Electric vehicle owners must plan their road trips in advance

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Editor’s note: this story packages with Tesla enters Utah market as more drivers switch to electric.

Tesla Model S owner Libby Williams said her new, all-electric vehicle has been quite a change after years of driving gasoline-powered cars.

“It takes an adjustment at first because (the charging) part of it stresses me a little, like, ‘Oh my gosh, do I have enough charge to go to Orem three times today, or do I have to charge in between?'” Williams said. “You have to be more conscious about your car and check the mileage more (instead of) ‘Oh, my gas light went on.'”

Williams and her family purchased the car six months ago, and she said finding places to charge is one of the new challenges they face when planning a road trip.

“My car goes 310 miles, but it’s still something you have to consider when you’re driving — where the charging stations are,” Williams said.

Charging stations can be tougher to find and require a longer time commitment once you arrive than gas stations.

“You kind of have to plan your logistics — when you have to charge, you have to stop and then go have dinner or something for an hour while you’re charging,” Williams said. “It’s not like when you have gas, you just go fill up and then you keep on going. You have to plan your trip around that charge.”

Fellow Tesla Model S owner Greg Jackson also finding a station near a restaurant and enjoying some food while the car charges.

“What I’ve done before is we stop at dinner and then let it charge while we’re having dinner,” he said. “It can get a full charge in about 45 minutes.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s alternative fuels data center has a route calculator to help electric vehicle owners find compatible charging stations for their car.

Between Logan and St. George, there are only 24 public fast charging stations within 10 miles of I-15.

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Despite the worries shared by Jackson and Williams, the charging station network has grown across the United States in the last few years.

According to Clean Technica, Tesla’s first fast charging stations appeared in 2013 — six in California and two on the East Coast.

Five years later, there are 1,130 stations with almost 8,500 plug-in spots.

However, that pales in comparison to the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate of over 105,000 gas stations in the country.

Williams suggested looking for a hotel with dedicated charging stations in addition to ones on the road.

“In (Las) Vegas, it’s pretty nice,” she said. “There’s some charging stations on the way, and the hotel we stayed at had a charging station in their parking garage, so we were able to charge there.”

If charging times become too much to worry about, hybrid vehicle sales numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy show two of the top five best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicles are designed to use gasoline after the battery is exhausted.

The Ford Fusion Energi and Chevrolet Volt have much smaller electric ranges than the Tesla Models X and S and the Nissan Leaf, but their hybrid systems were the fourth- and second-highest selling plug-in hybrids in 2016.

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As more people adapt to electric vehicles, Williams hopes more charging stations will open to help ease her mind when it comes to traveling.

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