Home Automotive We drove around New England looking for EV chargers (and the best doughnuts). It was easier than we expected.

We drove around New England looking for EV chargers (and the best doughnuts). It was easier than we expected.

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Gas prices, the climate change emergency, and cute Super Bowl commercials mean electric car sales are booming like never before.

In Massachusetts, the share of electric vehicle registrations has more than tripled since 2019, accounting for 5% of all new vehicle registrations in 2022. This is the story of New He in England and all over the country alike.

But there is one big adjustment to owning an electric car. The EV driver can no longer rely on his century-old ecosystem of gas stations on every corner. Instead, they should plan their trips based on the growing but still spotty situation of charging stations. Tesla has built its own network of ubiquitous fast chargers, but only Tesla EVs can access them, at least for now.

Building a charging infrastructure is critical if the region wants to successfully switch millions of car owners to electric vehicles and reduce emissions that contribute to climate warming. After all, drivers wouldn’t give up their petrol cars if they had to constantly worry about running out of battery.

To test the current state of EV infrastructure, We set off on a 400-mile road trip across New England in two typical electric cars, but they are very different. One of us (Aaron) drove her Kia Niro EV, which she bought a year ago, and another one (Sabrina) rented a fancy Tesla Model 3 Performance.

The Niro costs about $40,000, has an EPA-rated range of 240 miles, and looks and drives like a normal car. The Tesla Model 3 Performance costs around $60,000, has over 300 EPA range and boasts the company’s minimalist style. It also accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.1 seconds, rivaling the fastest sports cars in the world.

Given Tesla’s dominance of its charging network, I expected Kia to have more trouble on the road, and they were right. But neither of us ran out of power, having enjoyed a perfect day and near-perfect donuts.

We started the day bright and early at Holy Donuts, home of gourmet potato donuts on Congress Street in Portland, Maine. The dark chocolate sea salt did not disappoint.

I knew that unlike a regular car road trip, I would have to plan ahead to make sure I was close to the charger when my EV ran out of battery.

Sabrina Shankman drives her Tesla after charging at the Tesla Supercharge Station at Turnpike I-90, Massachusetts, on November 14, 2022 in Charlton, Massachusetts. Karlin Steele of the Boston Globe

Over coffee at Holy Donuts, we used an EV-specific app called A Better Route Planner (ABRP) to plan our trip. After a few seconds, the app spits out a recommended route and stops charging halfway through.

Anna Vanderspek, electric vehicle program director at the advocacy group Green Energy Consumers Alliance, said plans of this kind are important. The road trip was a success, but getting around in an EV should be easier. “We have these early adopters who go to A Better Route Planner and figure it out,” she said. “But we clearly need more if we want to accelerate the hiring that we are doing.”

For Tesla, using an app wasn’t always necessary. The car’s built-in navigation app can plan routes that stop at the company’s Supercharger stations.

On the other hand, using ABRP will not solve all problems for non-Tesla drivers due to insufficient charging in some regions. For example, Cape Cod only has one fast charging station with two connections he has in Hyannis. Tesla has four stations spread across the Cape with a total of 42 connections. In Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Tesla accounts for two-thirds of all fast chargers. Half in Vermont, according to federal data.

Sabrina Shankman charging her Tesla at the Tesla Supercharge Station on Turnpike I-90, Massachusetts, Charlton, Massachusetts, November 14, 2022. Karlin Steele of the Boston Globe

Once we hit the road, we left Portland and drove south and west to Muriel’s Donuts, an old-fashioned gem in Lebanon, New Hampshire. A drive through the pristine forests of the White Mountains provided a beautiful backdrop for the longest drive of the day. .

Tesla quickly taught us some EV lessons. Park it outside in the cold overnight before our road trip drains some of the battery. And cruising at 80 mph drains the battery much faster than sticking to the speed limit.

Thankfully, we had plenty of options for an unscheduled stop at one of Tesla’s Superchargers. Along the highway in New Hampshire. After a 10 minute top off the car was back on the road.

Kia, on the other hand, reached Muriel’s house in less than two and a half hours without stopping, using about 80% of its charge. Thanks to an unscheduled outage, the Tesla arrived a bit late, but had more than her quarter of her battery left.

Muriel’s donuts looked like they were in the 1960’s. Serving through the window of Naked Bakery by owner Muriel Maville, the basic menu included plain or sugar-coated old-fashioned donuts and crullers, optionally stuffed with raspberry jam. The 85-year-old proprietor is a multitasker, watching a series of crullers and flipping them with wooden dowels when he calls for four (cash only) and he calls for just under $4 .

Not far from Muriels, Tesla’s first planned charging stop of the day was at a Price Chopper parking lot in West Lebanon, while Kia was at a charging station operated by Electrify America outside a Walmart in the same town. It was in

Aaron Pressman’s car charging at a parking lot charging station in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Karlin Steele of the Boston Globe

A key variable for EV road trips is the vehicle’s maximum charging rate. This can mean the difference between waiting 15 minutes or nearly an hour.

But to reach the max, you need an equally fast charging station. For Tesla, the Supercharger network consists entirely of fast chargers, so that’s fine. The Model 3 can add 175 miles of range in 15 minutes. In the rest of the world it’s hit or miss. Adding 175 miles to Kia’s range would take three or four times as long. Cold weather, low-performance equipment, and other variables can also affect charging speed.

Outside of Kia’s Walmart, things didn’t go smoothly. He had 4 chargers, but 1 is offline and he has 1 in use.so The first charger was very slow, less than a third of Niro’s maximum. So it took an hour and a half to charge. And because costs are based on hours of use, not power consumption, due to New Hampshire utility regulations, slower speeds also mean higher costs.

Thankfully there was another charger available. It took me just over an hour to get from 18% to 80% battery. The bill came to about $11.

Price Chopper, on the other hand, had 17 chargers lined up in a row, and Tesla finished charging in less than 30 minutes. cost? $15.64.

After charging, we headed south along Vermont Interstate 91 along the Green Mountains.

Arriving at the donut’s final destination, Donut Dip in West Springfield, felt like stepping into the 1950s, with a chrome counter, racks of donuts and a red neon sign out front.

One of us (Sabrina) had a clear winner with the donut dip. It’s a sour cream donut. It tasted more like a nostalgic bomb than a donut. It’s basically a non-liquor version of a whiskey cake. A family becomes a special occasion. It was so sweet, incredibly moist, and wrapped in a beautiful brown crunchy exterior.

Aaron Pressman and Sabrina Shankman purchased donuts at Donut Dip during their EV trip through New England on November 14, 2022 in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Karlin Steele of the Boston Globe

The Kia driver, on the other hand, was in heaven covered in chocolate. He also got a nice surprise. I pulled into the parking lot of a mall near Chicopee where the first Electrify America location is. On my last visit this year, some of the chargers were not working and sometimes I waited 30 minutes (or more) for a free space.

However, after the September overhaul, all four chargers were working and unused. After 40 minutes and $7.41, Kia was ready.

Both reliability and availability issues have been addressed, as Chicopee’s charger improvements suggest. Electrify America, which has more than 800 charging stations and 3,500 chargers in North America, is in the process of replacing 300 of its oldest chargers this year.

The Biden administration, which has touted EVs as a big part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, has set aside $5 billion in infrastructure bills over five years to further improve charging. In Massachusetts, the Public Utilities Department recently approved a plan to spend nearly $400 million on EV charging and market development over the next four years, including investments in public quick chargers.

Tesla Supercharge station at Turnpike I-90, Massachusetts, Charlton, Massachusetts, November 14, 2022. Karlin Steele of the Boston Globe

As expected, the Tesla drove smoothly. At the Charlton Service Plaza on Mass Pike, there were eight Tesla Superchargers, all of which were available. It took less than 20 minutes, long enough to buy my first non-doughnut food of the day before heading back to Maine.

Overall, the charging experience was better than expected. It was arguably easier to fill a Tesla. But the disparity was not as pronounced as what one of us (Aaron) had experienced over the past year or as often reported by other drivers. And Kia never came close to running out of battery.

But not everyone wants to plan every trip with a special app. Improvements in infrastructure bills aren’t fast enough for those who can’t afford them or can’t drive through areas with few decent charging options.

Sabrina Shankman can be reached at sabrina.shankman@globe.com. follow her on her twitter @shankmanAaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. follow him on twitter @Ampress Man.

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