The Chevy Bolt EV has been out for nearly three years now, and while it is widely regarded as one of the best electric cars you can buy for in and around town, some have questioned its road tripping chops. The most commonly shared stories tend to be negative, cautionary tales about attempting to travel long distances in the Bolt EV when the driver is new to electric vehicles or hasn't properly prepared for the trip.
Negative Chevy Bolt EV Trip Experiences
The most common stumbles are the result of not understanding the Bolt EV's efficiency at high speeds (its freeway range is significantly less than its city range) and not using tools such as PlugShare to identify and check the status of charging locations along the route. To date, the two most widely shared Bolt EV road trip stories also happen to be the two most negative experiences: The first was Dawn Hall's 380-mile trip from San Jose to Pasadena California, which took her nearly 12 hours to complete despite driving at speeds in excess of 80 mph. The second was New York Times Reporter Ivan Penn's trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, a roughly 550-mile trip that required five hours of charging to complete (my own attempt driving parallel to Alex Venz in his Tesla Model 3 provided a much different result).
Now, this story will inevitably receive comments about how inadequate the public charging infrastructure is, how much slower the Bolt EV is for traveling than such and such other EV, or how these trips couldn't be completed in some specific region of the country or world. Those statements might or might not be valid, and I don't think a single one of the Bolt EV owners listed below will argue with the idea of improving the public charging infrastructure or increasing the Bolt EV's charging speeds. However, none of that should take away from these Bolt EV owners' amazing journeys.
Also, I think it should be emphasized here: These are not “cannonball runs.” Unfortunately, the electric vehicle community has become saturated with stories obsessing about how fast you can travel from one point to another. While that might be an important metric for comparing electric vehicles (one that I will address more thoroughly for the Bolt EV in an upcoming story), it isn’t representative of how people actually drive and use their cars. These, on the other hand, are real trips made by real people who just happen to have completed them in a Bolt EV.
Rather than ranking these long-distance Chevy Bolt EV road trip stories based on some arbitrary assessment of their quality (frankly, they're all awesome), I'm ranking them based on the miles driven. (Map images are for illustrative purposes. Consult their actual trip accounts for details.)
#5. Traveling from Chicago to Columbus During Winter in a Chevy Bolt EV
Trip Distance: 800 miles
Year Completed: February, 2019
Route: Chicago, Illinois to Columbus, Ohio and back along I-65 and I-70.
Check out Darren's channel.
Darren and I know each other from some of the Bolt EV owners groups, and he had reached out to me about a trip he was planning to take in his Bolt EV from Chicago to Columbus and back over a weekend. An 800-mile trip in the Bolt EV might not appear that challenging when it’s broken up over two days; however, Darren was making this trip in February. The temperatures were mild by Midwestern standards, but Darren had to deal with severe headwinds (30 mph with gusts up to 60 mph) in both directions and an incomplete public charging infrastructure.
Some public DC fast chargers had already been in place for a while along that route, but they were mostly slower, poorly placed chargers (typically clustered around cities and not along highway routes). The Electrify America charging site in Lafayette had opened in time for Darren's trip, and it turned out to be an integral stop. Darren used nearly 50 kWh of energy (out of the Bolt EV’s 60 kWh total) just to make it to Lafayette from Chicago.
In Columbus, Darren was able to take advantage of one of the key strengths of electric vehicles: He was able to fully charge overnight. He did note that the return from Columbus was more challenging because the Electrify America charging site in Huber Heights (about halfway between Columbus and Indianapolis) hadn’t come online yet.
Still, the trip was an overall success. While the rest of these Bolt EV road trips are longer, none of them involved weather and conditions as severe as what Darren faced.
#4. Family Vacation from Maine to Virginia in a Chevy Bolt EV
Bill Hensley is a veteran electric vehicle owner, and he decided to take his family on a vacation from Maine to Virginia. The video was posted in May, but the trip appears to have taken place a bit earlier than that (the weather was still cold and wet). Rain and heater usage on 65 mph to 70 mph freeways definitely saps energy, but despite the hit to their efficiency, Bill’s first recharging stop didn’t happen until Massachusetts.
The trip south went well for Bill and family. In fact, it went so quickly that they cancelled their original hotel reservation in New York and continued driving to another hotel in New Jersey.
After vacationing in Virginia, Bill and family headed north again. Along the way, Bill discovered that one of the cooler charging sites he had used on the way south was a BMW testing facility that wasn’t actually open to the public. Regardless, Bill was able to plug in overnight at their hotel in New York and head out early the next morning.
The trip wasn’t without incident, however, and another charger Bill had used on the trip south wasn’t functioning for the trip north. In his account, Bill emphasizes the need to use a resource like PlugShare and to always have a “Plan B.”
It's worth noting that this trip was done in early 2018, so Electrify America’s build out of faster highway charging sites to support longer trips hadn’t even started yet.
#3. Business Trip from Portland to Los Angeles in a Chevy Bolt EV
Trip Distance: 2,000 miles
Year Completed: September, 2019
Route: Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California along I-5.
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield of Transport Evolved recently needed to take a trip from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California for an award ceremony, so naturally, she took her Chevy Bolt EV. Nikki’s trip took her down I-5 the entire way from Portland to Los Angeles, which wasn’t actually possible just a week or so prior. The new ChargePoint site in Lebec, CA had opened just days earlier, and before it went live, Bolt EV drivers had to take a detour to Highway 99 in order to complete the trip.
The public charging infrastructure along I-5 between Portland and Sacramento had also improved significantly in the few months prior to Nikki’s trip. A number of the faster 50 kW ChargePoint chargers funded by the California Energy Commission are now live, dramatically improving trip speeds in the Bolt EV. Previously, that route could only be completed by using much slower 24 kW chargers. In addition to those new 50 kW chargers, Electrify America has also been adding a number of their faster, 150 to 350 kW charging sites. In fact, it appears that Nikki just missed the opening of Electrify America’s new site in Yreka by a couple of days.
Hopefully, Nikki will post more details about her trip in the near future, but it sounds like she made an overnight stop midway stop near Sacramento on both the southbound and northbound legs of her trip. I know a number of people who make this 1,000-mile trip between Los Angeles and Portland by car, and even in gas-powered cars, they typically take two days, stopping to spend the night somewhere between Sacramento and Redding.
#2. Ontario, Canada to Orlando, Florida with Four Adults in a Chevy Bolt EV
Trip Distance: 2,600+ miles
Year Completed: April, 2019
Route: Chatham, Ontario, Canada to Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. along I-75 and I-95.
Link to Part 1 of the Trip
Erik Stephens is very active in the GM electric vehicle communities, and earlier this year, he shared a trip that he had taken in his Chevy Bolt EV. Erik packed himself and three other adults into his Bolt EV for a trip from Ontario, Canada to Orlando, Florida. This is a long trip in any vehicle, but the Bolt EV managed it well.
This trip is relatively recent, so Erik was able to take advantage of Electrify America’s rapidly growing network of fast chargers along interstate routes. Those Electrify America sites are faster, which saves charging time, but they also provide more charging units per site. Erik noted that, on a couple of occasions, he either had to wait for another vehicle to finish using the only charging unit or move onto the next charger.
Though he hasn’t posted the final parts of his trip yet, Erik mentioned that Electrify America’s expansion was so fast that it actually enabled him to switch routes for the return trip. Forums and message boards are still filled with comments from people who are waiting to buy an electric vehicle until routes like I-75 and I-95 are adequately covered with public charging sites; however, Erik’s trip proves that these routes are open to 200-mile electric vehicles like the Bolt EV today, at least in the more temperate months.
#1. Driving Across Canada in a Chevy Bolt EV
Buddy Boyd, Barb Hetherington, and Piper
Trip Distance: 17,690 km / 10,992 miles
Year Completed: June, 2017
Route: Across Canada :-)
Bolt Across Canada
In early 2017, Buddy was already planning his trip across Canada in the Bolt EV. The trip wasn’t so much to promote the Bolt EV and electric vehicles, but rather Bolt Across Canada was meant to promote a Zero Waste lifestyle. So Buddy, Barb, and Piper set out in June from Gibsons, British Columbia.
This trip is far too long to cover in detail, but I encourage you to check out the Bolt Across Canada blog. Buddy and Barb did a great job detailing the trip, and I recommend reading through it just to marvel at the trip, the people, and the scenery. It is, in a word, inspiring. I won’t lie. I choked up a bit when I saw Buddy post a picture of his Bolt EV “dipping its toes” in the Atlantic Ocean at Quidi Vidi, Newfoundland.
It’s easy to look back now, after so many DC fast charging sites have been installed along the Trans-Canada Highway, and claim how “easy” this 11,000-mile trip would be today. However, Buddy and team made this journey in June of 2017, long before many those fast chargers were installed. Besides, the most impressive part of this road trip is that they completed it with zero waste.
See you next time as I discuss GM’s hydrogen fuel cell plans!
About The Author
Eric Way focuses on reporting expert opinion on GM brand electric vehicles at Torque News. Eric is also an instructional designer and technical writer with more than 15 years of writing experience. He also hosts the News Coulomb video blog, which focuses on electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and renewable energy. Eric is an active member of the EV Advocates of Ventura County, a volunteer organization focused on increasing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. You can follow Eric on News Coulomb Youtube, on Facebook at @NewsCoulomb as well as on Twitter at @eway1978.