AN ELECTRIC FAMILY ROAD TRIP
Ok, so here’s the thing. We love to travel, that’s not news. We love all the many ways we can get from one place to the other. Planes, trains, automobiles. We have learned so much about other people and cultures (be that locally or internationally). However, in the back of our minds, we have always been conscious of the fact that all that movement adds to our carbon footprint. Stay with me here. I’m not trying to guilt anyone; if anything, I know that we won’t stop moving and I don’t expect anyone else to. Travel is beautiful- seeing the world is amazing, the tourism industry sustains so many people, and of course, supporting and visiting local businesses is pure joy for me.
So then it becomes, in what little ways can I do better?
Last year, when it was evident that we were going to be doing significantly more road trips with our two twin boys, we looked into a car and were so close to committing to an electric vehicle (EV). But we chickened out last minute because we were worried that the experience would be so different, the charging would be inconvenient, the car options and styling would be limited and/or too expensive, and despite our best intentions, we didn’t go electric.
Fast forward to now, and the opportunity presented itself. Instead of making assumptions about the world of driving an electric car, how about putting it to the test. How about not just testing out a normal day, but a 2-day road trip which would include kids in the car for long hours, driving long distances. What would we learn from this experience? Was there anything to learn?
Now, I don’t know where I’ve been hiding, but the universe of electric cars is much more diverse than I realized. There are so many amazing options to suit your needs, your drive style (and lifestyle), and your aesthetic.
For our trip, we received the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E in Shadow Black. The SUV is stunning, this was quickly confirmed by the number of neighbors and truck drivers who stopped to ask about it. I mean, it’s a Mustang but even better because this one is electric and jam-packed with tech.
Now on to some real quick specs here because it’s going to be important later. A full battery charge with the Mustang Mach-E Premium model with extended-range battery and eAWD will get you 270 miles. In New Yorker terms, that’s like driving to D.C.
Also, this Mustang is an SUV, and that was important to us because we need space for the kids and their car seats, stroller, and things. Point is, it was pretty obvious from when we sat in the vehicle that space was not going to be a problem. Truth be told, it has more space than our current SUV. We had plenty of legroom and cargo space. Interestingly, because it is an all-electric vehicle, there is not an engine taking up space under the hood. Instead, the vehicle has a frunk (front trunk) that provides even more cargo space in front.
The Road Experience
For the most part, when we travel, the hubby does most of the driving, but this time I was too excited and wanted to be the first one to give this a go. From the moment the large infotainment touch screen turned on, I was already grinning. And once you hit the accelerator on this thing, you realize you’re not driving a gas vehicle. The quick acceleration and all-electric performance feel like you’re driving a super smooth and quiet sportscar.
So, with a close to full charge, and all our gear (and the boys of course) loaded into the Mustang Mach-E, we headed for New Jersey.
I have to tell you just how many people pulled up as we were getting out of New York City traffic with questions and compliments. Mainly, “What car is that?” “Is it really electric?” “How does it drive?” “Wow, an Electric Mustang, never thought I’d see that.”
DAY 1: Planned Itinerary
- Stop in Jersey City (10-mile drive): For some shopping and munching
- Head to Long Island (55-mile drive): To see the ocean and reminisce at Smith Haven Mall where I worked in my teens.
- Spend the night at Soundview Greenport (56-mile drive) – a hotel I’d heard about.
The interesting thing about local travel is that you realize how much you take for granted. There are so many awesome places that you just haven’t taken the time to really explore. We’re mostly just passing by, barely stopping to take a glance. I like to call local travel “slow travel,” when you actually try to take things slower.
We got to Jersey City and noticed that the 10 or so miles we had traveled had barely made a dent in our battery life. We absolutely didn’t need to charge but since we were going to be hanging around to eat and shop, we could top-up. Interestingly enough, almost all the businesses we visited from Hazel Baby & Kids (excellent stop for kid clothes and toys) to Short Grain Cafe (get their turmeric shrimp Banh Mi w/ sriracha aioli on the side) are all Destination Electric businesses.
These are businesses that support an electric car lifestyle and seeing the logo in a storefront window should be a signal to you that an electric charging station is nearby. And so, a mere block away from where we spent the afternoon, we parked in a lot that had several charging stations, with less than half in use. And quite simply, we plugged in and charged up.
The Charging Experience
There are a variety of charging stations and charging providers (like different brands of gas stations), but we quickly noticed 2 types of charging stations. “Level 2” charging was common in the towns we stopped in and is also available and convenient for overnight charging at your own home. One brand is ChargePoint, and we saw quite a few of these in Jersey City. You just activate the charge through the app and then pay. Of course, you still have to physically plug in the charger 😊. The other type of charging we saw was “fast charging,” which was my personal fave just in terms of how seamless and fast it works. Electrify America is one brand of fast charging that you can find along interstates and at some big box stores. We started seeing many more of these as we made our way to Long Island.
We finally started seeing our battery level of charge drop after driving from New York City to Jersey City to Smith Haven Mall on Long Island (about 60 miles). I wanted to visit the mall because I had worked there, years ago in my teens. I wondered what memories would come flooding back, whether I could show the boys where I had my work lunches and where I hung out with friends. To my dismay, very few memories came back (blaming mommy brain), but we did manage to pick up some more sweaters from the boys, and they got to nibble on mall fries (a small treat).
We used the Electrify America (EA) charging station and by the time we finished unpacking the boys from their car seats and loading them into the stroller, we went from 70% to 80% battery charge. That’s just how fast fast-charging can be. The Mustang Mach-E we were driving can add up to 59 miles of range in just 10 minutes at a DC Fast Charging station.
And one more point to mention: the navigation system in the vehicle is actually one of the best tools for locating a charger. When you plug in your destination, it shows you charging stations along your route. Or, if you like to plan even before you get in your vehicle, apps like the Ford Pass App (if you’re in a Ford EV like we were), Plugshare and even Google Maps will also show you your charging station options. And because charging stations continue to pop up everywhere, if you did this exercise a year ago, your data would already be obsolete in terms of the number of charging stations that keep being added all the time.
Because we move slower now as a group of 4 than we did when it was just the 2 of us it was already dark by the time we completed our 56-mile drive to Soundview Greenport. But even in the late evening, the cool ocean breeze felt and smelled wonderful. The roadside farms lit up by street lamps looked even more inviting and I wished we had gotten there when they were still open to visitors. And the electric vehicle just drives so quietly, it really felt surreal. With the fast charge we got at the Mall, we knew we absolutely didn’t need to worry about a charge. We just wanted to wind down, eat seafood, have the boys run around their oceanfront hotel room, and pass out. Tomorrow will be another day.
DAY 2: Planned Itinerary
- Breakfast in Greenport
- Ferry to New London: (8 mile drive to Ferry)
- Check-in at Saybrook Resort & Marina (20 mile drive)
- Visit Saybrook: Bookstores, antiques, ice cream
- Have dinner and close out the night at hotel. (EV charger on site, so overnight charge)
Already feeling like pros and having more confidence about how far we could go on our battery’s charge, any “range anxiety” went out the door. We knew that between our navigation system and our phone apps, we would have someplace to charge if the need arose.
After grabbing a to-go breakfast pack from the hotel, we spent the morning in Greenport checking out what we missed with our late-night arrival. I recommend you walk along main street and visit Lucharitos, 1943 pizza bar and shop American Beach hotel. Yes, I said shop; the hotel has an amazingly colorful boutique with beautiful dresses and home decor. It’s a must.
Our next stop was Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and what’s the best way to get from Long Island to Connecticut? Well, that would be the ferry.
Yet again, as we queued up for the ferry, we got more longing glances, questions about the car. The ferry attendant actually spent a good bit of time sharing that he was looking into electric cars. And both in the queue and on the ferry, I was reminded why we all need to move to electric. The thing is when you queue or when your gas car is loaded on a ferry and your engine is on, it is still producing exhaust that none of us want to breathe. In fact, shortly after loading, an attendant went around reminding people to turn off their engines and to get out of their cars. I wanted to explain that we were in an electric car and that shouldn’t apply to us, but it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. Because all-electric vehicles run on electricity, there are no tailpipe emissions.
The boys enjoyed the ferry ride, they ran around a little bit, we got to snack some more. The food from the totally unassuming Ferry Cafe was surprisingly good, and the staff were even nicer. We met a few couples traveling with their babies/toddlers – all trying to half entertain them and half keep them from causing a ruckus.
Less than an hour later, we were in Connecticut. We disembarked without issue and realizing our battery still had plenty of charge, we decided to casually explore Old Saybrook. Old Saybrook is definitely one of those towns you would describe as quaint – it looks straight out of a movie set with how clean and pristine it is. If you are into antiquing you should definitely come here. There were so many antique shops and really nice ones too. If it wasn’t for the strollers and baby stuff, I would have considered picking up a large mirror or two.
It’s also the kind of town with lovely cafes, ice cream parlors, and bookstores. We stopped at Sweet Luna’s, a yogurt place participating in Destination Electric, to get some fruit and yogurt for all of us. I’m not naming any names, but one adult male consumed most of the yogurt.
Since we knew our hotel (Saybrook Resort) had an EV charger, we figured we’d get an overnight charge there and be prepared for the day ahead. Come to think of it, charging overnight turned out to be more convenient than seeking out and stopping at an actual gas station. Which hotels have gas stations on-site? None I can think of.
All in all, we had a lovely time going on our road trip in an EV. At one point, we turned to each other and said, we have to do this. Not only were we enjoying the experience but considering how much we talk about making an effort for the planet, this was truly something we needed to do.
I could keep going about the other things we saw and did, but here’s where I’ll direct you to my Instagram to watch my stories to see more from the trip. Do drop a comment with your questions and I’ll endeavor to answer them.
ONE LAST THING
There are currently both federal and local tax incentives that make these cars even more affordable. Just for one example, in my home state, the Charge NY initiative offers electric car buyers the Drive Clean Rebate of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases. Combine that with a potential Federal Tax Credit of up to $7,500 (as of the time of writing this), and it’s an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss. If you are a New York State resident looking for a new car, it’s a great time to buy or lease an all-electric car or plug-in hybrid that qualifies for the Drive Clean Rebate. For more information on those incentives and for incentives in other states, do click here.