Random reflections on a 2nd 2,300-mile road trip in a Chevy Bolt

My daughter Kyra and me at our departure in Goleta, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. [Photo by Amanda Heinrich]
blog logoMy younger daughter Kyra and I completed a 2,300-mile round-trip road trip in my leased 2020 Chevy Bolt on Friday, Aug. 27, pulling into our garage in Littleton, Colo. at 8:30 p.m. local time after finishing the final of four legs of this trip, this one a 540-mile leg from Beaver, Utah to Littleton, Colo.

The trip itself — which was built around nine days at my sister’s family’s place in the beautiful Santa Barbara, Calif. area and four days of driving — brought us about 2,300 miles round trip from my townhome in Littleton, Colo. to Goleta, Calif. and back.

It was the second time I have done the trip in an all-electric Bolt. In summer of 2018, I completed the same route in a leased 2017 Chevy Bolt with both of my daughters — this time, my older daughter could not come. That 2018 trip took decidedly longer, one day extra in each direction due to a total absence of DCFC stations along I-70 in Utah.

Below are some random reflections and observations about doing this 2,300-mile trip in a Bolt, a second time, but three years after the first trip. But first, some basic numbers:

Total miles travelled = 2,258 miles
Total time in vehicle, driving + charging = 51 hours (4 travel days)
Total number of trip charging sessions = 13 DCFC charging sessions (3= free charges; 2 at Valley Wells, Calif. rest area; 1 at Terrible Herbst Chevron in Jean, Nev.)
Total number of kWh used = 565 kWh
Energy efficiency = 4 miles/kWh
Total fueling cost = $120.70
Average per kWh cost = 21 cents/kWh
Estimated total fueling cost for gas vehicle getting 25 mpg covering same distance ($3.50/gallon of gas) = $316
Highway travel typical speed driven = 65 to 75 mph
Hotel stays = 2: 1 in Cedar City, Utah, 1 in Beaver, Utah (total cost = $150)

11 Random reflections on our 2,300-mile Chevy Bolt road trip ==>

Charging at 11 p.m. at the Beaver, Utah Electrify America DCFC station. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
1. The Summer 2021 2,300-mile trip was a lot quicker than the Summer 2018 trip, two days quicker. This, thanks mostly to Electrify America DCFC stations along I-70 in Utah. Three years ago, there were zero DCFC stations — other than Tesla charging stations — along a 339-mile stretch of I-70 all the way down to Cedar City, Utah on I-15, which runs from Salt Lake City down to Los Angeles.

2. Less stress in Summer 2021 than in Summer 2018. In Summer 2018 encountering non-functioning DCFC chargers was commonplace. This created lots of extra stress and lost time. In Summer 2018, I also encountered non-functioning DCFC chargers but only once, at the Palmdale Park and Ride in Palmdale, Calif., on the trip out to Goleta from Littleton, were all DCFC charging slots in one spot not functioning. Well, they were functioning at the Palmdale Park & Ride, but delivering only 6 to 9 kW of charge, which = essentially non-functioning. In Summer 2021, there were more DCFC slots at each station, not just one, and if one, or two did not work, at least one or two other ones did work.

3. I drove faster in Summer of 2021 than in Summer 2018 — and I could drive faster. In Summer of 2018, with some Level 2 charging along the way my only option and also problems with individual charging slots at DCFC stations with the lone slot not working, I was super cautious about not running out of charge. I drove as slow as 50 mph up some mountain passes, though typically I drove 55 to 60 mph up those passes. This time, with more DCFC stations along the way and greater reliability, I drove 60 to 65 mph up those same mountain passes, including up some very steep, and long, mountain passes in Colorado, most notably Vail and Loveland passes, both of which are more than 10,000 feet high. I could have driven even faster up those passes, but, really, what is the point: The speed limit is 60 mph in some places and 65 mph in others going up those passes.

A brand new electric Jaguar iPace parked next to my Bolt waiting for me to finish a charging session at the Valley Wells, Calif. rest area. EVs fill up for free at this rest area 🙂. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
4. Long-distance EV road trips still take (a lot) more planning than the same trip in a gas car. Had I done this same route in a gas car, I could have just hopped into the car with zero fueling stop planning and just gone. I suppose I could have done the same thing in my Bolt, but that would be just plain stupid, given the still much lower frequency of DCFC stations in many places, including in much of Utah. But, hey, to each their own, right? 😜 But, seriously, you still cannot do this type of trip in an EV, yes, even in a Tesla EV, without some extra fueling planning, whereas you can easily do that in an ICE. However, I like taking extra time on my road trips, especially in beautiful spots such as Utah. Why race through that beauty, which you see maybe only twice in your entire life, as fast as you can? But some people are only about speed and non-mindfulness…so on to No. 5 below 😜

5. Gas vehicles/ICEs are still better than EVs for long-distance road trips and may always be (or at least will be for another 10+ years). If speed, convenience, and lack of need for any real planning are the measure, ICEs still win, hands down, on the long-distance road trip. You can fuel them in five minutes, adding up to 600+ miles of range to some of the most efficient ones in one tank, which is at least four to five times faster than even the fastest EV charging experience one can get right now, and, of course, you can’t get that charging experience without the right (very expensive) EV. Nor can you get it without DCFC chargers that deliver 300 kW charges. Good luck with getting those 300 kW charges everywhere you stop. And, of course, once you hit 80% charge, everything slows down.

My 2020 Chevy Bolt charging at the Electrify America DCFC station at Green River Coffee in Green River, Utah. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
6. ICEs are the perfect long-distance road trip vehicles for speed demons (who care not a whit about their consumption of energy nor about their impact on the environment or the world); EVs are not (yet) there. Want to drive 80 mph up 7+% grade mountain passes in blistering heat or brutal cold straight into a headwind while cranking the AC or the heat and not give a damn about the impact on anything or anyone? Go ahead and drive an ICE on a road trip then and press the “pedal to the metal” because, thanks to the high density of gas stations in the United States, you can do that pretty much on any stretch of interstate highway you want, though you could end up with a speeding ticket, though speed limits in Utah are often 80 mph and they are 85 mph in parts of Texas.

Drive 80 to 85 mph at your own risk in an EV, especially in a non-Tesla, but even in a Tesla, because your range will drop like a rock. Again, though, in an ICE all of the things that reduce fuel efficiency and range, whether we’re talking gas or electric range, matter very little to not at all. This thanks, once again, to our gas fueling infrastructure, which makes range meaningless in a gas car — although gas cars DO have a range limit!

To me, this is rather sad in some ways. The gasoline fueling infrastructure encourages wasteful and mindless consumption in your gas-hogging, speed demon SUV. Whereas in an EV, where you do have to pay more attention to your driving speed, or risk possibly running out of juice and/or having to charge (much) more often for much longer periods of time than a five-minute gas tank fill-up, you are forced to pay attention to your consumption of energy while driving long distances with few DCFC stations around.

But, hey, wasteful, mindless, selfish, environment destroying consumption is THE AMERICAN WAY, really, it is what we Americans do best/want most! So, roar up that 8%, 10-mile mountain pass at 80 mph in your 15 mpg SUV in the winter against a 30 mph headwind. Or do the same across the 100 mile stretch of 1-15 heading north from Mesquite, Nev. to Cedar City, Utah which is nearly 100% up, much of it steep upward driving! I definitely would NOT recommend doing that in your EV, though. Talk about a HUGE drain on your range!

My daughter Kyra and me at a rest area along I-70 about 40 miles West of Green River, Utah. The stretch of I-70 between the I-15 junction and Green River, Utah has got to be one of the most beautiful — and lonely — stretches of major interstate highway in the entire United States 🙂. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
7. I love road trips — and should do more of them in my Bolt. I love getting out on the open road, especially in the wide open and sparsely populated and incredibly beautiful American West: Big Sky, Big Mountains, Amazing Views, and, best of all, very few people — yes, I have a bit of a misanthropic bent, I concede 😉

I also actually like the extra adventure of doing this road trip in an EV such as a Bolt, but I suppose that is primarily because I know it is MUCH better for the environment, for human health, for our lungs, etc. If EVs were just as destructive to the environment and human health as gas cars, I would have ZERO interest in them, though I would still like to take a good road trip — if it were in a highly gas efficient vehicle.

I had a recall notice for my 2020 Chevy Bolt waiting for me in Littleton — after a 2,300-mile road trip in which the Bolt performed perfectly and was a joy to drive. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
8. The Chevy Bolt recall sucks. Literally right in the middle of our 13-day vacation news hit that GM was adding 2020-22 Bolts and Bolt EUVs to its recall due to possible fire risk — about 12 out of about 140,000 Bolts made have caught on fire while parked, with all of these Bolts, to the best of my understanding, owned by owners who frequently charged their battery to 100% and drained it to 15% of charge or less on a regular basis.

My charging practices do not include this type of approach, although I confess they changed a bit for this road trip. On the way out to Goleta, Calif. BEFORE news that the 2020 Bolts had been added to the 2017-19 Bolts that had been recalled, I charged to 100% on the night before we left. I did so again overnight at the hotel in Cedar City, Utah. On the way back, I charged to 90%, which is what GM recommends. However, I was not able to maintain 70 miles of range at the bottom end of things, or about 25% State of Charge (SOC), and fell to as low as 40 miles of range remaining several times.

What are you going to do on a road trip? There are SO many variables that affect one’s efficiency/how quickly one drains the battery — speed, terrain, weather, wind, even surrounding traffic. It’s pretty much impossible to target being precisely at 70 miles of range at your bottom discharge under those conditions. Also, GM’s recommendations effectively reduce the Bolt from a vehicle with 259 miles of EPA range to one with about 159 miles of EPA range 😖.  Finally, the Bolt recall bums me out because the already EV ignorant and change averse public is seeing much more media coverage about the Bolt fires than about much more common ICE fires 😖.

I used the PlugShare app to chart and map out my 2,300 mile road trip, and find charging stations like this one in Victorville, Calif., the same app I used to map out the route from Littleton to Goleta in Summer 2018. It’s a great app. But maybe it’s time to upgrade to a more sophisticated app like ABRP? [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
9. I might use the ABRP (A Better Route Planner) App next time. Several other EV drivers in the Chevy Bolt Facebook Group, some that I met while charging along the way, and some on Twitter have recommended this app. Basically, ABRP tries to finesse the speed-time-distance issue for you: It determines how much range you’ll have based on your driving speed, terrain, etc. AND also tries to account for your EV’s onboard charing rate (my Bolt offers a slow 55 kW rate, whereas many EVs offer 150 kW or faster) and a DCFC stations charging rate while calculating the complex equation of how often to stop to charge and for how long.

Sounds like a great app 🙂. But I will take another dig at EVs here as compared to ICEs, as much of a hard-core EV advocate as I am: The very existence of the ABRP app underscores just how much more complex a long-distance road trip is an EV than in an ICE.

From many perspectives, especially perhaps an environmental perspective/conservation perspective, the EV road-trip planning complexity is good, in my view. But from the perspective of get-there-as-fast-as-possible-while-not-giving-a-rat’s-ass-about-the-amount-of-energy-and-fuel-consumed crowd, which describes probably at least half of Americans, the added complexity of having to actually think about the relationship between driving speed, weather conditions, terrain, charging speeds/fill-up times, etc. — the complexity that ABRP tries to help EV drivers solve — is very unlikely to be a welcome development.

Most people just want to shove a gas pump nozzle into their gas tank opening, press a lever, and not think at all about anything else, and I do mean, not anything else at all. This is why the long-distance road trip continues to be an achilles heel for EVs, and, I think, will continue to be one for quite a long time.

Don’t believe me/want to take me on on this claim about ICEs simply being better than EVs for long-distance trips, at least if your baseline criteria are mindless ease of fueling and speed of fueling and mindless pedal-to-the-metal driving? How about this scenario? ==>

You like to pull large trailers behind your big pick-up truck when you do a long-distance road trip AND you want to do 80 mph into a stiff headwind in the cold while cranking your heat while driving up a 6% highway grade for miles and miles and miles. How’s THAT going to work in a BEV? The answer, not very well at all! And any EV advocate — and I am a HUGE one — with any modicum of rationality must just admit this, up front!

Santa Barbara and Goleta are beautiful places to have family to visit in. I am very lucky! [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
10. Despite what some EV-heads claim, the long-distance road trip DOES matter in the scheme of BEV things. Yes. It. Does. I am going to devote an entire blog entry to this topic because it really gets me going. Here, suffice it to say that the endless — and irritating and simplistic appeals that EV advocates often make about EVs and how long-distance travel doesn’t matter because, well, people don’t do it (very often) is just, in my view, f—— horse shit.

Well, no, actually long-distance road trips DO matter and, while it may be that the “average driver” only drives 40 miles a day, or whatever the number is that people want to point to, and an EV covers that, in fact, the long-distance road trip, even if done only once a year can, and often does, and does in my case, account for 20% of my annual EV miles.

Yes, 20%! 2,300 miles divided by 11,000 miles/per year = 20%. That is significant and 20% of my driving does matter, quite a lot, actually.

Yes, you can slice this all up in other ways, not necessarily via mileage, but, for instance, by number of car trips total, and then my road trip becomes a very small percentage. But I, for one, think, again, doing it that way is total horse shit, or, at least, doing it ONLY that way, is total HS. It is also is very misleading when one takes into account how millions of Americans do long-distance road trips every year, sometimes more than one. But I will save more discussion of this for a separate entry.

11. Fueling an EV, even on a long-distance road trip where per kWh charges are two to five times what one pays at home, is still A LOT cheaper than fueling even a fairly fuel efficient gas vehicle. It cost me $120 to fuel my Bolt for nearly 2,300 miles. You would need to fork over $316 — nearly $200 more — to fuel a gasoline car getting 25 mpg and paying $3.50/gallon to cover that same distance! At 15 mpg, the mileage many large, gas-hogging SUVs get, especially when driven at 75 to 80 mph, the total fuel costs spike to $526, or well over four times as much as it cost me to fuel our Bolt, with me and my 15-year-old daughter in it, nearly 2,300 miles. Beat that ICEs. You can’t! — not even in a fuel efficient Toyota Prius, although you might get reasonably close if you “hyper-mile” it.

I absolutely love driving the lonely stretch of I-70 between its juncture with 1-15 in the West and Green River, Utah about 200 miles to the east. These stretches are what make road trips so fun — especially in a green and much more environmentally friendly EV. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]