2,400-mile road trip in Chevy Bolt shows long-distance fast charging infrastructure not ready for prime time

The route we drove from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. and back in our 2017 Chevy Bolt.

blog logoBarring the unforeseen, my two daughters and I will complete our 2,400-mile round trip road trip from Denver to Santa Barbara in our all-electric Chevy Bolt this evening in Littleton, Colo.

I would definitely do this round trip again in my Bolt — which is a joy to drive. But more DC fast charging stations along the route THAT ACTUALLY WORK are needed.

Hanging out in Victorville, Calif. waiting for the single DCFC station to be free.

I “had” to put “THAT ACTUALLY WORK” in caps because, inexplicably in my view, major charge station companies such as EV Go and ChargePoint don’t seem to care much about whether their fast charging stations are working. On the trip out to Santa Barbara from Denver, I encountered a ChargePoint DC fast charging station in Fillmore, Utah that did not work, and the ChargePoint representative could not do anything from her end to get it to work.

So, my daughters spent two hours at the Fillmore, Utah Maverick station waiting to charge up enough with the ChargePoint Level 2 station at Fillmore Maverick to get us to Cedar City, Utah, where there is another ChargePoint DC fast charger.

Guess what? That one did NOT work either — until I’d spent 10 minutes on the phone with a Chargepoint representative who “reset” station to get it to charge.

Then, today, 12 days later on the way back to Colorado from California, that same Chargepoint DC fast charger in Cedar City, Utah AGAIN needed to be reset and I spent another 10 minutes on a phone call to get it to work.

Lest you think the lack of quality and delivery of dependable service that, literally, can leave long-distance EV drivers like me, in a position where we might need a tow, is just a ChargePoint issue, here are some more examples of non-functional DCFC stations.

Last night, on our Goleta, Calif. to St. George, Utah leg of our three-leg, 1,200-mile return trip in our Bolt, not one, but TWO different EV go DC fast chargers in the Las Vegas area would not work for me, and EV Go representatives I spoke with via phone were unable to help me to get the charging stations to work.

The second non-functioning EV go fast charger at the Terrible Herbst convenience store at 4850 W Silverado Ranch Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89141, was especially maddening. I eventually had to give up trying to talk to the EVGo guy on the phone because the charger is right next to a car wash, and when a car goes through the car wash, it is  literally impossible to hear what someone on the phone is saying!

Two EV Go DCFC stations in South Las Vegas were out of order on Saturday, Aug. 4, forcing us to drive around town to find a working DCFC station.

Fortunately, our THIRD DC fast charger of the night in Las Vegas did work. A Greenlots DCFC station tucked away in a parking garage for the Tahiti Village Resort and Spa, worked for us and we were able to add enough miles to get from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah. We were VERY fortunate that this station was not ICEd, as several Plugshare.Com pics show it being ICEd, and I am guessing this happens quite often at this spot given that the two spaces for the station are not marked well at all.

After losing 90 minutes to driving around Las Vegas trying to find a working DCFC station, during which I ran into another woman in a Chevy Bolt who told me a THIRD EV Go fast charger was NOT working, we drove 130 miles to St. George and plugged in for the night there.

The Hampton Inn and Suites in south St. George has four EV charging stations. And amazingly, none had been ICEd by the time we got there at 12 a.m. — almost two hours later than anticipated thanks to the non-working EV Go DCFC stations in Las Vegas! However, by morning, the only EV spot that hadn’t been ICEd was the one I parked in 🙁

Some day, we EVers should block all gas pumps at a major refueling spot on a major interstate highway so that the ICErs can get a sense of what they are doing to us when they park in an EV only spot.

In total, then, three out of the seven DCFC stations that I plugged in to on this 2,400-mile road trip with my daughters in our Bolt did NOT work, and five of the seven required phone calls to the company who installed them.

Three of four EV charger parking spots are ICEd at the Hampton Inn & Suites in St. George, Utah. But luckily I got my 2017 Chevy Bolt parked and plugged in before the ICE wave.

This is UNACCEPTABLE, and an embarrassment to the companies — I will gladly mention them again here, ChargePoint and EV Go, to make sure everyone knows they are NOT reliable, at least not along I-70 and I-15 in Utah and Nevada — who installed, and allegedly run these charging stations. No one would put up with gas pumps at a gas station — ALL of them — not working, or working sometimes, or working if you’re “lucky”, etc. No one.

Some might say — I know some WILL say: “Well, you signed up for this, Christof.”

No, I did not sign up for this.

Yes, I signed up for not enough DCFC stations at first, and for the lines of EV drivers at these stations — I faced lines at the EVGo DCFC in Victorville, Calif. in both directions on this Denver to Santa Barbara trip.

I most definitely did NOT sign up for poor EV charging station customer service. Customer service starts with making sure whatever service you deliver gets delivered, regularly, efficiently, for a competitive price and in an effective and reliable manner. That was not my experience on this 2,400-mile road trip with ChargePoint or EV Go and their DCFC stations. Based on what I have read around the EV world, and the comments I have seen on Plugshare, non-functioning EV chargers, especially DC fast chargers, are WAY more common than they should be.

The “final” word here: Despite the charging headaches, I loved driving to California from Colorado and back in a 100 percent electric car with my two daughters, and I’m fortunate to have found enough working chargers to make it work. I would definitely do it again!

However, the DCFC infrastructure in much of the American West and Midwest is very clearly NOT ready for prime time.

We’re getting 4.4 miles per kWh on our 2,400-mile, nearly 100 percent interstate highway route roundtrip road trip from Denver to Santa Barbara.

Indeed, my 2,400-mile pure EV road trip in a 2017 Chevy Bolt is surely only for experienced, veteran, and dedicated EVers such as myself — I’ve been a pro-EV advocate since 2009 — and very definitely NOT a trip for your ‘average’ driver, who needs enough working DCFC stations along the way so that she doesn’t have to constantly watch how fast she’s driving, slow down significantly up mountain passes, temporarily turn off the AC, etc.

All of this extra driver vigilance in an EV during a long-distance road trip is necessary because there are not enough fueling stations along I-70, I-15 and along large swaths of American interstate highways, especially in the Midwest/Prairie states and in the Intermountain West — with the exception, of course, of Tesla Superchargers, which are not accessible to non-Tesla drivers.

Until we get A LOT more DCFC stations along I-70, and I-15 that work 99.99 percent of the time, a Chevy Bolt — or any non-Tesla all-electric model, really — will continue to be only viable for long-distance road trips like Denver to Santa Barbara taken by EV veterans/activists like me. We are the ones who are willing to carefully plan, put up with unexpected twists, slow down while driving, watch one’s lowest anticipated range and its relationship to how much further one has to drive like a hawk, not anyone else. Why should they, or we, have to put up with that if, indeed, EVs are truly “better” than gas cars?

Three EVs, two Chevy Bolts and one Nissan LEAF, compete for a single EV Go DCFC station in Victorville, Calif.
This EV Go DCFC station at a Terrible Herbst convenience store in South Las Vegas was not functioning on Saturday, Aug. 4.
My daughters hanging out in the Bolt while we charge at the third DCFC station we tried in Las Vegas on Saturday, Aug. 4. The third time was “the charm” as this Greenlots DCFC station did work.