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.
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.).
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.
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?