A few months ago, I decided I wanted to make it a point to go out on more electric-powered adventures. Before that, one of the things holding me back was my 2018 Nissan LEAF. While the range was limited, a long trip I took showed me that it was a rather painful experience (sometimes literally). Later, after getting a software update, I tested the car on a stretch of highway with rapid charging every 50 miles. It still overheated and proved itself generally not a great choice for such trips.
Some readers probably wonder why I don’t just buy a Tesla. While I could probably cook up some reason around Elon Musk’s tweets or unionized labor, the truth is much simpler: I can’t afford a Tesla. My pay isn’t bad, but it doesn’t leave room for a $50,000 car after four kids get through with it, and I’m the primary breadwinner in my house.
While Elon doesn’t seem to think about those of us with less to spend that much, this is one area where Mary (Barra, GM’s CEO) actually led the EV industry. With some price drops, later made permanent for 2023, GM now offers the cheapest decent EVs. Both the Bolt EV (the hatchback) and the EUV (crossover styling, more rear legroom) start under $30,000 now, and that’s before tax credits and incentives.
With liquid cooling, more range, and more room for my teenage kids, it was the obvious choice in my price range, so I picked one up in September. Even with stock Michelin Energy Saver tires, it was surprisingly capable and well-footed on forest roads and even some mild off-roading, so I decided to go all-in and upgrade to some Defender LTX M/S truck tires for maximum rock puncture resistance. I even added a full-sized spare under the false floor in the back.
Less Reason To Fear Leads To More Adventure
At this point, there’s really no reason to fear backcountry adventures in an EV anymore.
While I’m under no delusions that the Bolt EUV is a Jeep, it’s plenty capable of doing anything a typical gas crossover does now, even if some trips will involve a lot of charging. While the CCS network could use a lot of expansion, the car itself has a lot of range compared to the LEAF, has liquid cooling, and I can still do the occasional charge-up at RV parks. Plus, this is a situation that’s improving in front of us as Dieselgate money goes into charging stations and NEVI funding starts to lead toward stations in 2023.
I can go pretty much anywhere. With truck tires (but not all-terrains), I can go on most Forest roads and other “4WD recommended” areas as long as I slow down a bit, pick my lines carefully, and be sure to back out when it really does become too much for the Bolt EUV. But, I can then take the fat tire e-bikes off the rack on the back and keeping going even to places the best off-road vehicles don’t dare to tread. Electric power gives you options.
With this setup, about all I need to do is add a small camper that I can use to get the Bolt into RV parks, and there’s very little my little wing of EVs couldn’t get to in relative comfort.
On top of all this, there’s plenty of additional capability coming in the future, so the Bolt EUV doesn’t have to be the end all, be all of adventure EVs in my price range. In a couple of years, affordable Chevy Equinox EVs will be available with better charging speeds, better range, and all-wheel drive. I’ve also got some plans developing to take a 1000-mile Aptera to Alaska, which should be fairly easy with its range (at least in the summer).
Keeping Track of Where I’ve Been
With all of the many ideas for future adventures, both near and far, in my head, I realized that I didn’t want it to just become a sprawling collection of disconnected articles and social media posts, plus the occasional video. I wanted to take what I’ve already done and put it all in one place, and then add future adventures to the pile. At this point, I remembered a map my grandparents used to have on their travel trailer, with the states they’ve been into filled in.
So, I put together a Google Map of the coolest places I’d been under only electric power. I didn’t count trips I had taken in my Volt years earlier, even if some of them were actually electric from the hotel to the destination. I didn’t count anything at all but those trips taken entirely by EV from doorstep to attraction. The end result looked a lot smaller than I had hoped:
With multicolored dots across only three states, I felt a little disappointed. I’ve been a lot further from home, but always by gas-powered car or truck or on kerosene-powered aircraft. But, as I considered what little I did all this with (a Nissan LEAF and a Chevy Bolt), it looks a lot more impressive so far. Either way, it’s a good start that shows me I have plenty of room to grow the map.
I’d recommend checking the map itself out (click the image above), because I’ve updated it with images, links to articles about each trip, and other details. Green markers are National Parks and Monuments, blue markers are state and local parks, orange markers are other notable places, and red markers are places where there was at least a small off-road challenge involved.
I’d Like To See Where You’ve Been on Electric Power
I’m sure next to Rivian and Tesla owners, my map probably looks pretty small, but half the fun with sharing stuff like this is seeing how other people did. Be sure to comment or reply on social media with some links to maps of cool places you’ve been under electric power. Or, if you don’t have time for that, be sure to tell us about the hardest to get to place you’ve gone with an EV!
All images by Jennifer Sensiba.
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