Bakersfield to Springbok Solar Plant Cantil, California in a Chevy Bolt

By Paul Gipe

17 March a small group caravanned from Bakersfield to the Desert Tortoise Preserve’s new parcel adjacent to the Springbok solar power plant near Cantil, California. The plant is located just north of California City and just south of the Honda test track.

This 80-mile, one-way trip took us through the Tehachapi Pass and onto the Mojave Desert. There we joined a group from across the state to dig up Russian thistle and mustard on the preserve. These invasive plants are not native to California and endanger the survival of the Desert Tortoise.

There was only one SUV and we needed another vehicle for the number of people we had. Our Bolt was fully charged, so I volunteered to drive and one adventurous member of our group joined me.

I was confident we would make it to the site of the work party but I was unsure whether I would need to charge some on the Level 2 station in Tehachapi on the way back.

As it turned out, the car performed well and when we were ready to leave after lunch we simply turned around and drove the 80 miles back to Bakersfield.

I drove on the freeway at the speed limit, took some surface streets in California City, and drove several miles down a dirt track to the preserve. There were strong Westerly winds through the Tehachapi Pass. The winds were probably 20 mph through the pass and near that on the desert.

Headwinds have a severe impact on electric vehicle (EV) range. A 10 mph headwind will increase energy consumption by 12% and a 20 mph headwind will increase consumption by 24% if the rate of consumption remains the same according to EV Trip Planner. In other words, a 20 mph headwind can reduce range by 24% if the winds are encountered for the entire route. This exceeds the reserve I try to retain. However, in this case such strong winds are only encountered in the Tehachapi Pass and on the desert. And on the return trip the tailwind improves range by reducing consumption.

Both estimators, EV Trip Planner and Green Race had difficulty finding the destination, so did Google and my GPS for that matter. The site is in the middle of nowhere as far as GPS is concerned. However, EV Trip Planner’s map interface is easier to correct to the exact location than that of Green Race.

The planners estimated 82 miles and we drove 80 to the work party site.

Unlike my previous trip to Palmdale, on this trip Green Race’s 30 kWh Leaf underestimated the amount of energy required, 43.1 kWh, to the actual amount consumed of 44.5 kWh. Both EV Trip Planner (Nissan Leaf alpha pull down) and Green Race (Bolt category) estimated 47.6 kWh would be needed. The two trip planners’ over estimated consumption by only 3 kWh or less than 10%.

This trip illustrates once again the difficulty of accurately estimating range or energy consumption because of the difficulty of accurately accounting for headwinds. Nevertheless, the Bolt performed well and I was able to make the 160-mile trip through the Tehachapi Pass and on the Mojave Desert and return with 15 kWh charge remaining. The range remaining is about the total working range of the 24 kWh Nissan Leaf we drove previously.