400 Mile EV Road Trip–without a Spreadsheet!

By Paul Gipe

In late January this year, Nancy and I took a 400 plus mile road trip to Salinas, California, the home of Nobel-prize winning writer John Steinbeck. We drove our Chevy Bolt EV. Nothing in that is newsworthy. North American’s take such road trips all the time, even in EVs. What is personally noteworthy is that I didn’t prepare a spreadsheet of our stops before hand. Yeah I know I am a nerd.

In the early days, it was a necessity. Since our first days driving the limited range Nissan Leaf (100 miles on a good day–downhill) I’ve calculated our estimated range and where we’d need to charge. There weren’t a lot of charge stations then and it was easy to run short. We never did because, in part, I’d prepare a detailed spreadsheet of what charge was needed where. The challenge was part of the fun of driving an EV.

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One of the California missions we visited on our trip to the Salinas Valley.

EV Trip planning software has made road tripping much easier. The advent of ABRP (A Better Routeplanner) has taken the guesswork out of trip planning. Even with ABRP, I’d make my own spreadsheets to guide our trip and charge stops and use it track our progress.

I’ve written before about how modern EVs, like our Bolt, and the expanding charge network have made road tripping a cinch. (See Familiarity brings Confidence–300-Mile Day Trip in an EV on a Whim.) But it was on the trip to Salinas when it really hit home.

We were well into our trip when we stopped to take a break and we didn’t need to charge, even though there was a solar-powered charge station at hand. (See Shandon Rest Area adds solar electric vehicle charger.) Then it hit me. I hadn’t prepared a spreadsheet. I hadn’t even thought about making one.

Of course we drove with ABRP loaded onto the car’s computer and it tracked the car’s state-of-charge in real time. And I’d used ABRP to plan our charging stops beforehand. Nevertheless, I didn’t prepare, print, and bring a clipboard with a spreadsheet.

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One of the distributed wind turbines operating in the Salinas Valley.

Bang. The realization came to me that today’s EVs are just like a combustion-engine car in their utility.

Granted, not everyplace on the continent is like California and there are still places in California that don’t have fast charge stations, but the network is expanding so fast that detailed planning is now only needed for the remotest locations.

We had good weather, saw some operating wind turbines (see The Distributed Wind Turbines of the Salinas Valley and Palmdale California), visited some of California’s remaining missions, saw friends, charged when and where needed, and returned home with nary a worry about being stranded.