186-Mile Loop in Chevy Bolt Returns with 20 kWh to Spare

By Paul Gipe

I’ve been chomping at the bit to test our 2017 Chevy Bolt’s range and we did so on a 186-mile jaunt to the mountains between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

The Bolt is a battery-electric vehicle (EV) with a 60 kWh traction battery that gives the car an official range of 238 miles. Your actual range “will vary” depending upon terrain, speed, and wind. For example, drive the car up a steep mountain and your range will be much less. Head down the mountain and your range will increase, and so on.

On 2 May we drove from Bakersfield to Mount Pinos for a hike to the summit. The 65-mile route takes you from the depths of the San Joaquin Valley to one of the highest peaks in the San Emigdio Range on the border between Kern and Ventura counties.

On-line estimators suggested the route from Bakersfield to the parking lot at 8,500 feet would take from 31 kWh (EV TripPlanner) to 35 kWh (GreenRace). We arrived after consuming 25.2 kWh or about 80% of that estimated. So far, so good.

We enjoyed a pleasant hike to the summit and returned for a leisurely drive down the mountain on Hudson Ranch (Cerro Noreste) Road. We planned to have lunch in Ventucopa.

Why Ventucopa? Well simply, there’s just not much out there in that part of California and Ventucopa has one restaurant and not much else. It was far enough away to test the Bolt, but not too far.

Ventucopa is 50 miles downhill from Mount Pinos and the two estimators suggested we would use from 5 kWh (GreenRace) to 8 kWh (EV TripPlaner). Both were very wide of the mark. We used only 1.1 kWh for an efficiency of 45.5 kWh/mi.

The Bolt was doing so well we decided to throw caution to the wind and instead of going straight back to Bakersfield we chose to drive through the old oil town of Taft on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The city had installed a Level 2 station at the city building and that sounded like a good excuse to pay the town a visit.

Taft surprised us for several reasons. Since we’d last been there, a new Best Western had been built and the city not only had installed the Level 2 station, but was operating a small fleet of EVs: one Leaf and a Ford. The station only had one port, but it did work, putting out 7 kW initially. (We didn’t charge at this stop, merely checking that the station was operational. Photos on Plugshare.com didn’t make clear that there was in fact a charge cable.)

The 71-mile drive home was expected to consume from 14.9 kWh (EV TripPlanner) to 18.1 kWh (GreenRace). On that leg we used 14.2 kWh or 95% of the estimate by EV TripPlanner.

It was warm on our return and we had the A/C cranked up. EV Trip Planner estimated that the total trip would consume 54 kWh; GreenRace estimated 58. Overall, we used only 40.5 kWh.

We arrived home after driving 186 miles and climbing some 8,000 feet to Mount Pinos with nearly 20 kWh remaining in the traction battery. The charge remaining in the Bolt was as much as our 2015 Leaf would have had on a full charge–when new!

The 60 kWh battery in the Bolt puts it on a par with the battery packs in many Teslas. Some argue that such a big battery isn’t necessary for most uses. That’s indeed true. However, Americans at least don’t buy cars based on their actual needs but on their perceived needs or desires. That perceived need includes the occasional spontaneous drive to grandma’s or in our case that escape from the heat of Bakersfield to a cool mountaintop and a ramble down the back roads of California on the way home. The Bolt’s big battery makes that possible–and then some.