Blanco to Galveston and Back
6 min read

Blanco to Galveston and Back

As some of you know, the reason I bought the Bolt was because I needed a reliable and economical car to do a lot of driving in.  The car I had was economical, but was too old to be reliable. You see, my wife just started medical school about 250 miles from our home.  (We live in Blanco, TX and she is at UTMB in Galveston.) Originally I had hoped that I would be able to travel to Galveston on a single charge, but I don't get quite enough range for that. Also there are no DCFC stations in Galveston, the nearest is in League City 30 miles away; so, I have to be sure to arrive there with enough charge to get back at least to League City.

We moved my wife there two weeks ago. It was a very exhausting and difficult process for reasons that have nothing to do with the Bolt. The trip there was a convoy of two cars and a 20 foot U-haul, and nothing like I expected my regular trips will be.

The house she has rented there is very old; I saw remnants of knob and tube wiring in the attic, so at the latest about 1930.  The wiring has all been replaced, but is still limited.  I could charge there at 12 amps until we installed the computer, router and TV (the living room is on the same circuit as the outside plug). Once that equipment was install, charging at 12 amps would blow the circuit breaker. There is no problem charging at 8 amps; but, in the about 48 hours I am there I will only be able to add about 46 kWh.

This weekend I made my first round trip there and back. I learned a bit from the trip.  Here are my notes:

I left home with 98% charge.  I had set it to charge to 100% but when I got up it had charged only to 98% and the DIC said "Unable to charge".  I am not sure what is up with that.  So, I left at about 8:00 on Friday with 98% charge. The first leg was 174 miles to Katy Mills Mall where there is an Electrify America station. I made it non-stop and got there with 24% charge. I charged there for half an hour adding 24 kWh and getting to 63% charge. I could have charged more but didn't think I needed to.

The plan was that Saturday we would drive to League City (about 30 miles) go to the free Volta charger at Baybrook Mall and get lunch. Then we would go to the HEB in League City and pick up the initial stock for the kitchen in the rental house. My wife had been putting together a curb side order and it would be ready to pick up.

I arrived at the Galveston house with about 30% charge after driving and charging right at 5 hours.  But, we needed to run some errands that evening and so I did not charge much until the evening when I charged at 8 amps overnight.  Saturday morning when we took off we only had about 45% charge, but that should have been ok. So, we sat out on our planned expedition. On the way to League City we noticed that I-45 was backed up for miles heading back to Galveston.

When we got to the mall things went a little off the rails.  We found the DCFC and connected. It was supposed to be 4o kw for 30 minutes for free.  By the time we got to the restaurant and sat down it had stopped charging.  I reported this to Volta, who wrote me that the charger had a problem and they would fix it soon.  But before I got the message I moved the car to a level two charger that also would not charge the car "Unable to Charge" and the back to the DCFC and another attempt that lasted 5 minutes.  I figured we would just go sit at the EA station that was six or so miles away.  But, because of whatever was messing up traffic, it was going to take 45 minutes to go that six miles.  So I said "to hell with that", did another 5 minute charge at the Volta DCFC and when to get our groceries.  By the time we got back to Galveston, we were down to 35%.

There are lots of charging stations in Houston and three in League City, so I did not worry. But I did try setting the charger for 12 amps.  We turned off unnecessary stuff in the living room (a couple of lights). I figured when the breaker blew I would reset to 8 amps and continue. But, it charged all night.

We went to church in the morning and made a run to Office Depot in the early afternoon. I left the house at about 4:00 with about 70% charge which was plenty for getting to Katy Mills.

The reason I picked Katy Mills (other than it's not a Walmart) is that there is not only an EA station there, but on the other side of the mall there is an EVgo site. If you get desperate there is a ChargePoint and another EVgo just back I-10 toward Houston. On the other hand, going west there is only one charger (Snappy's Market) before you get to Austin. I'm glad Snappy's is there and I use it a lot, but I don't want to bet having a dead car on Snappy's working or not.

When I got the Katy Mills with 35% charge, three of the four chargers could not be started with the app.  They looked ok, but the app had them grey.  Only charger 1 (the combined CCS/CHAdeMo charger) could be picked.  I had a hell of a time parking so I could connect to it.  (The Bolt actually fit diagonally in the parking space.) Today EA's app says all four chargers are up. It's entirely possible that if I had called EA they would have been able to start one of the other chargers.

I charged there for 50 minutes to 80% loading 37 kWh.  This was enough to get me to any one of a number of sites in Austin, if Snappy's was out.  Sure enough, two of the four chargers at Snappy's were out. (Today only one is available.)

There was an Audi E-tron already there using charger three so I took charger one (which I have had good luck with in the past.) After I got connected and charging I noticed the folks with the E-tron were standing around starring at their phones. So, I asked if all was well and it turned out they could not get a charge to start. This was there first long trip in their car and they had only charged at home until this trip.  I walked them through starting the charger according to the secret method of ignoring the instructions to plug in first. Once their charge was started I went inside and found a snack.

It took a little longer than expected to eat my snack and I ended up charging back to 80% adding 14 kWh.  The My Chevrolet app said this would get me home with 22% charge. So, I said that's great I'll just not worry about my speed and make up a little time.

The section of Texas Highway 71 from Columbus to Bastrop is a dream come true. It's newly paved and very smooth.  The speed limit is 75 and no one will look twice at 80.  And in the Bolt, 80 on that road is as smooth and quiet as sitting still.  So, I drove 80 all the way to Bastrop.  By the time I made Bastrop my efficiency for the trip was down to 3.2 mi/kWh and My Chevrolet was saying I would get home with 15%.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. I rolled on home without stopping.  Just as I was turning off of RR 165 onto the road I live on the charge gauge turned orange as I went down to 14%.

So, on the trip home I covered 257 miles in 5 hours and 42 minutes at an average speed of 44.6 MPH and an efficiency of 3.3 mi/kWh.  I wish I had recorded the same information for the trip down, but I did not.

I recharged overnight using the Juice Box at my house in Blanco.  Again it charged to 98% and stopped. The Juice Box reports a control state of "DisabledEnergyToAdd".  I have not found any information on what that means yet.

Things would have been better if I had been able to charge in League City on Saturday, I would not have had to charge so long at Katy Mills on the way home. But, I suspect the trip back to Blanco will always take about half an hour longer than the trip to Galveston simply because there is backup in Houston and not between Houston and Austin. If I charge enough in Houston to get to Austin I will be running up against the Bolt's charge curve.

I will try to charge at 12 amps in Galveston next time I am there; maybe the breaker blowing was just a fluke.  Another option is to stop in League City on the way into Galveston and charge a second time.  I could shorten the charge at Katy Mills and charge to 50% in League City.