Today proved that, yes, you can make it with an electric car on a long-distance road trip even when things go wrong/don’t work out as planned — but, honestly, the average person is not likely going to want to go through the kinds of things I, and my two daughters did, today on our long-distance leg of 400 miles from Green River, Utah to Las Vegas.
Me? Hell, yes I will go through it! — just to prove that it can be done! And it can. But not in the way the average person is going to want to do it — and I know that I’m not the “average” person on this at all 😉
Here’s the lowdown on Day Two, which saw us drive from Green River, Utah to Las Vegas, or about 430 miles:
We drove 40 miles extra/out of our way to get to a Chargepoint DCFC charger in Fillmore, Utah, only to have it not work for us. The ChargePoint representative I talked to on the phone said the station went down just before we got there around 11:30 a.m.
We had to charge at a 240v Chargepoint Charger for more than two hours at the Fillmore Maverick to amass enough range to make it the 102 miles from Fillmore, Utah to Cedar City, Utah, home to another Chargepoint DCFC fast charger.
My daughters were not happy with the extra 90 minutes of charging at Fillmore forced by the failure of the ChargePoint DCFC fast charger there. There were a couple of meltdowns, partly due to the around 100 degree July summer heat 😉
At first, the Cedar Point ChargePoint DCFC would not work for me either! In fact, I had to call ChargePoint again, and the guy on the phone reset the charger so that it would work. My daughters were already getting on my case as I was on the phone, thinking we would be stuck again.
My veteran EV driver status/experience (four+ years of driving an EV) has come in handy on this Denver to Santa Barbara trip. I know what to watch for, and when to, and how much, to dial down my driving speed if necessary. I know to take it easy up small, medium, and large mountain climbs, of which there have been plenty on this trip through the mountainous American Southwest. Sometimes I am driving as slow as 45 to 50 p.m. (with flashers on). I also know to tamper things down to 60 m.p.h. early enough in a given leg between charging stations so that I don’t run out of charge. I’ve learned it is ALWAYS best to dial back one’s speed more in the beginning of a 180-mile or so leg, then, dial it up as you get closer to the next charger if you have enough juice left, which, so far, I have.
The average driver does NOT want to have to think about whether they might not make it to the next fueling station if they drive 75 instead of 60. They want to be able to drive the way they drive, period — [Even if it IS sometimes way too fast, even dangerous, and not very environmentally friendly ;-] I am not able to not pay attention to driving speed in my Bolt on this long-distance road trip, though, if there were a thicker, more robust long-distance fast-charging network, so that I could charge everywhere I needed to, I wouldn’t have to pay attention to my speed so much. There is not currently this thick/robust AND always functioning fast-charge network — except for the proprietary Tesla Supercharger Network.
I spend a lot of time on this trip looking at the Bolt’s minimum expected range. It is a VERY useful gauge, especially when you are doing 100 percent highway driving. With highway driving, which drains the battery much faster than mixed driving, you know you are going to come in much closer to the minimum expected range than the maximum or even the middle expected range. Good call on this gauge, GM — would have been nice to have in my 2014 LEAF.
We were lucky there was a level two/240 volt charger in Fillmore as a back-up to the non-functioning DCFC fast charging station. However, it is extremely aggravating that the key fueling stations along a long-distance trip don’t work as regularly as they should — PlugShare.Com comments show that many, many EV chargers — some of these chargers ONLY fast chargers for hundreds of miles — do not perform consistently such that you can expect that they will indeed work. Such was the case with the ChargePoint DCFC charger in Fillmore, Utah today.
AND I had problems with ChargePoint chargers at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas where I booked a room to stay for tonight for myself and my two daughters mostly because of the free EV charging the hotel offers. I plugged in my Bolt, walked the 10 minutes from the parking garage to our room, ate dinner, and discovered after that, that the charger I had plugged my Bolt in to wasn’t working — thank you MyChevy App, which allows me to track the charging progress of my Bolt. So, I had to walk 10 minutes back to my Bolt in the 110 degree parking garage and discovered that the charger I was using had turned itself off/was not even lighting up anymore. So, I had to move my car to another charger.
The “moral” of the second day of our 1,200-mile road trip from Denver to Santa Barabara?: The current long-distance EV charging network is not necessarily reliable, and that’s a big problem when the infrastructure is so thin to begin with (again, with the exception of Tesla and its Supercharger network). I, mean, if you can’t properly maintain a mini-long-distance charging network and keep the charging stations online consistently so that people relying on them can, in fact, rely on them, how are you going to be able to keep a network online that would allow EVERYONE doing a road trip in their EV to charge quickly, efficiently, and without problems?
In fact, when I actually stop to think about what 100 percent electric vehicles would look like in terms of the classic long-distance American road trip — with ALL of those people streaming in and out of Maverick stations to fuel on their simultaneous long-distance trips, I simply cannot see how that would work. Seriously, a charging station for EACH of the hundreds of people who tank up with gas each hour at one single Maverick station somewhere in the USA. Seems like this is a REAL problem — actually being able to handle the logistics of long-distance EV charging for everyone, and, yes, I do mean every single driver out there — yes, the millions of people out there in their cars right now on a long-distance road trip in the USA. Create a EV-fast-charging network that allows millions to charge efficiently, quickly, and all at the same time. It. Just. Doesn’t. Seem. Realistic.