My red 2017 Bolt LT parked in Goleta, Calif. after a 1,200 mile road trip from Denver, Colo. in July 2018. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Driving Denver to Santa Barbara in a Chevy Bolt again — 3 years later

The approximately 1,200-mile route from my home in Littleton, Colo. to my sister’s in Goleta, Calif. I am planning to cover it in my 2020 Chevy Bolt (upper left). I did the same trip in a 2017 Bolt in Summer of 2018. That required three days, due to a lack of non-Tesla DCFC stations in Utah. I am hoping to make it in two days this time.

blog logoThree years ago, I successfully completed a 2,400-mile round trip in my leased 2017 Chevy Bolt from Denver (really Littleton), Colo. to Santa Barbara (really Goleta), Calif. with my two daughters. We visited my sister and her family in Goleta and had a great time.

That trip took three days in each direction because at that point there were zero DCFC stations on I-70 between Grand Junction, Colo. and the juncture between I-70 and I-15 in Western, Utah, or no non-Tesla DCFC stations across a span of about 340 miles of major interstate highway.

In fact, in the Summer of 2018, we had to drive out of our way from Green River, Utah, where we stayed overnight at a KOA campground and charged up, to Fillmore, Utah, which is well north of the junction between I-70 and I-15, in order to hit a DCFC station. AND that Chargepoint DCFC station was not functioning when we got there.

So, we had to sit for two hours charging at a Level 2 charger that fortunately was right next to the non-functioning Chargepoint DCFC station. Then, we drove about one hour further south to Cedar City, Utah to hit another Chargepoint DCFC station and ALSO had problems with that station, which had to be “reset” by Chargepoint following a phone call by me in order to function.

We continued to have problems with non-functioning DCFC stations throughout the trip, losing two hours on the way home in the Las Vegas area after two EVGo DCFC stations in a row did not function!

Despite the extra stress — stress that we should not have to had to tolerate; imagine gas stations not functioning, one after the other, and ICE drivers tolerating that! They would not, and should not! — and an extra day of travel in each direction, again, it took three days in both directions rather than two, it was a nice trip and I am very glad we went ๐Ÿ™‚.

Three years later, I am going to try the same trip, this time in a 2020 Chevy Bolt that I am leasing. And this time, I am hoping to make the approximately 1,200-mile journey in each direction in a more reasonable two days — assuming that I do not face the same issues with non-functioning DCFC stations that I did three years ago — we landed at four stations that were not working across our 2,400-mile journey!

Ready to take off with a full charge from the Green River Utah KOA in my 2017 Chevy Bolt in the Summer of 2018 en route from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. [Photo by Alina Demont-Heinrich]
I have to confess, I am already concerned. For example, PlugShare reports have shown that an Electrify America DCFC station in Glenwood Springs, Colo. that I wanted to charge at was not functioning on Aug. 6. C’mon! This is SO ridiculous, intolerable, and just not right!

Again, no one would tolerate the lack of reliability along the gas station network that we non-Tesla EV pioneers do — it’s kind of hard to believe that 7.5 years into my own EV pioneering, we are still calling the newer folks getting on board “pioneers”, but we are ๐Ÿ˜–, and they are pioneers still, given that still far less than 2% of total vehicles on the road in the United States are fully electric.

My plan on the trip out is below.

I am putting my trip plan/route “out there” in the hopes that I might get some tips and/or valuable information from other non-Tesla EV drivers who have had relatively recent experience with driving part of the same Denver to Santa Barbara route and experience with some of the DCFC stations and hotels with Level 2 charging along the way and whether they are (not) working and/or tips on, for instance, on questions such as whether I should pay for an Electrify America monthly pass, whether I can/will be able to simply swipe a credit card at the different DCFC stations — Chargepoint, EVGo, Electrify America, Greenlots, etc. — or if I will need to have an online account in order to charge, if I can call ahead to a hotel and try and “reserve” their Level 2 charger (probably not), or, if at least if I cannot, if it is worth it to call and ask the hotel to help prevent their chargers from being ICE-ed before I arrive, probably fairly late at night.

So, any and all tips/advice from others who have done all, or part, of the Denver to Santa Barbara round trip in a non-Tesla EV are VERY welcome. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ‘

Here is my planned route, complete with a detour over Independence Pass in Colorado due to the ongoing Glenwood Canyon I-70 closure, closed essentially due to our unfolding Climate Emergency, which sparked massive fires there last year and then, this year, flash flooding and mudslides and rockslides. Again, tips/advice/feedback on any of the DCFC stations, route, whether I should try different stations than I am, different hotels, etc. are very much welcome.

Day 1 [Sun., Aug. 15, 640 miles]

The Electrify America DCFC station at Target in Glenwood Springs. Some reports on Plugshare.Com on Aug. 8 are saying it is down ๐Ÿ˜–.

Leg 1: Littleton to Glenwood Springs, Colo. [Electrify America DCFC Station at Target, Glenwood Springs], 208 miles, 4.25 hours OR Littleton to Carbondale, Colo. [Chargepoint DCFC station in Carbondale], 197 miles, 4 hours.ย I had originally planned to charge up in Glenwood Springs, after doing the Independence Pass detour around the I-70 Glenwood Canyon closure — which I am aware Colorado state police are trying to discourage drivers from using in statements to the media, etc., but, as far as I know, are not officially preventing people from actually driving. However, an entry by another Bolt driver from Aug. 6 on Plugshare indicates that the Electrify America DCFC station at Target Glenwood Springs was not functioning at all. C’mon! ๐Ÿ˜ก Here we go again, three years after my first Denver to Santa Barbara trip, with the SAME issue of lack of reliability of non-Tesla DCFC stations. Really!? So, I am thinking of going from, and will likely go from, Littleton to Carbondale, Colo., over Independence pass and CO 82, and charge at a Chargepoint station in Carbondale, and skip the Glenwood Springs Electrify America DCFC station. And cross my fingers that the Chargepoint Carbondale DCFC is functioning — and that I do not have to wait, as there is only one CCS slot there.

The Electrify America DCFC station in Green River, Utah. Recent Plugshare.Com reports indicate only one of four CCS slots is functioning. ๐Ÿ˜–

Leg 2: Carbondale, Colo. to Green River, Utah, 199 miles, 3 hours OR Glenwood Springs, Colo. to Green River, Utah, 187 miles, 2.75 hours [Electrify America DCFC Station, Green River Coffee].ย This station in Green River is absolutely essential to the trip, as it is the ONLY DCFC station between Grand Junction, Colo. and Salina, Utah, a 209-mile stretch. And, I’ll f—— be ๐Ÿ˜ก: A recent post on Plugshare from an Audi e-tron driver from Aug. 7 states that only ONE of the FOUR CCS slots in Green River is working. OMG! Will be crossing my fingers on this when I get to Green River in a week! A very un-inviting back-up plan would be to stay overnight at the KOA in Green River as I did three years ago in my 2017 Bolt and do an overnight Level 2 charging session. Having to do this would turn my two-day trip from Denver to Santa Barbara likely into a three-day trip. Oh brother ๐Ÿ˜–

Leg 3: Green River, Utah to Cedar City, Utah, 237 miles, 3.5 hours [Charging overnight at Best Western Plus in Cedar City]. I hope I will be charging at the Best Western Plus in Cedar City. There is only ONE Level 2 charger at this hotel, and I will be getting there late-ish, so it could be taken already and/or ICE-ed. There is an Electrify America DCFC station with four slots in Cedar City, which will be my back-up.

Day 2 [Mon., Aug. 16, 560 miles]

The DCFC station in at the Terrible Herbst convenience story in Jean, Nev.

Leg 1: Cedar City, Utah to Jean, Nev., 200 miles, 3 hours [Terrible Herbst Chevron DCFC]. In contrast to the Electrify America DCFC stations in Glenwood Springs and also Green River, right now I don’t see any reports on Plugshare that this DCFC station is not working. But the last report on Plugshare is from Aug. 1. Once again, as always with a non-Tesla EV road trip, crossing my fingers. It should not be like this! Especially three years after the same Denver to Santa Barbara Trip. How can the charging companies get away with such crappy reliability! And what damage are they doing to the EV adoption cause with their spotty and patchy service, I wonder!

Leg 2: Jean, Nev. to Palmdale, Calif. 209 miles, 3.25 hours [EVCS Palmdale Park & Ride].ย I’m seeing Plugshare reports that some of the slots at this station are not working either. So, I may end up at a different DCFC station in Palmdale. There are quite a few, so, hopefully, I should be okay. Again, though, is it not ridiculous that I am having to worry about whether a station will be, or will not be, functional?

Maybe I will take my brother, who lives near Littleton in Boulder, up on his offer to temporarily trade his 2012 Model S for my 2020 Bolt. It certainly would give me much more peace of mind as I KNOW that Tesla Super Charger stations will have at least some slots that are working, most likely all of them. Here I am, planning for hours and hours, a drive from Denver to Santa Barbara in my Bolt EV. If I had an ICE, would have to do zero planning. Other than to reserve a hotel for the halfway point. The frustration I am experiencing is ALL on the DCFC infrastructure and its lack of depth and reliability, which, three years after my first 2,400-mile non-Tesla EV trip between Denver and Santa Barbra continues to be a problem.

No wonder average Americans are reluctant to switch to an EV. I am a hard-core, EV-er with eight years of EV driving experience and I am willing to do the extra things it takes to be that EV-er, among them, lots of extra planning, dealing with the anxiety of not knowing if my next fueling station will function, and doing things like driving more slowly (up mountain passes) and being miserly with the AC in the summer and with the heat in the winter. Average Americans are not going to go for what I am doing, and even, in a perverse way, I even kind of “enjoy” as a “pioneer.” Boy, do we have a long way to go still on non-Tesla EV-ing and non-Tesla long-distance EV-ing in particular, as this planning for Denver-Santa Barbara in a Chevy Bolt is clearly under-scoring to me, once again. Sigh…

Leg 3: Palmdale Park & Ride to Goleta, Calif. 140 miles, 2.25 hours. Boy, will it be nice to be on this final leg of the trip to Goleta. I remember feeling quite triumphant about making it three years ago, and I expect the same feeling this time. I sure hope I make it in two days as planned. May The Force Be With Me (and maybe one of my daughters, who might or might not come; my older daughter starts F2F school on Aug. 12 and cannot come).

Any tips/advice/feedback on my upcoming trip to Goleta, Calif. from Littleton, Colo. and back in my 2020 Chevy Bolt are very welcome! Thank you!

Maybe the No. 1 tip might be: Take your brother up on his offer to switch out his Model S for your 2020 Chevy Bolt for two weeks and make life a lot easier on yourself — even if it might also make for less dramatic/less interesting blogging ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our 2017 Chevy Bolt plugged in at my sister’s in Goleta, Calif. in Summer 2018 following a 1,200-mile trip from Littleton, Colo.