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August 28, 2019
Paul Gipe

When it doesn't go Right--Plan B Charging of a Chevy Bolt EV


Experienced EV drivers always have a Plan B for charging on the road, and for good reason. Charging network reliability, especially for non-Tesla EVs, can be spotty at best even in "green" California. We found this out--again--on a recent 500-mile round trip to the coast.

Friends moved to Santa Cruz from Bakersfield. I can't blame them. They live right on the coast. It's cool when Bakersfield is blistering hot. And the air is clean while Bako has the worst air in the nation.

Santa Cruz is slightly more than 250 miles from here. While the Bolt's range is about 250 miles, we have to climb over the Temblors to get there. Thus, visiting our friends in the Bolt requires an intermediary charge stop.

We've tried several routes, including Hwy 99 and I-5 to Pacheco Pass. Both routes work. There are sufficient fast charging stations now along either. However, we've avoided our preferred route through Paso Robles until now because charge stations were few and far between and those that are out there have been notoriously unreliable.

So rather than drive the entire route in one day, we planned to meet another friend for dinner in Paso Robles and charge overnight at the Paso Robles Inn. Then drive on to Santa Cruz the next day.

I've been following the hotel's check-ins on PlugShare for some time. Charging has been spotty. Some charged successfully on the one Tesla destination charger or the ClipperCreek HSC 50, others not. There didn't seem to be a pattern.

The hotel assured me the stations were working, but wouldn't guarantee a charge.

Off we went. Paso, as it's called, is a charming town in wine country and we looked forward to spending the night there. We arrived and parked in front of the ClipperCreek J1772. I plugged in and nothing happened. I got out my Jdapter and plugged in to the Tesla destination charger. Again, nothing happened. It was hot, 100 F, and blinding sun. I couldn't tell if the EVSEs were even live.

The desk rang maintenance and two technicians came over and said everything was working. I asked them to open the electrical cabinet and sure enough, the breaker to the EVSEs was on. I threw up my hands, thanked them, and went about Plan B.

A few blocks away ChargePoint had installed a 24-kW Bosch unit at Cool Hand Luke's restaurant. It's had a checkered history and was out-of-service for months early this year. Still, there were successful check-ins on PlugShare. If this station was on the fritz there were two J1772 kiosks at the train station. The last resort was to move to another hotel with working EVSEs.

The DCFC station at Cool Hand Lukes was free and working. (There's only one kosk and I didn't relish waiting around for someone to finish charging it wasn't free.) I plugged in, waved my ChargePoint RFID card, and the station began to hum. Once it was pumping 19 kW in to the Bolt, I walked back to the hotel for dinner.

The hotel's restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for a fine meal and after we finished we walked our friend to her car. I then went to pick up the fully-charged Bolt.

To my surprise, when I returned to the hotel at 8:00 pm there was a Tesla Model 3 charging in the Tesla stall. The other stall was ICEd. All I can figure is that the afternoon sun tripped some sensor in both EVSEs, preventing me from charging. The hotel mentioned later that they may be replacing these EVSEs with something else. They didn't elaborate.

We drove on to Santa Cruz the next day, where we charged overnight on a Tesla destination charger. We returned to Paso two days later, found the DCFC station open, charged for an hour while having lunch, and then headed back to Bakersfield, arriving with 20% state-of-charge.

If you plan to stay at the Paso Robles Inn, try plugging into the hotel's EVSE after the sun has gone down, and please report your results on PlugShare.

We're confident that that this route will work for us, but we'll always have a Plan B--and maybe a Plan C as well.


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