[Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Chevy Bolt’s extra range = more freedom, less anxiety than in Nissan LEAF

There is a 3,000 foot elevation gain from Denver to Staunton State Park, which is about 38 miles from my house in Littleton, Colo. My 2017 Chevy Bolt easily made the nearly 80-mile round-trip, but my 2014 LEAF, which I returned a week ago after 3 1/2 years of leasing it was not able to get me to Staunton and back.

editor's blog logoI’ve been driving my leased 2017 Bolt for a week now, after turning in my 2014 Nissan LEAF — which I had leased for three and a half years — last Monday.

The Bolt easily delivered an 80-mile round trip into the Colorado mountains. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
This weekend, I did something in my Bolt that I never was able to do with my LEAF: I drove about 40 miles into the mountains west of Denver and 40 miles on the return trip to beautiful Staunton State Park, which is approximately 3,000 feet higher than Denver.

I was able to do a great eight-mile hike in Staunton on an absolutely gorgeous, blue-sky autumn Colorado afternoon.

It was the first hike I’ve done relatively “deep” into the mountains West of Denver in about four years that I was able to drive to in my own car (occasionally, over the past four years, I’ve hitched a ride into the mountains with a friend/relative with a gas car).

It felt like F-R-E-E-D-O-M! 🙂

The Aspen trees are peaking in color at around 8,000 to 9,000 feet of elevation at Staunton State Park, about 40 miles west of Denver, Colo. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, because even with the Bolt’s 238-mile range a near total lack of fast-charging stations in the mountains of Colorado (except for the Tesla Supercharging station in Breckenridge) still limits where I can go, and how deep I can go into the mountains and still make it back home without having to charge.

But at least, with my newly leased Bolt, I can get into the mountains and back without having to charge, something I could not easily do in my 2014 LEAF.

Hiking regularly in the mountains west of Denver just wasn’t a reasonable or practical option with my 84-mile, 24 kWh battery pack LEAF, which, due to a divorce about one-year into my three-year lease, turned unexpectedly into my only car.

Yes, I could have found some Level 2 chargers, of which there are some in the Colorado mountains, but these often were out of the way I wanted to travel in, take a long time to add charge, and, more often than not, simply do not exist.

Two summers ago, I actually tried to drive my 2014 LEAF to Staunton Park. I didn’t make it.

About 20 miles into the trip, I was dropping range like a lead weight thanks to a 3,000 foot elevation gain over about 10 miles of Route 285 in Colorado.

I knew I would pick up some range, probably a lot, on the way back down. I nonetheless freaked out and turned around at about the 25-mile mark on the approximately 40-mile trip from my house to Staunton State Park.

Believe me, it IS scary when you’re climbing up long, steep mountain grades in an 84-mile electric car, and your range is dropping fast, fast, fast — faster than anyone who’s never driven a LEAF up a long mountain pass can even imagine!

It is A LOT less scary in a 238-mile electric car such as the Bolt.

That noted, my Bolt dropped mileage precipitously as I climbed the 3,000 feet along Route 285 yesterday. And, frankly, I started getting a little anxious: After all, I have run out charge twice before in an electric car. It does happen! 😉

A close-up of a yellow Aspen tree in Staunton State Park west of Denver. I could not drive to Staunton and back in my 2014 LEAF, but I easily drove to and back in a 2017 Chevy Bolt, which has replaced the LEAF as my only car. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
But there was a big difference this time: I could be 100 percent confident that the Bolt would make it to Staunton State Park AND back, without having to charge.

It was NOT clear if my 2014 LEAF would have made the 80-mile round trip on one charge, although it may very well have. I turned around two years ago because I didn’t want to be freaking out going up, and be frantically crossing my fingers going down that my LEAF would re-gain enough mileage on the way down to make up for, or more than make up for, what I had lost so quickly on the way up.

This time — in my 238-mile Bolt — I got to Staunton State Park with 150 miles of range remaining — and I knew it would pick up range on the return trip. Even if it did not gain range, I could still make it back home with plenty of mileage to spare.

In fact, the Bolt picked up 34 miles of range on the way down the three-thousand-foot elevation drop. And I zipped out of the mountains directly west of Denver with 184 miles of range 🙂 This, even though I hadn’t even left home with a full 238-mile charge, but with 224-miles of range.

The amount of range I gained in the Bolt on the way down made me think that MAYBE I would have been able to make the same 80-mile mountain trip in my Nissan LEAF two years ago. Then again, MAYBE not. And I do not desire, or need, the uncertainty about whether my electric car will make it home or that it might not.

Indeed, it’s a tremendous relief not to have that anxiety 🙂

The 238 miles of range my 2017 Bolt delivers doesn’t mean “range anxiety” will disappear 100 percent  — yes, despite what some electric car advocates claim, “range anxiety” is REAL, at least for those of us who drive a full electric car as our ONLY car. However, the Bolt provides A LOT more cushion than my 2014 Nissan LEAF and can easily deliver me to many, many, many more places than my LEAF.

And that, my friends, is a great feeling 🙂