• Chevrolet Bolt EV Takes on the Family Road Trip: An Electric Adventure [Review]

    Chevrolet Bolt EV Charge Point
    DC fast charging station at Ford Point in Richmond, Calif. [Photo credit: TFLcar]

    The Chevrolet Bolt EV: Commuter champ, yes. Road trip king?

    Just about everyone at Team TFL had a turn behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Bolt EV. We all agree, it’s an impressive effort from General Motors. Not only does it have a range of (about) 230 miles, it’s fun to drive and affordable too. It is, in many ways, a good sign of things to come. Soon, electric vehicles will become a serious contender for consumer’s transportation dollars. In several nations, the idea of moving to electric vehicles is being taken serious; as in, no gas vehicles will be allowed in several city-centers in the near future.

    Charge Point App map to chargers.

    I pondered these thoughts as I drove around San Francisco, the East Bay and Petaluma, California with my family in a Chevrolet Bolt. I had experienced the Chevrolet Bolt EV before, understood ways to drive it efficiently, understood the need for having a charger strategy and A family of four, plus luggage (I guesstimated about 650 lbs of humans, luggage, snacks and souvenirs) driving in an area that enthusiastically accepts electric cars – what could go wrong?

    By mid-week, I had a standard operating procedure: find a EV station near a parking area, top-off with electricity and worry-not for the rest of the day. I did my due diligence and found the Charge Point charging stations to be the most numerous. As such, I downloaded their app, started an account, acquired a charging card and stuck with Charge Point while tooling around the Bay Area. And for a while, everything worked well. I experienced no range anxiety and, with a bit of pre-planning, finding a charger producing 50 kilowatts or less was no biggie. The Charge Point app not only showed me the locations of their chargers, it mentioned other chargers too (However, it will not give you the status of non-Charge Point affiliated stations.).

    Charge Point app showing charging activity.

    Up until this point, my only issue with the Chevrolet Bolt EV was its small cargo area. Smaller bags had to be situated between and on the laps of passengers. There is a small storage area under the rear cargo area that holds the charge-cord, and regular backpacks and briefcases can fit inside. The back seat can hold three passengers; however, it’s best if those three are small.

    Mid-week began with a trip from Richmond, Calif. to Armstrong Woods which is a 70+ mile trip. Add to that extended cruising through a few sleepy towns and remote sites, and we were cruising mighty close to our maximum range upon our return. There were no Charge Point stations, or any charging stations that were easily accessible and the hotel had no provisions for charging either. I was down to 30-miles of maximum range and needed a hell of a lot more for the next day. I had a wedding to attend and promised a lengthy tour of San Francisco to the family too. I needed a nearly full battery to make it all work.

    There was no way 50 kilowatts could charge me up in time. The limits of electric goodness began to make itself known. There wasn’t enough time in the day to power-up using basic charging. Then, quite unexpentantly, someone came to my rescue: Rosie the Riveter.

    Rosie to the Rescue

    Someone mentioned the museum at the old Ford manufacturing plant (Ford Point) in Richmond, Calif. They have several chargers, including a Charge Point fast charger. Put into simple terms, modern electric cars can regain a majority of their power rapidly when using a fast charger. It happened to be in the same parking lot as the Rosie the Riveter museum. I found the Charge Point fast charger, quickly began the charging process (which is pretty-much the same process as plunging-in with a regular charger) and took my family to the museum while the car powered up.

    I was utterly astounded at how this museum is set up. It’s very interactive and many of the displays are child-friendly. They air several films in their theater and the whole enchilada is completely free. Story upon story revolving around cultural and social issues during WWII that I was ignorant of: “These stories include the mobilization of America’s industry and the changes in production techniques; the struggle for women’s and minority rights; the labor movement; the growth of pre-paid medical care; advances in early childhood education and day care; recycling and rationing; major shifts in population; and changes in arts and culture.” – – NPS.GOV

    There is a pricy restaurant next to the museum and a nice walking pathway bordering the water. A stroll, a museum visit and a bite to eat are a great way to spend an hour or so – while waiting for the Bolt to finish charging.

    During the museum visit, I occasionally glanced at my Charge Point app which gave me up-to-the-minute charging info. on the Bolt I was surprised at how much faster the charge went. In less than an hour, I was over 80% power which is more than what I needed. A brief stroll after the visit (after an excellent historical film detailing what day-to-day life was like for women back then) and we were nearly full.

    What the future of *filling* stations looks like. [photo: TFL]

    A Vision of the a Fully-Charged Near Future

    The trip was a huge success and my family truly enjoyed the Chevrolet Bolt EV. It’s blatantly obvious that the biggest obstacle was the lack of charging stations. Many other automotive journalists have complained about the lack of a proper electric charging station infrastructure in other states; I was surprised that, in the spiritual home of EV cars, Northern California needs more too. I have no doubt that the electric cars of the near future will be impressive, but how much does it matter if a fast-charging station is going to be hard to find?

    I have a solution of sorts. In the back of major gas stations across the United States, install a few fast chargers. Considering how many automakers will produce EV vehicles in the next five years, why not?

    Nathan Adlen
    Nathan Adlen
    Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.

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    31 thoughts on “Chevrolet Bolt EV Takes on the Family Road Trip: An Electric Adventure [Review]

    1. It is obvious to me that the most logical and convenient charger locations will be gas stattions. They will replace gas pumps with chargers as demand warants. Electric cars require more time and thus will spend more money at the station, a fact that “Boy Genius” Elon Musk finally figured out few weeks ago when he announced that he will add convenience stores at his supercharger locations.

      1. Less than 1% of the public drives electric soooooooooo nope. Thank god most people aren’t buying into the hype they tried this 20 years ago didn’t work.

        1. Most people rode horses and mules a century and twenty back. That is what a gas car is. instead of chewin g fresh food it chews 200 million year old food but its really the same. Gas poisons the minds of fetuses and newborns, and kills of a fair part of the planet, and finances the destruction by terrorists of the rest. Give it up. Its poison.

        2. Apparently you’ve missed all the announcements about almost every car company axing gas/diesel by 20**. Pull you’re head outta the sand…

    2. DC fast chargers definitely cut down on charging time especially when you don’t want to be connected to a charging station for hours. Of course, the price to charge up is more than a typical 240V charger and you have to be sure charging station has the correct adapter (CHAdeMO vs SAE Combo). I’m all for electrification or at the very least mild hybrids where the wheels are driven by electric motors and batteries can be recharged using onboard range extenders.

    3. On board generators with full electric drive is the way to do it for those who need range but for those who do not it saves a lot of complications and weight to get rid of the generator so it is best to have a mix of full on electric only cars and range extended electric cars with generators. Trucks especially will require the generator option.

    4. To force this crap on people burns me up. 230 per charge when an average small car gets 300-400 of gasoline range, and average suvs are getting 400-750 miles of gasoline range, diesel cars achieving 650-750, on top of all this scientifically speaking what comes out of modern day vehicles is no more dangerous then what’s packed in to a coffee marker, hell cell phones are more dangerous then modern cars. this is all bs being pushed by government back companies who share a huge common interest in putting oil companies out of business as a sort of redistribution of wealth from privately owned oil companies to the government sector follow the money. this being forced on many people like in California is a huge clue…… gas is king keep it that way. Vroom vroom over pahhhhh

      1. Force? Who’s being forced? Did Tesla take your car overnight and replace it with a Model S? Did Chevy hold you at gunpoint, rip out your 2.4, and replace it with an electric motor? If you don’t like it, you won’t buy it. Easy.

        I have a 21 mile commute. I have three cars. If I had a garage, one of them would be electric, and I would use it to commute to work most of the time. I don’t have a garage, so that’s not a great choice for me. So, I’m not buying one. Nobody has forced one on me yet.

        If you love the free market, spend your money the way you want. “Gas is king keep it that way” sounds like you are advocating for unnatural pressure to maintain a personal preference, which is precisely what you are calling bs.

        1. Hey idiot California just said that they’re going to ban gas cars or try to ban gas cars within the next 20 years so again that would be considered force. put down your social media and read some facts, and if California does it most other states will follow.

          1. Thank you for your well-crafted, thoughtful, considerate response. I can’t hope to hide my obvious idiocy from your faultless and complete logic.

      2. If you’re comparing 230 mile charge to 3-400 miles of gasoline, do you buy gas daily? If not, you don’t need 3-400 miles in an electric car. Plug it into a Level 2 charger at home and you’ll have 230 miles to go the next morning. The best about electric cars for commuting is that you almost never have to stop to charge. You just plug it in every night and you’ll have a full tank the next morning. If you want to take a trip, rent a car. That’s what people do when they don’t want to put mileage and wear and tear on their cars.

      1. So the waiting lists for electric cars are for people who want to buy them for someone else? Perhaps that’s where all this ‘forcing’ is happening!

    5. Why are people against progress… Electric cars are
      More efficient
      Less pollution
      Wayyyyyy more power right off the bat
      For those who still think gasoline engines are better, than you might as well ride horses and carriages
      Electricity is renewable, oil is not.

      1. Maybe you didn’t take science class or didn’t graduate from high school they are way more on the environment than anything else, because of the lithium ion batteries which are worse for the environment due to the high mercury content, as well as the Chemical make up of the wiring in the vehicle. That is not a step forward it is 10 steps back gasoline powered vehicles are better for the environment due to the chemical make up of the entire vehicle as a whole and how efficient they are today.

        1. Lithium-ion batteries do not contain mercury, cadmium or lead. They do have other heavy metals that are difficult to recycle, but you’re absolutely wrong about modern batteries. Nickel metal hydride batteries, the ones that are used in the Toyota Prius, are nasty for the environment.

    6. Oh and those who still don’t believe, take a look at every car who gets embarrassed by the Tesla in drag races…
      Latest super car race from Motortrend, Tesla makes the other gasoline cars look like they’re standing still.
      Imagine if they made an actual dragster
      So continue picking up your pitch forks and torches, eventual the fire, like the oil, will burn out.
      Holding back progress only makes us dumber

    7. Not everyone drag races most people don’t. FYI they already have electric dragster’s so it’s kinda hard for you to quote motor trend or anybody else when you don’t even realize they already have electric dragster’s but again electric cars are more dangerous for the planet then gas cars will ever be simply because of the chemica make up. Also the electric car was only quicker to the quarter-mile but after the quarter mile everyone of those cars in the motor trend drag race would have won, and they even pointed that out so if you’re going to quote something quote the whole thing. GAS is KING 👑

    8. FYI mercury is more dangerous then gas will Ever be. Nox gets sucked into plants and gets used plants need nox, mercury cannot be buried it cannot be burned their are no good helpful natural uses for mercury i.e. The biggest harmful chemical in electric vehicles.

    9. Nope just smart enough to see threw the government backed bs I also know chemistry and the long term effects of lithium ion batteries being barried or burned you know the thing that runs electric cars and the effects of gas and the chemical compounds within gasoline.

    10. I’m surprised the author limited themselves to only charge point stations. That’s like taking a road trip and saying I will only look for Shell gas stations. The author should have used the plugshare App. It’s much more comprehensive and shows the vast majority of stations including charge point.

        1. “OBVIOUSLY Paid?” No, I went with Charge Point as there are several locations in Denver and the Bay Area that have chargers on one account. I looked around and found that they provided easy access, payment and security using their accounts.
          Saying that my testimony was paid for indicates that I am a cheat and a liar. That IS what your saying – right? Tony Williams, I went with the Charge Point system to test out what it’s like to use a service – not to advertise for them.

      1. I wanted to use one account that has charges nation wide that were easy to find. I liked the ease of getting an account and app with Charge Point. It’s as simple as that.

        1. I have been driving a Hyundai Ioniq since Sept 18 (in BC, Canada) and have already downloaded 3 apps to charge my car (& PlugShare to find them). We drove 400 miles yesterday – stopped for lunch at one quick charger and dinner at another, paid $15 for electricity, gas for the same trip would have been $80.
          The Chargepoint charger I have at home is great (about $10 in electricity cost since Sept 18) will definately save time & $ having it installed.

    11. So just looked at customer reviews on the Tesla via Kelley Blue Book and teslas are rated one of the worst in reliability so this is the future then the future looks bleak gas is king also it was ranked just hire then Chrysler Fiat which is pretty bad.

    12. Nathan,
      Nice article. May I suggest you familiarize yourself with the concept of adverbs? Seriously.
      LnK – Grammar Hammer.

    13. May I suggest nobody gives a rats ass. you get the point that’s all that matters. go take your grammar and eat a salad and hold your hand bang.

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