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Articles on Electric Vehicles

July 12, 2019
Paul Gipe

Familiarity brings Confidence--300-Mile Day Trip in an EV on a Whim

My wife Nancy's friend Virginia was visiting. Virginia has a relative she hadn't seen in many years on California's central coast in Arroyo Grande. We have a friend in adjoining Grover Beach. The two coastal towns are about 150 miles from Bakersfield. Nancy asked if we could make a day-trip to the coast in our 2017 Chevy Bolt. "Sure," I said and I jumped at the chance to test the Bolt on a spontaneous day trip outside its 238-mile range.

We've been driving electric since the fall of 2014. At the time we were pioneers in Bakersfield, here in the Central Valley. Travelling north and south was difficult but doable in those days. However, travelling east to Tehachapi or west to the coast was nearly impossible in the limited range Leaf. We could get the Leaf to the coast, but to do so we'd have to drive an extra 100 miles. The trip took all day. (See EV Trip Report: Bakersfield to Grover Beach Revisited & Summary.)

Chevy's Bolt changed the calculus. Indeed, we could make it to the coast--a popular destination in the summer when Bakersfield is broiling under a desert sun--using about 35 kWh of the Bolt's 60 kWh capacity.

The return trip requires charging somewhere. Often we'd charge at a Level 2 station at a motel overnight. We've done this trip many times now and we're confident in the Bolt and how much electricity it needs to make the trip to the coast, and the consumption used on the return leg as well. It typically takes 41-42 kWh for the drive back to Bakersfield.

Fortunately, EVgo has a DCFC station in San Luis Obispo about 10 miles from Grover Beach-Arroyo Grande. EVgo's station makes a day trip possible.

Electrify America has installed a station with several kiosks several months ago in Pismo Beach. Yet the station is still not online and there's no word when--or even if--the station will be put into service. Should this station go online, the trip to the coast and return would be even easier for us.

Recargo had planned to install a DCFC station in San Luis Obispo under a California Energy Commission grant. They have yet to start construction and the company has gone quiescent since Innogy, a German utility, bought them last fall. Recargo's station would be a welcome addition to reliance on the two EVgo dispensers at the Marigold Center.

For our spur-of-the-moment trip, EVgo was the only game in town and one of the two kiosks at the San Luis Obispo station had been offline for several days when I pulled up PlugShare to see what was working and what was not. Recent posts said both kiosks were in service.

When we left Bakersfield it was over 100 F. We had a beautiful and uneventful drive to the coast. When we arrived it was a refreshing, if not cold, 60 F. I dropped my charges at our friend's house and drove on to SLO to charge. I planned to meet them and Virginia's relative later at the Rooster Creek restaurant in Arroyo Grande.

With Android Auto I navigated the back way to SLO, avoiding ever busy US 101. When I arrived at EVgo's Marigold charge station, one kiosk was occupied and the other empty. I parked and tried to activate the screen. No luck. Despite a previous posting on PlugShare that both kiosks were working, that wasn't the case when I arrived. The other driver finished charging, walked over and said that the kiosk I was trying to use had been out-of-service for weeks. He said he was finished though, and I could pull up to his dispenser. I did and commenced charging for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, I called EVgo and alerted them that one of their dispensers was down and I posted a notice to PlugShare.

Charging complete, I drove to Arroyo Grande where the city has several Level 2 kiosks at a municipal parking lot. I parked, logged on, plugged in, and then walked to Rooster Creek.

By the time lunch was finished, the Bolt was fully charged and we could drive back to Bako with the A/C blasting. We arrived home a little after 5.00 pm with charge to spare.

My familiarity with the route, the charge stations available at our destination, and the nearly real time input from PlugShare gave me the confidence necessary to jump at the chance to make a day trip to the coast and back.

We've scaled down to only one vehicle, and that's the Bolt EV. We use it for everything we'd use a conventional gasoline-powered auto. That now includes those spur-of-the-moment adventures that you don't think twice about making in a gasser.


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