Driving a Chevy Bolt EV electric car halfway across the U.S.: what it takes Page 2

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Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

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Of course I had the route planned before I finalized the deal.  Interstate-64 goes directly from Richmond to St. Louis, but there aren’t enough Level 3s to make it practical. There is literally not a single DC fast-charging site in Kentucky, though I have no idea how or why.

The southern route through Tennessee would have worked until I got to Illinois, where I would have had to make at least one Level 2 charge. The northern route could work, but it would turn an 814-mile trip into a 1003-mile trip. Well ... it’s an adventure, right? 

I had no idea of how many miles you could actually go on a fully charged Bolt EV. I did all the research, and watched all the videos, but you can still never really know for sure how far you can drive an electric car until you actually do it.

The longest leg of the trip would be 213 miles. Could we actually make it, or would we be stuck on the side of the road calling AAA?

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Enlarge Photo

Day 1

My good friend Tommy B. and I drove my trusty 2007 Acura RDX—which delivered 17 mpg on premium gas, ugh—to Richmond for the trade-in. We had arrived at the dealer at 10 am, ready for our return adventure in the Bolt EV.

While the northern route was along I-70, we had to cross the Appalachian Mountains heading north out of Richmond to get to it. How would the Bolt EV perform in the mountains?

Simple answer: great!

Having no experience in driving an electric car and no idea of how the Bolt would perform in the mountains, I was conservative in planning the first few legs of the trip.

Our first stop was Harrisonburg, Virginia (after 129 miles), at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries. As luck would have it, it poured rain almost the entire first day. I had never connected a charger, and of course never contacted the company that operates the charging stations to pay them.

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Enlarge Photo

So the first experience with fast-charging was in a downpour—but eventually it worked out fine. I did have to call the company twice, but we got it done.

Our next stop (114 miles more) was Hagerstown, Maryland, at the Hagerstown Valley Mall. We hung out at the mall and decided to have dinner there, which worked great.

Our original plan was to stop at a pair of Nissan dealers for the next two stops. I called them during my planning to see if they would allow a Bolt EV to charge, and they both agreed.

But we were running late (of course), and the dealerships would be closed by the time we got there—so we had to make a change on the fly.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Some Nissan dealerships offer DC fast-charging using only the CHAdeMO protocol and plug that is fitted to the Nissan Leaf, but Massmann's Bolt EV uses the CCS protocol and plug. Unless the dealers in question were specifically indicated to provide CCS fast charging, he might well not have been able to fast-charge his Bolt EV at all, so he may be lucky that his plans changed.

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Virginia to Missouri, June 2017 [photo: Bill Massmann]

Enlarge Photo

After checking online for an alternative to the Nissan dealers, we found a Holiday Inn Express in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania (169 miles away), with a 240-volt Level 2 charger. We had to spend the night somewhere, so it worked out great and we had a full charge the next morning.

I was interested to see how the Bolt performed coming out of the Appalachians. We were on Old US Route 40 (I'm still not sure why the directions took us that way), but it was crazy.

Part of the route was a 9-percent downhill grade for 3 miles, where the posted speed limit for trucks and buses was 10 mph! We had experienced a little range anxiety until then.

In the end, coasting downhill when we could and using the “Regen” feature on the Bolt EV, we were able to gain a full 50 miles of range.


 
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