My daughter Kyra and I completed our two-day road trip in our 2020 Chevy Bolt from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. — where my sister and her family live — last night at 8 p.m. Pacific Time 🙂.
In all, we covered 1,137 miles in two days of driving — 590 miles on Day 1, and 547 miles on Day 2. We were underway for 13 hours each day, with about three hours each day devoted to charging and 10 hours to driving.
We used 277 kWh of electricity for a 4.1 miles/kWh average, not bad for a trip that was 97% highway driving — there was a stretch between Victorville and Palmdale, Calif. that was not highway driving and there is also a stretch of road between I-5 and California 101, California 126, which feeds from I-5 to Ventura, that has some traffic lights.
Overall, we charged at seven different DCFC or “fast-charge” stations along the way. Well, technically, eight, as the DCFC station at the Palmdale, Calif. Park and Ride was a total dud with none of the three chargers I tried there delivering more than a 11 kW charging rate a fact that forced us to drive to a ChargePoint DCFC station at Target in Palmdale to get a quicker charge for our last leg of the trip, Palmdale to Goleta, Calif.
We charged at DCFC stations in ==>
— Glenwood Springs, Colo. [Electrify America, 30 kWh, 1 hour, 42 kW maximum, $9.76]
— Green River, Utah [Electrify America, 46 kWh, 70 minutes, 55 kW maximum, $14.26]
— Richfield, Utah [Electrify America, 38 kWh, 55 minutes, 55 kW maximum, $12.58]
— Cedar City, Utah (overnight at hotel) [Electrify America, 41 kWh, 82 minutes, 55 kW maximum, $13.50]
— Jean, Nev. [Terrible Herbst Chevron, 44 kWh, 70 minutes, 45 kW maximum, free charge]
— Valley Wells Rest Area along I-15 in Calif. [CalTrans, 14 kWh, 30 minutes, free charge]
— Palmdale, Calif., Park & Ride [EVCS: delivered 11 kW charge 😖; I stopped charge after less than 1 kWh]
— Palmdale, Calif., [ChargePoint, Target, 34 kWh, 58 minutes, 40 kW maximum charge, $14.50]
I spent $64.60 on fuel to drive 1,137 miles. Compare that to the about $160 we would have spent on gasoline in a car that gets 25 mpg and with a per gallon cost of $3.50! And, of course, many vehicles in the United States average 20 mpg or even 15 mpg, or worse.
Generally speaking,this year’s road trip in a Chevy Bolt from Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. was a lot quicker, smoother, faster and with considerably less “range anxiety” than when we did the same trip three years ago in Summer 2018, that time in a leased 2017 Chevy Bolt 🙂.
More DCFC stations = reduced travel time
The biggest difference was more DCFC stations — with a stretch of nearly 350-miles along major interstate highway between DCFC stations in Utah that had zero DCFC stations in Summer of 2018 having four DCFC stations in Summer 2021. This allowed us to cut the trip from three days in each direction to two days. It also reduced anxiety about running out of charge (some) and allowed me to drive somewhat faster overall and with the AC on much more while also switching much less often to internal air circulation without the AC on.
More DCFC stations = ability to drive faster
For the most part, I drove 65 to 70 mph. This was sometimes at the speed limit — probably 50% of the time I drove at the speed limit — and sometimes below the speed limit, a fact that prompted one snide comment from a Chevy Bolt Facebook Group user about “hand me the barf bag.” This due the fact that I wasn’t driving 80 mph, which is the speed limit in much of Utah, and that I was driving 70 mph, not 75 mph, which is the speed limit along some stretches of I-70 in Colorado and also along some stretches of I-15 in Nevada.
Even with more DCFC stations along the way in Summer of 2021 vs. Summer of 2018, I wanted to be cautious and reasonable in terms of my charging and range: To me, it makes nearly zero sense to drive 80 mph and push the limits of an EV’s range while risking running out of charge when you can drive 70 mph and arrive at a DCFC with about 20%, or more, of the Bolt’s 66 kWh battery pack charge intact, and at least 40 to 50 miles or range padding.
Why put yourself in that position, where you’re driving fast(er) and pushing yourself very close to the edge, or over the edge, of your EV’s range?
Not that most Americans seem to care much about either one of those facts: It’s all about getting there faster, right?
This noted, I did drive 75 mph on I-15 from the I-70 juncture to Cedar City, Utah — where the speed limit is 80 mph. I did so in part to drive more with the rather dense traffic that was streaming along that 80-mile stretch on a Sunday evening, and, in part, because, thanks to more DCFC stations, including the one in Richfield, Utah that I filled up at for the final 130 miles to Cedar City, I could drive 75 without worrying at all about my range at that point.
However, for the most part, in Utah, I was driving 10 mph under the 80 mph speed limit and 5 mph below the speed limit along stretches of highway in Colorado and Nevada that are marked as 75 mph.
“Worst case” range meter on Bolt
I did vary my speed some and watched the Bolt’s great “worst case” range predictor closely, always trying to keep at least 20 miles of range “padding” between my destination and the Bolt’s worst case range read-out. I really like this feature in the Bolt. It makes me feel safer. In fact, on road trips, I don’t really even pay attention to the average predicted range, I am laser focused on the “worst case” range read-out. 😉
This noted — and I will probably write a separate entry on this — most drivers, I am going to guess at least 90%, maybe more, are NOT going to want to be forced to closely watch something like the Bolt’s “worst case” range indicator. Nor are they going to want to adjust their speed downward based on what this indicator is predicting, as useful as this Bolt feature is.
We don’t live in a society where watching what we consume — regardless of what it is, and maybe especially not when it comes to driving and fuel — is something we want to have to do. Lots of people (most?) are not going to be happy when they discover that they have to do something like this, in particular, on long-distance road trips, which, I believe, are, and will continue to (always?) be an achilles heel of electric vehicles vs. gasoline vehicles (more on this crucial topic in a future blog entry).
Conclusion: Same trip 3 years later much better
Generally speaking, this year’s Bolt Littleton to Goleta road trip, taken three years after my first, was a much better experience than the first, in terms of the driving 🙂. That is the good news … the bad news is that I, personally, do not think that we can switch to even 33% of all American long-distance road trips being fully electric, much less 50%, or, god forbid, 80%+ and have it work. At least not with our current battery technology and charging technology and speed.
We are going to need battery swap outs and/or wireless charging technology installed on long-distance highways and byways or really, really speed up the charging rates of EVs, especially the Bolt’s. Imagine everyone — and I do mean EVERYONE — on a long-distance road trip in a Bolt, taking 75 minutes at a station to add about 200 miles of range. OMG?! 🙄
My revelation on this comes as I was actually out on a long-distance road trip again — lots of EV advocates who talk a “good game” about EVs working for long-distance travel for millions of Americans — rarely to ever actually get out there on these road trips. They need to get out there and see, and experience, all of that traffic on these long-distance road trips, really, really see it and think about ALL of those vehicles having to charge. All of them. Every single one of them. Every 200 miles for 30+ minutes.
And these EV advocates — I AM one of the world’s biggest EV advocates, to be clear, and have been one for more than a decade — all need to spend at least 30 minutes watching the flow of gasoline vehicles zooming into the self-declared World’s Largest Chevron station in Jean, Nev. with 96 gas pumps and take some time to reflect on how that flow is going to look when the vast majority of the traffic flowing into a place such as this is in electric, not gasoline vehicles.
I will write about the less good news for EVs as this relates to long-distance road trips in a future entry. I hope that you read it, think about it, and, if you want, respond to it, and maybe even come up with solutions to what is clearly a HUGE looming issue for America’s conversion to EVs!