Chevy Bolt first drive

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Warren   100 kW

100 kW
Posts: 1322
Joined: Oct 05 2010 11:35am

last week's Blue Ridge Parkway trip

Post by Warren » May 24 2019 12:34pm

I have wanted to see the entire Blue Ridge Parkway since moving here in 1974. I had been up and down the northernmost 120 miles by car, and bicycle, but not the remaining 289 miles. Switching to the Bolt made the adventure even more attractive to me. I realized last week that it was now practical, thanks to the VW Dieselgate chargers going in.

My plan was to do the 409 miles north to south, then drive up the 31 miles through Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and on to Dandridge, Tennessee, to visit my cousin...686 miles in two days. The third day I would drive back home 363 miles on interstates.

Day 1

Left home at 8:36 am with 90% "hilltop" charge. It was 55 F, and partly sunny, when I left. I had preheated the cabin while still plugged in. I ran with outside air on the windshield, and seat and steering wheel heat. Drove Rt 250 to the north entrance of the BRP. Getting on I-64, briefly, around Charlottesville, I saw a Tesla Model X.

Headed down the BRP at 9:35 am. Left the BRP at milepost 91, up Rt 43 for 17.6 miles to the fast charger at Brugh's Mill Country Store. Arrived at the charger at 12:30 pm, with 29% SOC.

The car connected fine, but the credit card reader failed to read my card. Rather than fool with it, I headed into the store to empty my bursting bladder, and get some lunch. The store's credit card reader took my card just fine. At this point I had lost 10 minutes of charging time. I went out to the charger and tried again. Same problem. I called the customer service number. The nice gal on the phone had me try it all again while she watched on her computer. She asked me to move the car to another charger and try again...same result. This time she shut down the entire charger. All the high tech looking green and blue lights went out, the display screen went black, and the machine restarted. The display finally came back up with the time showing 5 pm. She said that was the default setting, and it would show the correct time once it finished rebooting. The display showed 1:02 pm when it finally accepted my card!!

I headed back to the BRP at 2 pm, with 83% SOC..

Past the Roanoke area, the road flattened out, and it was mostly rolling farmland to milepost 229, where I got on Rt 21 to the Fairfield Inn in Elkin, NC.

Arrived at the hotel at 6:28 pm, 331.6 miles, 4.8 mi/kWh, 21.6% SOC. There were two ChargePoint pedestals, with two cables each. I had never seen a J1772 unit that required an RFID card to unlock. I called the customer service number, and the friendly gal unlocked it for me. Plugged in and the dash said it would be charged to 100% at 2:30 am. I checked into the hotel, and walked down the road 0.7 miles to a strip mall with lots of food options. I went to a Mexican restaurant and had my usual...rice, beans, chicken burritos, and a Corona.

Day 2

After a great night's sleep, a shower, the included breakfast, and my travel mug full to the top with black coffee, I left the Fairfield Inn at 6:29 am with 100% SOC. I preheated the cabin while still plugged in, and again drove with only outside air on the windshield, heated seat, and steering wheel. It was 44 F.

There were three DC fast chargers along the remaining 240 miles of the BRP. Never having been on the Parkway down here, I figured I would watch my energy consumption, and decide where to charge as I went along.

The terrain turned out to be much more dramatic than anything in Virginia, but the speed limit is still 45 mph. I hardly had an opportunity to straighten the wheel for more than a few hundred yards at a time. I lost count of the number of tunnels, some with tight spiral turns, one even had an S turn! There was a spectacular bridge, cantilevered off of a rock cliff face. I wish there had been a place to pull off to catch a picture of that. Likewise, a section of road between a rock face, and a roaring river, that curved around about 180 degrees. Saw lots of jutting rock formations, springs, rapids, etc.

As someone who enjoys carving around curves in a great handling car, this was a day to remember. I was not alone. I encountered one Chevy Volt, hundreds of flailing motorcycles, sports cars, muscle cars, hot rods, and more three-wheeled sport buggies than I have seen in my life.

I can't imagine how terrifying the BRP, in North Carolina, must be for the many dozens of bicyclists I saw...especially in the dark tunnels where they must count on the line of reflectors, three feet from the tunnel wall, to keep them safe from crazed motorists.

Even with very spirited driving, I was seeing 4.2 mi/kWh at my first charging decision point. At milepost 292, I could have driven down Rt 321 for 20.4 miles to the fast charger at the utility office, in Lenoir, NC. We used this charger twice, on our trip to Tennessee, in October of 2017, a 150 mile detour off of I-81. I decided that, even with a side trip up Mount Mitchell, I would still have plenty of charge to make it to the DC fast chargers in Asheville.

The 4.8 miles to the top of Mount Mitchell was nice. At 11 am, at milepost 355, I headed up the steep, narrow, winding road, which thankfully has a 25 mph speed limit. At that speed I rolled the window down to enjoy the air. I saw a Tesla Model S at the restaurant just down the hill from the parking lot at the top. I reset the energy center screen at the bottom to see what kind of mileage I would get going up. The green bar sat at about 1.5 mi/kWh. I parked at the top, and hiked, with dozens of others, to the observation platform at the summit. I chatted with two motorcycle tourists, one of whom has a BMW i3, in addition to his BMW touring bike. On the ride down I picked up 1.5 kWh.

At milepost 384, I drove the 6.8 miles up Rt 240 to the DC fast chargers at Asheville, arriving at 1:35 pm, with 34.1% SOC. I plugged in, and tried the credit card. Thankfully, it only took the gal at customer service five minutes to get this one working. This was the first time I had ever been at a Sam's Club. Fortunately, you don't need to be a member to use the restrooms, as I didn't see anything else nearby. I left Asheville at 2:35 pm, with 84.3% SOC.

As I rolled along watching the scenery, and the other road users, I kept thinking of the moonshiner movies I saw as a kid. Off the interstates, the mountainous roads in North Carolina, and Tennessee, seem to instill two philosophies of driving. One I would call a vehicular version of snake handling, where the driver motors along at the limit of tire adhesion, around blind curves, without a thought of deer, turkeys, fallen rock, or pedestrians. The idea being that, if you believe, Jesus will protect you. The other, for the less devout, is a fatalistic attitude of, "If it's your time, it's your time." The results for both, as my cousin assures me, are weekly flaming wrecks.

At 5:25 pm, and 51.0 % SOC, I stopped at the Oconaluftee Visitor's Center, a half mile up Rt 441, past the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, 621.1 miles, 5.0 mi/kWh since leaving home. I checked out the Greenlots DC charger at the visitor center to confirm that it was still out of service, as PlugShare users had mentioned for months.

The first half of my 65.5 mile drive to the hotel, and EVgo fast charger, in Dandridge, Tennessee was a very pleasant surprise. The 31 miles through the Great Smoky National Forest was posted at 35 mph, and was at least as spectacular as the southern end of BRP.

I arrived at the Holiday Inn Express at 7:27 pm, 33% SOC, 686.2 miles, 5.1 mi/kWh average, so far. I checked in, and drove to the Exxon next door to use the EVgo charger. These are old 50 kW chargers, not nearly as fast as the new 150 kW units, but in my experience, EVgo chargers just work without hassle. I walked across the road to another Mexican restaurant for a repeat of the previous day's fare. I restarted the charger after my meal, as the EVgo charger shuts down after 45 minutes. I stopped the second session at 88% SOC. and parked back at the hotel.

Day 3

Thursday was forecast to be 20 F warmer than the first two days, and I opted for shorts, and a tee shirt, after two days in jeans and sweatshirt. After breakfast, I drove several miles to hang out with my cousin for a few hours. I headed back to the interstate, for home, at 11:15 am. I ran 75 mph, with AC set to 68 F, to the DC fast charger at Wytheville, Virginia. Even exceeding the speed limit, I arrived when Google maps predicted, due to continual tie-ups with trucks.

I arrived at the Wytheville Sheetz at 1:31 pm at 17.3% SOC, 154 miles since the hotel, 840.4 miles, 4.8 mi/kWh, so far. The chargers were out on the white concrete, with no shade, as usual. The sun was blasting directly into the display screens, making them almost impossible to see. The first charger I pulled up to said "not available", and I noticed that the fancy light bars down the edge of the chargers were red. The bars on the next one were green, so I pulled over there. Before attempting to charge, I went in to use the restroom, and buy lunch. I got a turkey and veggie wrap and coffee, and verified that the store's credit card reader took my card. Charging went off without a hitch, and I noticed that the light bars are blue during charging. I was so shocked by my good fortune that I forgot to record any data, other than heading out at 2:55 pm.

I continued at 75 mph, AC on, arriving again almost to the minute per Google, at Brugh's Mill Market at 4:11 pm, at 47.8% SOC. I have been to this location four or five times now, and only once managed to charge on the first try. This time, I plugged in, the charger said the car was connected, I ran my card, and it was accepted. I was so happy I ran to the store. When I got back some minutes later, with my coffee and snack, it said the charge had failed. Everything worked on the second try, and I managed to leave at 5:04 pm, again failing to record any data.

I ran 75 mph, AC on, up I-81, and down I-64, arriving home at 6:49 pm, at 25.9% SOC, 1,049.1 miles total, 4.6 mi/kWh average, and 43.4 mph average speed for the three days.

I am sure I could have saved a few dollars, and maybe an hour, if I had tried to calculate the minimum charge needed to make it from one charger to the next. I didn't even consider it. This was a fun adventure, not a timed event.
BRP trip Elkin.jpg
BRP trip Mount Mitchell 1.jpg
BRP trip Mount Mitchell 1.jpg (119.94 KiB) Viewed 134 times
BRP trip Mount Mitchell 2.jpg
BRP trip Mount Mitchell 3.jpg
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BRP trip Mount Mitchell 5.jpg
BRP trip 15 mile descent.jpg
BRP trip Oconaluftee.jpg
BRP trip Dandridge.jpg
BRP trip Wytheville.jpg
We are over 24K miles now, and the Bolt is still the best car we have ever owned.

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