Get your (electric) motor runnin’; head out on the highway..

Since we have the RV if we were to take the Bolt on any really long distance trips–the kind where you’d need multiple charges and/or charge overnight–we would more likely plop the Bolt on the dolly and simply tow it. No quick charging required, not pre-planning of the route, etc. Of course we’d burn a lot of gas (yeah negating the “greenness” of having an EV to begin with–but the miles we put on the car that way is a small fraction of the total miles put on the car due to commuting).

Nonetheless I still may want to take a short road trip or two with the Bolt. Perhaps a trip or two may even come close to or be longer than the range of the car, what then? I guess first I’d have to know: for a road trip; how far can I drive it on a charge?

(Now about a week after picking up the Bolt we did have an opportunity to do such a thing: but the driver would have been our teenage son putting some miles in on his learner’s permit and the adult in the car wouldn’t have been me–so we opted to use a different car in that case. The mileage for this case was about 180 miles.)

There is a small town about 90 minutes North of the Detroit area: Frankenmuth. Its known for the Bavarian theme of the town and for yummy greasy chicken. For us its 93 miles from our door to the parking lot there. Perfect: A round trip comes to a nice 186 miles. I proceeded to ask the family if they were up for some greasy chicken (they were and then some…the son invited two friends!).

Doing my research on the net to see if the Bolt is capable of such a thing (you’d think so given that its rated for 238 miles right)? My searching revealed blog posts and news articles that all pointed to something like 180 miles of range with the cruise set at 70 mph (one blog post with graphs seemed to indicate close to 200 miles at 70 mph). Oh!? Hmm better come up with some contingency plans..

Plan 1: There is a campground in town within walking distance of everywhere we were going to go. Great I have a 20kW charge cable I can use at a campground. If I get there and the car is below 1/2 a “tank” of electrons I’ll park the car at the campground and let it charge up while we’re off for said greasy chicken.

Plan 2: Just in case the campground objects to us borrowing a site (I would offer to pay and we’ve stayed in that campground many times in the RV so they know us, but just in case) there are a couple of fast chargers along the route. We could stop at one and charge up for 10-20 minutes (would only need that much to get home anyway).

Ok, now we’re ready: Load the car up with us and two extra hungry teens, its 85F out, set the HVAC at 72F, and the cruise control at 66 mph, its 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, 1/2 pack of cigarettes, its dark out and we’re wearing sunglasses…hit it!

That’s funny, all the readouts about power consumption are doing much better than all the “180 mile” articles said the car would? The dash says 4 miles/kWh (or 250 wh/mile..that is really good, I used to have to work at that with the FFE).

Speaking of the FFE I had often planned this trip but never executed it because it would require 3 stops to charge at 3 hours each…oh well.

Well we pull into the parking lot in Frankenmuth and here is what the car said for energy consumption:


Wait? What? The battery level indicator was only two ticks below 3/4–ok so we only used 1/3 the battery for 93 miles, not 1/2. That makes more sense given the EPA 238 mile rating (note that I’ve also been getting readings of 250 miles of range on the guess-o-meter after a full charge lately). The car was showing 148 miles of range remaining.

Ok then, no contingency plans necessary. Park the car, have greasy chicken, walk around a bit, and drive home.

Here is the display at the end of the round trip:


The guess-o-meter was showing 56 miles to go, and 1/4 “tank” still available. Wow not at all what I had expected given my research.

My guess is that my 66 mph cruise control setting had a lot to do with the range we got, even though I kept increasing the speed the closer we got home since I could see we would easily make it. The last 10 mile leg of the trip or so the cruise was set to 70 mph.

Still after this experience I wouldn’t hesitate to take the Bolt on a 200+ mile trip somewhere (at least now with a new battery). Very interesting indeed.


Get your (electric) motor runnin’; head out on the highway..