Travelling with the Bolt

This is a bit different as anyone who knows about EVs will read the above headline and expect a post describing an EV road trip talking about how easy it is to go from A to B, where fast chargers were found, and attempts at debunking the many EV myths about long distance EV travel.

This is not that blog post. Here is how our Bolt goes long distance travelling:

Taking the Bolt for a trip

This summer has been and will be filled with some long-distance (400 miles, 800 miles, etc.) trips with the RV + Bolt combo. So far things have gone well: Bolt pulls very nicely on the dolly behind the RV. I even haven’t had to charge up at a campground–the Bolt’s 200+ mile range has been more than sufficient to handle any running around the campground without requiring a recharge. Nonetheless I’ve been reserving 50-amp sites so that I can recharge if necessary. Now that I have that long “extension cord” I don’t have to move the car close to the power pedestal.

Here we are all setup near Toronto, Canada–visiting our last ballpark (might do a long post about that in the near future as well). I don’t even think anyone gave it a 2nd thought: seeing a Michigan plated Bolt/EV long way from its home–we did notice a few fellow campers pointing out the Bolt, however.

The manual lists a specific sequence that must be performed to tow the Bolt on a dolly (can’t tow it 4-wheels down)–I detailed that a bit in this post. Part of that is to wait 2 minutes and then disconnect the 12V battery. This is required because the Bolt has an electronic e-brake and it really really likes to engage it; a lot. I installed a knife switch to make it easier to disconnect the battery but even so I wrap 3 or 4 rubber bands around the knife switch just in case the “knife” part somehow falls and makes closes the disconnect (with the rubber bands blocking it the circuit won’t be made). Can’t be too careful.

Stay tuned I may have another post or more about dragging a Bolt around–maybe even one that doesn’t talk about the Bolt at all, just some goofy ballparks.

Travelling with the Bolt

A year with the Bolt

Today marks a complete year with the Bolt. My few thoughts on a year:

  • The seats: I find the seats quite comfortable and haven’t had a single issue with them. (I believe GM addressed the seats in the 2018 model year–mine is a 2018. There may also be a difference between the leather seats and the cloth ones.)
  • As far as an EV: The Bolt drives very much like the FFE did: silently, and efficiently.
  • The best part of the Bolt vs the FFE range baby. Its pretty amazing what 238 miles vs 70 miles will do for you. Even in winter I was getting 150 miles. This really was a game changer: I can drive several days without charging and the odd long trip simply isn’t an issue.
  • When parked next to one of our Escapes it looks almost as big but it isn’t: Its skinnier, a little shorter and thus can’t hold as much (although there is a lot of rear seat legroom).
  • There isn’t as much of a “family” of Bolts (e.g. if you see another on the road it isn’t that big of a deal–seeing another FFE on the road is surprising and you usually would get a wave).
  • The choice of included features seems a bit odd: I have the LT trim level instead of premier. It has power mirrors, blind-spot alert, but manual seats, and auto headlamps. It seems like GM just went through a check list for LT: “don’t need that, uncheck, don’t need that uncheck, etc.”
  • The HVAC system still takes some getting used to. In the FFE it was easy to put it into “vent” mode (turn A/C off and turn temp to “LO”) in the Bolt you turn off Heat/A/C but that doesn’t seem to turn off all the high-current HVAC systems.
A year with the Bolt

Adding a new EV to the stable..sort of

Today I added another EV to the garage. The battery isn’t nearly as big as the Bolt’s, its open air, has two wheels, and …. pedals. (Yeah not a motorcycle although those Zero’s look cool but I’d probably kill myself on one.)

The recommendation for this addition comes from a rather unusual source–at least for EV related things: a camping forum. There has been some discussion about eBikes over in a camping forum I follow. I’ve enjoyed the occasional bike ride since I was a kid–I wouldn’t call myself a “serious” rider, just a casual one. The idea, however, of a bike that I could ride for miles and wouldn’t tire me out nearly as much sounded very appealing.

The next decision is: wow that is the most expensive bike I’ve ever purchased (yeah I know you can find bikes much much more expensive but again “casual” rider). At some point, however, you have to decide: either s$$t or get off the pot…

So here we are, an ebike in front of an ecar LOL:

Bike in front of Bolt

That my dear friends is a Rad Mini eBike. Like I said above: $1,499 is the most I’ve ever paid for a bike, but boy is it fun. It arrived today and I’ve already put 14 miles on the thing–more miles than I’ve put on my normal bike in the past year (yeah I said “casual” LOL). I figure I’ll get out on this far more than my old bike.

What to do when you get a new bike? Head off to the local park with a bunch of bike trails (actually two different parks but who’s counting). The thing really eats up the trails and pavement.

All of the Rad bikes have both a throttle (if you’re feeling really lazy), or an assist feature. The assist feature has 6 levels: 0 – 5. Level 0 is no assist–you can feel what it takes to push you and the bike’s mass (31 kg) around. Level 5 is maximum assist: you barely have to pedal to keep moving. The bike has a rotation sensor on the front sprocket measuring how fast you’re pedaling. That speed combined with the assist level determines how much power is sent to the motor. Since its a speed sensor and not a torque sensor it takes about a revolution of the front sprocket before you feel the motor kick in (this invisible hand just pushes you along LOL).

I’ve found, in the short time I’ve had it, that it is really easy to use the gears to set how fast you want to pedal, then you set the assist level to determine how hard you want to pedal. The park I visited is very flat with wide open spaces that are prone to a lot of wind. On the non windy areas I was using level 2 and when the wind kicked in level 3. Both settings made it easy to maintain about a 16 mph pace–a bit faster than the parks 10 mph limit..oops! LOL

At the end of the day, however, its time to pack up the bike and bring it home. I don’t have a rack that can hold the Mini–yet so what to do? Well it has a neat trick: it folds up so I can just shove it into the Bolt LOL:

A Bike in a Bolt

You may be wondering: hey if the bike is doing the work, how are you getting any exercise? Well on 2 or 3 I still have to pedal and help move the bike, and if its more fun I’ll be out using it a lot more than the regular bike–just don’t tell Google fit; it thinks I’m an Olympic Cyclist now.

Adding a new EV to the stable..sort of

Camping with a Bolt

Now that camping season is upon us we can include the Bolt. Of course the weather almost didn’t cooperate as about 5″ of snow was forecast for overnight Saturday. Fortunately none of that materialized.

Later on in the season we have a few longer trips planned which include pulling the Bolt; this trip was a mere 90 miles to ensure everything worked ok (also the annual “make sure nothing broke in the RV over winter” trip as well). The results (as you can see above): The Bolt made it the 90 miles on the dolly without major issue. There were some minor things:

  • For some reason a flock of birds decided to target the Bolt (and completely miss the RV) necessitating a car wash.
  • The Bolt briefly panicked and set off its alarm when I reconnected the battery (which included a quick e-mail from OnStar indicating that someone was attempting to steal it ! LOL)

With a weekend trip to a town that is about 10 square miles a fully charged Bolt was more than adequate for any touring and even a drive home if necessary without needing to recharge. Thus I wasn’t able to try charging it up in the campground (in addition: My site only had a 30 amp plug).

One bonus of having an EV at a campground is that you can creep around in the car without anyone hearing you (could also be a detriment if you’re not careful, however, as many campgrounds are quite busy with all the activities and people milling about).

On the whole a successful weekend…bring on smmer.

Camping with a Bolt

What’s charging at Rivian?

Yup Rivian, that Rivian (LOL as if there is more than one).

My daily commute takes me past their Michigan office. Out in front of said office is a row of (at least) 6 Level 2 charge stations (which are not listed on plugshare–I’ve seen a few charge stations disappear from there recently like the companies where they are at didn’t want them “visible” hmmm).

Nonetheless I often see a car or two charging there in the morning when I pass–sadly none of them have been their R1T or R1S–but then I hear they have only one “production intent” copy of each and those are usually off at shows (until production gets going sometime in 2021). Lately, however, the car or two have been all different and varied but today was quite the collection: A 500e, Jaguar I-Pace, Chevy Bolt, and a Tesla Model 3 a veritable smorgasbord of EVs available in the market (only needed an S and X LOL).

The office’s location doesn’t lend itself to just parking your car and walking somewhere (like a mall or something to do) thus I have to conclude that these are likely all employee cars that they left there overnight to charge (I’d guess that since Rivian is an “EV manufacturer” they would also encourage employees to drive electric)–they also could be “competitive evaluation vehicles”; company cars they use to see the competition (although since they make trucks and these are all cars how much competition is there??).

We’ll see what tomorrow brings, maybe there will be a model S or X, perhaps a Kona electric, an eTron, etc. Who knows LOL.

What’s charging at Rivian?

Is it Spring?

At this point we are well into “Spring” here in Michigan. This means Monday is 60F or more and sunny, Tuesday we awake to 3″ of snow, Wednesday rain in the 40Fs, Thursday back to 60F, etc. All four seasons within a week…

This means I’m still charging every day as overnight temps go low enough that plenty of heat is required in the morning. At some point I’ll be switching back to the summer charging cycle of only charging when needed as the summer range is sufficient for several commutes.

The range has been increasing as the temps increase–now up to almost 200 miles (hilltop reserve still on so not all the way to full). Holding it back has been those morning temps: the morning commute has usually been less than 40F and thus limiting the range.

At least this weekend we missed the big blizzard (it passed mostly to the west of us even postponing some MLB baseball games)…

Is it Spring?

Something else for the EV

Owning an EV can sometimes be like owning an RV in that you collect various accessories for it. You’ll find yourself in that odd situation where your RV is too far from the water spigot so you pick up that extra 25ft reel of hose, or you notice a cool new gadget that makes it easier to level, or hey I could add a WiFi extender and cell phone booster…

With the EV you have to pick up at least one EVSE if you intend to Level 2 charge at all (although some of the Level 1 EVSE’s that come with the cars can be modded to work with 240V–but they still wouldn’t charge at the fastest rate).

In my case I collected a few EVSE’s for the Focus Electric (FFE) that have now been employed for use with the Bolt (initially got a Bosch/SPX EVSE, won the Juicebox EVSE, and picked up a Clipper Creek Level 2 for portable charging mostly at campgrounds).

Now our city is telling us the replace some concrete on our driveway–pretty much the whole apron (We have a “sidewalk repair program” here where the city marks sections of concrete that need to be fixed. You have until a certain date to fix them or the city will come along, fix them, and send you a bill–how nice of them).

In the process of getting quotes and details and such I come to find that the new concrete will take up to a month to cure. A month of time where we can’t drive on it. Uh to charge? (yup this is an issue conventional cars don’t have to deal with LOL but then how often do you get your driveway rebuilt?)

Now I could make use of the many local public chargers (both near home, and one within walking distance of work). I get the impression that the one near work is only for guests of that business (since I’ve noticed it, there has been a C-Max (yeah not mine) charging there daily. Now all of the sudden the stations have disappeared from plugshare and the C-Max isn’t there hmm). Just about every Level 2 charger in the area is free so this would actually be the cheaper option LOL but I’m not all about that when I can get some fancy accessory:

What is that? Its a 40ft 40amp J1772 extension cable of course. Now I can park the car in the street while we have no driveway and still be able to charge. It even comes with a handy lock so people won’t steal it.

Here is what that will look like:

I let the car charge up like that for a few minutes to make sure everything worked (one of the reviews for it said it does get a little warm).

I will still have a use for it once the driveway has cured as well. When taking the Bolt along camping sometimes the electrical access is too far for the Clipper Creek to reach–now they won’t be.

Something else for the EV