How do you charge an electric vehicle and how much does it cost?

We recently rented a Tesla Model Y from Hertz and took it on a 900-mile round trip through the Adirondacks, Quebec, Vermont, and the Hudson Valley. This was a bit of a test-drive to see if an electric vehicle could put up with being driven on a road trip that we had planned without much thought to where we’d fill up. It was a fairly smooth trip fuel-wise went despite spending a good chunk of the trip camping with no electrical hookup.

However, this article isn’t about our road trip, it’s all about how charging an EV works and how much it costs. Does electricity beat gasoline as a fuel? It depends. Read on for more.

How to refuel

Tesla Chargers

Tesla has its own proprietary network of Superchargers, which will fill your car from mostly empty to mostly full in 30 minutes. In 45 to 60 minutes it fills the battery to full, which registers as roughly 329 miles til empty. Connecting to a Supercharger immediately starts the charging and payment, which is charged back to you through Hertz. The rate you are charged at is not directly stated, but is roughly $0.48 per kWh (more on that later). 

We used these to fill the car up to full while on the road and added hundreds of miles at a time. In Plattsburgh, we charged from 20 miles up to 320+ miles in an hour.

Other networks

Other networks exist, such as ChargePoint, which we used several times in Vermont and New York. These chargers add the equivalent of roughly 22 miles per hour, though the charging may be halved when two vehicles are connected to the same charger. Interestingly, charging is halved even when the other connected vehicle is no longer charging. Prices are set by the owner of the charging point, which ranged from free, to $0.16 per kWh, up to $1.75 per hour. 

In practice, these were only good for 20-40 miles of charge at a time because we only used them while parked and visiting a town for 2 hours at a time. At this charging rate, you would need 10-12 hours to fill the battery.

How to understand fuel economy

It’s a bit of a mathematical mess to conceptualize how much it costs to fill up an EV. Some places charge you by the minute, others charge you by the kWh, others, Tesla for one, highlight only the price and how much mileage you’ve charged up.

The equivalent to miles per gallon for EVs is kilowatt hours per mile, which is a number determined by the type of vehicle, how fast you drive, and the route you take. Once you understand the price per kWh, you can calculate cents per mile driven, which is how to compare cars with different fuel types.

The issue is that car mileage isn’t measured in cents per mile. To understand the equivalent fuel price you need to take miles per gallon of a typical car and the price of gas and divide one by the other.

In the example below, I’ve used the fuel efficiency numbers from here, prices from ChargePoint and Tesla from our recent trip, and an average recent gas price and economy car mileage.

Tesla Model Y

ChargePoint: $0.16 per kWh X 0.28 kWh/mi = $0.05 per mile. This price is essentially the same price as charging at home.

Tesla Supercharger: $0.48 per kWh X 0.28 kWh/mi = $0.13 per mile

Gas-powered vehicle

Economy gas-powered vehicle: $4 per gallon / 35 mi/gal = $0.11 per mile

“Gas guzzler”: $4 per gallon / 20 mi/gal = $0.20 per mile

As measured in cents per mile, filling up at ChargePoint is less than half the price when gas is at $4, while a Tesla Supercharger is slightly more expensive per mile. If you compare against a “gas guzzler” that gets 20 mpg, the numbers look even better.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that charging at home, assuming the home electric price is similar to ChargePoint, will cost less than half the fuel cost of an economy gas-powered vehicle when gas is at $4/gal. Somewhere like Quebec, where the kWh price is around $0.07, the math is even more favorable to EVs.

When on the road, the Tesla Supercharger network allows you to fill up at a price equivalent to roughly $4/gal gas.

How to road trip to Canada since the lifting of Covid travel restrictions

Last month we returned from a nearly two week road trip to Canada as tourists. We entered on August 9, the first day Americans were allowed into Canada for tourism and without quarantine. Travelers from the rest of the world will be allowed in under the same conditions starting on September 9.

This post will be about the process for entry, what we experienced while there, and the experience coming back. 

Before we left

Canada allows for a waiver to its post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements if arrivals:

  • Are fully vaccinated by a Canada-approved vaccine
  • Have waited 14 days since final shot
  • Have completed and received a negative PCR test within 3 days of entry and have the results in hand

All vaccines given in the US are in Canada’s approved list, though the Russian and Chinese vaccines given to some in México and elsewhere are not. 

So on a Friday afternoon, in preparation for our Monday departure to Canada, we each took a PCR test. Results were expected back within 24 hours, while ours arrived a bit slower, but still by the end of the following day. 

In preparation for arrival we downloaded the ArriveCAN app on our phones and entered all our vaccination and arrival information, including photos of our vaccination cards, time of arrival, and port of entry. We crossed in the small city of Ogdensburg, NY after checking wait times. Once we arrived to the front of the line, we handed our confirmation code and paper copies of our negative PCR tests to the border agent and we were on our way in less than 5 minutes. 

The only glitch in this process was that since it requires date of arrival, you have to fill out at least part of the form en route and some of the vaccination data we had previously entered didn’t save between sessions and had to be reentered.

Note: Some border crossings that were formerly 24 hours have been closed after 8pm or earlier. To avoid issues at off-hours, cross at larger ports of entry and check hours before departing.

In Canada

Traveling around Canada was nearly identical to a summer US road trip (besides the road signs being in kilometers). The standard Covid-related policies in New York are on display in Canada, namely contact information when dining-in and timed entry for museums. Now that New York City is requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, Canada is actually more lax. Some restaurants in Montreal still had restrictions on indoor dining but there was plenty of outdoor dining space.

I want to keep this short and on-topic, so I’ll follow up with a post on our itinerary later. Suffice to say we were not inconvenienced in any way during our trip and we even had the odd sensation of being the only non-locals in many of the places we visited.

Coming back

Returning to the US by land, you do not need to take a negative Covid test. This was such a confusing point to clarify that I even called US Customs and Border Protection to verify. As of the date of this post, if you travel by air you do need to take a test within 3 days of returning, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Currently, only the following individuals are allowed to cross into the US by land:

  • US citizens and residents repatriating to the US, or
  • Those traveling for essential reasons

The following link lists the valid reasons for crossing the border by land.

On our way back into the US, we crossed in North Troy, a small town in northern Vermont. Given the sleepy crossing and that Americans are only allowed into the US by land as repatriation, we were questioned longer than normal by the border agent. We were likely the first tourists he had seen in over a year, so his caution made sense.

[Not] crossing the land border as a non-American

At the time of this post, foreigners or US visa holders are not currently allowed into the US by land for tourism (they are however allowed in by air). This has created a strange situation where Americans are allowed to drive into Canada for tourism or discretionary reasons, but the same is not true in the opposite direction. This means that if you are a foreigner working or visiting the US, you may be allowed into Canada but not back into the US if you return by land.

I hope this post will be useful to others that plan to visit Canada in the next few months and will save some others the hassle or confusion that we had during the planning of our trip. Safe travels!

February’s 10 Best Stories in Travel

I’m back to share my favorite stories of the month from February 2016, including globe-trotting fish, freight-train travel across Africa, myths and facts about the Zika Virus, and a documentary about a continent-spanning road trip. Read on for the scoop. 

Is Farmed Salmon Really Salmon?
The staple fish is having an identity crisis.
http://nautil.us/issue/30/identity/is-farmed-salmon-really-salmon
Love smoked salmon? Me too. Turns out there’s a lot more to it than pink-fleshed fish swimming upstream past grizzly bears. It’s a complex system, and humans have changed it irreparably, even for those fish labeled “wild”.

For us, the salmon is an icon of the wild, braving thousand-mile treks through rivers and oceans, leaping up waterfalls to spawn or be caught in the clutches of a grizzly bear. The name “salmon” is likely derived from the Latin word, “salire,” to leap. But it’s a long way from a leaping wild salmon to schools of fish swimming in circles in dockside pens. Most of the salmon we eat today don’t leap and don’t migrate.

Riding the Mauritania Railway
Photographer Jody MacDonald crossed the Sahara by iron train in search of adventure—and surf.
http://adventure-journal.com/2016/02/riding-the-mauritania-railway/
Posts like this train-bum ride across the desert remind me that I need to focus more on train travel and amazing opportunities like this. On my first trip abroad, to Ecuador, I rode on top of a train like this, and it was quite the experience when it derailed on the side of a mountain. If I can find the old photos, that will be a topic for another day.

The Infamous Isla Refinery of Curaçao
http://curacao.for91days.com/the-infamous-isla-refinery-of-curacao/ It looks like a little bit of the Jersey Turnpike or South Philly, only set in the Caribbean. Industrial operations on this scale are impressive, even if they are rusting in the salt air and are significantly worse on the environment than eco-tourism. The island was a focal point in World War II for its role in delivering petroleum to the Allies.

In Italy, an Orange to the Face
http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2016/in-italy-an-orange-to-the-face/
For those of you hoping to make it to one of those ancient fruit-throwing or bull-running festivities for some light and possibly welt-inducing fun, here’s another option.

…unlike the Spaniards of Buñol, these revelers don’t throw tomatoes or other soft fruit at each other. In Ivrea, oranges are the official projectiles of Historical Carnival. Skip the red hat, and there’s a good chance you’ll be hit in the face by one.

What Travelers Need to Know About the Zika Virus
http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/05/what-travelers-need-to-know-about-the-zika-virus/
http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/08/tips-for-protecting-yourself-against-the-zika-virus/
We’re about to travel to a country with active cases of the Zika Virus and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Did you know that the virus is only a danger to pregnant women in the first trimester and only shows symptoms in 1 of 5 infected? Read these links and calm yourself down a bit.

A Story About Love and Bells
http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/story-about-love-and-bells-saxony-germany/
Happy belated Valentine’s Day! Read this beautiful story of a boy and his love for church bells, which he now shares with his family in their very unique Quasimodo-esque residence.

The Pros and Cons of Various Forms of Snow Travel
http://adventure-journal.com/2016/02/the-pros-and-cons-of-various-forms-of-snow-travel
This had me cracking up near the end. If you’ve lived in a snowy climate, you’ve tried most of these at one point another and will soon be laughing as well.

Sledding, Runner Sled
Pros: Classic, easy to steer, photogenic
Cons: Hard to fit more than one person on sled; accidentally ramming into an unsuspecting sledder at full speed usually = emergency room visit; when unmanned, becomes a high-velocity death missile missile hungry to destroy ankles and shins

Fathom’s 24 Best Indie Travel Guides
http://fathomaway.com/postcards/quirk/24-best-indie-travel-guides/
Looking for a beautiful gift for a design, travel and fashion lover? The printed guidebooks and maps in this list are like tiny works of art, with the benefit that they may help you navigate some of the tourist hotspots they cover. Very heavy on coverage for New York, Paris, London, and the like. (I wasn’t paid for this post, they’re just really nice guides)

The Forgotten Trains of India
http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2016/the-forgotten-trains-of-india/
The Gwalior Sheopur Kalan Passenger train is one of India’s many train routes, only this one trundles slowly across the countryside on narrow-gauge tracks. The author includes beautiful photos of landscapes, fellow passengers, and train-surfing riders.

The Road to Mongolia
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI-x35CMXgc
Given that it’s on my travel bucket list, I’ve seen a lot of Mongol Rally videos. This one takes the cake with thoughtful editing and after-the-fact interviews, it gives you a great sense of the challenge and enjoyment of a trip 6,000+ miles from Britain to Mongolia in a crappy car with your friends.