Nothing says summer vacation like an all-American family road trip! With an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range on a single charge and a surprisingly spacious interior, the Chevy Bolt EV is just the car for the job. Simply download an app on your phone to find electric vehicle charging stations along the way and let the journey begin!
Can an Electric Vehicle Work for a Family Vacation?
Disclosure: Chevy hosted me for this trip. All opinions, however, are my own.
As electric cars continue to grow in popularity, more and more families are embracing the benefits of owning a car with an electric motor. But when it comes to taking a road trip, are zero-emissions vehicles up for the task? My husband and I hit the road in a new Chevy Bolt to find out!
Over the past several years, battery technology in electric and hybrid vehicles has drastically improved and the number of public charging stations (including fast charging ones) has increased. That – combined with a federal tax credit and available rebates – have caused EV sales to soar. Electrification remains a hot trend.
Recognizing the growing popularity of electric vehicles, many automakers – including Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo, Tesla and of course Chevrolet – have introduced battery electric vehicles. While EVs are all undoubtedly great commuter cars, the one thing many people worry about is taking them on long trips.
So can you take an electric vehicle on a road trip? The short answer to this question is YES! You can. Taking a road trip in an electric vehicle might sound daunting at first, but with a little flexibility and planning it can be done!
We recently visited Sacramento for a road trip through Gold Country, hosted by Chevrolet. As I have never owned an electric vehicle before, I did my fair share of research before getting behind the wheel. One term that kept popping up was “range anxiety.” And it makes perfect sense. In a traditional gas-powered car you never have to worry about finding a gas station on long drives, but EV charging stations are not nearly as ubiquitous.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make range anxiety a non-issue when taking a road trip in an electric vehicle.
There’s an App for That
Isn’t modern technology great? You can quite literally plan your entire vacation from the palm of your hand using a smart phone.
The very first thing you want to do when planning a road trip with an EV is make sure you’ve downloaded a good app that will help you locate charging stations. As charging infrastructure has expanded in recent years, there are now more options than ever. Some of the most popular apps are ChargePoint, EVgo and PlugShare. If you are driving a Chevy like we were, you can also always locate charger stations through the myChevrolet App.
The app will tell you the location of charging stations, and if they have a fast charging option or not. For example, a DC fast charge will give the Chevy Bolt EV 90 miles in about 30 minutes. That is just enough time to grab a quick lunch! But if fast charging isn’t an option, you might only be able to charge enough for 25 miles in an hour.
Use your app to plan where you’ll need to stop and how much time you’ll have to charge your plug-in electric vehicle.
Have a Plan
When you’re taking a plug-in electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid on a road trip, it is important to have a solid plan. The one thing that makes driving an EV slightly more challenging than driving a vehicle that runs on fossil fuels is that it takes just a little more strategizing to enjoy a stress-free road trip.
Before you even hit the road, use your app plan the trip. Map out charging station locations along the way, and more importantly make sure the roads you’re taking have them. Having a good idea of where and when you’ll need to stop to charge up will enable you to plan meals or activities for your family to enjoy during charge time.
It will also help you identify hotels along the way that offer charging stations.
Some charging stations are free, and some charge fees. When planning your route, make sure you keep the distances between charges reasonable. The Bolt EV has an EPA driving range of 238 miles, but air conditioning and other factors can significantly cut into that range. For peace of mind, leave yourself a nice buffer in between stops. I would recommend going no more than 175-180 miles before “filling up.”
Does that mean you can’t be spontaneous? Absolutely not! Life happens. You may decide to swap around your itinerary or make an unscheduled pit stop when the kids need to go. Your plan should leave flexibility in your itinerary. And if you never let the battery drain down past a certain point, you’ll always have that buffer zone to be a little spontaneous.
Have a Plan B
What if there’s a traffic jam, or bad weather, or you arrive at a location and all the charging stations are being used? Always have a Plan B in your back pocket so you don’t get left on the side of the road.
When planning your road trip route, know where you can find other nearby energy sources and chargers – just in case.
Chevy Bolt EV
I had already driven a Chevy Volt and a Toyota Prius (and been a passenger in a Tesla Model 3), so when he opportunity to test drive a Chevy Bolt EV arose, I jumped at the chance!
Road tripping in a Bolt was a fun experience! Driving through the twisty-turny roads in California Gold Country was smooth and exciting. The car is zippy to say the least, and it accelerated quickly. Steering is smooth and accurate.
The Chevy Bolt EV’s regenerative braking system recharges the battery when you lift your foot off the accelerator, meaning you can pretty much drive using just one pedal. (More accurately explained by Car and Driver: When a driver lifts off the accelerator, the regenerative system temporarily converts the electric motor that powers the car into a generator, which then converts the kinetic energy of the car’s forward momentum back into electricity and feeds it into the battery pack.)
The Bolt is a fairly small car, but the interior was surprisingly roomy and offered plenty of leg room. Road tripping with a small family of four would be perfectly comfortable, though five might make for a tight squeeze. Equally surprising to the main cabin’s roominess was the amount of trunk space for such a compact-looking car. We easily fit two suitcases and some backpacks in the trunk for our road trip from Sacramento, and there was still room for plenty more!
While my husband – a life-long Chevy man who currently drives a Silverado truck – was enamored by the compact engine (look how clean it is!) I found myself appreciating the Bolt’s more practical features for a family road trip. Plenty of cup holders, SiriusXM, Wifi, and plenty of spots to plug in phone chargers both in the front and back seats.
What if your EV runs out of electricity on your road trip?
If you have a solid Plan and a Plan B on the back burner, you’re not going to run out of electricity. But if you do – it’s not the end of the road!
Just like with a gas-powered vehicle, running out of juice is an inconvenience but one that can be easily remedied. If you have AAA, they can tow you to the nearest charging station. Many AAA tow trucks now also carry portable fast chargers that will make a tow unnecessary.
Ready to Hit the Road?
With the right planning, the right app and the right vehicle, you’ll soon find that taking a road trip in a car that runs on electric power is really not that different than taking a road trip in a car with a gasoline engine.