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Plotting A 1,200 Mile Road Trip In A Kia Niro EV

My father-in-law is planning an approximately 1,200 mile round trip drive in his Kia Niro EV to visit some friends and family that live in Oregon and Northern California. The only challenges are figuring out where he’ll charge up and what to expect.

Taking any very long distance drive takes some planning. You’ll need to figure out where to stay, what you might want to see or do along the way, how much it might cost, what supplies you need to bring, etc. If you drive an electric car, especially if it isn’t a Tesla, you may have a few other things to plan for too, namely where and how you’ll recharge your car (though along most interstates and in many areas of the country that is increasingly unnecessary). In a gas powered car, one typically can find a station along just about any route, but for electric cars there are certain routes that may have insufficient charging options (or fast charging options at least). This is the case for my father-in-law as he plans to drive from his home in Southern Washington state to visit some friends on the Oregon Coast and then on to Northern California to visit some family too. He has been dreaming of making such a trip ever since he bought his first electric car, the Niro EV, last year. I am writing this article to serve as a reference for people like him that enjoy the slower scenic routes along places like the Oregon coast.

The coast of Oregon currently has 19 fast charging stations that a Kia Niro EV could theoretically use (though a few of those seem to be out of commission presently). The 2023 Kia Niro can recharge at a maximum of 85 kW and a majority of the fast changing CCS stations along the Oregon coast have a maximum output of 50 kW (which translates to about an hour + to fully charge a near empty Niro EV battery). At least 7 of them can charge at a rate higher than 50 kW, though 3 of those are only for use by Rivian EVs, 2 can only charge at 62 kW maximum, and the other 2 are in the northern half of the coastline. That means, especially on the southern half of the Oregon coast (from Florence south), Niro EV drivers have to be extra meticulous when planning a long drive as there are only 5 fast charging stations in this half of the state, and of those only 2 have more than 1 fast charging unit (which means if anyone else is there needing a charge before you, you’ll have to wait for them to finish charging on what is already a “slow” 50 kW maximum). Potentially you could face an hour or more wait if the vehicle in front of you has a larger battery that was near empty and they need a full charge (then multiply that by how many other vehicles may be there waiting in line). This is one reason why it is generally a better approach to only charge one’s vehicle to 80% or so and instead of making fewer, longer stops to charge, make an extra stop or two to charge for less time (it better sets you up to skip a charger with a long wait time or other issues, and gives you more options to rest too). In short, long drives in EVs are far from ideal in places like this that have a paucity of charging infrastructure and it means one needs to invest more time into planning. 

There is another option, one that my father-in-law is planning to do: find a place to spend the night (or at least a few hours) where you can get a full (or at least significant) charge on a slower 240V charger at up to 11 kW or so (which works out to around 6 hours to fully charge a near empty Niro EV battery). There are several dozen 240V charging stations along the entire length of the Oregon coast, and many are at places where one could spend the night (like an inn or hotel) or easily spend a few hours (like the Tillamook Creamery). This means one could at least, conceivably cover a few hundred miles in one day before pulling in to charge at a hotel or by making a long stop for lunch and some sightseeing.

For those that may be interested, the actual route my father-in-law is taking will be along Interstate 5 through Portland down to Albany. Then he’ll head west on highway 20 to Newport where he’ll make his first charging stop at an Electrify America (EA) charging station (one of the few on the coast that can charge at rates higher than 50 kW). From there he’ll drive on to Bandon where he’ll spend the night at a friend’s house and get a full charge overnight on a 240V charger. That will get him all the way into California, where he can then charge up first in Crescent City, and then again in Eureka. He’ll make his final charging stop in Anderson to charge before getting to his destination. Going home he’ll stop in Yreka, then in Bend, Oregon to stay the night (and charge up). He’ll make one more stop on the way home in Sandy, Oregon, using EA charging stations the whole way (except when he is staying the night charging on 240V).

While this is an example of a more difficult to plan EV road trip, due to the limitations of the charging network along parts of the route, it simply takes some extra planning to make it work. Are you an EV driver that faces similar obstacles? How have you planned for long road trips? Did you find it particularly stressful to do the planning or to make the trip? Please leave any questions or comments below.

Image courtesy of Justin Hart.


Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.