Eric Way and his friend Alex Venz drove their electric cars from the LA area to Las Vegas and back after a problematic New York Times article was published about driving a Chevy Bolt on this same trip. Eric owns and drives a Chevy Bolt and Alex has a Tesla Model 3. (CleanTechnica’s Kyle Field also just completed this trip in his Model 3 to demonstrate the ease of making the round trip journey.)
At issue is how slanted the NYTimes piece seemed to be, and that it did not at all reflect what the writer called, “life with an electric car” — partly because a single road trip of 540 miles is not at all fully representative of that EV life, and partly due to many other issues with the sample trip. There were so many, in fact, that CleanTechnica wrote extensively about them in these two articles: one a response to the actual trip details and one about the reasons too many news articles don’t get it right on EVs.
Mr. Way and Mr. Venz actually drove their own EVs and made a video documenting their experiences, which was uploaded to YouTube. In it, you can see they take far less time to charge and don’t have any particular hassles.
Curious about what Eric might say about his recent journey, I sent him some questions to be answered for CleanTechnica. (He has already provided a thorough interview about using the Bolt’s regenerative braking for us.)
1. What prompted you to recreate the LA to Vegas round trip drive with both a Chevy Bolt and a Tesla Model 3?
When I read the NYTimes article, I saw a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, which I’ve come to expect from mainstream media. However, what I didn’t expect were the inaccuracies and misrepresentations published by “EV media” sites in response.
Many seemed to be using this as an opportunity to promote specific EV brands, and they were more than happy to let the Bolt EV take full responsibility for the NYTimes reporter’s negative experience. Responses from these EV media sites implied that Mr. Penn’s negative experiences were to be expected in the “slow charging” Bolt EV, which they claimed could require over 4 hours of fast charging to complete the trip. This was extended to other non-Tesla EVs as well, such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, which supposedly would require 3 hours 25 minutes of fast charging to complete the trip. Both are, of course, not accurate.
In fact, based on my experience with the Hyundai Kona Electric, it would easily keep pace with Tesla’s average priced Model 3 SR on a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back.
So, when Alex Venz (a Tesla Model 3 LR owner and fellow YouTuber) reached out to me, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the actual range of capabilities for current EVs.
2. In your video you mentioned that some Electrify America chargers in Vegas are faster, but the NYTimes article didn’t mention those. Did you use the EA chargers, and how much faster are they?
Yes, I was able to use the Electrify America chargers in Las Vegas. These chargers are 150 kW to 350 kW, and even for the Bolt EV, which cannot take full advantage of those faster charging speeds, they represent a significant improvement over the 100 amp EVgo chargers in Vegas (which have an effective peak charging rate of 40 kW).
In the Bolt EV, these Electrify America chargers represent a 50% increase in charging speeds. In 30 minutes, these chargers provided over 25 kWh of energy, something that the 100 A EVgo charger would have required somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes to do.
3. In your video you mentioned that your total charging time was about 2 hours and 40 minutes or so, but it could have been a little less. What would have shaved the charging time down even further?
The EVgo chargers in Victorville are limited to 125 A (less that the Bolt EV’s peak charging current of 150 A). On the trip to Vegas, faster chargers at that location would have reduced my total charging time by about 5 minutes; however, on the return trip, I arrived with a much lower battery (5%). The 125 A chargers were only able to bring me up to 57% battery in a 45-minute session. Faster chargers would have provided a similar outcome in about 35 minutes.
Also, the spacing on the chargers is still less than ideal. Victorville is too early to stop, as it is only about 100 miles into the trip. That means that after only 10 minutes of charging, the Bolt EV is already stepping down its peak charging rate. Barstow or Yermo would be much better first stops because a 15-minute restroom break would result in about 30% more energy added for the same time spent charging.
Luckily, Electrify America is currently building a site in Barstow, though they have seen significant delays due to California’s being less than accommodating to public charging providers.
4. Have you driven from the LA area to Vegas in your Bolt with just one mid-trip charge?
Yes, on several occasions. It’s more convenient and faster to make two stops (especially coming from Ventura County); however, I have done it.
Initially, it was due to not having any public DC fast charging between Victorville and Las Vegas, so it required charging the Bolt EV up to 85-90% battery to make the trip comfortably (a process that could take nearly an hour and a half).
I also recreated the trip made in Elon Musk’s own Tesla Model S, where journalist from — drove from “LA” to the Las Vegas on a single battery charge. I say “LA” in quotes because it was actually the Inland Empire (a bit closer). Either way, I was able to make the same trip in my Bolt EV on a single battery charge while maintaining freeway speeds.
5. EV ranges are increasing and EV charger are getting faster, but it seems many news articles are still overlooking this trend. Is that partly why you make your YouTube videos with more current real-world driving info?
The primary purpose of my video channel was to provide data points about driving long distances in EVs, which could then be shared with EV owners and prospective EV owners.
As time passed, though, I realized that very few people were accurately reporting the real-world capabilities of certain EVs and certain public charging providers. This included the EV media, and as a result, there’s a lot of misinformation being spread, even within our own community.
So yes, in a manner of speaking, my channel has become a tool for correcting misinformation with real-world data and examples.
6. How many miles have you driven your Bolt so far, and what was the process like acclimating to an EV?
At this point, I have about 98,000 miles on my Bolt EV. As far as acclimating to an EV, I can only imagine how an aquarium fish feels being released into open water. It’s just like driving a fossil car, only better in almost every way. I’ve never taken my car in for scheduled maintenance, and outside of long trips and the week my work charging was down, I never have to think about going to a fueling station. I just leave work everyday with a full charge and drive wherever I feel like driving.