“To EV or Not To EV!”  That’s the most common automotive question I get these days. We all know the electric revolution is happening but many people are not quite ready to make the leap.

Recently we were planning to take the really impressive new Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV to Maine for our annual friends and family tour. Since this trip involves some 1,400 miles and several stops visiting folks on a coastal village hopping itinerary … it became quite clear that we could not have easily done this EV.

For the head-turning new Ioniq 5 the 465 mile distance from Philly to our first stop in Augusta, Maine would not have been the problem as the car has an EPA rated 303 mile range. With plenty of electric charging stations in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, recharging along the way would have been relatively easy. 

Once in Maine, with a huge landmass and low population density, commercial EV charging stations were few and far between. To its credit Tesla is about the most active EV charging operator in Maine.

But as a former Teamster truck driver, for road trips I’m all about being on a tight schedule and getting to my destination as promptly as possible and avoiding traffic slowdowns. And when you are on vacation, time is your most precious commodity … so you don’t want to waste it with extra time on the road.

This presents a problem with EV charging because even just a 30% top-off could take you anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes to a few hours depending upon the kind of charging stations you find. And very importantly finding an EV charging station could take you off your main travel route which always adds up to extra road time.

So we ended up taking the supremely comfortable and capable Mazda CX9 mid-size SUV … which among other things is known for its high efficiency gas powered Skyactiv engine system. In fact Mazda has for many years been at the top of the corporate fuel economy ratings even though they are just now fielding their first plug-in hybrids and a new EV. 

This Mazda CX-9, the largest SUV in their line-up offers standard All Wheel Drive 2.5 Turbo 16-valve 4-cylinder 227 horsepower performance, which averaged about 25 MPG over the whole trip.

By the time we were on the road, gas prices had started to ease with average down to around $4.65 per gallon. With all the highway and back country road driving we did we spent about $250.00 for the entire trip there an back

Based on my past experience with a string of EVs I’ve been testing, I’m estimating we would have spent $60 – $75 for EV charging. However once you factor in the value of your time …  especially on a vacation trip when every minute is precious … the EV option was out of the question.

We made the 465 mile run from Philadelphia to Augusta, Maine in 7 1/2 hours with only three bathroom breaks and snack stops. The same 465 first leg would have taken us at the very least 9 hours and up to 12 hours presuming that we would have found the right charging station along our route.

Though the EV charging infrastructure is definitely spreading quickly across the country it is uneven depending on the region of the country, population density and other factors. Level 1 and Level 2 home charging stations at home make it easier to go EV though they take 8 to 20 hours to get close to a full charge. 

Also worth considering, from one commercial charging system to another, the prices and charging rates vary significantly. My experience has been that a full charge at most commercial stations could range from range from $9 to $15.

A commercial DC Fast Charger might get you an 80% charge in under an hour while the Tesla fast charging stations can do up to 80% charge in about 25 minutes. The good news is Tesla has followed through on opening up Tesla charging systems to all other EVs. However there have been reports of some Tesla stations being offline due to rent disputes between the company and its landlords.

Basically the results of our “To EV or Not To EV” trip plans bear out my earlier advice to many potential EV buyers. We are getting closer to full EV practicality but still have problems with doing long road trips in an entirely Battery Electric Vehicle. Eventually EV charging will be available almost everywhere … but my friends who live in the wide open spaces of the West and Southwest and Midwest often say that EVs will have to go a long way in terms of reliability, practicality and value to makes sense in those regions of the country

And that brings me to this bold new Lexus NX450h compact SUV. Toyota and Lexus have been the leaders in Hybrid tech for over two decades and now they … like most other car makers are … using the Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) with limited all-electric range to help buyers make the leap from gas powered to electric vehicles.

The logic of the short all electric range is that for short trips around the neighborhood the 37 EV miles could get you through a normal day with little or no gas usage. Then with an easy plug-in at home and you are ready for the next day of little or no gas use.

However this PHEV with 304 horsepower 2.5 liter 4 cylinder gas engine and the electric motor, has a 550 mile total range, and 37 miles of electric only power. The combined Highway and City rating of this Lexus 450h is 36 mpg … as the combined drivetrain reduces overall gas consumption, and recovers some energy through regenerative braking.

So when you need to drive 1,400 miles like we did getting to and around in Maine, the Plug-In Hybrid, which also saves on gas consumption in hybrid mode may have been the best choice with a combined with this Lexus coming in with the best gas.

“To EV or Not To EV” … well maybe not yet … and not everywhere!