New Plug-In Stations For Electric Cars Expand Road Trip Options

electric car
Tesla Motors

There are not many electric cars or plug-in hybrids on the road but there may be a good reason for that. Past the sticker shock and into the driver’s seat, summer road trippers wanting to take advantage of their fuel-saving vehicles are having a hard time going very far. Other than in California and the Northwest, plug-in stations are hard to find. One car manufacturer is doing something about it.

“It is very important to address this issue of long-distance travel,” said Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in a Mercury News article. “When people buy a car, they’re also buying a sense of freedom, the ability to go anywhere they want and not feel fettered.” Musk has a road trip of his own planned for this summer, driving his kids across the country.

Tesla wants their premium electric vehicles to be driven coast to coast and is rolling out a rapid-charging network for its electric cars, tripling the number of stations they now have. That will allow drivers to travel to New York from Los Angeles. Not that a lack of charging stations should keep those cars from making the trip; it will just take longer. Rapid charging stations fuel their cars in about an hour. Plugging into ordinary current requires an overnight charge.Tesla’s plan will add more stations every 80 to 100 miles on heavily used routes such as the corridor between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. They also hope to improve the technology used for charging so their Model S cars will get three hours of driving time from only 20 minutes of charging. They will eventually install 100 of the stations along U.S. and Canadian highways.

Thinking of an electric car? In this video, a recent Consumer Reports test of Tesla’s Model S brought surprisingly good results:

Iconic Road Trips: Weaving Through West Virginia And Maryland On Interstate 68

I’ve driven Interstate 68 more times than I can count. It’s one of the main roads I take any time I’m traveling from the east coast to my hometown (Marietta, Ohio) or the town where my family lives now (Morgantown, West Virginia). I am currently engaged in a longstanding love-hate relationship with this road. I love it because the scenery is outstanding. The rolling hills of Appalachia surround you as you drive through, over and around them. I hate it because it’s a tough road to drive and being a passenger in the car on this road can be a terrible (and scary) experience if the driver isn’t sensible. The hills are steep, the curves are sudden and the cars travel quickly on this road.I once had an engine die on me on this road and, as I sat on the asphalt waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t surprised. But in regard to a road trip, this is a wonderful road. The fact that it can be a challenging drive makes it more fun if you’re in good company.

If you have the time, stop at Cooper’s Rock State Forest, Cheat Lake, Rocky Gap State Park and Green Ridge State Forest.

Iconic Road Trips: Blue Ridge Parkway Paradise

The Blue Ridge Parkway is famous for a reason. It’s a 469-mile stretch along the Blue Ridge, which is a mountain chain within the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains out west might be more grandeur, but I grew up in the Appalachians, so this drive has a special place in my heart. Contrast to the jagged, towering, snow-capped mountains you’ll see in the western parts of the U.S., the Blue Ridge Mountains are subtler in their majesty. You’ll see rolling hills upon rolling hills all the way into the horizon while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Shenandoah National Park. When you feel moved to stop and take photos of the jaw-dropping landscape, you’ll find there are plenty of places to pull over and do just that. Buy some homemade jam, salsa or an assortment of other treats when you stop. These kinds of Blue Ridge specialties are widely available along the route and unlike so many gimmicky regional foods many of these offerings are worth the price.In addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, you’ll pass through the Pisgah National Forest, Stone Mountain State Park and George Washington National Forest, among other destinations.

Iconic Road Trips: Enjoying Idaho’s Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

If you’re already in Idaho, chances are you’ve already had your breath taken away at the hand of your surroundings. But the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, also known as Idaho State Highway 21, will make you fall in love with the Idaho landscape if you haven’t already. Beginning in Boise, the “City of Trees,” this road is carved within the Boise National Forest and the scenery here is unbelievable. Flat pastures will merge into green hills that will remind you of photos you’ve seen of the Irish countryside. The highway begins at 3,000 feet above sea level. You’ll see the Boise River, the Boise River Diversion Dam, the Lucky Peak Dam and much more on this drive. Rocky mountains, summits good for stopping and taking in the fresh air, rushing waters and densely packed Pines make this drive worth the trip. It’s best to avoid driving this route in the winter. High elevation points throughout the highway are often closed during the winter because of snow.

[flickr image via bmarmie]

Iconic Road Trips: New England’s Coastal Drive

I met up with a childhood best friend of mine a few years ago in Boston. From there we drove to an ocean-side, dog-friendly resort in Maine that we’d decided to vacation at for a few days. Before we began our drive back to Boston, we realized we had all day to kill, so we chose our route back accordingly. Highway 1 isn’t just a West Coast thing – it’s pretty great on the East Coast, too. We took US 1A alongside the Atlantic Ocean down from Maine and through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At different points in time, 1A connects with US Route 1. The names change along the way – in New Hampshire, it’s technically called NH Route 1A – but the direction is clear: follow the road that runs alongside the ocean at every given opportunity. What would have been an under 3-hour trip for us on the highway from Maine to Boston wound up taking nearly 7 hours on these small roads, but it was all for a good cause: gorgeous scenery.Cliché as it is to say, the journey is what matters, not the destination. Quintessential New England beaches and architecture make this drive worth it. Stop in any number of towns for New England staples like salt water taffy or chowder.

You’ll drive straight through Rye Harbor State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, Odiorne Point State Park, Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, Seabrook Back Dunes, Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Salem, Massachusetts.