“I would have never tried that in my electric car!”
That was the surprised reaction I received from an all electric Nissan Leaf owner after explaining how I had driven the Chevy Bolt over the Santa Rosa Mountain Range from Oceanside into Palm Desert. That climb is beyond the range of all electric cars except the $100,000 Tesla S.
I had just done it with a $30,000 (after tax credits) Chevy Bolt carrying two passengers, some day bags and a dog.
Driving a Bolt over the Santa Rosa Mountain Range
Mountain driving is the ultimate electric car challenge. So I decided to test drive the Bolt by driving the Santa Rosa Mountain Range. These mountains have a 7,000 feet maximum elevation. The road I would take reaches over 3,000 feet.
My test drive began on a four lane road driving east toward the mountains from Oceanside. This road has a 55 mile per hour speed limit that was only briefly achieved due to a steady lineup of intersection traffic lights.
This type of driving is where the Bolt feels most comfortable. The Bolt’s electric motor easily glided the car through the stop and go traffic. Its regenerative braking system added electricity back into the battery with each slow down and then stop. From my reading of the digital gauge, it appeared that for every 10 miles traveled, only two miles of driving range was reduced.
I left the four lane road for an interstate highway. I set the cruise control for 72 miles per hour to keep up with traffic. The Bolt was consuming mileage range, but nothing more disconcerting than driving a gasoline car at over 70 miles per hour.
At Temecula I turned off the interstate. This desert town has exploded into a suburb that enables commutes north toward LA or south toward San Diego. Driving through town is a stop and go process past blocks of fast food restaurants, big box stores and strip malls. The Bolt was back in its driving sweet spot of recharging the battery with every slow down or stop.
After a few miles, Temecula’s four lane road narrowed to two. Suburbia was left behind. Ahead was desert wilderness with stark rock fields and short, thin trees shaped by the wind. But on this drive, Spring was in its full beauty with wildflowers vibrantly splashing yellows and purples against the grey and brown landscape.
The Bolt handled this two lane foothills climb like a sports car. The electric motor provided plenty of acceleration. The regenerative drive system enabled quick handling of curves.
Then came the mountain climb portion of the trip. The Bolt easily conquered the steep climb. But this performance was paid for with significant electricity consumption. I entered the mountain climb with about a 150 mile driving range. At the summit I had a 100 mile driving range.
The descent into Palm Desert was a technological marvel. The Bolt gained driving range as the regenerative braking system captured the energy from strong braking to recharge the battery. During the entire drive down the mountain I couldn’t stop watching the digital dashboard’s real time display of increasing driving range. More than once my wife had to ask me to stop being a geek and watch the road. By the time the Bolt reached the desert floor it had recharged 30 miles of driving range.
After a wonderful day of driving to art fairs, and then lunch in Old Town La Quinta, I took the Bolt to a recharging station in anticipation of driving back up the mountain. Recharging took less than 30 minutes using a 50 DC station located inside a city park. It was at the recharging station where I talked to other electric car drivers and heard their amazement over having driven the Bolt from Oceanside to Palm Desert.
Driving the Bolt is like driving a gasoline car, but better
The future has now arrived with the Chevy Bolt.
The Bolt looks like a sedan but drives like an urban sports cars. Stop and go traffic actually recharges the battery! The seats are very comfortable for four passenger. The trunk is surprisingly large. The air conditioning is cold. The sound system is enjoyable. All of this is delivered with zero tail pipe emissions.
California’s extensive recharging station network allows the Bolt to travel as broadly as a gasoline car. Yes, DC recharging time is about 30 minutes compared to a typical 15 minute gasoline refueling stop. Plus, 30 minutes of recharging only adds about 90 miles of range. So a day trip of over 200 miles is slower.
But the bottom line is that the Bolt is now an affordable, fun and zero emissions alternative to a gasoline car.
It is by far and away the superior urban vehicle.
And once our country finally commits to a national grid of super fast recharging stations, it will be the superior technology wherever you drive it.