This article is part of a multi-part series. You can find Part 1 here.
In Part 1, I covered home charging installation, which went well despite me requesting something unusual. Now, I’m going to cover the other side of the charging coin by telling the tale of a road trip across Texas, which mostly relied on DC fast charging.
It’s All Relative
Before I go further, I want to explain something about DC fast charging sessions. Whether the speed of an EV’s charging is satisfactory can’t really be expressed with a number. Some people say that EVs won’t be good until they charge up in five minutes. Other people use Tesla’s Supercharger speeds (120 or 250 kW) as a benchmark for “good enough.” But, the truth is that people have differing needs and expectations that can differ from trip to trip and even from charging stop to charging stop.
For example, some people have actually complained about a charging session happening too quickly. Why? Because they got busy doing something like eating a meal or using the restroom only to have their phone tell them that the charge was done, and they’d better move the car fast before they start incurring idle fees. So, yes, too fast is definitely possible.
But, charging taking too long is definitely a far more common feeling. People coming from a gas-powered car with a “road warrior” mentality (the people who don’t let their kids stop to pee, and maybe wear astronaut diapers) won’t be happy even with the fastest 350+ kW charging rates available today. More reasonable people know that it’s harder to go as far in a day driving an EV, and don’t know what to do with several extra 30-45 minute breaks on a road trip.
Where I’m Coming From
This may seem strange to many people, but I’m quite happy with my Bolt EUV’s 50 kW charging speed. This is because my last car was a Nissan LEAF, and that car might give you one 50 kW session in cooler weather after a battery’s worth of highway driving. Subsequent charges will be slower and slower as the car can’t shed the heat and the computer slows charging down to prevent battery damage and fires. I’ve seen it charge as slowly as 12 kW.
So, a consistent 50-55 kW charging rate, over and over, is actually quite nice for me, even if it’s far slower than a Tesla or other vehicles that charge over 100 kW.
My Experience Crossing Texas
I’m not the first person to cross Texas in a Bolt, and probably not the first person to do it in a slightly less efficient Bolt EUV. You can find many accounts online of people doing road trips in Bolts, so I won’t try to share things like “I spent 55 minutes and 37 seconds at the Van Horn station.” Instead, I want to talk a bit about what I did to make it work and be pleasant.
The most important thing to make the trip pleasant is to have accurate expectations, and you don’t need to buy a Bolt or Bolt EUV to figure out what to expect with different cars before buying one. Instead, you can run simulations using trip planner software like A Better Routeplanner (ABRP).
The idea of a 17-hour road trip that would usually take 12 hours in a gas-powered car sounds bleak, but you have to consider that most people won’t drive that far in one day. There’s gas stops, meal stops, bathroom breaks, and other things that would make it more like a 14-hour drive, and in the EV, you’ll do most of that while charging. Most people would already break this trip into a couple of days instead of one 14-hour day.
Good trip planners allow you to set Level 2 charging stops at hotels and then see a detailed itinerary of the charging stops and times. This allows you to set a realistic start time in the morning and know how far into the trip you should be looking for a hotel if you want to get there at a reasonable time. This allows you to not only make a plan for an EV you already own, but allows you to see how an EV would do before buying one.
In my case, I split the trip up into three days one way (including time to spend half a day with family), and two days going back from Houston to El Paso. The last day was about 11 hours and I went 500 miles, which isn’t a bad distance to cover in a day. My shortest day was just going from Austin to Houston.
So, it’s really up to you how you want a trip to be, as long as there’s charging infrastructure in the area and you make a plan with good software.
Hotel Charging Can Help A LOT
One other thing that helped make the trip bearable was charging at night. This might not sound like a big deal, but hear me out a bit.
If you stop at hotels without charging, you miss out on the opportunity to eliminate a Level 3 charging stop. For the fastest charging EVs, you’re not saving a lot of time, but for something like a Bolt, you’re eliminating about 45 minutes and making it happen while you sleep. Then, consider that you wake up to a 100% charge if you do Level 2 at night. That top 20% is much slower charging in any EV, even the fastest ones, so that’s another 30-60 minutes of time savings.
Depending on how much charging infrastructure you have in the area, starting with a full battery could mean pushing that first DC fast charging stop out further, saving even more time. The stop before the hotel tends to end sooner, too, before the charge starts tapering. More time savings.
With the Bolt EUV, the time savings works out to about 2 hours in most cases if you plan hotel stops with charging. That makes the whole thing a lot more workable and bearable.
Once again, what it all comes down to is planning. Planning charging stops, planning start times, and planning a reasonable hotel stopping time with charging all adds up to a road trip that isn’t a major drag, even with the slower-charging Bolts.
In Part 3, I’m going to zoom in and give some detail on one fun part of the trip where I took the Bolt EUV on the road with the fastest legal speeds in the Americas.
Featured Image: A screenshot of a sample plan from El Paso to Houston in A Better Route Planner.
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...