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:
Here are the take-aways:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.