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The attraction and the anxiety of electric cars

A row of Electrify America chargers at the Auburn Mall.
A row of Electrify America chargers at the Auburn Mall.Aaron Pressman

With the fall colors on full display, it seemed like the perfect weekend to head to the Berkshires for a bike ride up Mt. Greylock. It was also a chance to take our family’s new fully electric car, a Kia Niro EV, on its first road trip. By the end of the trip, biking down Greylock’s steep, curvy roads in a rainstorm wasn’t my most stressful moment.

If you drive an EV, you can probably guess why: range anxiety.

It’s about 150 miles to Lanesborough, the small town where my route up Greylock started. The Niro’s 240-mile range is plenty to get that far. But the 90 miles of remaining range wouldn’t be enough to make it home. And once you arrive in Western Mass., the non-Tesla options for recharging are pretty limited.

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ChargePoint and some other chains have a hodgepodge of the slowest variety of chargers in parking lots of supermarkets and big-box stores. But those chargers would take hours to recharge me for the ride home.

Electrify America has the fastest EV chargers in Massachusetts, but they don’t have any locations in the Berkshires. The nearest to Lanesborough is in Chicopee, a 70-mile drive. Cutting it pretty close!

And EVGo has some medium-speed chargers conveniently placed at rest stops on the Mass Pike, including in Lee, not far from Lanesborough.

So the most time-efficient plan was to hit the Lee Service Plaza charger and get enough juice to make it to Chicopee, or maybe the next Electrify America station in Auburn.

Unfortunately, EVGo only installed a single charger at each rest stop. Charging machines can be finicky and sometimes go offline for no apparent reason (see this video of some YouTubers almost getting stranded).

An EVGo charger at the Lee Service Plaza.
An EVGo charger at the Lee Service Plaza.Aaron Pressman

I checked EVGo’s app before heading to Lee and the charger was online and unoccupied. When I got to the rest stop, range dwindling, I decided first to go inside for a bio break.

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Checking the app, I had a slight panic attack: The charger was suddenly “unavailable.” Taking a few deep breaths, I got back in the Niro and drove over to the machine, tucked behind a row of gas pumps. Thankfully, the charger was fine. In 13 minutes, for $4.14 (including tax), I got more than enough power to make it to Auburn.

In the future, I might plan trips that rely only on stations with multiple chargers, even if that means an extra stop or a little more time charging. The experience at Auburn was first class. A row of 10 super-fast chargers meant no anxiety to fill up with plenty of electricity to make it home. As the Niro juiced up, I went across the street for a Dunkin’ iced coffee to recharge my batteries.




Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.