Trip Report Bakersfield to Palmdale and Return with Chevy Bolt

By Paul Gipe

12 March I drove our Chevy Bolt to the ChargePoint station at the Palmdale Water District (PWD). I had an interview with the executives there, and, conveniently for me, they had recently installed a 24 kW DCFC. This is a round trip of about 200 miles. Because of the steep climb from Bakersfield over the Tehachapi Summit, this circuit is near the edge of the Bolt’s range. I would charge for a half-hour at the DCFC station and pick up a few kWh as a precaution.

It was good that I charged. The trip took a total of 48 kWh, which is within my comfort zone of 20% reserve. However, I was on a photo shoot and had to drive around Palmdale, which cut uncomfortably into the reserve.

I charged at PWD’s station for 30 minutes before my interview, raising capacity from 55% to 69%. The station delivered 20.4 kW to the car and the car registered between 19 kW and 20 kW as I cycled the a/c as needed. (It’s hot in the desert, even this time of year.) The charge added about 8 kW to the traction battery, about what would be expected for a 30-minute charge at a nominal 24 kW DCFC station.

As most EV drivers realize, these 24 kW stations are the bare minimum needed. Why PWD installed such a slow charger so recently isn’t known. I was there to talk about wind turbines and not EVs. There’s only one public Level 2 charge station in Palmdale itself. That’s it! So I am glad that PWD installed the station, even if it’s a slow one.

As noted in a previous trip report, I am comparing actual trip consumption to that estimated by various trip planners in preparation for a trip at the far edge of the Bolt’s range. Consequently, it’s important to know how accurate the estimators or trip planners are before embarking.

This trip entails crossing the Tehachapi Mountains a climb of about 4,000 feet from Bakersfield. According to Tony Williams’ tests, a Nissan Leaf would require about 7 kWh to climb 4,000 feet. This compares favorably with actual results. To travel the 45 miles from Bakersfield to Tehachapi should consume about 10 kWh for a total of about 17 kWh to Tehachapi. This is about what the trip actually requires.

For this trip, I used two pull downs for the Nissan Leaf (alpha and beta) in EV Trip Planner, and three different vehicles in the Swiss estimator Green Race (Leaf 24 kWh, Leaf 30 kWh, and the Bolt).

My intermediate destination or waypoint was Mountain Valley RV Park in Tehachapi. The median of previous trips to this destination in a 24 kWh Leaf was 15.8 kWh from three different trips: 14.9 kWh, 15.8 kWh, and 16.4.

During the trips to Tehachapi in the Leaf, I drove very conservatively, using surface roads as much as possible and drafting trucks climbing the Tehachapi grade. Not so with the Bolt. I drove as I would a gasser. I used the freeway more of the distance than in the Leaf and I drove at the speed limit. I didn’t bother drafting either.

I did no account for wind in either direction. This is a notoriously windy area though on this particular day the winds were light and variable.

My comparisons required that the estimator produce a result not less than actual kWh consumption and as near to actual consumption as possible.

The first leg consumed 16.6 kWh. Green Race’s 30 kWh Leaf estimate came closest. From Tehachapi to Palmdale the Bolt used 10.8 kWh. Again Green Race’s 30 kWh Leaf estimate was closest. Overall from Bakersfield to Palmdale, the Bolt used 27.4 kWh and again Green Race’s 30 kWh Leaf category performed best.

On the return trip, the results were more mixed. From Palmdale to Tehachapi, the Bolt used 14.6 kWh. Here Green Race’s estimate for the 24 kWh Leaf was best. In the Tehachapi to Bakersfield segment Green Race’s 30 kWh Leaf was nearly on the money. For the overall return trip, Green Race’s 24 kWh Leaf results were closes to actual consumption.

Overall, Green Race’s category for the 30 kWh Leaf performed closest to the actual consumption of our Bolt.