Thursday, June 21, 2018

Best Value Charging Station For a Non-Tesla owner may be a....Tesla Charging Station? What?!

Best Value Charging Station For a Non-Tesla EV owner is….a Tesla Station? What?

[Author’s note: I know that 240V residential “charging stations” are actually EVSEs (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) that aren’t actually charging stations, and the charging equipment all resides inside the cars, but I used the term “charging station” in the title so casual readers didn’t get confused about what an EVSE is.]

For a new EV owner looking to upgrade from the stock 120V charging cord that came with their vehicle, it may be daunting trying to figure out what kind of 240V EVSE would be best to buy. There are dozens of companies out there that offer 240V EVSEs of varying power ratings, cord lengths, plug types (and the choice between a plug-in or hardwire version). 

Photo credit to

Several companies have made a name in the EV world for making quality products, one such company being Clipper Creek. When I purchased my 2012 Chevy Volt, I had a Clipper Creek LCS-25 (made in USA btw) installed at my home soon after, and for the next 4 years, it performed flawless charging my ’12 Volt, along with plug-ins that have come and gone (’13 C-Max Energi, ’16 Spark EV, ’17 Gen 2 Volt) and my 2017 Bolt EV without fail. While I charged my Bolt EV with the LCS-25 for over 18 months, the unit was only rated for a max 4.8 kW charge rate (4.5 kW in real world observations), and once I purchased a new house with a garage, I decided it was time to upgrade to a unit that could take advantage of the Bolt’s advertised 7.2 kW charge rate. I sold off my trusty LCS-25, and looked to purchase a replacement.

I thought about simply upgrading to a 32-amp Clipper Creek unit that would support 7.2 kW charge rates, but wanted to see if I could find something a little cheaper than $565 (but still UL-rated and made by a reputable company). One night I was browsing one of the Tesla owner forums, and came across a thread about the new Tesla mobile connector that came with the Model 3. The Tesla Gen 2 Mobile Connector (Gen 2 MC) was a 32-amp unit (perfectly matches the Bolt’s peak 32-amp specs) that came with both 120V and 240V adapters, was portable, and best of all was only $300! It was literally the cheapest UL-rated (no thanks knockoff Chinese made EVSEs) 240V EVSE on the market that could also charge on 120V. Only one problem though: I didn’t own a Tesla.

Tesla Gen 2 Mobile Connector

Fortunately for me, I already had a device (JDapter Stub, a $239 Tesla-to-J1772 adapter sold by QuickChargePower) that could be used to allow my Bolt (and pretty much any other EV) to charge from a Tesla, non-Supercharger charging station. Or in my case, a Tesla Gen 2 MC. Because I already had the JDapter Stub, all I needed to do was purchase the Tesla unit and have a 240V NEMA 14-50 outlet installed in my garage. At $300, the Tesla Gen 2 MC was the best bang for the buck 32A EVSE out there! Who'd a thunk a Tesla product could end up being the most economical?

JDapter Stub from QuickChargePower
As an added bonus, the Tesla Gen 2 MC comes with a 120V adapter along with the 240V NEMA 14-50 adapter, and can be used to charge from a regular 120V household outlet as well. It is a very versatile, compact unit that can be used for home charging as well as on the road charging as a portable 240V EVSE. 

The electrician finally showed up to my house, and installed the NEMA 14-50 outlet required to use the Gen 2 MC. I plugged it into the outlet, then plugged my JDapter Stub into the Tesla plug end, and voila! My Volt and Bolt now had access to L2, 7.2 kW/32-amp charging once again at my home! What makes this deal even better is the state of Maryland offers a 40% rebate of the cost of a new EVSE. Since the Tesla MC cost $300, 40% of that is $120. But since I sold my old Clipper Creek LCS-25 for $200, and will receive the $120 rebate check from the state of Maryland, the cost of upgrading from a 20-amp EVSE to the 32-amp Tesla one was -$20...or $20 in my pocket! #winning

Tesla Gen 2 MC plugged into NEMA 14-50 outlet

JDapter Stub + Tesla MC charging my Volt

In the event I go on a road trip in my Bolt, the Tesla MC + JDapter Stub combo gives me more options for on-the-road charging. Many campgrounds have 14-50 outlets that can be accessed, and of course 120V trickle charging is always an option, albeit extremely slow. The JDapter Stub opens up even more charging points, as otherwise inaccessible Tesla destination charging stations also become available as charging options. I never thought I would ever be writing a glowing blog post about a Tesla product, but the Gen 2 MC (with assist from the JDapter) is really a nice option for those EV owners looking for a low-cost, portable dual 120/240V EVSE. 

An EV owner of a plug-in that can only charge at ~3.3 kW (Volts for example) can probably find cheaper options for 3.3-3.6 kW charging (such as the Gen 2 Volt/Bolt's stock charging cord which can be used for 240V charging with an adapter), but for a non-Tesla BEV owner that can charge at a rate of at least 6.6 kW, such as a Bolt EV or Leaf owner, the Tesla Gen 2 MC + JDapter Stub combo is a charging solution that should be considered. And is almost a no-brainer if you already own a JDapter Stub. 

P.S. for those of you looking to duplicate my setup, make sure your electrician runs wire for a 50-amp circuit. While only a 40-amp circuit is required for use of a 32-amp device like the Tesla Gen 2 MC, a NEMA 14-50 outlet is supposed to be wire for 50-amps, so while you could get away with running wire for 40-amps, you wouldn't want to fall into any permit issues if an inspector finds a 50-amp outlet wired for only 40-amps. Pay the few extra bucks and get the proper 50-amp wiring installed. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lessons Learned From a Long Distance Winter Road Trip in a Bolt EV

I just passed my 1 year anniversary owning my Bolt EV, and during that first year I put over 15,000 emission-free miles on it. Rarely being affected by range anxiety due to the ample 238 mile range, the Bolt has met about 99% of my daily driving needs. That being said, there is that remaining 1% of the time I have found my Bolt doesn’t quite cut it in one area: long distance road trips in the winter.

Charging at a Tesla station via adapter.
Twice this winter, I have taken road trips with the family in tow that exceeded the Bolt’s 238 mile range. I detailed the first trip in a previous blog entry, and the biggest takeaway was that a cold HV battery could significantly reduce fast charging speeds on unsuspecting owners. With knowledge from that first trip fresh in my mind, I completed another road trip (this time a 420 mile roundtrip trek to the Big Apple!). Up until a day before the trip, I was still debating whether to roll the dice and take the Bolt, or just suck it up and burn some gas and take my 2012 Volt. In the end, I decided to take the Bolt and give it another chance on a long distance winter road trip. My biggest worry was the aforementioned reduced fast charging speed due to cold HV battery issue, but it turned out on this trip it a non-issue. However, other issues were experienced.

Volt or Bolt?
In preparation for the trip, I did everything I could to mitigate the “too cold for peak DCFC” battery temperature issue. After charging up my Bolt to 100% overnight, I turned on my Bolt and turned on the heater on and let the Bolt “warm up” for 30 minutes before we departed. By doing this, it helps save energy for the road by getting the heater (and cabin) warmed up so the Bolt doesn’t spend the first few miles of driving using extra energy getting the heater up to temperature. Plus, I found (via my OBDII adapter and TorquePro app) that the Bolt will keep the HV battery temperature between 50-60F when ambient temps are freezing while it is turned on and plugged in (heats to 60F, then kicks back on when the HV battery drops to 50F).

Road tripping in a Bolt it feasible?

Once we were ready to hit the road, my Bolt registered 168 miles of estimated range, a far departure from the nearly 300 mile estimates I had been observing during the warmer summer months. The cold impacts range on all EVs; even six figure Teslas are not immune. As New York City was 205 miles away, at least one fast charging stop would be required. During the summer, I would have had plenty of range to make it to the CCS stations on the New Jersey Turnpike (NJTP) at the Joyce Kilmer Rest Area ( However, being 168 miles away and having 168 miles of estimated range staring me in the face, that math told me another pit stop would be good.

Fortunately, there are two rest areas near the MD/DE border than have multiple, FREE CCS fast charging stations. Since we still hadn't eaten lunch, the hour drive to the Chesapeake House Travel Center ( would be a perfect place to stop to top off the battery and sit down for lunch. I noted that my HV battery temperature was 59F when we left the driveway, and the ambient air temp was 28F. After arriving at the first CCS charging stop, my estimated range had dropped down to 115 miles, and my battery temp had dropped to 57F. I plugged into the 100 amp max (booo) DCFC, and observed the station was outputting max charge rates from the start.

After eating lunch with the family, we returned to the Bolt. By my calculations, it should have charged to nearly full. However, when I walked up to my Bolt, it was not charging. Uhoh. It turns out that, despite not being a EVgo station that are notorious for 30 minute shutoffs, my Bolt had stopped charging after 30 minutes. Thus, I had "wasted" 30 minutes of charging time. I was fairly annoyed, as there was no indication of the 30 minute shutoff, and I had only charged up to 150 miles. Luckily, my next DCFC stop was only 108 miles away, so I still had plenty of range to make the 108 mile drive.

Only gained 35 miles in 1 hour (thank you 30 min auto shut-off)

When I arrived at my next stop (Joyce Kilmer rest area), I rolled into the charging stations that happens to be collocated with Tesla Superchargers. 3 Teslas were plugged in when I plugged myself into one of the CCS stations. I had arrived with 42 miles of estimated range remaining, and since my destination was only 39 miles away, a 30 minute charge was all that was needed. After another quick restroom stop, I managed to charge up to 94 miles of range, so it was off on the final leg to NYC!

30 minute fast charging pitstop on the NJTP

39 miles later, we had arrived in NYC, and with 60 miles of range remaining. It was now 6PM, so we went to find a place to eat dinner. After finding what is likely the most expensive parking lot in the city ($47 for 2+ hours of parking! Dafuq!) that had a charging station, I had to convince the parking attendant several times that the Blink station inside the garage actually worked. After a phone call to his boss, he was finally convinced it worked. Turns out in the 7 months that guy had been working there, no one had ever asked about the charging station. Of course, being a Blink station, it was priced at a NYC-esque 49 cents/kWh, but as beggars can't be choosers, I begrudgingly plugged in and headed off to dinner, which was luckily only a couple of blocks away. We discovered an Amazon book store on the way!

Parking ain't cheap in NYC. In fact, nothing is.

Sayonara Barnes and Noble?
Two hours later after eating some amazing Korean BBQ (Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong...nom nom nom), I saw that the Blink station had added a whopping ~30 miles of estimated range, or 11 kWh of energy. Having plenty of range to make it back to the NJTP fast charging stations, we parked the Bolt for the night and headed to the hotel for some rest.

Nom Nom Nom

After spending the next day exploring the city and seeing a Blue Man Group show, it was time to head home. The drive to the Molly Pitcher Service ( was only 45 miles, so with over 80 miles of estimated range, we were all set.

After escaping horrific NYC traffic, we arrived at Molly Pitcher with 55 miles of range left. Home was 162 miles away, so I realized that I would need to log at least 2 full 30 minute charging sessions. While waiting for the Bolt to charge up, we entertained ourselves and the kids by watching some streamed TV shows using the Bolt's unlimited 4g LTE wifi hotspot. After 1 hour of charging, the Bolt stated I had 131 miles of range. That was not nearly close to the 162 mile number to home, so it looked like 1 more fast charging stop would be needed before we made it home.

Curious if I could actually stretch the Bolt's 131 mile estimated range 162 miles, I employed all range saving techniques I could think of. I reduced my speed to 5 under the 65 MPH speed limit, and I also toggled the heat on and off. I found that even if you turn off the HVAC in the Bolt, it will still blow warm air for several minutes until the heater cooled off. By utilizing these power saving techniques, I was actually able to get the "Max" number on the GOM to exceed the miles remaining to home. However, I decided this was one range test I was not willing to see to the end, and topped off the Bolt for 15 minutes at the same MD rest area I stopped at to charge the prior day to ensure I had enough to make it home. Watching the range meter slowly tick up 1 mile at a time was borderline painful. With no range qualms, I took off for home like a bat out of hell.

Final trip stats

Final trip stats part 2

The 420 mile road trip was complete. After looking back at the trip and what I experienced, I came to the following conclusions:

  1.  NYC destination charging SUCKS. I was fortunate to be able to charge that one time at the Blink station.
  2. 100 amp max CCS charging stations SUCK. The Bolt is capable of charging at ~55 kW peak rates on a yet non-existent 150+ amp CCS fast charging station, but even a 125 amp station would have cut down charging times some. 
  3. The Bolt's aggressive fast charging taper plain SUCKS. At around 50% SOC, the Bolt tapers currents from a theoretical max of ~55kW/150 amps down to 37 kW/100 amps. At ~70% SOC, the charging rate tapers again down to around 23 kW/60 amps. While not affected much by the 50% taper on this trip, the aggressive charge tapering is not optimal for road trips with multiple fast charging stops.
  4. Parking/driving in NYC SUCKS. I am actually strongly considering taking the Amtrak next time. While I love driving the Bolt, for peace of mind I may just take the train next time. This would hold true even if I owned a $160k Tesla. Actually, driving a Tesla in NYC would probably be even more migraine inducing than a Bolt due to the Tesla's massive size.
  5. CCS fast charging infrastruture is not "there" yet. While it was greatly improved over the last few years, it still does not compare to Tesla's Supercharger network. I believe in a couple years, the CCS network will be close to catching up to Tesla's SC network, but until then Tesla has the advantage. Of course, a gas car trumps any BEV when it comes to road tripping.
So to sum it all up, the Bolt is great for 99% of my driving needs, and likely covers the vast majority of needs of the average American. However, if you are thinking of taking a Bolt on a long distance road trip (especially in the winter), you should definitely plan meticulously (with a Plan A, and plans B and C in the back pocket) and consider whether you and your family can stomoche the extra time it will take to complete a trip in an all-electric vehicle, Bolt or something else, along with potential charging pitfalls. The old saying "your mileage may vary" definitely applies.

P.S. there was one more thing I learned during my trip!

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bolt EV may give you the cold shoulder fast charging in the winter

As the official start to winter approaches, thermometers in Maryland have been dropping accordlingly. Despite some warmer than normal temperatures in the fall, winter has unofficially arrived in the Free State, with highs in the low 40's and lows dropping into the 20's. As most of us know, colder temperatures mean bad news for EVs when it comes to range and efficiency, as heater use and less efficient batteries due to the lower temps serve as a double whammy to range. However, there is also another drawback to the colder temperatures that a lot of plug-in owners likely aren't quite as familiar with: reduced fast charging capability.

One winterized Bolt

This past Saturday, my family decided to check out the Koziar Christmas Village in Bernville, PA (might as well rename "SCORCHED EARTH FOR EV CHARGING PA"). The drive to the village was 132 miles one way (264 miles roundtrip), so fast charging stop(s) would be needed. I was actually semi-fretting leading up the the trip, because of the fact the nearest fast charging station to the village was 60 miles away in York, PA.

260 miles round trip!

There is actually a CCS station near Lancaster, PA closer to Bernville, but as it has a 1.0 rating on Plugshare, I decided to write it off as a charging option. There is no L2 charging near Bernville, PA either, so charging while parked at the Christmas village was not an option. I would need to charge at York either on the way up to Bernville, PA OR on the way back home IF I had enough range to make it back to York on the return trip.

No thanks

Before beginning my trip, I made sure to pre-heat my Bolt. I actually turned the Bolt on and left the heat run while it was plugged in for about 30 minutes priop to departing so the heater and battery would be up to temp and warmed up. When we actually departed (it was snowing lightly and about 32 degrees), the heat was set to 70 degrees on fan speed setting 1. I had an estimated 196 miles of range after doing a 100% charge. It was theoretically possible for me to eek out enough range so that I only needed to hit the CCS station in York on the way back. I quickly found out that would be impossible.

Fast charging desert in middle of nowhere, PA

During the drive up to the PA border, the snow steadily increased in intensity, and the wet roads took a toll on my efficiency. About 50 miles into my trip, I realized I would absolutely have to top off in York on the way up to Bernville, as there was no way I could make it back to York on a single. When I pulled into the station at York, I had about 105 miles of range remaining. While the distance to York from my home is roughly 67 miles, *91* miles of estimated range had been consumed. Due to arriving at the station with 63% of the battery remaining, my "fast" charge was relatively slow due to the Bolt tapering charging rates when the battery is above 50%. For a 29 minute session, I had managed to put 12.6 kWh into the battery, and had "topped off" to 160 miles of estimated range when I departed for Bernville.

100A max fast charging station in York, PA

During the remaining 59 mile drive to the village, it continued to snow. Eventually, snow started sticking to the highway, so traffic slowed considerably for streches on the highway. The slower speeds helped increase my efficiency, however, so all was not a total loss. When we pulled into the parking lot of the christmas village, the range meter stated I had 95 miles left. The ambient temperatures were in the mid 20's when we arrived. We ended up spending about 2.5 hours exploring the village (and 2.5 hours of the Bolt's battery cold-soaking in sub-freezing temps).

Not optimal conditions

A little after 8PM, we departed back for the CCS station in York. During the entire 60 mile drive, I had the heat set to 70 degrees, with on and off use of the defroster. When we pulled into the fast charger in York, 29 miles of range/16% battery charge remained. I wanted to top off to about 80 miles so I had a comfortable buffer for the 60 mile drive back home.


What I DIDN'T expect was the throttled charging rates of my Bolt! Despite having the heat on for the whole hour driving to York, the HV batterty was obviously still too cold to allow for maximum charging rates! I languished at 18-24 kW (or 60-70 amp) rates for the first 20 minutes of charging, resulting in much fewer miles being replenished than I thought. It wasn't until 25 minutes after pluggin in did the Bolt finally realize the stations full 100 amp charging rates (or about 35 kW). My stay at the charging station was about 20 minutes longer than I had planned (and MAN that was a long 20 minutes with a cranky wife! Might as well have been an eternity).

After  ~45 minutes charging (and 19.3 kWh pumped out by the EVgo station), I had achieved my 80 mile range, and eagerly took off for home. The rest of the trip was rather uneventful, and I arrived back home with around 20 miles of range left.

Looking back on this trip, I realized that driving a Bolt to an EV charging wasteland during a minor snowstorm was probably not the best decision. If I were to repeate this trip again, most likely I would have just taken my Volt and burned some gas and shave about 75 minutes off the travel time I ended up spending extra charging the Bolt. The "too cold HV battery" issue doesn't affect just the Bolt, but all EVs in regards to fast charging, even the much balleyhooed Teslas and their Supercharging network. TeslaBjorn has video blogged about reduced Supercharging rates when the HV battery is too cold. Skip to 4:00 to see Bjorn's Model X struggle to register even 1 kW in the video below.

The Bolt is a mighty fine vehicle, but the cold battery issue I experienced should be something other Bolt owners are aware of before planning a road trip this winter that relies on DC fast charging. As you can see below, while the Bolt can condition the HV battery, it seems that it will only heat (or cool) the battery to keep the battery temperature out of the "danger zones" where the battery can be potentially degraded. Perhaps a "warm HV battery" feature could be implemented by GM so that owners had the option of warming the battery to ensure peak fast charging speeds in cold conditions. It would have been "warmly" welcomed by me this past weekend.

Final trip stats

Monday, October 9, 2017

Charging your Bolt EV at a Tesla destination station? Yes, you can!

As most EV owners are aware, Tesla offers one thing that other EV manufacturers do not offer at the moment: a coast to coast Supercharging network. I've read many stories of Tesla Model owners boasting about being able to travel across the country for free using only Tesla's Supercharging network. As of today, Tesla states that 1,008 Supercharger sites with 7,032 Supercharger stations are active in North America. Compare that to the CHAdeMO and CCS compatible fast charging outlets, which are more concentrated in metropolitan areas and lack the coast to coast coverage that Tesla offers. While more and more CHAdeMO/CCS stations are being installed every day, it will be a little while till coverage can come close to Tesla's proprietary network.

Pretty good coverage

So what's the non-Tesla owner that still wants to travel the country to do, aside from renting a gas car or biting the bullet and acquiring a wallet-stretching Tesla themselves? While Tesla touts its Supercharging network, it also supports an ever growing "Destination Charging" network as well. And the best thing about the Destination Charging stations? Non-Tesla EV owners can utilize them*

While not nearly as fast as Supercharging (for all intents and purposes, non-Tesla owners will only be able to charge at 7.2 kW max, compared to the 100+ kW charge rates Teslas can obtain at Superchargers), Tesla destination charging stations are sprinkled throughout the country at properties and businesses that have partnered with Tesla to install them. In most instances, Tesla provides most, if not all, of the charging equipment for free, and may also cover a portion of the install costs as well. The properties (a good majority hotel and inn owners) cover the cost of electricity and offer the stations as an extra amenity to guests. Most of the time, guests staying at these properties can charge for free as a perk for patronizing that particular establishment.

Not too shabby either, though some noticeable gaps.

So why should any non-Tesla owner care about any of the above I just wrote about? Well, it turns out that there is a handy little device that can unlock access to most Tesla (NON-Supercharger) destination stations!

A month or 2 ago I came across a special for a JDapter Stub device made by Quick Charge Power ( . Use promo code "Jdapter239" for a $160 discount!), a company in SoCal that makes all sorts of EV accessories. Their JDapter Stub allows for non-Tesla plug-ins to charge using Tesla's (NON-SUPERCHARGER) destination charging stations mentioned above. While these destination charging stations have Tesla's proprietary plug that would normally make it unusable with a non-Tesla plug-in, the JDapter Stub allows just about ANY EV owner to connect and charge using the Stub, with a couple of exceptions. They are the only company I know of that makes this type of off-the-shelf device. Otherwise, I'd post other options available.

The JDapter Stub

I tested out my Stub on a recent trip to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Looking at my charging options in the area, I noticed that there was only ONE location on the whole island (or anywhere near it) that had any kind of charging stations, located at the Refuge Inn ( According to Plugshare, it listed the property having 1 Tesla charging station and one Clipper Creek J1772 unit. Based off the positive Plugshare score, I booked the Refuge Inn for our stay.

Deep (EV) Hole indeed!
Upon arriving at the Refuge Inn in my Bolt EV, I found the Tesla station in the parking lot of the property. I whipped out my Stub, connected it to the Tesla charging plug, then plugged it into my Bolt. Within 2 seconds, my Bolt's charging light turned green and I was sucking down juice in part thanks to Elon Musk/Tesla (Thanks Elon!).


Not just Tesla electric vehicle charging anymore. 😎

According to my Bolt's DIC, it was charging at a rate of 7 kW, with it bouncing to 8 kW a couple of times. Suffice to say, the Bolt was able to max out its peak charging rate using the Tesla station. I awoke the next day to a full charge. The JDapter Stub was a great success! Evidently the Stub can send a pilot signal to the Tesla destination station and "trick" it into thinking it is a Tesla (that's how it was explained to me anyways...something like that). 

***Now I have to caveat my experience by saying that you should always get permission from the property owner before using a Tesla destination charging station (or any charging station for that matter). While most property owners likely don't care what kind of EV actually uses these Tesla stations, there are some establishments in existence that enforce a strict Tesla-only policy, and at least one person has actually been towed! However, most hotel/inn owners should be more than happy to let a paying guest use the stations, regardless of whether you actually drive a Tesla or not. The Refuge Inn certainly didn't care (great place, btw! Indoor heated pool, real close to Assateague Island, free hot breakfast, and friendly staff!).

Also, there are some newer Tesla stations that operate at 277 volts, which the Bolt CAN NOT handle. I believe the Bolt would simply refuse to charge if connected to such a station, but user beware!

Thanks to the JDapter Stub, a lot of additional L2 charging charging plugs are now opened up to my Bolt. If you don't road trip much, this adapter may be of marginal usefulness to you, but for anyone that likes to travel outside the Bolt's 238 mile EPA-rated range, is a very useful accessory indeed. 😊  

P.S. For those Tesla owners that think a non-Tesla using a Tesla destination station is wrong: get over yourselves! You guys still have the Supercharger network all to yourselves, and Elon himself even said, "...we said any car company can use our technology -- it's no problem. They don't even have to pay a fee to us." ( Non-Tesla owners using Tesla destination stations are just obliging him. 😄 And before you ask "Why didn't you just use the Clipper Creek unit?", answer is I wanted to properly test out my JDapter Stub. 

P.P.S. I was recently unceremoniously banned from the main Chevy Bolt EV Owners Facebook group because the admins of that group are a bunch of commies and censor people like North Korean state media. For those that are REAL Bolt owners/fans that want to be able to enjoy some uncensored chit-chat among fellow ACTUAL Bolt owners/fans, I've created a new Facebook group,

REAL Chevy Bolt EV Owners and Fans. Please join up! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Sorry, your car has too much range to charge here" (WHAT?!)

When I bought my Chevy Volt in 2012, EVs were still very much a rarity (even the Tesla Model S was not yet available), and public EV charging infrastructure was more of a unicorn. Back then, finding a public charging station was a rare instance, and finding an EV actually USING a public charging station that wasn't my own was Mission Impossible.

I was often the only plug-in owner to use local charging stations a few years ago

During those years leading up to my Bolt EV purchase, I had seen online that some battery electric vehicle (BEV) owners grumbled about how Volts shouldn't use public charging stations as they had a gas backup engine and never truly NEEDED to charge, and that all-electric BEV owners should always have priority since they did not have a gas engine backup. Some of these people even refused to call a Volt an EV, and label merely a "hybrid" due to having a gas engine, even though the majority of Volt owners drive most of the time on battery only. I scoffed at these "BEV purists", as my mantra was pretty much "If it has a plug, plug away".

Fast forward 5 years, and my, how things have changed! While EV sales still are barely a rounding error compared to overall auto sales (just 1-2%), the population of EVs has steadily grown over that time period, each new year outpacing the previous year in sales. As the demand for EVs has increased, the infrastructure to support them has also expanded. Now charging stations can be found in many more places, to the point that sometimes I find myself filtering out 240V charging stations on the Plugshare app, as the numerous icons block too much of the map! Finding a public charging station NOT in use is the exception as opposed to the norm these days.

More common occurrence these days

Why do I bring this all up? A few days ago, my wife stopped by the local Whole Foods to opportunity charge while shopping for groceries. The Whole Foods location has 2 free charging stations available for customer use, but one of them has been broken the past 16 months (ridiculous, I know). So with only 1 operational station and no other EVs in sight, the wife plugged the Bolt in and went off to shop.

Bolt local charging...#EVHOLE! Don't mind the 2 Teslas that parked in the EV spaces and were not plugged in

When she came back out to the Bolt, she had found that a silver Prius Plug-in (first generation plug-in with a whopping 13 miles of range) had unplugged her actively charging Bolt and had plugged himself in! No note, no nothing (thanks, jerk!). Appropriately miffed, the wife left a note to the Prius owner informing them she was not finished charging, and didn't appreciate being unplugged.

After being told about what had happened, myself (also being quite miffed) posted about it in a FB Bolt owners group. Most other owners agreed that it was a jerk move for the Prius owner to unplug the actively charging Bolt, but then one member (not even a Bolt owner, but rather a Tesla owner. sigh) chimed in and said that plugging in the Bolt in the first place was the more egregious move than the Prius unplugging my Bolt, since it was a "long range" BEV and shouldn't ever need to local charge and the Prius needed it more (dafuq??). Then he proceeded to call me an #EVHOLE (typically used to describe EV owners than block charging spots without plugging in, or just EV owners acting like a-holes in general). And even went so far as to say if a Bolt was low on charge, they STILL should not local charge because it's the Bolt owner's fault they let the car get to such a low state of charge to begin with.

"The Post"

My reaction to the above comments

I responded to the rather unpleasant fellow by saying that no matter if it is a 13 mile Prius Plug-in or 315 mile Tesla Model S100D, if there is an empty charging spot, any plug-in has the right to use that charging station. And if some low range BEV needing a charge showed up later? Well, too bad buddy, first come first serve. If a low-range BEV owner asked me if they could charge, I would 99% of the time have no problem letting them take the plug (something the Prius owner mentioned above failed to do). But this cavalier belief that there is a pecking order for who has priority over public charging stations is simply ridiculous. As one person put it bluntly in another FB group:

"Nobody has the right to tell me that I cannot charge locally. 
What the F**k? 
I live 8 miles away but only have 5 miles range and KMart has a Free EVSE 2 miles from here. 
Somebody is going to tell me that I can't plug in ? 
They can f**k off. 
I'm gonna charge."

TL;DR version of my blog post: First come, first served for public charging stations; don't be an a-hole and steal plugs from actively charging EVs without permission. And if you DO need to charge, ASK first! And if it is a life or death (riiight) situation and you absolutely need to charge, at least leave a damn note for crying out loud!

More (tongue in cheek) examples of Bolts local charging like #EVHOLES:

Total #EVHOLE here

Another Bolt #EVHOLE

Road tripping Bolt...but WAIT! Probably an #EVHOLE anyways

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

900+ mile trip in the 238-mile Bolt shows challenges can be overcome with proper planning

So a few months ago, I read the following article on GreenCarReports about a new Bolt owner's saga of an 800-mile road trip in CA:

What a disaster! The owner of that Bolt did about everything wrong you could possibly do wrong when long distance traveling in an all-electric car. I was actually amazed that she did NOT end up on the back of a flatbed. I felt the article should have been re-titled "Clueless Bolt owner drives 800 miles and somehow doesn't end up stranded in the middle of nowhere". It was a complete debacle. Poor route choice, poor energy conservation (Wow, I'm speeding at 80 mph and the range meter keeps going down way faster than I thought....guess I'll keep driving 80!), poor understanding of charging network pricing options...reading the article made me want to do the following:

Words cannot convey my reaction to that story
That Bolt owner concluded that due to her poor experiences on her 800 mile trip, she would not take the Bolt on any long distance trip again. Good choice, because with her track record, she was destined for the flatbed sooner or later.

This weekend, I embarked on a 900+ mile road trip from Maryland to Connecticut and back, with a pit stop in PA, determined to show that with proper planning, a long distance road trip is possible in a Bolt, with a few compromises of course (but nothing like that debacle referenced above).

As some of you may know, I completed a "313 miles on a single charge" drive across Maryland last weekend, just to see if it was possible to drive from Western MD to the Eastern Shore/Ocean City. I admit up front that I engaged in some light hypermiling practices and was assisted by elevation changes. However, this time, I decided to drive the Bolt like any other person would drive a regular gas car, as Joe Schmoe buying his first BEV will not drive like I did last weekend.

My Saturday actually started with an autocross event in Southern MD (see previous blog posting about my experience here). As the autocross site was ~50 miles away, I had already logged over 100 miles on the day before I even started my main journey! After returning home and getting my things ready for the trip, my Bolt was just about topped off and I was ready to go! I had an estimated 250 miles on the guess-o-meter as I departed my driveway. As the drive to CT was 320 miles, I would need to stop and charge during the trip

Fast charging the Bolt after the autocross event
As the temperatures were right near 90 degrees when I departed just shy of 7PM, I turned on the AC and set it at 70 degrees. For the whole first half of the trip, the AC stayed at those settings. Luckily, I encountered little to no traffic, so I was able to maintain a speed of 5-10 mph OVER the speed limits, which was completely opposite my cross-MD drive the previous Saturday. I averaged between 65-70 mph for the entire drive up to CT. 

Fortunately for me, 4 new EVgo, CCS-compatible fast charging stations had just been installed at 2 locations along the New Jersey Turnpike just a week prior, and they were perfectly located for my MD-CT trip. Literally right smack dab in the middle of my route. What is interesting is these 2 new EVgo locations (located at the Molly Pitcher and Joyce Kilmer rest areas on the NJTP) were co-located with existing Tesla Supercharger stations. I believe these are the first such locations in the country that have Tesla and non-Tesla fast charging stations located together. 

I arrived at the Joyce Kilmer EVgo station with 75 miles left on the GOM, and 155 miles to go on my drive. Armed with my EVgo On-The-Go monthly plan, my charging sessions would cost just 10 cents/minute on top of the base monthly fee. 

Go, electrons, go!
I was at the rest area for approximately 1 hour, hitting the restroom, eating my dinner, and relaxing catching up on email while waiting for the Bolt to charge. After about 45 minutes of charging (had to restart the EVgo station after 30 minutes because of their 30 minute hard cap), it was back on the road! I had gained 103 miles of charge in 45 minutes. 
***Note: the EVgo stations on the NJTP are 50 kW/100-amp max rated stations, so the Bolt will only see peak charge rates of around 36-37 kW in ideal conditions, compared to 46-47 kW when connected to a 125-amp max DCFC station.

Plenty of range to make it to my destination 155 miles away

The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful, as I continued my ~70 mph pace with the AC now off since temps had cooled down considerably. I arrived at my mother's house in CT just before 1AM. 
Trip summary - 
Distance: 325.4 miles 
Average economy: 4.1 miles/kWh
Total time taken (including charging stop):  6 hours, 2 minutes

Arrived with PLENTY of range to spare
The next morning I ventured out to an EVgo station about a 1/2 mile from my mother's house to top off the Bolt. Again, it was a 50 kW/100 amp max station, so I was able to fill 130 miles of rated range in 1 hour, compared to GM's official estimate of 160 miles in 1 hour when connected to an 80 kW capable station. 

EVgo station at Cumberland Farms in West Hartford, CT
After spending Sunday around town, it was time to head back home to MD Monday morning. However, a stop to visit the grandparents in Mechanicsburg, PA, was planned, so the total drive would be 420 miles for the day. 

Free L2 charging station at my old elementary school
I did NOT start my trek back home with a full battery, however. Due to having to go to the airport late Sunday night to pick up a family member, I only had about 207 miles of rated range when I departed CT. Despite not having a 100% charge, I knew the DCFC station on my route was only 160 miles away, so I still had plenty of a buffer. HOWEVER, starting with a 100% charge from CT would have made my return trip easier, as you'll see later. 

Was not able to top off before leaving CT

Once again, with temps in the low 90's, I had the AC cranking at 70 just about the whole drive, speeds between 65-70 mph. My stop at the Molly Pitcher rest area EVgo station was uneventful. I noticed that a Tesla Model X owner was Supercharging when I pulled in. He seemed to give me a rather puzzled look, probably wondering what a non-Tesla EV was doing at the Supercharger site.

I eat my sammich while my Bolt sucks up the e-juice.
After a little over an hour of charging (two 30 minute sessions plus a few minutes more), I was on my way, with 169 miles on the GOM and 152 miles to the grandparent's house. While the grandparents were only 152 miles away, the nearest DCFC I was planning to stop at was actually over 180 miles away! As I had found a EVgo station about 60 miles from the Molly Pitcher stations (a 125 amp one no less), I decided to pull the plug at Molly Pitcher and do a quickie charge in Willow Grove, PA, since it had a slightly higher charging rate. I also needed to go to the bathroom, so it worked out nicely.

Departed Molly Pitcher rest area with 169 miles

Quick pitstop in Willow Grove, PA

148 miles on the GOM, 144 miles to the next DCFC...that works
I arrived at my grandparents, who despite being over 90 years old, expressed a lot of interest in the Bolt. After spending some time catching up and eating dinner, it was time to hit the road yet again. The GOM said I had 31 miles remaining...but the next planned DCFC stop was 33 miles away. I decided if I drove at the speed limit rather than over it, I would have plenty of range to get to the next stop, as my range estimate was based off me going 5-10 over the speed limit.

31 miles of range, 33 miles to go....math works for me!
I must admit, during the last 15 miles of the drive after the GOM simply blinked "LOW" at me, I got my first bit of range anxiety. However, based off my previous experiences, I felt reasonably comfortable I had enough range to make it. The constant hills gave me some worry though. Turned out I had plenty of miles to spare! I made it to the EVgo station (another 100-amp station. Bah!) located at an Arby's in York, PA.

Whew, that's cutting it close!

Had tons of range to spare
I spent an hour at this EVgo station, and when I was ready to go I had 95 miles of range and 63 miles to home. I burned down the road at 70-75 MPH the rest of the way, leaving the range worries in the dust. Here are the numbers for my CT-PA-MD return trip:

421 miles traveling 65-70 mph with AC on....not bad
So all in all, I drove over 900 miles over the course of 2 1/2 days, averaging 4.2 miles/kWh driving like an regular person on the highway this 4th of July weekend. While I did have to go a little out of my way to charge my Bolt at certain times during the trip (and it did take longer than a regular gas car), in no way was my trip a near-disaster at every turn like that Bolt owner mentioned at the beginning of my blog. With a little preparation, you CAN road trip in a Bolt. It just will take a little longer and you have to use a little brain power before and during the trip. You need not be a rocket scientist in order to drive a Bolt outside the city limits; you just need to have a clue. 😃

As far as charging costs go, I engaged in a total of 4.5 hours of fast charging at EVgo stations. Billed at 10 cents/minute, it cost me $27 in total charging costs for my 916 mile trip ($41.95 if you include the $14.95 monthly fee in the total).

To compare, a 30 MPG gas car would have needed almost $70 in gas to complete the same trip, assuming $2.20 for a regular gallon of gas.

All that driving...and no complaints about the front seats, btw!