Electric car owners might be preparing to take their EV on the road for a trip to see friends and/or family during the holidays. Their journey might take them through mountain ranges. Are all electric vehicles capable of navigating the roads that weave through mountainous regions?
Driving an electric vehicle poses some unique challenges for drivers. Navigating through the mountains could be an interesting trek with an electric vehicle. What is the best electric car for mountain driving? The answer isn’t so cut and dry. Traveling through mountains poses a few issues:
- Snowy conditions
- Steep hills
- Curving roads
Mountain Driving is Different
Navigating through mountain ranges is a different driving experience than simply going up a hill or driving along curvy highways. Mountain driving might lead to an increase in the altitude, which can impact power in internal-combustion engines (that require oxygen).
The good news is that the change in altitude and lower oxygen levels won’t have the same impact on electric vehicles. As Get Jerry explains, the batteries that power the motor don’t require oxygen as a source of the power.
However, roads that cut through mountains could be curvy and more difficult to navigate. Steep hills could mean that car owners need more power to accelerate and push up the grade. Again, if the oxygen level is lower, ICE vehicles might struggle.
Mountain areas also could have snowy or icy conditions. Not every car is equipped to handle slick surfaces and more dangerous conditions. Electric vehicles and standard vehicles could have rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. When navigating slick roads, all-wheel drive might provide the best traction and control.
For this reason, those who are shopping for an EV and know they will need to drive through mountainous areas might focus on models with all-wheel drive.
Electric Vehicles Have This One Weakness
The biggest challenge for electric vehicle owners when driving through the mountains might not be the car’s power but rather how the car is powered. Electric vehicles need to be charged when the battery runs low, and public charging stations aren’t widely available in every part of the country.
There are numerous driving habits that impact the range of an electric vehicle. Driving fast, using the heat or air conditioning and even driving uphill can decrease the vehicle’s estimated range.
The hills and steep grades of mountain driving could negatively impact the range. If the car owner is in an area without access to a charging station, they could be stuck if their battery runs low.
Range anxiety refers to the driver’s concern about being unable to find a charging station in time or running low on battery power. The fear is understandable; while gas stations are nearly on every street corner and even in remote or rural areas, public charging stations aren’t nearly as accessible.
In addition, not all charging stations offer a quick and efficient charge. Drivers might have to charge their car for an hour or more to ensure that their battery is regenerated. This charging time could add hours to the trip; a four-hour journey could take six hours if an electric vehicle needs to be charged a few times along the way.
Longer Ranges Could be an Asset for EV Shoppers
As Get Jerry explained, electric vehicles aren’t impacted by mountain driving in the same way as an ICE vehicle. However, the range of an EV could be decreased from using the heat or traveling uphill. For mountainous areas, there could be a lot of uphill travels.
Car shoppers who know that they will take their electric vehicle through mountain journeys might focus on the models with the longest ranges. The electric vehicles that have the best estimated ranges are:
- Lucid Air Dream Edition (Range model has an estimated range of 520 miles; the Performance has an estimated range of 471 miles)
- Lucid Air Grand Touring (estimated range of 516 miles)
- Lucid Air Touring and Lucid Air Pure (estimated range of 406 miles)
- Tesla Model S (estimated range of 405 miles)
- Tesla Model S Plaid (estimated range of 396 miles)
- Mercedes-Benz EQS (estimated range of 350 miles)
The Lucid Air Dream Edition is currently not available for orders. For those looking for the model with the longest range, the Lucid Air Grand Touring would be the next best option. In addition, several Tesla models offer long ranges.
Newer electric vehicles also could offer longer ranges. As the technology of electric vehicles evolves, their battery power and the distance they are able to drive on a full charge might increase. In fact, Tesla’s Cybertruck advertises an estimated range of 500 miles.
All-Wheel Drive Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles that can take on off-road treks also could be good choices to navigate the curving and steep roads of mountain driving. The Rivian R1S and GM Hummer EV (SUV) could both handle tougher terrain; those interested in the Hummer might sign up for email updates.
There are numerous pickup trucks that are powered by electric, too. However, buyers might want to research all the options to find the best model for the mountains. The Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 Lightning both feature all-wheel drive.
What Electric Vehicles Can Handle the Snow?
For those who know that the mountain terrain will be snowy and icy, what are the best electric vehicles for navigating bad winter weather? Hotcars rounded up the list of models that the site feels are the best for driving on snow and ice; the site’s top five recommendations are:
- Porsche Taycan
- Polestar 2 Arctic Circle EV
- Ford Mustang Mach-E
- Jaguar I-Pace BEV
- BMW iX
All the best models for winter driving lean luxury. The Porsche Taycan starts at $82,700. The Mach-E has a starting MSRP of $46,895. The Jaguar I-Pace BEV starts at around $69,900 and the BMW iX has a starting MSRP of $84,100.
Unfortunately for buyers, the Polestar 2 Arctic Circle was a ‘one-off’ and buyers likely won’t be able to find it. However, it was designed specifically for the winter weather.
New Electric Vehicles that Could be Good for Mountain Driving
While finding the best electric vehicle to navigate the mountain terrain could depend on a number of factors (including a buyer’s budget), some buyers prefer to shop the newest models that are hitting the market. While some of the 2023 (and later) models are only available to reserve, there are numerous electric vehicles that buyers could consider.
The Ford F-150 Lightning arrived for the 2022 model year, and the electric pickup proved to be incredibly popular with buyers; the demand was so high that Ford stopped accepting orders. The Lightning is back for 2023, and buyers might move quickly to secure a model.
Chevrolet also is taking reservations for its upcoming electric pickup truck—the Silverado. The truck will have a starting price of $39,900 and will have an estimated range of 400 miles.
Those interested in a GM Hummer EV (either the pickup or the SUV) can sign up to receive email updates. Again, both models will be able to off-road.
In addition, Tesla is still accepting orders for its Cybertruck. The truck has a starting price of around $40K, but the price will increase to $70K for a tri-motor configuration. The Cybertruck will have an estimated range of 500 miles.
Electric Vehicles Might Have an Advantage in the Mountains
Since internal-combustion engines require oxygen for the combustion that powers the engine, the lower oxygen at higher altitudes in the mountains will impact the power of the vehicle. In contrast, electric vehicle batteries aren’t impacted by the oxygen levels and might not face the same difficulties when traveling through higher altitudes.
However, electric vehicles require a charged battery to power the motor. Driving uphill, using heat or air conditioning and even driving faster all decreases the vehicle’s estimated range. While gas stations are plentiful in most areas throughout the country, public charging stations might be harder to locate.
Those who plan on traveling longer distances through the mountains in an electric vehicle might plan their trip according to the location of public charging stations. In addition, those who are shopping for an electric vehicle also could choose a model with a longer range.
Many mountain roads could be slick from snow or ice. Car shoppers who want an electric vehicle might look for models with all-wheel drive or other capabilities that can tackle these slick surfaces. Rugged electric pickup trucks or electric SUVs could be good options.
While buyers might need an electric vehicle that handles the best in snow or that can travel easily along winding roads, buyers also might need to focus on the models that best fit into their budget. The list of best electric vehicles for winter weather (from Hotcars) included luxury models. These could be out of the price range for some shoppers.
While the Mach-E was priced less than $50K, buyers might focus on other models that offer all-wheel drive or other capabilities that let them tackle the snow and ice. The best electric car for navigating mountain roads should be safe, fit in the budget and have the capabilities to tackle winding roads and winter weather, too.