5 Essentials for Electric Vehicle Drivers on a New York Beach Trip

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: A woman walks her dog on the Rockaway Beach on October 26, 2013 in the Queens borough of New York City. Hurricane Sandy made landfall last year on October 29th near Brigantine, New Jersey and affected 24 states from Florida to Maine and cost the country an estimated $65 billion. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)
Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

So the dog days of summer are in sight and you’ve tired of the sweaty streets of Gotham. What’s a sand-starved New Yorker to do? Any MetroCard with a balance of $2.75 or better can get you to Rockaway Beach, Queens, but you’ve tired of the crowds and the planes circling JFK airport. You want to explore the coast for a beach not in spitting distance of any airline hubs.

You’ll need wheels to fulfill this fantasy. Your only condition is you go purely electric, and you end up with an EV that is not a Tesla Model S. You only have 75 to 85 miles of range and a charging station infrastructure that is limited at best. If you want to make it in Montauk or see what summer’s like on the Jersey shore, you need to plan out your route and have your charge spots in place.

As the first part of a series on electric vehicle ownership on the East Coast, here is a checklist of five essentials for your beach run out of New York. Don’t leave home without them.

1. A full charge

Cindy Solorzano/Autos Cheat Sheet

Getting out of the city without a full battery is a mistake. In our run from Rockaway Beach to the north Jersey coast, we suffered a setback before our launch: Somewhere in the middle of the night, either a misguided drunk or nosy landlord unplugged our Focus Electric loaner. When we awoke ready for the journey, we realized the battery was stuck on 50 miles — hardly enough to make it to Ocean Port and the beach in Sea Bright. Before leaving town, we had to stop at a Key Foods in Sheepshead Bay, a 90-minute detour that cost $10 at the ChargePoint location.

2. Charge station apps

Cindy Solorzano/Autos Cheat Sheet

Before getting on your way, you’ll need a clear picture of where you can charge and how you are going to navigate to your destination. New Yorkers in an EV sporting less than 90 miles of range will have to charge multiple times in a weekend on the road. ChargePoint’s app gives you a look at charge stations available in your area using GPS, and you’ll be able to see real-time availability as well. There are times when a charger is in use without the app knowing it, so keep in mind the station may be in use upon arrival. Have a backup plan in place just in case. This station pictured in Neptune City, New Jersey, would have disappointed the next EV driver.

3. Good walking shoes

Cindy Solorzano/Autos Cheat Sheet

As we learned charging at Monmouth University and outside an elementary school in Neptune City, your charge spot may be several blocks — if not a mile — from the nearest diversion. At times like these we were thankful we had fairly new sneakers on and the stamina built from long walks on New York City streets. Needing to recharge our own batteries, we made the trek to Jody’s Fishery, a local seafood haunt, which was 0.9 miles from the ChargePoint station.

4. Picnic supplies

Sea Bright, NJ (Photo: Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet)

Electric car drivers can strategically plan to charge near the beach of your destination or at another attractive spot along the way. However, there are cases where you’ll find it impossible to make it to a sandy spot while you wait. In these situations, you have no choice but to stretch out on the nearest grassy knoll and stage an impromptu picnic. All you need is a blanket and your refreshments of choice. Along the way, we stopped and relaxed at several unlikely picnic destinations, including a hilly area near the Shrewsbury, N.J., Volkswagen dealer who hosted free Level 2 charging.

Barnegat Lighthouse
Barnegat Light, N.J. (Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet)

5. A laidback travel companion

Writers may enjoy solitude more than the average citizen, but the current state of the New York-New Jersey EV charging infrastructure makes a good traveling companion a must on your electric beach run. Even when you are meeting friends or family, you are going to want someone in the car with you when you hit a dead-end spot to charge the car. If you planned to travel alone, reconsider and invite a friend. He or she will keep you sane and keep your eye on the prize, which in this East Coast beach trip was gorgeous Barnegat Light at the end of Long Beach Island, some 108 miles from Manhattan.

Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY