Last weekend, I drove Bergstrom Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt from Madison to Detroit, and back. Over 1000 miles, through 4 states, in sun and snow, the Bolt and I spent a lot of time together. Hopefully you saw some of the updates on Twitter!
The Bolt has a range of 230 miles in perfect conditions. That means if it’s not cold and you’re driving carefully in the city you can get over 200 miles on one full battery charge. Unfortunately, it was in the 30s and I was mostly driving interstate highways, so 200 miles on one charge was not an option. I planned my stops assuming I could get about 150 miles per charge.
Madison to Detroit
I set off at 7:30 on Thursday morning, charged up to 80% from a pit stop at an EVgo fast charger in Monona. After about 2 hours and 120 miles, I stopped at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, just outside Chicago to charge at another EVgo fast charger.
After 45 minutes of checking emails and walking around the mall, I got a text from EVgo saying my charge was complete. I set off to my next stop: the Lincoln Oasis in South Holland, Illinois, which was about 50 miles away. The Bolt’s battery wasn’t drained yet but there aren’t many fast chargers on the west side of Michigan, so I wanted to have as much charge as possible before leaving Illinois. This turned out to be a good choice. Inside the Oasis, I ate lunch and worked, and packed up 45 minutes later when I got the text that my car was charged up.
My next stop was in Kalamazoo, Michigan (where I was born!) to charge at a fast charger at a car dealership. Unfortunately, this fast charger was out of order, and it was the only one within 50 miles. Turns out the charger is brand new – it was just installed at the dealership for the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace all-electric car. There was a part recall that meant it was not working yet. Bummer. But, the dealership was very gracious, they let me use their level 2 charger for free and even invited me inside for a cup coffee and to use their lobby’s Wi-Fi. I hung out there for about 2 hours which added 40 miles to the battery.
At this point, I had 200 miles under my belt and had charged at 3 fast chargers and 1 level 2 charger. At 4:30pm, I left the dealership with 70 miles on the battery and a better understanding of the realities of taking an all-electric car on long road trips.
Next stop, Grand Rapids, which is about 50 miles north of Kalamazoo. My plan was to pick up my sister, who lives in the area, and quickly plug into a fast charger before heading out to Detroit. The only fast charger in Grand Rapids is also at a dealership, and also affected by the part recall. So, with 20 miles left on the battery, my sister and I resolved to get dinner and spend the night at her apartment with the Bolt plugged into a level 2 charger overnight. No harm, no foul! I was disappointed I couldn’t do the drive in one day, but knew it would be an easy 150 miles from Grand Rapids to Detroit in the morning.
On Friday morning, we woke up to the first snowfall of the year! Together, my sister and I drove from Grand Rapids to Detroit, and stopped to charge up in front of a beautiful, snow-laden fall tree.
I made almost the exact same stops on the way back. Creature of habit, no? It was an easy drive and actually much quicker because I didn’t stop to charge at the level 2 in Kalamazoo. I took a shorter way from Grand Rapids to Chicago, which avoided Kalamazoo entirely. Live and learn.
Conclusions after 1000 miles in a Chevy Bolt
So, 1000 miles later, my conclusions?
- It’s totally doable to take an electric car on a road trip. This was a far cry from the fastest I’ve driven from Madison to Detroit and back but it was enjoyable. The Bolt is fun to drive and I had an excuse to stop along the way which meant I could walk around a get a real meal instead of being confined to a car for 7 hours straight.
- With that said, for now, I suggest renting a car or using a plug-in hybrid if you’re short on time. Get an electric car to use around town and rent a car for longer trips. You’ll still save money in the long run, too.
- EVgo chargers rock. They all have human names, like “Paul” and “Stewart,” which I stopped at, which is fun. More importantly, they are easy to use and charged the Bolt within 45 minutes. Also, EVgo provided us a $60 credit so all of my charging was free! I didn’t use that to inform my charging decisions though, EVgo just had the most convenient locations. Thanks, EVgo.
- As always, there’s more work to be done! The network of DC fast chargers in the Midwest is growing, but it’s not where it needs to be for convenient long road trips. We need to work with other Midwest states to create a better network of charging stations in convenient locations so we don’t have to think twice about using an electric car for a road trip. Luckily, Volkswagen funding is available to do just that.
- I really dislike driving my gasoline car now. After driving the Bolt for almost a week, my car screams “inefficient.” It bugs me that when I slow down the energy is lost instead of regenerating the battery, and the delay between pressing the gas and actually moving forward seems more obvious now.
What are you driving to your Thanksgiving celebrations? If it’s electric, take my virtual high-five, and a challenge to get at least one family member to drive your car around the block to see how great it is. For the rest of us driving gasoline cars, here’s to future years where we’ll be the ones showing off our electric ride. Happy Thanksgiving!
A special “Thank You” to Bergstrom Chevrolet for letting us use their Bolt.