2700 Miles in a Bolt (Last Report)
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2700 Miles in a Bolt (Last Report)

So, it's been several weeks and things are not fresh in my memory anymore. So, I am going to try to finish this up.  This report covers days 11-14 of the trip (May 21 to 24).

I don't think I mentioned before that the original plan was to go to North Carolina on the southern route (New Orleans, Atlanta etc) but return on the Northern route (Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock). But while we were in North Carolina someone broke the Hernando de Soto bridge in Memphis. So rather than try to negotiate that, I decided to return the way we had come.

This lead to the unfortunate circumstance of us having to drive through Houston and 202 miles home and turn around the next day and drive back to Houston. You see, my wife was graduating on May 23rd with here masters degree. But since we had planned to return home via Little Rock we did not take her graduation gown or other regalia with us. (Also there was a new dress that was not ready when we left and had to be picked up at a friend's house.) So, yes Houston to home one day and home to Houston the next.

Day 11

We woke at the Best Western Seaway Inn in Gulfport; got their bagged breakfast snacks and drove over to the Gulfport Premium Outlets mall and charged up. We took on 33 kWh at 18 cents each and headed out down I-10. This was one of those times I charged enough to know I could get to the second stop away (Lafayette in this case).

The next stop was in Hammond, La. This was at a Target, but we did not go to the Target; we went across the street to Santa Fe Cattle Company. The food was good but they were very busy and they screwed up my wife's order so we split mine (we were both very hungry). When her order came we took it with us.  The car had charged 36 kWh to about 90% SOC because it took so long to eat. Since it was billed by time, this ran the rate per kWh up to 22 cents, but it was really OK (it was still only about seven bucks).

So, it was on to Lafayette, where we charged again and walked the dog. It was kind of drizzly and Annie was not really happy about the walk. We actually did not need to charge here, we had a pretty good charge but we needed the break. We only added 24 kWh at 21 cents each.

We skipped the charger is Lake Charles and went on to Vidor, Tx (just outside Beaumont). This was one of our longest non-stop runs about two hours and 130 miles. So by the time we got to Vidor our charge state was low.  But the next stop was going to be at Katy Mall for supper and there were both EA and EVgo there, so we didn't need a backup or a lot of extra charge. Between starting low and only charging to about 75% we took on 32 kWh at the bargain price of 15 cents each.

At Vidor I encountered a young lady in a Leaf trying to charge at the CHAdeMO charger. (How the hell do you pronounce CHAdeMO?) She was having a great deal of difficulty getting the session to start. I advised her to call EA support, telling her I thought the support was very good. I went in to Walmart and came back and she was on the phone. Finally she seemed to give up. I offered to try and start the session with the app on my phone when my session was done, but she said the support person had said that the station was broken. And as I watched the screen change to "out of service". The woman said she knew another charger at a collage near by. It's not on plug share for whatever that means.

The incident made me decide that trying to travel long distances with a CHAdeMO car would be a disaster. I did not encounter a EA site that had no working stations. But, I saw plenty of sites with one broken station. There is only one CHAdeMO plug at each site, so if that one fails you are out of luck. I have seen CHAdeMO at EVgo sites but they don't have the penetration of EA.

Driving through Houston is always awful, and it was drizzling the whole time. I was not sure if the express lane was going to let us off in the right place, but I spent a lot of time in it anyway.

At the Katy Mall I chose the EVgo site rather than EA.  In hindsight I will not do that again. (I will probably use Katy Mall a lot in the next few years.) EVgo was 47 cents per kWh (we got 42 kWh because of eating). I had no real reason to pick it. We ate in the food court because it was getting late and the mall was getting ready to close.

The next stop was Snappy's market in Columbus, Tx this would be our last stop on the way home.  I only added 10 kWh, enough to have 20% at home.

From Snappy's to Austin is up TX-71, its a nice road in those parts that are not under construction. The speed limit is 75, the road is new and smooth; you can do 80 with ease. But, since it was very late (I left Snappy's at about 11:00) I ran at the speed limit.

This is the point when I got into a terrible fight with the Bolt's climate control system. It seems that the heater will warm the car well if its cold outside; that the AC will cool it well in hot weather.  But if it's nice outside and you don't need either heat or AC; it just can't deal with that.  Its keeps switching around looking for something effective to do instead of just bringing the comfortable air in from outside.

It was nice outside; so, I just wanted the fan to bring the outside in. But the Bolt kept turning on the heater and then the AC would run; occasionally both would be lit up at the same time. At first I had it in "auto" and the heat came on so I turned it off and set it manually for vents and ... the heat came on. So, I ended up running the AC even though I did not need it. I have since learned that I needed to turn off the auto defog to have the thing behave itself a little better.

My wife, Sky, had fallen asleep about the time we left Snappy's. So I was driving alone. I have always looked at it that way; if everyone else in the car is asleep I am driving alone. Anyway about midnight I got really sleepy and had to stop. I had a coffee drink but mostly stopping and moving around fixed my problem. We drove on to our house with pretty uneventfully after that.

When we got home about 1:00 AM. I had not had a full charge since I left the Orchard Inn two days earlier.  So I got to see this:

At that point the battery was down to about 18% and I knew I needed to leave early in the morning; so, I shut down the hot tub and turned the charger up to 24 amps.

Distance for the day: Google maps says 598. I can't determine what My Chevrolet thinks, but I am sure it is wrong, as we will see later.  Energy for the day 170 kWh starting with about 20% charge.  This is the only day I have a really good estimate of the driving time which was 15 hours and 24 minutes. This was probably our longest day and we averaged about 39 miles per hour.

Day 12

May 22

Sky went right to bed, but I have trouble sleeping right after driving; so, I had a drink and read a little and then turned in.  So, I was not in bed until 1:45 or 2:00 and back up again at 8:00. So we rushed around got the stuff we needed for the Houston trip and got ready to go. (At this point we left the dog at the house. We had a pet sitter come in for the weekend, who we had taught to do the physical therapy before we left on the initial trip.)

At this point the car had been charging for 9 hours at 24 amps and had charged 51 kWh. But, it was not full, it was still only at about 95%.  But, we needed to go and it would not make much difference.

We drove to Austin and picked up the dress. From there it was back to Snappy's Market where we charged 31 kWh at 15 cents each.  We had lunch in the barbeque place across the street (Road House BBQ), it was OK; I'll probably eat there again. Sky say the one on the other side of I-10 is better, but it's quite a bit further to walk.

We could probably have made it to Houston without charging, but we needed to eat and use the restroom so it was a good stop.  When I got there, there were two other cars charging.  A Mustang at charger 1 and a Taycan charger 4.  It was the first Taycan I have seen.

The easy charger to get to was number 2 and as with the night before it would only run at 30 kWh, so I had to change; I had to back in to use number 3.  I don't like to back into parking spaces, but actually it may be easier to connect the cable at this station if you back the Bolt in.  

We went on to Houston and stayed at an AirBnb with Sky's Mom, brother, niece and nephew (quite a crowd, but it was a big place). Her sister and sister's finance had another place nearby.  We went out and had pictures taken and then had dinner with the family.

Total miles for the day about 200. Total charge added 30, but we had gotten 51 at home before we left.

Day 13

May 23

Sunday was Sky's graduation.  It was very rainy and the Bolt got us back and forth just fine.

After the graduation was over, I decided I should charge a little in preparation for the next day. There was a EVgo at an near by HEB (a great grocery store for those not from Texas). I shopped a little while the car charged (I don't even remember what I bought).  The car charged 28 kWh at 44 cents each.  That got it up to 80%.

I went back to the AirBnb and we had a party for Sky.

Day 14

May 24

The next morning we got up pretty early. The landlady for the house that Sky is going to rent for medical school could only meet us at about 8:30 and I wanted to see the house, so we drove to Galveston to see the place.

When we were done we started home, but we stopped at the Cracker Barrel in League City for lunch, we let the car charge at the EVgo in the parking lot.  Total charge 37 kWh at 53 cents each. This is one of those chargers the shuts off after an hour, so we did not get as much of a charge as we might have otherwise.

We next went to Ikea to look at furniture for the house. There was a "Blink" lever 2 charger.  This was new in two respects: I had never used a "Blink" charger before and I had never used a public level 2 charger.

I was not impressed. I tried to sign up and it wanted to do two factor authentication but the email message didn't show up. I finally did a one time charge and that code came to my email.  (Eventually codes for the two tries to sign up came through.  Who in hell decided that email was appropriate for two factor authentication in a time sensitive process.)

I spent $3.03 there for about an hours charge.  I don't know how much I charged since the email says 0.000 kWh. It was charged at 3 cents a minute.  The charge should have been in the range of 12 kWh but who knows, maybe I really didn't get any charge. I plan to give Blink another try sometime, but if the second try doesn't go any better I am done.

We drove back to Snappy's market and got a real charge. We picked up 25 kWh at 20 cents each.  At this point we were both incredibly tired so I waited until it said we would have 15% at home and got on the way.

Well, I was driving at 75 much of the way and the charge got used up a little faster than expected. This was the first time I saw the charge meter turn orange. I don't remember the exact charge level when we got home, seems like it was 8%.

I still had not had a full charge since the Orchard Inn and the usage report looked like this:


I learned a lot on this trip:

Pets make long trips harder.

The Bolt heater is weird.

Electrify America really does work most of the time and is the best charging deal. But as a software engineer I would say their software is not beta quality yet.  They have very good and friendly support, but support would not be near as necessary if the software was ready for prime time.

EVgo seems to always work. There are not as many as EA, at least not on the interstate; but, I have not had a single problem charging at one.  Chargepoint seems the same, but I have used them less.

With a Bolt, at least, paying by the minute works out better than paying by the kWh. (At least at EA.)

With EV trips, planning ahead is really important; know where your next charge is and where your backup is.

Chargers at hotels are great, but only if they are really there.

Screw the charging rules:  Never mind getting down to 20%; charge when you need to.  And charge past 80% if needed, it's slow and more money, but knowing you will get where you are going is worth a few bucks. Make sure you can get to the backup site then you won't worry near as much about running out of charge.

On long trips at least, the Guess-O-Meter and MyChevorlet app produce good results. They won't be exact and you can fool them if you change the way you are driving, but for the most part they are pretty good.

The Bolt is fun to drive.  It has lots of power and smooth response.  You are going to have to stop and charge; you may as well drive as fast as you want between and enjoy the trip. I never encountered a situation where driving slower for more efficiency would save a stop, though it may have made a stop shorter.

Long distance travel by electric car (maybe other than a Tesla) is not ready for the average Joe. I enjoyed it and would not hesitate to do it again. But, it takes a lot more thought and planning than doing the same trip in an ICE car and you have to be able to tolerate poor quality equipment and not get angry or frustrated when you have to move your car around to get to a charger that actually works.