Candid Chevy Bolt EV 470-Mile Road Trip Story Is Sure To Entertain

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OCT 7 2018 BY BRIAN R 58

Blissful Anniversary Bolt EV Road Trip? Or Fast Lane Back to the Bachelor Life?

This past weekend I embarked on a spontaneous 470-mile round trip drive to go to an Ed Sheeran concert in Pittsburgh to celebrate 11 years of marriage to my wife. I initially had suggested a trip to Florida in November as a delayed anniversary gift, but the wife said: “Hey, there’s a concert in Pittsburgh today…let’s just go to that!” As I did not want to disappoint the wife, we were soon on the road in our Bolt EV! I was hoping this anniversary trip would not lead to a divorce filing!

*This article originally appeared on bro05’s blog.

The distance from Woodstock, MD to Pittsburgh, PA was 230 miles one way, and it included a 177 mile stretch of highway that has exactly *0* CCS fast-charging stations (or any charging stations the Bolt could use, for that matter). There were a handful of fast charging options around the Pittsburgh area (including in a parking garage near the concert venue at PNC Park) that I could use to charge, though I had no clue if those stations would actually be available. Eh, don’t sweat the details, right?

Not exactly the most road trip friendly setup.

While the drive to Pittsburgh was around 230 miles, theoretically within the Bolt’s official 238-mile range, there was a significant elevation gain during the drive from near sea level to 2,500 feet. To make matters worse, this elevation gain was smack dab in the middle of the route, so it needed to be traversed regardless of the direction of travel.

Not wanting to roll the dice that I could make it to Pittsburgh on a single charge, after leaving home with a100% charge good for 240 miles according to the Bolt’s range meter, I decided to “top off” my Bolt at a fast charging station in Hagerstown, MD 60 miles away for 15 minute pit stop to ensure I had enough battery to make it to Pittsburgh.

Evgo station in Hagerstown, MD.

After putting in about 5 kWh of charge into the battery, the GOM told me I had 205 miles of estimated range to cover 177 miles. I figured that was enough of a buffer. Aware of the elevation gain and being the first time I had ever driven this route, I decided to take it easy, driving 60 mph where the speed limit was 70, as there was plenty of time to get to the concert venue.

Despite the conservative speeds, I watched my range buffer slowly shrink as the elevation slowly gained. At one point during the drive, my range buffer had been reduced to 4 miles, and if I turned on the HVAC, the estimated miles remaining actually dipped below the ‘miles to destination’ Google Maps in my center display reported (the Bolt subtracts range if you turn on the HVAC to account for energy usage). Knowing that eventually, I would soon start the descent down towards Pittsburgh, I drove on without too much worry.

Finally, the elevation stopped climbing and the rate which I was losing estimated miles slowed down too. The nearly non-existent range buffer I had when I had reached the summit of the drive ended up growing to nearly 40 miles by the time we entered Pittsburgh. After finding the parking garage with the only CCS fast charging stations within 20 miles and plugging in (both stariost open. Woohoo!) I observed my Bolt had 13% charge and 38 miles of range remaining. The parking garage was nestled right between Heinz Field and PNC Park, which were pretty cool to finally see in person.

The Gold 1 parking garage has 2 fast charging stations

25 kW fast charging? Better than nothing.

I’ll skip details of the actual concert itself, but the wife had a good time, so that’s all that really matters I guess. While the concert lasted over 3 hours, I realized that the charging station (what I found out later was a measly 25 kW CCS station) had a 1-hour auto shutoff, and there was no way to reinitiate a charging session remotely. Attempts to contact garage staff also failed.

Pittsburgh skyline at night.

Reflecting back on the charging station setup, I determined that it was one of the dumber charging arrangements I’ve seen. Ignoring the fact they were 25 kW “fast charging” stations, most people parking in that garage were likely attending sporting events or concerts, usually 3+ hour affairs that don’t allow you to return to the facility once you leave, so after 1 hour, you were for all intents and purposes, done charging till you returned to your car. I found that I had gained 77 miles of range in 1 hour (33% SOC added to the battery), which after doing the math, I realized a 7.2 kW L2 charging station would have added more miles (90-100 miles in 4 hours). Someone really dropped the ball with this station by having a 60-minute hard shutoff.

After we finally escaped Pittsburgh after being stuck in horrific traffic for what seemed like forever, we headed towards an EVgo station about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh which was on the route home. It was a single EVgo station located in a strip mall that was next to an Applebee’s in Monroesville, PA. I was able to plug in and rest for about 30 minutrs while my Bolt charged up. The next charging station was over 170 miles away in Hagerstown, MD, and I knew a significant elevation gain was ahead, so I made sure to give myself at least a 25-mile buffer. Turns out that was barely enough.

During the lonely drive to Hagerstown, I slowly watched the elevation climb in my TorquePro app while my range meter dropped faster than the miles I was covering. To make matters worse, it was very humid and chilly outside, which was the perfect recipe for my windshield fogging up, requiring me to turn on the defroster from time to time. Each time I turned on the defroster, precious electrons were zapped from my battery. About halfway into my 177-mile leg, the Bolt’s GOM spits out a number that was 8 miles less than the miles I still needed to drive. I knew that soon I would start a descent down from my current 2,500 elevation, but seeing a range number less than the miles-to-go number is always unnerving.

Fortunately, I was soon back several miles to the good and made it to the fast charger at the Hagerstown Premium Outlets with my Bolt’s GOM merely blinking “LOW”.

As I pulled up to the lone CCS charging station, I saw that a Leaf was plugged in! And he was plugged into the combo CCS/CHAdeMO station, and not the standalone CHAdeMO station just a few feet away! (Great ettiquette guy). The nightmare scenario! Who the heck was charging at an Outlet mall at 4 AM in the morning on a Sunday??? Besides me, that is. By some stroke of good luck, the Leaf was not actively charging despite being plugged in (and the owner was nowhere to be found), so I quickly plugged my Bolt in and swiped my EVgo card to activate the charge session. As home was only 58 miles away (this EVgo station was a 125 amp variety, not one of those fake “50 kW” 100 amp stations), so a 20-25 minute charge was all I needed to make it home. After 24 minutes of charging and a seemingly plentiful 78 miles of range, I unplugged and drove like a bat out of hell towards home (and then a slightly slower bat out of hell once I realized I was driving too fast to make it home without stopping to charge again). Made it home with plenty of range to spare!

Living on the edge!

Total trip stats.

So aside from telling a tale of a not completely stress-free trip to Pittsburgh and back in my Bolt in a single day, what is the point of this story? It’s to show how while the CCS fast-charging network has improved immensely compared to a couple of years ago (this trip would not have been possible 2 years ago), and it is possible to travel long distances in a 200+ mile BEV like the Bolt (it’s not Tesla or bust for EV road trips), the infrastructure still isn’t quite there yet for worry-free travel. The Electrify America initiative is definitely a big step in the right direction, and with charging networks like Chargepoint and EVgo continuing to deploy their own fast-charging stations (with GM being rumored to be working on their own ultra-fast charging network), the CCS charging infrastructure will only continue to improve. For those of us willing to be adventurous and take a little risk, there is no need to wait to embark on those road trips. Just need to have a little bit of a clue and some patience.

P.S. also found out being worried about running out of range is great for keeping you awake during a graveyard shift drive!

Source: bro05’s blog

Categories: Chevrolet

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58 Comments on "Candid Chevy Bolt EV 470-Mile Road Trip Story Is Sure To Entertain"

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bro1999, I envy you for having such understanding and patient wife. I suspect many don’t (or can’t) convert to EV due to their significant other not being so understanding.

Not all EVs are the same!

In our case it was my wife who initiated the move to EVs!
She’s not as obsessive about them as me, though. “We did it, now let’s get on with our lives” attitude.

bro, thanks for the entertaining story. Seems like despite having a bit more ChaDeMos than CCS along the way, this trip is not even doable in a Leaf right now absent some pretty massive hypermiling (145 miles gap between stations). Superchargers are scattered nicely though.

I was curious to know if Mr Bro ever acknowledged this worry/tension with the wife or just kept it all bottled up inside. For myself, I would choose the latter.

It looks like, another issue is, EVgo needs to expand their sites with 6 or 8 stalls, especially if they want to compete now that Electrify America is coming online. 8 stalls, and install 100kW chargers.
Or, if they really want to do great, they can upgrade all of their existing sites to 8 stall, 100kW(for each stall) sites, using Tesla Powerpack as a solution for grid connection. Then, with all of those old 50kW units, they can create even more sites, with very little overhead(since they already own the charger units), sure most of those new sites would only be 50kW, but it would still go a long way in remote areas… In remote areas with lots of sunlight(Arizona and New Mexico), they could run the 50kW units entirely off of solar and used EV batteries.

This is why I take my Volt rather then my Bolt if I go on a trip longer then 200 miles.

When I get a Model 3 that will become my long trips car.

Bolt EV would be great for long trips if, it didn’t taper so aggressively, and the chargers were all 125+ capable. But, yeah, it looks like for now(until Electrify America Phase 1 is complete and/or EVgo implements a solution similar to what I described above), using a Tesla or a Volt is the most practical option.
Besides, if the trip is 200 miles one way, that’s 400 miles round-trip. If you can charge the Volt at your destination, you can get 100 miles of EV driving, and that’s 25% of your mileage covered, on electric power.

Here is hoping that the Bolt (or GM’s next BEV) improves in the near future to allow for at LEAST 75 kW charge rates up to 75% of pack capacity. This doesn’t seem to be too difficult nor too expensive.
A 70 or 75 usable kWh pack option would help in a lot of ways, too.

Even the Model 3 LR is only 60 kW at 75% SoC.

It does add 60% SoC in 30 minutes though, nearly 100 kW average. Most will move on well before 75%.

Exactly. My BMW i3 REX, I could take the charge, and run on gas as needed, or just drive straight home with a gas stop. The charging network isn’t even ready for 1% of cars on the road being EV’s.

But, excellent article. And nice to highlight altitude effect on range. We rarely think of that.

And the stadium had the 1 charging spot?
What happens with EV’s are 4% of car driving population, and you wonder why Tesla’s are popular.

I only consider 3 cars relevant at this time: Volt, BMW i3 REX and the Tesla 3 Long Range with 300 miles of range. ( Add the Model S and X if you can afford those. )

Tesla should have some good sales when they get Model 3 leasing available.

“And the stadium had the 1 charging spot?
What happens with EV’s are 4% of car driving population, and you wonder why Tesla’s are popular.”

Some of us don’t. But Tesla bears sure do. This trip was a great example of what “not so seamless” charging is all about but the Tesla pundits (not being BEV drivers themselves for the most part) can’t quite fathom the road charging issues.

I just took a 190 mile trip last night in my 2017 i3 BEV from Oxnard to the Orange County International Auto Show, and the on to Irvine Spectrum and back. (FYI: the Orange I-Pace had pretty good crowd interest). It was a fairly easy trip with a dine and charge at the Irvine In N Out shopping center before heading home. The Bolt is definitely sluggish charging. The Bolt before me only picked up 36.44 KWh in 1 full hour, ending at 86% ending SOC. I only charged for 1/2 and hour in my i3 and picked up 23kWh with a 89% ending SOC. I’m thinking the 44kWh I3 might even be more convenient on longer trips if the charging infrastructure is available. Although I hit traffic, for the most part I kept my cruise control at 75-85mph. But I though I would also test the i3 efficiency at rapid cruising rates. You can see here I was averaging over 75mph for 65 miles straight! I still getting 103MPGe with four people in the car. In order to average that speed I was cruising at 85mph for much of the way. Then last weekend I took a 400… Read more »

Each 1000’ gain takes 5 miles of range.

You get it back going down unless it’s a steep grade and you bomb down it at 75.

Not possible. The vehicle does work against rolling resistance and drag forces going both up and down, and the inverter plus motor together have about 15 – 20% loss. You get some back but for me its typically around 20% of what it took to go up. I typically get about 50 – 55% of the potential energy of the vehicle at the top of the hill into the battery pack. The rest goes to the above losses plus small drive train frictional losses.

Clarity too

Same reason the i-Pace is not a Tesla killer…non-existent fast charging network. There is the Tesla network vs a bunch of cats fighting over a ball of string.

Had the stadium had full charging, and why aren’t they, the iPace could have worked. Aren’t you paying for the energy supplied? Only if it’s free should there be a 1 hour cut off, and like the author said? The use-case is a stadium event parking, so charging should be at least 3 hours.

The Author should have re-plugged in after the concert, and gone to dinner, that would have given him more charge and no traffic.

Not everyone can afford or wants to spend that much money for the premium experience. The non-Tesla charging infrastructure is improving rapidly, calling it non-existing is just FUD.

I just checked Tesla’s supercharger map. There are at least 4 supercharger stations (each with at least 6 stalls) between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Just confirming again the huge advantage of their charging network.

Having done two long road trips myself this year in my S75D i can confirm it’s a worry free affair.

And if you don’t have a Tesla… ?? What’s your point?

Then you suffer to find L3 DCFC on road trips.

Besides the nice pictures, the main point I got from this article is that many times you can get more of a ‘charge’ on the Level 2 products rather than the fast chargers which cost more and shut down after an hour. I don’t have the $750 fast charge option on my BOLT ev, but I’ve never missed it, not yet anyway.

50kW charger’s wheelhouse is the pit stop on a 2 to 3 hr drive, either intercity or running several crosstown errands.

If the drive is 3+ hrs ima just getting a rental, unless if it’s a week plus road trip where the Tesla is the only BEV game in town, so to speak.

And the stadium charger example really kicks it. Who goes to a stadium for only an hour?

Football games, Baseball games, Concerts … does anyone know of any event held in a stadium that is not a couple of hours long? I can’t think of any.

Also since there is a charge for using one, why limit the time the charger will work? You are losing money by putting a one hour limit. 3-4 Hours I could understand to free up the charger after a while, but 1 hour is too short.

Since it is a 25 kW unit, it must be an older DCFC. Likely at the time there were some government incentives available to have DCFC stations installed in PA, so the garage owner got those two 25 kW units installed before longer range EVs like the Bolt existed. They really should adjust the time limit to 2 hours though. Likely whoever owns the station is clueless about EV charging nuances.
If it was a 50 kW station, the 1 hour cutoff would be almost acceptable, as even a 100A unit could replenish 140-150 miles in a Bolt in an hour.

I just sold my spare imiev to a guy that lives in Nashville. After warning him 4 times that I didn’t advise him to drive it home, he did anyway. Took a greyhound here. He will have 12 stops with only 5 being chademo.
Last I heard, he is at a hospital j1772 in Kentucky somewhere.
With a 200mile ev, he would have only needed 2 stops. The 63 miles that the imiev has is truly pathetic, but at the time it was affordable.

The iMiev is great for what it was designed to do.
Local shopping, local job, trips to towns 10 miles away.
Low price, super efficient, great economic money saver.
But, not not cross country drives.

What an idiot

Should of trailer-ed it. A cheap idiot at that.

Tesla’s navigation system also does all the calculating of which charger to stop at, how fast to drive, and how far down to run the charge for best average travel speed. Except for EV nerds, nobody is going to put up with having to think about any of that on their own.

Had VW been required to put just one DC fast charger at every retailer that sells diesel fuel, none of the fancy logistics would be necessary.

Don’t stress running the heater or ac momentarily, as a 1kW draw for one whole hour is just 4 miles of range lost.

It’s when you run a resistive heater continuously while driving where the range takes a hit.

Also it was great to see the boot on the other foot as “my” chademo spot has been ICEd actually just once in 3 years but the CCS clowncrew in my town love taking that spot, since it gets more shade.

I put notes on their windshields asking them to stay in their lane as it were

“Don’t stress running the heater or ac momentarily, as a 1kW draw for one whole hour is just 4 miles of range lost.”

The heater in the Bolt EV can consume up to 8kW, so that’s 32 miles lost in an hour, though it shouldn’t really run at that level after the coolant is warmed up, maybe 3kW at that point, so call it 12 miles of range lost in an hour. Still not insignificant.

Still can’t believe it doesn’t have a heatpump. Hope GM will add one with the facelift.

How do you know though that the over spot wasn’t occupied when they arrived?…

People looking for an excuse not to buy a BEV — which is the large majority of US drivers, I’d guesstimate, based on my conversations with many people about EVs — will skim this article and conclude that electric cars aren’t ready for “real world use” and then go buy yet another freaking ICEv, even though they’re, in effect, voting against their own interests.

I’ve seen car buyers I know personally do exactly this many times. When you talk about EVs, a lot of people focus on the early adopters and especially the technophiles who jump on almost every new trend; gotta be the first in your circle with the new, shiny hardware, etc. But a much more important phenomenon is the neo-Luddites who refuse to buy something new and even slightly different. This group is not only adamant that they don’t need or want to change, but they’re almost universally, weirdly proud of their ignorance, and often make absurd and obviously faulty arguments to justify sticking with their old ways.

These are the people we plugheads should be organizing and trying to convince. It’s not easy or fun, but it’s critically important.

While I agree in general, the conclusion that taking the Bolt on trips only works for people with a high pain resistance wouldn’t be wrong…

Made 2 round trip from san diego to san jose (470mile each way) in model 3 without any range issue. Tesla has at least 12 superchargers along the way. Spent 30 max per charging stop.

And your point is?? I guess be rich and have nicer toys. Don’t be one of the regular people.

Charging infrastructure in CA tends to be better than the East coast.

Sometime soon, I am sure, gas station and retail people (owners, operators, franchise holders, whatever) will have an epiphany that putting at least a couple of 240VAC, 50 amp outlets on the back wall of their building might give them a new type of a customer.

It’s not flexible enough to be useful. The middle ground between home/work charging and ultra fast travel charging in the public charging space should be the 20-25 kW DCFC such as one the author of the piece used at the stadium. In every non long range travel situation it’s much better than the available 9.6 kW available from a 14-50. The crucial difference is that with the outlet, the available power is dependent on both the EVSE connected to it and the onboard charger of the car connected to it. And it takes the least of all three of the socket, EVSE, and onboard charger. So while the 9.6 kW from the wall is paltry to begin with, some cars have 3.3 kW onboard chargers, and even worse 12 amp EVSEs which limits power to 2.8 kW. DCFC facilitates offering the maximum available power to all cars that connect to it. In addition every DCFC inlet allows for more power than any onboard charger, as the J1772 AC maximum is 19.2 kW (240V @ 80A). Last point is that the more convenient the access to connect is, the better off it’ll be for both operators and customers. So if one… Read more »

It’s beyond argument that DCFC usually is a much faster charging method than L2, hence the letter “F” in the abbreviation 🙂

The point I’m making is that as (relatively) cheap an arrangement as a NEMA 14-50 outlet on the back of the store, like those at RV parks, might help businesses to attract a new category of customers. A portable 8 kW EVSE is neither big, not expensive, so no reason for the drivers to carry them in the EV.

And I reiterate that while you have the right idea, the implementation strategy is poor. Even if the property owner was going with L2, which again I think is a bad idea, they’d be better off spending $500 for a nice L2 EVSE to install on the wall instead of just a socket. Makes it more convenient for the customer.

And the ‘F’ needs to be for flexible, not necessarily faster. More cars can get more power in more flexible timeframes with DCFC at virtually every power level than with L2.


What you are ignoring is that the higher the investment cost, the less likely it is to happen at all. Installing sockets everywhere is perfectly viable; installing L2 chargers is more of a barrier; installing DC chargers is prohibitive in a vast number of situations.

“not want to disappoint the wife”,
You should not have purchased a bolt to begin with!

One party rule

This Bro mindlessly trolls Tesla on these forums. Reading his story I am again reminded of awesomeness of the Tesla/SC combo.
If someone had posted similar story about roadtrip in a Tesla, Bro would have shred him to pieces by now.

Hahaha, must be someone that isn’t pleased Elon has been tanking their Tesla stock lately. 😉

There you go again. I am in India and I do not do stocks.

Funny you should mention that, considering that your quarrelsome behaviour is kinda like Elon’s, only far worse…

PHEV is not dead yet. My CT6 is currently on an 800mi trip from Fort Worth to Joplin and back. I’m at 412mi and headed back today. 34MPG so far in the biggest Cadillac sedan made today.

The Walmart in Mount Vernon has four combo DCFC slots (?! Mount Vernon?). Not operational yet but installed and powered. No J1772 though.

EVs should start to announce range (with big emphasis) at highway speeds. While for ICE cars the focus is on cost, so the NEDC, WLTP, … tries to focus on the fuel consumption as a cost indicator just.
While electricity is not cheap, with EVs, range is very important, not when they are driven around the city (EVs bigger efficiency excel there and range is not so important) but when they are driven for long distance at highway speeds.

Although longer, wouldn’t it have been “safer” to take 95 to the PA turnpike? More charging opportunities along the way.

It’s good thing his anniversary isn’t in January.

An intrepid Electronaut.
Where no one has gone before, or probably will ever again.

I just did the same trip this past weekend. Actually even further since the place in PA I went to was 14 miles west of Pittsburgh.
Damn Bolt that I’m not supposed to take roadtrips in!

Bro was heard singing on his trip

Bolt you know I want your love
I may be crazy
I am in the love with the shape of you
Push and pull like CCS charger
Although my range is falling too
I am in the love with your Battery
Last night you were in my garage
Now the battery is full like new

oh why why why
I am in the love with your Battery

Everyday discovering something brand new
I am in love with the shape of your hatch….

I completed another trip to Pittsburgh (and then some) in my Bolt this past weekend. But with even more drama and excitement! I’ll probably writeup that adventure sometime soon.
“If your range meter ain’t blinking low, you ain’t trying.”