With the Bolt's rated range of 238 miles, we should be able to make it to San Luis Obispo, charge during Karen's meeting, then make it back, right?
Having lived with a Ford Focus EV for the past three years, we were more than a bit nervous about driving any electric car beyond its rated range, but particularly when much of the trip would be out in the middle of nowhere - no towns, no charging stations. Plus, we knew that you don't get anywhere near the rated range at highway speeds, if you have strong headwinds, if you use the climate control, or if you have to climb hills. Part of the trip to San Luis Obispo involved climbing the 1533' Cuesta Grade, just 8 miles before our destination.
We did a bit of planning and discovered that there were Chargepoint 24 DC kw fast charging stations in King City (about 85 miles from Santa Cruz) and in Paso Robles (just 30 miles from our destination). There were two evGO 50 kw DC fast chargers in San Luis Obispo in the Marigold Center. We'd found those on a previous trip.
We went to bed the night before with the biggest storm of the season raging outside. Heavy rain and winds shook the house. I don't think it was the weather that caused our somewhat sleepless night, it was the omnipresent range anxiety familiar to most EV owners.
The forecast for the next day was periodic heavy showers. If the weather looked really bad, we'd fall back on the Audi and would save the Bolt for a future trip.
But, as fortune would have it, we woke up to a morning of light showers and a few rays of sunshine here and there. We hopped in the Bolt and headed south. Traffic was light and we saw that at 70 mph, our consumption was averaging over 3.5 miles per kwH. With a battery capacity of 60 kwH, that should give us 210 miles. We felt a bit better.
Of course, there was a traffic jam on one of our shortcuts requiring a 7 mile detour; it was chilly and the windows fogged up with the rain; and when we caught the storm to the south, we faced pretty strong headwinds. But the Bolt was a pleasure to drive. The ride was surprisingly smooth on the concrete highway surface of Highway 101 and with the low center of gravity, it handled well even in gusty winds.
I waited on hold for nearly 15 minutes with Chargepoint. They activated the station and Karen and I walked the two blocks to grab an early light lunch at the highly recommended Red Scooter Cafe, one of many restaurants surrounding a gorgeous park in the center of the town.
Returning to the Bolt, we saw that we'd added a bit over 50 miles to the expected range and we made our way to San Luis Obispo. As we reached the top of the Grade, we saw that we had used about 30 of the expected miles. We could have made it without stopping at Paso Robles.
We still had 45 minutes before Karen's meeting, so we plugged in at the evGO station and toured Marigold center looking for possible future lunch spots - there are several. Normally though, we have lunch at Novo downtown - great food and atmosphere on the deck above the creek on days with nicer weather.
I dropped Karen at her appointment and made my way back to the evGo station to fully charge the Bolt. 15 minutes later, the Bolt was charged to 80%. I had read that after 80% EV batteries charged slower, but I didn't realize how much slower. You do the straight line math, and with a 50 kw charger, you'd think you could fully charge the 60 kwH battery in an hour and 12 minutes, right? Not a chance. After 80%, the charge rate dropped to 17 kw, then at 90% capacity, it dropped to 10 kw, and at 98% to 6 kw. It took an over hour to get the Bolt charged from 80% to 100%.
I picked Karen up and we started home. Eight miles later at the top of Cuesta Grade, we'd used 8% of the battery. It was time for a bit of range anxiety again. But there was always King City if we needed it. As it turned out, in spite of some strong winds on the return, we didn't need to stop. It wasn't even close. We got back to Santa Cruz, 170 miles from our start, with 25% of the battery and an estimated 50+ miles remaining.
Conclusions and a few Notes
We love this car (see We Love our New #ChevyBolt). The more we drive it, the more we find to like. I'm sure Chevrolet wouldn't want to hear this, but we can't believe it's a Chevy! It handles like a European car - it's tight.
It is unlikely that we will experience range anxiety again. We understand the car and now we know about Fast Charging. 80% is a magic number. Our longer trips will need a bit more planning.
Last and not least, I note that we drove in LOW mode for the entire trip. I've become addicted to single pedal driving. Still, I'm not sure that I'm getting the max Regen when going downhill in LOW since I have to keep my foot on the accelerator pedal. Next month when we make our trip to San Luis, we'll give DRIVE mode a shot to see if it makes any difference on the downhills. Between now and then, we'll be doing 200 mile trips with no worries about range.
Bottom line, if you have any doubts about the Bolt, forget them. It's an amazing car. Buy one if you can!
We've now done several trips to San Luis Obispo and back. We leave Santa Cruz fully charged, drive 70 -75 mph most of the way (except in King City), charge once in San Luis at the 50kw EVgo station, and drive home, arriving with 25% of the battery left (~50 miles). We've had the car two and a half months and drive all over the Bay Area without even thinking about charging stations. We've verified that LOW mode is the most efficient and now we only drive in LOW mode. I don't see any disadvantages in performance. And, I can still say that the more we drive it, the more we love this car! My next blog post on the Bolt will likely be this summer after we do a trip to Oregon and back.
Actually, I did another post on the Bolt and Charging stations:
Can a #BoltEV be your Primary Vehicle?