Denver to Santa Barbara in a Chevy Bolt: Day 1, Littleton, Colo. to Green River, Utah

My 2017 Chevy Bolt parked at the eastern entrance to the 1.7-mile Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 in Colorado. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
blog logoI’ve never done a road trip in a Chevy Bolt before, though I have done two mid-length road trips from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico in my brother’s Tesla Model S.

The family before our departure on a 1,200-mile road trip from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. in our all-electric Chevy Bolt, which has 238 miles of range.

Here are some of my more memorable impressions after driving the first 356-mile leg of a 1,200-mile trip from Denver to Santa Barbara today that I am doing with my two daughters, 13 and 11, in tow.

  • It felt absolutely great to have a ‘real car’ again, one I can actually take on road trips, in contrast to the 2014 Nissan LEAF I leased for 3 1/2 years — and which I always need to note, I basically got stuck with for three years as my ONLY car after a divorce took “my/our” gas car away.
  • Coming from a 84-mile LEAF as one’s only car, a 238-mile Bolt does indeed seem like, and is, a ‘real car’!  The Bolt, like the LEAF was, is my ONLY car.
  • However, saying the Bolt is a ‘real car’ in comparison to a gas car for a long-distance road trip like the 1,200-mile one (each way) that I am on is a bit of a stretch.
  • In my Bolt today, driving through the Colorado mountains on I-70, I paid a lot more attention to speed than I ever would in a gas car, or in a Tesla with a Supercharger network, for that matter. In much of the middle of the United States, there is no robust long-distance fueling infrastructure for the Chevy Bolt, although, at least there are some DCFC fast chargers in some places along I-70 now. In fact, for the last five miles up to the 11,000+ foot Eisenhower Tunnel, I tucked in behind a truck with its flashers on, going about 40 to 45 m.p.h. for that stretch.
  • Our Chevy Bolt charging for free at a DCFC fast charger at Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

    I also drove 65 m.p.h. for most of the “flat” parts of the 356-mile drive today — and I was more conservative with the air conditioning than I would ever be in a car that has a robust and fast fueling infrastructure, either a gas car, or a Tesla with Supercharger network.

  • So, on the one hand, it felt great to have a car that I can actually use for road trips — sorry 2014 LEAF with 84 miles of range, you were a great little commuter, urban/suburban car, but no way will you ever be a viable long-distance car. On the other hand, I had to pay attention to things — driving speed, air conditioning, had to estimate constantly whether we would make it to our next planned stop, or have to stop earlier — which we had to do once — that your average gas car driver of never pays attention to, and, frankly, is likely unwilling to have to pay attention to.
  • Our Chevy Bolt averaged 4.3 miles per kWh across 356 miles of very mountainous highway — and with three people in the car.

    We also had to spend about two hours total on our 356-mile trip from Littleton, Colo. to Green River, Utah — where we are staying in a KOA so that I can charge my Bolt up overnight — charging the car. Most people aren’t willing to do that, though I am 😉

  • We did get FREE fuel. We charged up at a DCFC fast charger at Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs for free — the dealer representatives were SOOO nice, they deserve a lot of praise! We also charged for FREE at a DCFC fast charger at the Grand Junction Public Library. Say what you will about extra time for fueling, but you ain’t ever gonna get free gasoline for your ICE road trips! 😉
  • I got a little bit nervous going up, up, up all the way up to the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70; it’s basically a straight, and often steep, 13-mile climb from Georgetown, Colo. to the Eisenhower Tunnel, which tops out at more than 11,000 feet. We started at 5,400 feet in Littleton, Colo. at the beginning of the day.
  • I shouldn’t have had any anxiety, as I hoped we would, we more than made up for the drop from 270 miles to 142 miles of range on the up-mountain to the eastern entrance of the nearly two-mile long Eisenhower Tunnel on the down-mountain, west side of the Eisenhower tunnel. There we gained 42 miles of range back zooming down five+ miles of seven percent grade to Frisco and Breckenridge, Colo.

    Some of the data from Day 1 of a 1,200-mile road trip from Denver to Santa Barbara.
  • I was a bit concerned about Vail pass, which, at 10,622 feet, comes after the Eisenhower Tunnel. I needn’t have been, we didn’t use all that much energy going up Vail pass, and were able to easily shoot down the western side and down all the way to Glenwood Springs at 70 to 75 m.p.h.
  • Given all of the sometimes serious up and down in the mountains of Colorado and Utah, and the fact that we had three people in the car, I feel pretty good about the 4.3 miles per kWh average we had for our first day!
  • I’m grateful that there are now some DCFC fast chargers between Denver and Fillmore, Utah — the one at Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs, and the one at the Grand Junction Public Library. Both of these just went online within the last six weeks.
  • We never did see another Bolt in our 356 miles of driving today, though we saw one first-generation LEAF that probably was commuting between Breckenridge and Vail. We didn’t see a single Tesla either, though we now have 34 state license plates for our trip list 😉 — with Texas, predictably, taking the lead with 20 Texas plates seen (sometimes if feels like the whole state of Texas is moving to Colorado — can’t blame them, I would, too, if I were stuck living in Texas — but it is getting crowded in the Denver area 😉

On to day two, tomorrow. We’ll start with a full charge, or about 290 miles, thanks to a 50-amp, 240 volt plug-in here at Green River, Utah KOA. The plan is then to drive to Fillmore, Utah — which is actually 40 miles out of the way — to charge at a DCFC fast charger there, then drive about 160 miles further to Cedar City, Utah, which also has a DCFC fast charger, then drive another 150 miles or so to Las Vegas for a day total of about 400 miles, and stay overnight in Vegas while charging the car. Then, we’ll head out on day three of our three-day, Chevy Bolt road trip.

The Bolt parked at the Vail pass rest area today.
Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs, Colo. boasts a solar system — and a DCFC charger that it allows Bolt owners to charge at for free.
Our 2017 Chevy Bolt charging at the Green River, Utah KOA at the end of Day 1 on a three-day, 1,200-mile road trip from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif.