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Articles on Electric Vehicles

August 20, 2018
Paul Gipe

Bolt EV Successfully Crosses Sierra Nevada Bakersfield to Independence


Since I've been driving electric I've been itching to drive across the Sierra Nevada to Independence, California from our home in Bakersfield. We love the "East Side" and it's our escape from the heat of a Bakersfield summer.

If you're not driving a Tesla, the East Side is a charging desert. There's not even a Level 2 J1772 until you get to Mammoth Lakes--250 miles away.

Fortunately, Jim Getzinger at the Independence Inn installed a NEMA 14-50 outlet at his 6-unit motel to lure Tesla drivers on US 395 before the Lone Pine Supercharger was installed. Of course, any EV can use the NEMA 14-50 outlet with a mobile charge cable and the appropriate adapter. (I saw my first Tesla when a Model S pulled up in front of me as I was sitting on the porch drinking a beer. The driver had just been to Reno and was on his way home to LA and needed to charge overnight. The driver, an EV pioneer, talked us into the Leaf.)

We had charged our Chevy Volt several times previously at the Independence Inn so we knew that our mobile charge cable and adapter would work. There's nothing worse than getting to a desperately needed charge station to find that it doesn't work.

The 170-mile trip from Bakersfield across the Sierra Nevada to Independence was out of the question for our Nissan Leaf. However, the 60 kWh traction battery of the Chevy Bolt makes such trips possible for the first time in a non-Tesla EV.

Nevertheless, we hadn't done it before and I couldn't find anyone else who had. I entered the data into three trip estimators: EV Trip Planner, Green Race, and Chevy's Energy Assist app. Three of the four estimates suggested the trip was at the edge of the Bolt's range--from 56 to 58 kWh. The Chevy app returned an estimate of only 46 kWh.

This worrying discrepancy led me to use a simple estimator adapted from the work of Tony Williams in the Nissan Leaf. There is a total elevation gain of 6,200 feet and a loss of 2,700 feet between Bakersfield and Independence mostly due to climbing the 5,300-foot Walker Pass. According to Williams work this alone would consume 7 kWh. Based on our previous experience with the Bolt, the elevation gain and the miles travelled should require 47 kWh to reach Independence. This result compared favorably with that from the Chevy Assist app. That was encouraging.

The return trip is mostly downhill and the Bolt should have more than sufficient range, so we weren't worried about that leg.

We've now done the trip twice. The first time I drove conservatively, but I didn't hypermile. We successfully reached the Independence Inn with nearly a third of the battery's capacity remaining. We charged overnight and returned to Bakersfield at normal speeds arriving with 97% of the estimate of Chevy's app.

On the second trip, I drove normally, often at the speed limit or a little faster. We arrived in Independence consuming nearly the exact amount estimated by the Chevy app. Similarly, the return trip matched that of the previous outing and matched that of the Chevy app.

Both times we charged overnight at the Independence Inn using our Jesla mobile charge cable. The Bolt draws its full 7.4 kW from the Jesla and the NEMA 14-50 outlet.

I received several error messages from the app that the Bolt was no longer charging, but, as I've reported elsewhere, this is a glitch in the app. The message signals that the car is cooling the battery, otherwise it is charging normally.

For us, this route opens up vacation travel to the East Side using the Bolt.

By 2020 driving to Independence and other East Side communities will be much easier. See DCFC Stations Bakersfield to the Sierra Nevada East Side Coming.

Of course, one could just drive a Tesla and not worry about any of this. There are four Tesla Supercharger stations on the East Side. Yes, four: Mojave, Inyokern, Lone Pine, and Mammoth Lakes. There are no DCFC stations on the East Side for non-Tesla EVs despite California's vaunted status as EV heaven.

 

 


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