2700 Miles In a Bolt (Day 2)
6 min read

2700 Miles In a Bolt (Day 2)

May 12, 2022

Day 2 ()

Rant for the day

I'd like to start with a little rant. I design and build software for a living. I work on "systems software": operating systems, compilers, communications systems.  I know for a fact that you can build software that will run for years without breaking. When I worked in the telephone industry it was not uncommon to find systems that had been running for two years.  

When "support" tells you to fix a problem by "rebooting" or "restarting your phone" or "force stop the program and start it again" what they are saying is: "Our programs are crap. Either our programmers are bozos and our certifiers are incompetent or our management is so incompetent that they don't give the programmers and certifiers time to do their job."

The My Chevrolet app is full of good ideas.  But the implementation is poor from a human interface point of view and worse from a reliably point of view.  Every time you start it, it does this spinning arrow thing and wastes part of your life, even if it just ran 10 seconds ago.  What the hell is the charge status update doing that it takes 30 seconds to get a small amount of information from the vehicle. God help you if you press "Update Location and Battery" on the energy screen, because it will never finish; you have to kill it and restart it. But the energy map thing is a wonderful idea and when it works it conveys a vast amount of information quickly.  The Android Auto interface tells you the remaining battery at a destination as soon as you enter it.  Why does the phone screen version not do the same? Please guys, don't add any new features until you remove the bugs in the existing application.

End Rant

Getting Started

On the morning of our second day we went for a walk with the dog.  She was having a hard time finding a place to pee.  This dog has a bladder of cast iron and she will not go until she finds the right spot. I walked her around city streets and sidewalks for an hour before we went to bed.  She found her spot in Lafayette Square and was a much happier dog.

We stopped on the way back to the hotel at The Street Car Cafe for breakfast.

They had sidewalk tables, so we figured we could eat with Annie. We were quite surprised when they invited us in with her.  She lay quietly on the floor while we had a great breakfast.

The Drugs are Wonderful

Bolting On

We returned to the hotel, had them fetch our car, loaded up and were ready to travel on. When I turned the car into the valet parking it had 32% battery.  When I got it back it has 30%.  I am not sure where they parked it, but it appears it was driven about 5 miles or so.

Since we could not charge at the hotel, we could not make our next stop (an EA site at a mall in Gulfport MS). So instead we went to Mike Bruno's Northshore Harley-Davidson in Slidell, LA (a run of only 30 miles).

I have read that some people have had poor treatment at HD dealers when using their chargers, so I was a little apprehensive. But, they were great.  I went in to say were going to go get a snack while the car charged and were leaving the dog and she would be fine, the lady behind the counter offered to let us bring the dog in so she could take care of her. Turns out the restaurant next door would let us have her on their patio.

Alas, the charger was very slow and very expensive so we got 20 kWh and moved on. Still I would recommend a stop at Mike Bruno's if you are in New Orleans and in a pinch.  We ran on to the Gulfport Premium Outlets where we charged twice as fast for half as much. It was a nice little outdoor mall with good walking but not much I was really interested in.

Fortunately, we had no real schedule for the second day; because, the hotel in New Orleans not having a charger had put us way behind. We did have a hotel reservation at another Aloft hotel just north of Atlanta.  

Our next stop was at a Walmart in Saraland AL which is just barely north of Mobile. This put us on the threshold of the run I was most apprehensive of.  From Saraland we went to Greenville, where there was an EA charger, but nothing else. The next charger after Greenville was in Montgomery.  That was 166 miles. My original plan was to charge to 100% and then drive slow to Greenville. But, it was here that I came up with my strategy for the desolate southeast.

I concluded that EA sites are fairly reliable. If you look at the EA app and it says a site is up and Plug Share says it's up, it probably is up.  Of course a site could fail before you get there.  A small risk, but one with a big loss if you failed the risk. The chances of two in a row failing before you can get to them seems vanishingly small.

Next I had determined that for all it's bugs, the My Chevrolet app had a real good estimate of how much charge you would have at your destination. You might have to futz with it some to get it to work on the Android Auto screen. But there it would just show you battery on arrival as soon as you entered the target and as you charge the estimate is updated.

So here is Gene's method of not getting a dead Bolt in Louisianan or Alabama:

  1. Find your next charging site.
  2. Find the next site after that (even if you won't need to charge there).
  3. Check that both sites are good using the EA app and Plugshare.
  4. Tell "My Chevrolet" that you are going to the second site.
  5. When it says you will get there with 20% take off for the first site. (You can use less than 20% if you are less risk adverse.)

With this method, even if the first site is dead you can slow down and get to the second site before "bad things happen".  What this did for me was give me the confidence to drive the way I wanted from one site to the next. I drove 80 miles an hour through much of Alabama.

Oddly enough once you get to Georgia, it's not so much of a problem. The next charger is only a few miles away most of the time.

We ate lunch at a sushi place in Saraland while the car charged.  This was OK, except for the part where we had to cross a five lane road with lots of traffic and no cross walks.  In general this is the problem I have seen with eating while charging. It sounds like a great idea, but the walk from the charging station to the restaurant can be an adventure or even dangerous. I would like to seen more EA sites at malls and convenience stores and the like.

After lunch we traveled on to Greenville and charged again at EA.  By this time I was being very successful using their chargers. But I was certainly getting tired of Walmarts. So, we traveled on to Montgomery where I found a worse place for a station: A Sam's Club.  (Might be better than Walmart if you're a member, but we are not.) They did let us in to use the restroom.

Then we traveled on to Auburn AL, this was our last charge for the day, the next stop would be the hotel and there were several DCFC sites within driving distance, so it would be OK if we got there with like 10%.  We could have stopped again and probably saved some charge time, but we were tired and wanted to get to bed.

We got supper (such as it was) in Auburn.  It was about 9:00 and everything was closed. We walked around quite a bit but the only thing open was an Arby's and they were doing drive through only. We walked up to the drive through and ordered and took the sandwiches back to the car to eat.  Certainly not the dinner situation I would have liked.

We drove on to our hotel in Alpharetta GA. They had a nice little ChargePoint station with two plugs that was free; but, of course, you had to have a ChargePoint card.

Distance for the day: My Chevrolet says 453.  Google says 492 (so closer agreement than the first day).

Total charge for the day was 167 kWh (we started with 30% charge).  Miles per kWh was 3.3 as reported by the trip meter.  Total cost of energy was $31.70.  The lower miles per kWh was due to higher speed. I was driving 80 MPH most of the day. The first day it was more like 70-75.