Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Road tripping is always easier the second time around, right?

Last week, I blogged about an impromptu 470-mile road trip in my Bolt EV to Pittsburgh, PA that was successful, with a few tense moments of course. The main point of writing about my trip was to show that while road tripping in a 200+ mile all electric car like the Bolt is possible, the public fast charging infrastructure still isn't quite there yet to simply input a destination in your GPS and go. Advanced planning is still required to ensure a successful road trip, but it is possible.

Road tripping...not just for Teslas

As luck would have it, I had another trip to Pittsburgh on deck this past weekend, this time to attend a friend's wedding. As I had just completed a road trip to Pittsburgh not even a week earlier (and learned some things for a return trip), I was quite confident that I had all the knowledge I needed to complete another trip to Pittsburgh and back. And unlike last week, I would be staying at a hotel overnight that had EV charging stations available, so I figured the trip would be much easier this time around. As you will soon find out, life almost never goes according to plan.

I decided to use the same charging strategy I employed last time, which included a quick pit stop at the EVgo fast charging station located at the Hagerstown Premium Outlet mall. About halfway into my 60-mile drive to Hagerstown, I realized the wedding we thought was starting at 7PM actually had a 4:30 PM start time. Crap! Looking at Google Maps, I realized the ~2-hour buffer we thought we had to make it to the wedding venue was pretty much gone (Tip #1 to a successful BEV road trip: double check what time you need to be at your destination). Doing some quick math in my head, I calculated that we had enough time for the Hagerstown EVgo charging pitstop and would also need to charge clothes during the stop. My son had forgotten to pack his dress socks, so I would be able to pick up some socks from the Children's Place located right next to the charging station. 

Pitstop at the trusty Hagertstown, MD EVgo station.

After paying for the socks and walking back to the Bolt, I looked up the actual wedding venue location, as I figured it was very close to the hotel we were staying at. To my horror, the wedding venue I had assumed was minutes away from the hotel was actually 50 minutes away! The hotel and wedding venue both had the name "Shady" in them, so I had assumed they were adjacent properties, or at least very close to each other (Tip #2: always confirm the address to all stops on your road trip). Punching in the wedding venue address added an extra 14 miles to my current drive, and an additional 32 miles on top of that to the hotel. Suddenly I had to drive an extra 46 miles that I had not planned for.  The stress level started to climb.

Knowing that I had arrived at Pittsburgh last time with nearly 40 miles to spare, I knew I had a little buffer to work with. I ended up spending 30 minutes charging in Hagerstown, which was just enough time for everyone to get changed into our wedding attire. We departed with the Bolt's battery being replenished back to 88% state of charge, and 219 miles on the range meter, with 199 miles to go. While the range buffer was not as big as I preferred, I figured it was good enough. I also found out there was a EVgo station 12 miles from the wedding venue I could charge at after the wedding to ensure we had enough range to make it to the hotel, so that put me a little at ease. Back on the road we went!

Our new ETA to our new destination was 4:35PM, 5 minutes past the start of the wedding. No biggie, I thought, weddings never start on time! That's what I was hoping anyways. Knowing that every minute was precious, I could not take it easy like last time driving 5-10 mph under the speed limit, so I ended up driving close to the 70-mph speed limit for the next ~180 miles. I knew I would put the Bolt's efficiency ratings to the test. Observing the elevation climb in my TorquePro app while the range meter decreased at an increasing rate was not the best feeling in the world. To top it off, my wife asked repeatedly "Can't you go any faster?? We're gonna be late!". Hell, I was going as fast as I could go! Being stressed by time, range, and the wife's stuff! Who needs coffee to stay alert?? 

As I approached the 2,500-foot peak of my climb through the Allegany mountains, my range meter reading was 12 miles to the red. I knew I was probably in good shape, with the descent down to Pittsburgh soon upon me. It was then one of my kids piped up "Hey, look at those dark clouds in front of us!". We were about to drive into some wicked thunderstorms that were on a collision course with our Bolt (Tip #3: always check the weather forecast to account for potential range impacting weather). I knew that my efficiency would take a hit driving through the rain (defroster use, windshield wipers, increased road friction due to rain). The stress level notched up one level higher. 

Elevation profile of the drive to Pittsburgh

Fortunately for us, we ended up driving through torrential rains for only 20 minutes or so, and the range hit from the weather ended up being almost nothing. We were soon driving under blue skies again. The last few miles of the drive were fairly uneventful, and we ended up arriving at the wedding venue at 4:47PM. Luckily, the wedding had been delayed till 5PM. Woohoo! When I parked the Bolt, the range meter was down to 22 miles. 

Plenty of range left!

Several hours later, it was time to depart to our hotel. With a massive 22 miles of range left, I made the 12-mile drive to the nearest EVgo fast charging station. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and the surroundings reminded me of scenes from the movie 'Joy Ride'. I just hoped there were no deranged killer brothers lurking in the shadows. After arriving at the Dunkin Donuts that hosted the charging station, I found a lone station at the back of the parking lot. I had to fight a couple of spiders to activate the charging session (nothing was easy on this trip, it seemed), and after 15 minutes of charging, we were on the way to the hotel. 

Freakin' spiders!

Upon arriving at the hotel, I found a much welcome Bosch L2 charging station waiting for me. I plugged in and made my way to the front office to check it. It turned out that our room was a quarter mile down the road at a sister property, but the staff assured us there was a EV charging station at that location as well. After a short drive to the correct building, I found the charging station: A Tesla-only destination station. And a BMW i8 was occupying the spot unplugged (thanks jerk bimmer owner!). I had forgotten to bring my Tesla to J1772 JDapter Stub, but it wouldn't have mattered anyways due to the rude i8 owner. We brought all our belongings to our room, and then I drove back to the main building and plugged in my Bolt at the Bosch station. On the short walk back to my room, I pondered what I did to piss off Murphy. The next day I woke up to 250 miles of range, and after seeing some sights in Pittsburgh, the drive back was completely stress free. I was impressed by the Bolt's 4.0 miles/kWh figure for the mostly highway drive of 65-70 mph. Not bad for the "aero-brick" Bolt!

Typical self-absorbed bimmer driver blocking a Tesla station
Destination charging FTW!

A welcome sight the next morning

So, another successful road trip completed in the Bolt, with some unexpected twists. As I found out, NEVER assume anything on a long-distance BEV road trip. Surprises are usually not welcome on such trips, and I ran into several that could have been avoided without ASSuming. The main point of my blog entries is to show what real-life road trips are like in the Bolt. No pretending that road trips are pain free and easy as pie, but also to show that the Bolt can in fact be taken on long distance trips with some planning and is not a "city only car" as the Bolt FUD (Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.) spreaders love to propagate online. As always, your mileage will vary (along with the level of intestinal fortitude. ;) )

Stats for the return drive spent mostly at 70-75-mph

Overall trip stats. Pretty "long distance" if you ask me. And look at that efficiency!


  1. Thanks for taking us along on your Bolt adventure Brian. My girlfriend and I are taking our Bolt on a trip this weekend from MD to WV which is 338 miles each way. There is a fast charger in Front Royal and another in Staunton, VA, and each is about 100 miles apart. The last leg will be about 146 miles, so that will be the "finger-biter," but as long as the Staunton DCFC is working I think we'll be fine. We could take our ICE car and have no problems, but what fun would that be?

    1. The DC fast charger in Front Royal is a little slow, there is a nice place to eat behind the visitor's center though.

    2. Good luck on your trip! WV is still a fast charging wasteland IIRC.

    3. Love the last sentence,... What fun would that be.

      A little sense of adventure and a good sense of humor can take one a long way. That and a little planning and correct info re when things act start. 😉. Have a great trip and keep charging on. ⚡😎👍

  2. Not happy to hear that. Maybe it's only a 25kW machine?

    1. Looks like it's a 100 amp unit. So slower than 125 or 150.