• Fumiko Docker

What to do for Wheels, Part 2

In the end of March, I finally did it: I purchased my first car!

This is a follow up to my first post on "wheels"!

Well into my 40s, any car I had previously owned had been a hand-me-down from my parents, and in 2007, I left the world of car ownership. Fourteen years later, I decided to spring for a Chevrolet Bolt EV, and have returned to the realm of car ownership, albeit not an "ICE" (internal combustion engine). I decided to put the Bolt through its paces on a road trip to Taos, NM! More on that below.

So why did I choose the Bolt? In all honesty, while I considered hybrids, I had made a pledge while I was carless that the first car I purchased would be an EV, so buying a hybrid seemed too much a compromise of that pledge.

In part, it is about aesthetics: I love hatchbacks, and the styling of the 2020 Bolt with its bigger headlights and compact round rear end is to me, pretty cute. However, there are several other reasons I chose the Bolt over other EVs, despite no longer being eligible for the federal EV tax credit (unlike the Hyundai Kona and Kia Nero, that as of this writing, still qualify, if you're on the market for an EV).

One, is the range: the 2020 Bolt has an EPA range of 259 miles, so I can drive 4+ hours on a single charge. Second, the battery is liquid-cooled, and the research I did demonstrates that liquid (rather than air-cooled) batteries have a much longer life. Third I felt the network of DC fast chargers was becoming substantially more robust, and felt confident that even on road trips the Bolt would serve me well. Last, I thought it would be a great endorsement of the domestic EV market to "vote with my dollars". Not too mention the lower maintenance cost to run EVs, as well as lower charging costs over expensive California gas.

With that range, four heated seats, Bose speakers, good head room, cargo space, rails for overhead storage, and the safety features of the Bolt (Premier), what's not to love? It has proven to be a great little car so far, and I clocked 3500 road trip miles traveling through California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico!

Some takeaways: range anxiety is real, so having the patience to charge sufficiently is definitely part of the deal. I did have a fail en route from Las Vegas to Beatty, NV late one night. I ran out of juice just three miles from my motel, after not spending enough time topping up the battery at the fast charging station in Las Vegas. I learned: pay attention to the low mileage number, and take cruise control down to 55 mph if worried about not making the destination, and suffer the ICE vehicles passing you. I had to call AAA and get towed to the fast charging station 4 miles away the following morning. Aside from that episode, I had no issues finding charging stations along my route, and even purchased a Level 2 charger that plugs in at 50 amp RV sites, which allows me to go further afield and tent camp, as I did at Lyman Lake State Park in Arizona, as well as charge faster at home (with a full charge from near zero in about 7-8 hours). Most of the motels that I stayed at along the way also had Level 2 charging stations for overnight charging. It definitely is more about the time you're willing to spend at the charging station, than any availability of charging stations (of which there are many) so patience and timing (best to do it with meal breaks) are critical.

The most memorable charges by far (aside from the tow to the Stagecoach Casino Hotel fast charging station in Beatty, NV), were a stop at Hell's Backbone Kitchen + Grill in the Dixie National Forest, Utah - a splendid meal with my road trip buddy while I charged at the Boulder Lodge's level 2 charging station, and a fast charge at Centennial Park across the San Juan River from the Hot Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs, Colorado while we soaked in the hot mineral pools.

Most of the time, fast charging afforded a well needed break from the road, a pit stop for food, etc, and I could get about 60% of charge in about 50-55 minutes, and a 90-100% charge from almost zero in about 90 minutes. Several apps have definitely helped, Plugshare is one, Chargehub another, along with joining these subscription based charging networks: EVGo, ChargePoint, Greenlots, and Electrify America. Thanks to Caltrans and California taxpayers, there are a lot of free charging stations around the state.

I am extremely happy with my Bolt, and have full confidence taking it camping and road tripping. I may even drive cross country at some point in the future, or even to...Alaska?