by Nelson Lomeli, SCP Programs Manager
I took my Chevy Bolt on my first ever all-electric road trip to visit a friend in Arcata in Humboldt County. The total trip length from my home in Santa Rosa to Arcata is about 226 miles and the range on my Bolt is 228 – just enough to get up there on one charge. However, highway driving, the multiple hills along the way, and the warm weather that required AC usage meant that I was going to need to stop and do a quick charge.
Being my first road trip, I looked on PlugShare.com to see where the fast chargers, known as Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) were located. To my pleasant surprise, there are a number of fast chargers along Highway 101 thanks to investments from the California Energy Commission and private parties.
Starting my trip with a fully charged EV and knowing my range, I planned to stop in Laytonville in Mendocino to do a quick charge. The fast chargers in Laytonville are located next to Anna’s Asian Palace and co-located with eight Tesla Superchargers and a Level 2 charger. They’re easily visible from the road and within walking proximity to Pour Girl Coffee and a Market.
The chargers each offer CHAdeMO and CCS plugs, have large bright screens that show you the speed of charging, cost, and time spent, and have a secondary LED screen on top that shows you when it’s in use or when it’s free. The site also offers benches and trash cans for your convenience.
These chargers are 62.5 kW capable but unfortunately, Chevy limits the charging capacity on my Bolt to 50 kW, so I couldn’t take full advantage of the higher capacity and speed. However, I noticed that when I plugged in, my Bolt peaked at charging at 56 kW before going down to 37 kW after five minutes. As it neared 80%, the charge slowed down again to 23 kW – probably a battery safety feature built-in by Chevy to make sure the batteries last longer.
A lot of EVs out there are capable of charging at higher capacities than my Bolt is so these 62.5 kW fast chargers are a welcomed investment. I knew that I didn’t need to fully charge the Bolt to get to Arcata but because I wasn’t in a rush, I decide to get it to 80% just to see how long it took – only 30 minutes – and I was on my way to Arcata.
Since I had checked PlugShare, I knew that neither Arcata nor Eureka currently have fast chargers (they’re coming!) and that my friend's place didn’t offer an opportunity to charge, I made one more stop at Bear River Casino and Resort in Loleta to charge again. I knew that there were publicly available Level 2 chargers throughout the two cities, but I didn’t want to park my car and hog a charger for hours, so stopped out of courtesy. This was at 50 kW ChargePoint chargers which took a bit longer to reach 80% – about 45 mins.
To my surprise, as I was driving up the hill to Bear River Casino, I noticed a solar and wind combination system! While the car charged, I went exploring looking for the system to take pictures. It was incredible to see the two renewable energy systems integrated into one project.
I venture to guess that the energy generated from this system must be going to help offset the electrical usage of the Bear River Recreation Center. I also noticed that each of the streetlights had two solar panels on top to help offset its usage, which was innovative. And of course, you couldn’t miss the beautiful vistas of Humboldt County.
I’ll skip over the details of my weekend, but I will say that I managed to get a full charge on my car using the publicly available Level 2 chargers in Arcata. Starting my return trip with a full charge, I only needed to stop in Laytonville one more time for 20 minutes quick charge because I could charge at home. The stop was just enough time to go get some snacks and take a bathroom break.
When I returned to work, I learned that more fast chargers are on the way, including fast chargers in Eureka and Arcata which will make the trip even that much better! Overall, it was an extremely pleasant and easy all-electric trip to the Lost Coast.
For anyone thinking a road trip in an EV isn’t possible, I’m here to say that not only is it possible, but it’s also enjoyable and affordable! My entire 450+ mile adventure cost me $32.89 in charging cost – much less than a tank of gas – and I even had the AC on! If you have the opportunity, I recommend taking an all-electric road trip.