Electric-car road trip: lessons learned in Chevy Bolt EV over 1,300 miles Page 3

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

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(3) Plan for your own range anxiety

The term “range anxiety” has been in use since electric cars went on sale seven years ago. With time and experience in any electric car, it abates. But you need to discover your own anxiety levels, and plan so you avoid them.

My own "anxiety buffer" is 30 miles or more. So if available range shows as 100 miles, and I know that I will either reach home or arrive at the next charger in 70 miles or less, I have a carefree trip.

Barring mechanical problems or truly awful traffic tieups, I’m confident my little red Bolt EV will soon be plugged in without a tow truck involved.

But there are other times on a long trip when the tension is obvious, when the knuckles are white, when idle chatter with your passenger masks a deep dread in your stomach.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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That exact numerical "anxiety buffer" varies for each of us: age, disposition, and "risk tolerance" all affect it. I get really tense at about 10 or 15 miles of buffer. 

On a long trip over unknown roads, when a long uphill section appears before the next charger, going past your anxiety buffer will kill the joy of driving.

Understand that available range will vary minute by minute. Starting with only 10 miles more than my minimum, I was looking at 40 miles more after a long downhill from the mountainous regions of western Pennsylvania to the flats of northern Maryland.

On the leg from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to Hagerstown, Maryalnd, we ended with the exact same buffer of 49 miles as when we'd started three and a half hours earlier. But there were tense moment in between.

LESSON: For the joy of the trip, allow a generous anxiety buffer when you start each leg , and accept that it will vary over the segment.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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(4) Remember: speed is your enemy, but cruise control is your friend

Do you have the courage and discipline to stay at 64 mph in a 70-mph zone, even when other cars are passing you? Even when a gigantic 18-wheeler fills your rear-view mirror, blotting out the world behind you? Even when you see a hill coming up and want to build up some steam to glide over it?

For the sake of your anxiety buffer and your emotional wellbeing, find that courage.

For local driving, when you can charge up each night, enjoy the exhilaration acceleration of your Bolt EV to your heart’s content.

But when you have 170 miles “in the tank”, and there are 160 actual miles to cover before you reach the next charger or home, don’t be tempted to put the pedal to the metal.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

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At 65 mph, the Bolt sips at its battery’s charge. Start going with the flow at 70 mph or more, even if that is the speed limit, and your anxiety buffer will start eroding.  That little worry in the back of your mind will gnaw at the pleasure of your ride.

At 58 mph, we found, you may even see the buffer increase. We had a choice of three routes from Hagerstown to the fast charger in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.  The shortest route, 170 miles, was split between Interstate 68 and U.S. Route 40.

We chose that over a 190-mile route along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, even though that one passed another DC fast-charging site in Jeanette, Pennsylvania. 

We left Hagerstown with 212 miles showing, but found our buffer eroding from the original 42 miles to as little as 10 miles after climbing hills on the interstate.

I found that no manual driving I could manage could match the energy-conserving behavior of the Bolt's cruise control.  I-68 eventually morphed into US route 40, with a slower speed limit, and mild rolling hills. 

The buffer started to rise under cruise control after it had fallen while I drove.


 
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