Mud, Rocks, EV Capacity, and Flexibility

By Paul Gipe

Our family car–our only car–is a Chevy Bolt. When we want to drive somewhere, we drive the Bolt. The Bolt is a battery-electric vehicle (EV). It runs on electricity. You can’t just pull up to a gas station and “fill it up.”

However, unlike many other EVs, the Bolt has a big battery and that battery will get you places–and back as well.

We recently took a holiday to the quaint mountain town of Ojai. We had more than enough capacity to drive the 124 miles there over the Tejon Pass. That was never a problem. Weather–mudslides and snow–forced us to change our route. That wasn’t a problem either.

Returning the same way would require us to charge en route to return home with a comfortable margin. I had the charge stations in Santa Clarita mapped out. It wasn’t a problem.

As an EV driver, though, you take “opportunity charging” wherever you can find it in case something unexpected comes up.

Ojai has a ChargePoint Level 2 station with two ports downtown at the Park & Ride. We planned to spend most of the day in town being tourists and it was our luck that one of the ports was open. We pulled in, signed in with ChargePoint and walked away. When we returned we had pumped 31 kWh into the Bolt’s 60 kWh battery pack, returning the car to nearly 90% of its capacity. As a bonus, it cost us only $4.43–less per kWh than it does to charge at home.

I’d mapped out our route from Ojai back to Bakersfield retracing our steps. Mapping your route is important when you’re driving an EV so you know what to expect. With nearly a full charge we wouldn’t have to stop on the way. The nearly full battery gave us as much flexibility as you can get in an EV.

The day of our return dawned bright and sunny. A good omen we thought after days of rain. There was snow on the mountains but that was well above our route. It was then we heard the breakfast attendant say the road out was closed while CalTrans blasted a huge bolder that  was part of a mudslide from a Thomas Fire burn scar. CalTrans officially just said the road was closed. That route was out. However, the route down the Ventura River to the ocean was open.

We were flexible. We had a big battery, and that big battery was nearly full. So it was off to Ventura and the coast before turning eastbound up the Santa Clara River valley to join California’s main north-south artery, I-5.

There was no “range anxiety,” no worrying about where and how long to charge, it was just get in the car and go.

It was 16 miles out of our way, but we had plenty of juice.

Gone were the days when we would have to trudge along in the truck lane in our Nissan Leaf to get over the Tejon Pass as we nursed every kWh. Instead, we sped over the mountains in the left lanes like every other Californio. We arrived in Bako with more than one-fifth of a tank to spare.

Others may choose an EV with a small, more economical battery, but give me a big battery every time. It makes driving an EV almost as easy as driving a gasser. Isn’t that the point after all?

See also.