Electric Car Road Trip Causes Angst For Chevy Bolt Owner


Dawn Hall is a Chevy Bolt owner who lives in San Jose, California. She commutes about 100 miles a day in her electric car and occasionally makes detours to visit family members as well. That can add another 60 miles to her daily mileage total. Charging her Bolt overnight takes care of all her daily needs with plenty of margin for error. In general, she likes the Bolt, likes that the electricity to keep it charged costs less than gasoline, and likes that she is helping to keep carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere.

But owning an electric car is not all peaches and cream. On a recent 800 mile road trip, Hall had to spend hours more on the road in order to find and connect to chargers and the total cost of electricity — including parking charges at some locations — was more than what she would have spent for gasoline for the same trip in a conventional car.

Chevy Bolt electric car

In short, being away from her home charger turned owning an electric car into a frustrating, stress inducing nightmare, one she has no desire to repeat. In a report for Green Car Reports, Hall recounts how she had to make her trip longer in order to connect to available charging stations along the way. She also had to open an EVgo account because her ChargePoint membership did not come with charging stations where she needed them.

Her experience taught her that prior planning is essential to a successful all electric road trip — something that drivers of conventional cars never have to consider. She also noticed differences between charging companies. EVgo chargers seemed to charge her battery more quickly than ChargePoint equipment, but the EVgo chargers shut off automatically after 30 minutes. At $9.95 per charging session, that meant she had to spend nearly $20 to get an 80% charge for her Bolt.

To add insult to injury, one EVgo charger she used with no problem once in her trip worked much more slowly on the way home. Most of the ChargePoint and EVgo chargers were not able to charge at the 80 kW maximum the Bolt is capable of.

The story is one fraught with tales of crawling around unfamiliar and darkened industrial areas late at night looking for ChargePoint chargers that were either inside locked parking garages or located in lots that charged exorbitant parking fees. As a result, she spent far too much time crawling from one low power charger to another to get a few more miles up the road. Once she watched videos on her smartphone for two hours late at night while her car was charging.

The point is that with the exception of Tesla — which has a comprehensive system of high power chargers located along most major routes in locations that are specifically intended to make a single woman feel comfortable using even at night — the electric car charging infrastructure in America is so poor that owning an electric car means needing a gas powered vehicle as well for those times when longer trips away from home are necessary. No wonder Americans are cool to the idea of owning an electric car and prefer plug-in hybrids instead.


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Leeper

    I’m right there with her on the inconvenience of EV’s at times. I had a meeting where I had to drive 50 miles one way in my 63 mile range ev. The DC fast charger I was planning on using on the way home was out of order due to a power line getting snapped by high wind. The nice guys at a nissan dealership let me slow charge for an hour to get me to the only other fast charger in the area. My wife was pretty pissed that our kids missed a play date to me and I quote “Fing around with your toy.” On any road trip, we always take the gasser, to avoid the problems.
    In Dawns situation, I’d just rent an ICE for long trips. Or be well off enough to own a Tesla 🙂

    • M98987

      For a lower lease payment she could’a gotten a BMW i3 REX, and been 99% green energy, but with gas for these kind of longer trips.

      And the BMW i3 has good Accident Collision Prevention too.

      Or, a Volt.
      Shocking that even in CA, they’re not really ready for the EV revolution.

  • Marc P

    This is why, for people who only have one vehicle and until a dependable and easily accessible infrastructure is in place, PHEV’s are the way to go for the next 10 to 15 years at least. Renting an ICE, if you don’t need it that often, also would make sense.

    • Joe Viocoe

      10 to 15 is extremely pessimistic.

      GM is an example of an automaker who failed to provide a charging infrastructure alongside their EV. Tesla is an example of an automaker who did.

      10 – 15 years ago, there was nothing in this space. Tesla (a startup company) build a significant infrastructure in less than 3 years. Imagine what GM or Ford could do in the same time.

      • Marc P

        “10 to 15 is extremely pessimistic”

        Funny, since I thought I was being “overly optimistic” at 10 to 15 years. I actually think it’s going to be more like 20-30 years (and that’s still being VERY optimistic) before EV’s outsell vehicles that have one form or another of an ICE in them and that includes PHEV’s. Remember, we’re talking “mass market” here and not “niche market”. Tesla builds fine vehicles for sure, but the vast majority of us can’t afford them. Their Fast charging Network only works, precisely because they’re not a mass market car manufacturer and access isn’t free at all, it’s all factored into the *high* price of the car.

        • Joe Viocoe

          “before EV’s outsell vehicles …”
          “Remember, we’re talking “mass market” here and not “niche market”.”
          No. That’s not what you were talking about. That’s a completely different argument.

          How is a dominant market share suddenly a requirement before someone can reliably and confidently travel long distances in an EV?

          “Their Fast charging Network only works, precisely because they’re not a mass market car manufacturer”
          Who cares?
          It DOES WORK.
          As they scale, so does the infrastructure.

          Supercharger access will be an affordable option on the Model 3 too.

          • Marc P

            “How is a dominant market share suddenly a requirement before someone can reliably and confidently travel long distances in an EV?”

            I think it’s pretty obvious. If there is a demand out there, there will be someone to fill it. With EV’s selling in the 0.01% right now, demand is rather low so no one else other than Tesla and a few others are providing the charging infrastructure. When millions and millions of drivers will need charging facilities, then there will be more available and long trips in an EV will be less and less stressful. It’s not rocket science.

          • Joe Viocoe

            It’s not rocket science, it economics 101.
            And you failed.
            Markets don’t reach equilibrium instantaneously. It takes years, decades sometimes (automotive industry) for supply to catch up to demand.

        • You’re in the minority. Five to 10 years is more like it. And for those who can’t afford a Tesla, just get over it and get out of the way of other people who want to buy electric cars and slow climate change.

          • Marc P

            I’m all for mass market adoption of EV’s and all the better if they can be adopted by the mass market in 5 to 10 years. When I say I think it’s unlikely, I’m not being an enemy of the planet, I’m just saying what I think is going to happen.

            Mass EV adoption (meaning the majority of new passenger vehicles sold in the western world) is probably still a good 20 to 30 years away, and that’s being VERY optimistic.

            Of course, time will tell and I’ll be only happier if it can happen before that !

      • M98987

        Yes, the Volt or the BMW i3 REX.

    • Coach John

      How about as an option for the Bolt the dealer sell “10 days of ICE use/year” for pick a price that make sense a the deal. You stop at the deal, drop off your Bolt pick up the ICE and you on your way. The ICE could be a pick up truck you might need for a day, family van or sedan for the long road trip. That would take care of need for charging infrastructure until it is built.

      • fred smith the deplorable

        Late to the party again, but every Bolt owner has that option already. Rental car companies have been around for a long time.

        You’re welcome.

  • bioburner

    There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the car. Its the DCFC network that was built up to support the Leaf that is the problem. Operator error is to blame for the poor results achieved here. The article on “Green Car Reports” stated that Dawn Hall drove her Bolt at 80 mph which , big surprise, reduced her range a LOT. that is why she spent so much time charging. Slowing down and spending a few extra minutes on the highway saves a lot of time sitting at charging stations.
    Yes DCFC that is actually fast is needed. A lot of the DCFC chargers out there are only 25 KW. So yea do your home work carefully before you jump in a BEV and drive 80 mph down the highway.

    • Steve Hanley

      I agree with you that any fool should know driving at 80 will use more juice then driving at 65. However, if the issue is an electric car versus a conventional car, I strongly suspect 75 – 80 is normal on the I-5 between SF and LA. Nothing worse than moseying along in your electric car at 65 while being passed by every other car on the road including old Geo Metros! How embarrassing.

      • jeloij

        Hey, don’t knock geo metros! My father had one for 10+ years and not only did it get great gas mileage, but when he would park underneath the basketball hoop and me and my friends wanted to play, we would just pick the car up and move it!

  • Jim Smith

    don’t buy a limited range EV if you have to drive long distances. Very simple. Early adopters have to deal with these sorts of things. Simply buy a Volt, and do not have to worry.

    • The Volt is a compromise, and first generation bombed, selling only 100,000 or so worldwide in five years.

      • Jim Smith

        the market was not ready for it, along with all the anti-EV politics involved. The second generation is much better and is selling better. These things take time, which is why the Volt is simply the best EV available right now. Enjoy EV driving for the majority of miles and have a gas range extender for longer trips.

        • It’s not an EV. It’s a compromise.

          • Jim Smith

            that is funny. the 54+ miles of all electric driving say different.

          • That’s a joke, right? It still uses stinking gasoline no matter how you spin it. First generation car got, what, 35 miles on electric? Big deal. Still not by any stretch of the imagination a pure EV.

          • Jim Smith

            no. i drive round trip around 42 miles 5 days a week and the gas engine never comes on.

  • John J. McAvoy

    oh quit your bitching. If you are taking long trips frequently and only have one car, buy a Volt like me. If you usually drive less than 50 miles a day, buy a Leaf, like me. Alternately, rent a gas hog with unlimited miles for your annual trip to grandma.

  • Ed

    While I give Ms. Hall points for chutzpah, I don’t think she has the right to complain. GM – in the person of CEO Mary Barra, herself – made it very clear that GM would not be building or contributing in any way to long distance charging. Taking a Bolt outside of its locale is asking for trouble. It should have this sticker on the dash


    • Steve Hanley

      Hmmm….have you sent your suggestion to Mary Barra? ; – )

      • Ed

        No, just relying on her to read your column….as I am sure she does!

  • I feel so sorry for anyone who doesn’t buy or can’t afford a Tesla. On road trips, I’ve never had any of the problems Bolt drivers are encountering.

    Of course, GM isn’t the only one letting down Bolt owners. The media — auto writers of every stripe — never pressed Chevy on a Tesla-like dedicated charging system for the Bolt, in the same way they let off the hook Nissan and BMW.

    Instead, writers couldn’t wait to criticize Tesla for being “expensive” or declare the cheap-looking Bolt as a Tesla fighter. What a joke.

    The last time I looked Chevy labeled the Bolt an urban vehicle — so owners take long trip at their own risk.

    Here’s another case of GM chasing profits at the expense of their customers.

    • roseland67


      The auto manufacturers could build a battery only powered vehicle with a small, duty specific, on board generator that only runs to charge the battery.
      Plug the car in at night for typical local daily usage, and use the existing fuel infrastructure, (gas stations), when travelling longer distances.

      • You’re missing the point of EVs. Auto fumes kill. Zero-emissions vehicles are the only way to go.

        • roseland67


          If 90% of your driving can be done using your battery there is no emissions for 90% of your driving.

          The 10% using the generator eleminates the “range anxiety” syndrome

      • You’ve also described the Chevy Volt plug-in.

        • roseland67


          Not entirely familiar with the drive train design of the volt, I was under the impression that it had 2 distinct drive trains, 1 electric and 1 ICE?

          • My understanding is Volt has a gasoline-operated generator that charges the batteries and an electric motor or motors. New generation, too, but it still stinks.

          • Jim Smith

            the gas engine only comes on if you run out of electricity. Everyday i leave the house with 54 miles of pure EV range.

      • M98987

        Exactly. The BMW i3 REX looks very cool.
        And the Volt too.

        • roseland67

          Probable I am simply not being clear but:

          What I am suggesting is NO ICE drive train, it appears the Volt and BMW have electric AND ICE drive trains.

          I am suggesting an ALL ELECTRIC drive train and an ICE motor/generator exclusively to charge battery’s.

  • Hang on, a user uses equipment outside of what’s “normal” without planning and expected good results? You know, I just read an article about a hatchback being used as a cargo hauler and it didn’t work out well….

    Yes it sucks the variety of company’s supplying fast charging, and the variety of costs/inconveniences, and it would suck even worse if she did the research ahead of time and the intel was incorrect.

    But at the end of the day, if you use any equipment outside of it’s normal parameters without taking the time to research and plan, it’s your own damn fault.

  • M98987

    That’s why the BMW i3 REX looks like the best solution.
    You get the longest Electric range, with a small gas range extender.
    And leasing prices are actually lower than GM’s Bolt Leases.

    • Jim Smith

      better yet, get a Volt.

  • kevin mccune

    I would just rent an Accord or Civic for the long trip( might even try a domestic )The 1 percentile doesn’t bother me , I would look on it as an excuse to try another car model .

    • M98987

      Better yet, rent a Prius.

      • kevin mccune

        I would imagine a Prius is going to be a little harder to find for the hassle ,I would give up 10 mpg( how about a Tesla – can you rent those , if you want to cruise total electric ?) to be honest around here I have never seen a Prius to rent and mostly the offerings are Ford or Chevy. Now in a lot of stop and go driving the Prius would shine , around here when its cold the mileage falls considerably on the Prius , anyone else notice that ? ( Is that just an anomaly for a few owners ?)