Chevy Bolt Expedition: 200-Mile Round Trip on One Charge

By Paul Gipe

With spring wildflowers beckoning and little chance of breaking social distancing orders, we headed to a remote site between Bakersfield and the coast famous for its spectacular blooms.

The question was, could the Bolt do it? The 210 mile round trip distance was less than the Bolt’s EPA-rated range of 238 miles. Such a trip in Indiana or Nebraska wouldn’t be a question.

Here in California it’s a different story. We would have to climb over the Temblor Range from here in the Central Valley, cross the San Andreas Fault, and several more ridges before we got to Shell Creek. Of course, then we’d have to return. There are no charge stations in that country. There’s not much of anything in fact. There are a few large ranches, some giant solar farms, and that’s about it.

Climbing a mountain range uses more energy than driving on the flats. You recover some of that when you return downhill, but you never gain it all back. And that’s where the uncertainty lies.

As a certified nerd, I don’t like to guess that the Bolt will make it. I plug the numbers into a couple of different route planners and weigh the results. For a new route into a remote area, I like to have ample reserve in case something goes wrong–like an unanticipated detour.

The route to Shell Creek Road from Bakersfield takes sinuous Hwy 58 across the Temblors from the west-side oil seeps near McKittrick across the Carrizo Plain and the 750 MW Topaz solar power plant.

The road over the Temblors is an EV drivers dream. It’s like driving the hair pin turns on the Corniche in France’s Côte d’Azur. An EVs instant–and quiet–acceleration and the Bolt’s aggressive regenerative breaking restores the fun of driving such a road.

The Bolt performed well and we arrived with a little more State-of-Charge than estimated–always a good sign in an EV and especially so on a new route.

The sky was clear, the temperature near perfect, a light breeze, and wildflowers as far as the eye could see. We found hillside daisies (Monlopia lanceolata), lupine (Lupinus sp.), goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), tidy tips (Layia glandulosa), owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), pincushion (Chaenactis sp.), baby blue eyes (Nemophilia menziesii), and more. It was a wildflower paradise and spirit renewing in these dark days of Covid-19.

While there were at least three to four dozen vehicles parked along the road, everyone respected social distancing. This wasn’t hard to do. There were acres to roam free on the unfenced rangeland.

We were not the only EV there. We saw a Hyundai Kona Electric and a Tesla Model 3. We were, without a doubt, the only EV that had driven from Bakersfield, the oil capital of California.

On the return we left Hwy 58 on the Carrizo Plain and drove to the National Monument Overlook for a scenic lunch stop. We had the vast National Monument spread out before us. The sky was so clear we could see southward 50 miles to snow-capped Mount Pinos.

To return to Hwy 58 and the route home we took “7-mile Road” across the plain. We never saw another vehicle the entire time we were crossing the valley floor. This is one of those roads that’s “impassable when wet” signs warn–and we had it to ourselves.

We returned home with 21% charge to spare, averaging 4.8 miles per kWh. The trip used somewhat less than 10% of the charge estimated by ABRP and about 5% less of the charge estimated by Chevy Assist’s energy planner. In this case, Chevy’s Assist estimate was closer to the mark than ABRP.

Once again we found the Bolt fully capable of day trips from home without the need to charge even in mountainous California.