Your electric vehicle road trip guide to travelling around BC3/28/2023
There’s never been a better time to see BC in your electric vehicle. In a survey of British Columbia’s EV owners, 87% say they enjoy driving their EV more and 96% say they will get another electric-powered ride in the future. We’re also seeing more EV charging stations pop up around the province, even in rural and remote areas.
Already a happy EV owner but concerned about taking your EV the distance? You're not alone! Our survey found that 48% of EV owners worry about whether BC has enough charging stations.
Check out our guide below that shares tips on where to drive your EV in BC – short day trips and longer haul journeys – where to charge enroute, how to plan around lunch and dinner, apps to download before you go, and how electric vehicles are covered under auto insurance and roadside assistance.
Here’s six things to consider before setting off on your dream eco-friendly trip:
1. Know your range
BC is a large province with long drives between cities. Before you plan your next BC road trip, find out how far a full charge will take you. BC Hydro has compiled a list of 15+ EV models available in BC that includes their minimum and maximum ranges (i.e. how far you can drive on a single charge). Be sure to test your top range by giving your car a full charge.
Bear in mind the number can fluctuate as you go. Your charge won’t last as long when you’re driving up steep roads like the Coquihalla, ‘The Hill’ in Bella Coola or Kicking Horse Pass. The speed you drive at and the temperature are other factors that can affect your total range.
2. Find your charging stations
There are over 5,000 EV charging stations in Canada, over 2,500 public EV charging stations in BC and six main charging networks:
- BC Hydro
- Greenlots – for fast chargers
- Tesla – just for Tesla vehicles. Here’s a map of Tesla’s network of Tesla Superchargers. Tesla drivers may also use public fast charging stations but only if you have a CHAdeMO adapter (sold separately from your vehicle).
Before you set off, it’s also worth locating the high-speed chargers on your route. BC Hydro has an EV network map of their 70 fast charging stations in BC (plus a list of how much they cost) and you’ll find thousands of charging stations coast-to-coast on Flo’s EV charging station map, and on Plugshare and Plug In BC. Fast charging stations range from 25kW to 250+ kW and most are currently 50 kW.
As a backup to paying with a credit or debit card or your mobile phone, we recommend you get a network-specific RFID card and load cash onto it. This card can then be used to pay at fast charging stations around BC which can be really helpful when cell service isn’t strong at a rural or remote station.
Plugshare’s app maps out 250,000+ charging stations around North America; Flo’s mobile app helps you find charging stations and manage your home charger, and Natural Resources Canada has an extensive North American map of alternate fueling stations for vehicles that run on biodiesel, CNG, electric, ethanol, hydrogen, LNG, propane and renewable diesel.
Also, keep in mind:
- Purely as a backup, your car or phone’s GPS can direct you to the closest charger.
- To brush up on charging information, check out Chargehub’s EV Charging Guide.
- Top tip: Some national parks and hiking trails have chargers in their parking lots so you can recharge while you hike. Check your charging station app to see if your favourite park or trail has a charger.
- Make sure you have a backup plan in case the charger you are targeting is out of order or offline. You may not want to line up to use a free BC Hydro charger if it only costs you $10 to top up at a paid charging station a few blocks away. You might find a charger works fine at the start of your trip, but is out of service at the end of your trip.
3. Drive efficiently
To get maximum range out of every charge, plan to drive smoothly and efficiently. Here are seven ways to get the most out of each charge:
- Seek energy-efficient HOV lanes to save power.
- Drive smoothly and consistently. Stomping the brake and accelerator will drain your EV's battery at a faster rate.
- Slow your roll by keeping your speed below 95 km per hour.
- Maximize regenerative braking which helps to top up your battery while you’re driving.
- Go easy on your heat and AC – these definitely zap your power.
- Avoid driving in freezing cold weather. In colder conditions, your electric battery will not hold as much charge and can drain faster. The best seasons for EV road trips are late spring, summer and early fall.
- Check out our EV resources page that offers you an EV driving costs calculator, plus helpful info on EV rebates, incentives, models and engine options.
4. Plan your overnight charge
Try to book a hotel or an Airbnb with a charging station so you don’t need to worry about where to charge overnight. Hotel websites will list all their amenities and you can see if your chosen Airbnb has a station by going to Filters, then Features, and ticking the box for ‘EV charger’.
If you don’t have anywhere to charge overnight, shopping malls are a great place to charge up on your way to your accommodation and often have fast chargers. You can stock up on groceries while you charge.
5. Know your charger type
To charge your car, EVs all need a connection to an electrical system. There are three levels of electrical chargers: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 chargers:
- Connects to a standard 120-volt outlet
- Charges at around 8 km per hour
- Can takes between 12-20 hours to fully charge your battery EV (6-12 hours for a plug-in hybrid)
- Mostly used in homes
Level 2 chargers:
- Connects to a 240-volt outlet, like those used by clothes dryers and ovens
- Charges at around 30 km per hour
- Can take between 4-14 hours to fully charge your battery EV (4-8 hours for a plug-in hybrid)
- Used in homes, businesses, public stations and common areas
Level 3 (also known as fast chargers):
- Level 3 uses a direct current connection to an electrical system
- Charges at around 100 km per 30 minutes or 80% charge at 50 kW (this varies by vehicle)
- Can take 1-4 hours to fully charge a battery EV (15 minutes to 3 hours for plug-in hybrid)
- Mostly used in businesses, public stations and common areas
6. Have a plan for what to do if your battery runs dead
If you get a flat tire or your battery runs out of juice, click, tap or call for BCAA Roadside Assistance. Before you hit the open road, download our BCAA app so you can request Roadside Assistance from your phone.
- BCAA Roadside Assistance runs day and night, 24/7, anywhere in Canada and the US. After you request roadside assistance, you can use our app’s BCAA Service Tracker to see the driver’s real-time location and estimated arrival time.
- Once you’re a Member, BCAA Roadside Assistance can help in two ways if you run into car trouble: If your EV needs a charge, we’ll tow you to a charging station or back to your home. If you need engine or mechanical repair, we’ll tow you to an auto service centre for repair.
Need to get around while you’re waiting for your EV to get serviced? Or need a car for short trip? Just book an Evo. Evo has fully electric Kia Niros in their Vancouver fleet, or you can hop in one of their hybrid cars in Metro Vancouver and Victoria. Book up to 30 minutes in advance in the Evo App, or simply walk up to one on the street.
You can also book ahead with Evo’s round-trip car share service Evo Return. Find Evo Return at Surrey Central and King George Skytrain stations, where you can book up to 30 days in advance and drive anywhere from one hour to 30 days.
Five great EV road trips in BC
BC Hydro lists some great EV road trip ideas in BC that include:
- Vancouver to Tofino surf trip
Distance one way: 238 km (317 km from Victoria)
Charging stops: Charge up in Port Alberni and then recharge in Tofino
Highlights: We recommend eating your way to Tofino at 10+ great restaurants and food experiences on Vancouver Island that include Cuckoo Trattoria in Coombs, Dog Mountain Brewing’s pulled pork sandwiches in Port Alberni, and Pluvio in Ucluelet.
- Vancouver to Kamloops golf getaway
Distance one way: 361 km
Charging stops: One charge in Hope
Highlights: Stop for coffee and a sandwich at Blue Moose, trout fishing at Lac Le Jeune, nosh on the terrace at Monte Creek Winery, and then go golfing at Tobiano, Canada’s Best Golf Course in 2020, 2021, and 2022 at the World Golf Awards. For a soaring introduction to this incredible course, do a virtual flyover here.
- Vernon to Radium Hot Springs
Distance one way: 692 km including Radium loop back to Golden
Charging stops: One charge stop
Highlights: Go hiking or mountain biking in Revelstoke, and soak in the soothing hot springs at Banff and Radium Hot Springs.
- Victoria to Port Hardy
Distance one way: 497 km
Charging stops: One charge in Courtenay
Highlights: Stop for fresh oysters and prawns at Fanny Bay Oysters, hike the Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Park, and go whale watching in Port McNeill.
Plus we highly recommend touring BC’s Land of Hidden Waters via:
- Circle Route: Highway 5, 24, 97, & 1 via Kamloops, Little Fort, Wells Gray Provincial Park, & the Cariboo
Distance: 450 km
Charging stops: 10 charge stops along the circle
Highlights: Ride the cable-operated, two-car McLure Reaction Ferry across the North Thompson River to Highway 5; swim at Dutch Lake near Clearwater; pick up local/tasty treats at the South Cariboo Farmers Market; see the Thompson River at Juniper Beach Provincial Park set in a scenic desert landscape.
Plan for success
Before you head out on the road, make sure your vehicle is in perfect condition. If your EV is in need of summer or all-season tires, book an appointment at your local BCAA Auto Service Centre. Then follow our 10 steps to get road trip ready and use our TripTik trip planner. Enjoy!
BCAA, in association with CAA, was ranked the #1 Most Trusted Insurance Brand in Canada by the 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index.