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For the holidays I drove with my family down to Orange County and back in our Bolt EV on Hwy 5 – 400 miles each way. This is the second time for me but the first for my wife and son. The drive was instructive in terms of the state of the EV ecosystem in California. The return trip from the City of Orange to San Mateo was ~9.5 hours (southbound time is not a good benchmark due to detour and dinner with friends). This would have been under 9 hours but we had to use an L2 station because at one stop the one functional EVgo station was in use so we did some shopping. In total, 3 charging stops. I believe it can theoretically be done in 2 charging stops if there was high confidence everything will work at the two stops. Unfortunately however, there isn’t.

Here are the take-aways:

  1. Feasible but not seamless: We made it there and back without truly major problem. From that standpoint, it’s a noteworthy milestone for current non-Tesla 2nd generation EVs. Under optimal conditions, I estimate a trip to LA in an EV adds ~60+ minutes compared to a gas car (70mph, 45 min lunch) but it can be quite a bit more if there are issues.
  1. Charger Un-reliability: We had several problems with EV charger reliability
  • ElectrifyAmerica problems: the user interface was not intuitive, at one location we could not get any station to work even with technical assistance (losing 1.5 hrs with tech asst and detour), and another also required technical assistance. Turns out the car had trouble latching on the heavy water cooled cords for the 350kW chargers. Tech assistance recommended lifting slightly on the handle while initializing so the car could latch. That worked but the call center tech didn’t mention that at the first problem location which could have saved us 1.5 hrs.
  • At least 6 chargers were non-functional: At one location 2 of 3 ChargePoints were not working, at 2 different locations only 1 of 2 EVgo stations were functional. This suggests there are maintenance issues. This is likely a particular problem with ChargePoint stations which are owned by the property owner and there is little business incentive to fix them.
  • Only one chademo at many locations (all ElectrifyAmerica stations and some others). This is bad news for Nissan. If that one stations is occupied or non-functional then Nissan vehicles cannot charge.
  1. Theoretical vs Practical range: While the theoretical range of the Bolt is 238 (gen 1) and now 259 (2020 model) there are many factors that impact actual practical range. Highway speeds (<=70 mph) under ideal conditions yield around 220. Speeding, running heating/cooling, hills, are well known impacts but gusty winds can be a major impact. We high very high winds (30+ mph gusts) cutting efficiency ~20%+. Then a driver needs to factor “insurance range” additional miles to get to an alternate charging location if there is a problem at the preferred location.
There are multiple similar time impacts – finding the charger at a location if it isn’t obvious, transaction time at the station (if the UI is bad as with ElectrifyAmerica), time to call the call center in a number of cases. If all the chargers are busy – something that’s a real issue if there is only 1 functional station (both EVgo locations we stopped at had someone charging at the 1 functional station – fortunately one only for 10 minutes). In addition to that there was significant route planning time, 2+ hrs. But if the drive is recurring, it would not be repeated.

  1. Tesla’s advantage: The final take-away is the clear dominant advantage Tesla has for distance driving. Tesla’s advantages for long distance are considerable: in car route optimization, faster chargers, and many chargers at each site all add up to a huge advantage.
 

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  • recommended lifting slightly on the handle while initializing so the car could latch. That worked but the call center tech didn’t mention that at the first problem location which could have saved us 1.5 hrs.
welcome to the forum. Little nuggets like lifting the handle can be found on this forum. Main reason I participate.
 

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Tesla’s advantage: The final take-away is the clear dominant advantage Tesla has for distance driving. Tesla’s advantages for long distance are considerable: in car route optimization, faster chargers, and many chargers at each site all add up to a huge advantage.
The Tesla/Elon haters here are not going to like your brutally honest conclusion regarding what some still regard as Tesla's greatest achievement, not their cars... their Supercharger network.
What they have done is impressive and it's growing larger every day.
 

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The article by Tom Moloughney interviewing the CEO of Electrify America a few weeks back was very eye opening to the hurdle the public infrastructure is up against. Unfortunately, the fractured nature of the whole ecosystem does not bode well for it ever getting as convenient as using a gas station. We used to think that with CCS being touted as the official, approved, blessed, fast charging protocol, we could finally have a universal one size fits all charging infrastructure. Once Nissan and a handful of Korean makes converted here in the states, the attention could be focused on only CCS. We are now understanding the complexity of how every man for himself doesn't work so well when it comes to software. Not just in the cars but also in the charging equipment. There's probably a dozen manufacturers now in the game, each with their own software development team, trying to code handshake protocol for 20 models currently, with an ever growing list still to come.

They haven't even addressed the issue of how can each different model be recognized automatically with a unique ID that not just facilitates billing but can interact and communicate with the car when away from the station. This is critical for mapping and navigation which should be built into each car rather than depending on a third party app to update station availability, functionality, etc. This would also provide automatic redirect or detour based on live data.
You can also eliminate the threat of CC theft which is a real problem at gas stations with scanners. And then you have the bulk of existing chargers providing 50kW which for a 2020 Bolt is fine but pure torture for a Taycan.

They should at least offer the option of manually preheating the battery 20 minutes before arrival when the temperature dips since I don't see how they can ever have it function automatically when the cars don't even have a navigation screen. This saves considerable charging time in the winter.
 

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  1. Charger Un-reliability: We had several problems with EV charger reliability
  • ElectrifyAmerica problems: the user interface was not intuitive, at one location we could not get any station to work even with technical assistance (losing 1.5 hrs with tech asst and detour), and another also required technical assistance. Turns out the car had trouble latching on the heavy water cooled cords for the 350kW chargers. Tech assistance recommended lifting slightly on the handle while initializing so the car could latch. That worked but the call center tech didn’t mention that at the first problem location which could have saved us 1.5 hrs.
  • At least 6 chargers were non-functional: At one location 2 of 3 ChargePoints were not working, at 2 different locations only 1 of 2 EVgo stations were functional. This suggests there are maintenance issues. This is likely a particular problem with ChargePoint stations which are owned by the property owner and there is little business incentive to fix them.
  • Only one chademo at many locations (all ElectrifyAmerica stations and some others). This is bad news for Nissan. If that one stations is occupied or non-functional then Nissan vehicles cannot charge.
The need to support/lift the handle until the connector's locked onto the car's been known for a long time. It's been in the EV press for awhile (e.g. Some drivers struggle to use new liquid-cooled charging cables from late 2018). For EA, they've acknowledged they have credit card readers problems so their app should be much more reliable.

As for non-working chargers, did you check Plugshare first?

As for only one CHAdeMO vs. many CCS at EA locations, you can "thank" VW controlled EA for stacking the deck in favor of their vehicles (e.g. VW, Audi, Porsche, etc.) instead of having a more equal distribution. To me, if not 50/50, they should've done something like 5 CCS + 3 CHAdeMO at a location and at least put higher powered CHAdeMO on their stations, not just 50 kW.

I do agree about Tesla's SC network in the US. It is unmatched in the US.
 

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Thank you for the report. Always good to read people's long distance EV experiences.
 
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