribes on the Natchez Trace Parkway
The route: Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi
Length: 444 miles
Sail from honky-tonk Nashville to the Mississippi River's oldest city on this quest through America's deep south. The Natchez Trace Parkway roughly follows a 10,000-year-old trading route used by Indigenous tribes; many sites near the path pay homage to the land's original stewards. Lean into their sustainable mindset with an EV – you'll find roughly 360 chargers throughout the drive, and 80% support fast charging.
Meander along the route's two-lane road as it leaves Nashville and winds toward Hohenwald, home to a monument for Meriwether Lewis, who explored America's uncharted territory with the help of native experts like Sacagawea. Once you've seen the Pharr Mounds – eight Indigenous burial sites built between 1 and 200 CE – spend an evening recharging in Tupelo, once home to the Chickasaw Nation.
While fueling up in Jackson, MI, visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum to learn about The Negro Motorist Green Book. This annual guide once helped Black travelers navigate the open road in Jim Crow-era America.
The road ends in Natchez, ten miles from the Emerald Mound – the second-largest Indigenous ceremonial mound in the US, built and used between the 14th and 17th centuries. Stand in the shadow of the 35-foot-high earthwork to ponder how much the country’s architecture has changed.
Catch your breath traversing the Colorado Rockies
The route: Denver to Aspen
Length: 160 miles
In 2021, Colorado electrified its 26 Scenic and Historic Byways with EV charging stations located every 100 miles. If you only have time to choose one path, pick the Top of the Rockies byway, where visitors can climb Mount Elbert and Mount Massive — the Centennial State's two tallest peaks. Spend a few days touring the area in summer or fall, when cold temperatures won't affect your battery's range.
Begin your journey in Denver – home to hip urbanites with an itch for the outdoors — and drive to St. Mary's Glacier — an easy out-and-back hike near Idaho Springs. In summer, daredevils sled down the glacier's snowy slopes toward the cobalt lake below.
The actual byway begins near Frisco, dubbed 'Main Street of the Rockies' thanks to its mountain views and postcard-perfect downtown. From here, zig-zag to internationally renowned ski havens like Aspen and historic sites like Camp Hale (built in 1942 as a World War II training site). Picture-worthy vistas surprise around every corner.
If you've got time to burn, consider continuing to the Collegiate Peaks byway, an electrified route dotted with the highest number of 14,000-plus-foot mountains in the US.
Fall in love with Washington on the Cascade Loop
The route: Seattle to Whidbey Island
Length: 440 miles
When it comes to EV infrastructure, Washington is ahead of the curve. Follow this circuitous trip stretching from salty beaches to snow-capped peaks, and you'll find plenty of places to refuel. The Cascade Loop went electric in 2014, and with chargers strategically scattered around the route, even cars with ranges under 100 miles can manage the trip without worry.
Expect a diversity of landscapes on this journey through the Pacific Northwest. Start by fueling up with caffeine at one of Seattle's trendy cafes (skip Starbucks and opt for Analog Coffee), then roll into the wilderness outside the city limits. Next, zoom east along the Skykomish River's emerald banks, over the pine-topped Cascade Mountains and on to Leavenworth. This kitschy alpine village, modeled after a Bavarian mountain town, is the closest you'll get to Munich without hopping on a plane.
After enjoying a proper German bratwurst from München Haus, continue toward Wenatchee – the orchard-packed Apple Capital of the World. Lakes, rivers and rolling hills sparkle as the loop heads north through Methow Valley and mounts North Cascades National Park's jagged peaks. Farmland comes into view while dipping toward the Salish Sea, and the route finishes along the sloping coasts of Whidbey Island.
Roll back in time around Rhode Island
The route: Narragansett to Providence to Newport
Length: 65 miles
More miles don't always mean more fun. Tour charming towns in the country's smallest state for a summertime road trip free from range anxiety. Even cars with low-range capacity can hack this haul without a problem. Split the drive into two or three days to properly enjoy all three destinations, each equipped with EV chargers.
Start by hanging ten in Narragansett, New England's surf capital. The town's population balloons from roughly 15,000 to 34,000 between May and September, with visitors arriving en masse to exploit sandy beaches and coastal hiking trails that have attracted travelers for over a century.
Providence, Rhode Island's quirky capital, makes a good case for staying overnight. The city's riverfront passes a dizzying mix of 18th-century architecture and contemporary skyscrapers, all within walking distance of restaurants fit for all tastes. Plant City is a two-story smorgasbord dedicated to veganism, and Dune Brothers Seafood serves New England clam chowder from a lobster-red shack on wheels. After taking a brewery tour to spots like Bayberry Beer Hall and Moniker, you'll need a night's rest before sitting in the driver’s seat.
Gilded Age Newport is Rhode Island's grand finale. Spend the day touring opulent 19th-century summer cottages once occupied by families like the Astors and Vanderbilts, then watch the sunset while traipsing along Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile seaside promenade. The historic setting might not seem like the place to find EV charging stations, but au contraire – according to Plugshare, this picturesque peninsula boasts nearly a dozen.
Drive through 14 states along the Atlantic Coast
The route: Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida
Length: 1600 miles
Thanks to Electrify America, one of the country's largest networks of EV charging stations, it's possible to cruise the country's eastern corridor on a zero-emissions road trip. Sail down Interstate 95 on this adventure from Maine to Miami and you'll find charging stations nearly every 70 miles.
If the thought of a multi-state trek sounds exhausting, consider splitting the trip into three geographic sections. The first section visits New England's historic coastal cities. Gobble down a lobster roll in Portland – Maine's most populous seaside town – before heading south past LGBTQ+-friendly Ogunquit, Portsmouth (settled in 1623) and into Boston – the birthplace of the American Revolution. Recharge in Providence, RI, or along breezy Long Beach in Stratford, CT, before leaving the Atlantic coastline.
Compare America's former capitals on the journey's second leg. First up is NYC, the non-stop city that served as the nation's first seat of power. Recharge in Fort Lee, NJ, before passing Trenton (the capital in 1784 and 1799) and Philadelphia, which became the country's go-to from 1790-1800. Crack open a blue crab shell in scrappy Baltimore, the capital for a two-month stint, before contemplating the current state of affairs in America’s white-walled political powerhouse, Washington, DC.
The road trip's southern section drives through Richmond, Virginia – a town rich in Revolutionary War history and covered in modern murals. While skirting through North Carolina and South Carolina, veer off the I-95 to experience Raleigh's college-town charisma and sip sweet tea on a side porch in Charleston. An adults-only ghost tour to haunted pubs in Savannah, Georgia, will energize your spirits before driving Florida's Atlantic coast. Grab lunch in Jacksonville's Five Points, the city's uber-cool epicenter, then drift down I-95 through suburban beach towns to Miami. Finish the epic adventure by jumping in South Beach’s electric-blue waters. Florida's warm ocean is a far cry from Maine's icy shores.
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