There’s a terrible article from the Detroit Free Press making its rounds – claiming to be a “study” comparing EV charging costs to gas costs. It has been picked up by USA Today and other news outlets. There have also been several rebuttals, most notably one from Car and Driver.
I took a road trip earlier this year in my new Chevy Bolt. While it’s not a study, I hope you’ll find my personal story and anecdotal evidence compelling.
TL;DR? I drove from Minneapolis to Chicago and back, and it cost me $45.90 in energy for the whole trip.
- $11.15 – Tomah, WI
- $14.62 – Rockford, IL
- $5 – Hotel
- $9.31 – Madison, WI
- $5.82 – Eau Claire, WI
Here are all of the details…
Before I went on my first EV road trip, I needed to know where to stop, as there aren’t fast charging stations on every corner like gas stations. The best resource for finding charging stations across all of the different networks is plugshare.com.
All of the other fast charging stations we used were Electrify America. I don’t want to make this an Electrify America commercial – but they seem to have a pretty darn good DC fast charging network:
Probably second only to the Tesla Supercharger network:
An aside about Electrify America – it’s a Volkswagen company created in the wake of their diesel scandal.
I’ve seen some complaints that the only reason they’re not buying a Chevy Bolt specifically is because of the charge rate. I could see this argument as valid if you’re consistently doing cross-country road trips. But for a 400-mile (each way) road trip, this car is great.
The Bolt will fast charge at around 53kw – a far cry from the hundreds of kilowatts the Teslas will slurp up, but it’s no slouch. On our trip we left in the morning and our first charge was at lunch time. After an hour lunch it charged from 25% to over 90% – good to go for another 200+ miles.
It’s sort of topsy turvy to think about charging in terms of miles per hour – the charger is stationary 🤓 But Level 1 & 2 and DC fast chargers can all pump X amount of miles back into your EV in an hour.
At 53kw when you’re at the bottom of the tank it will fill about 28 miles every 10 minutes. That comes out to 168MPH, but that’s not the full story. Charging will slow in all EVs as they approach the top of the tank so to speak. Full charge rate usually starts dropping off somewhere between 66-80% charge level. Around 66% when the charge rate is between 30-40kwh, the Bolt added 18 miles in 10 minutes (108MPH).
At our second stop we just needed to “top up” to get to the final destination. Topping up is a bit of a misnomer. EV lithium batteries take the fastest charge when they’re below 50%. So it’s best to use the middle range of the battery and not get hung up on getting it to 100%. The very end of the charge takes longer because all of the battery cells need to reach their maximum voltage together without going over 🔋🔥
Hotel & Return Trip
I found a hotel on plugshare.com that had a level 2 (240 volt) charger. The $5 was a single-use fee that the hotel charged to activate the charger. You could probably find a hotel that includes it for free, but it wasn’t a big deal. I paid the $5 and charged up to 100% which covered all my in-town trips, plus enough power leftover to get to Madison on the way out of town.
On our way home during the last charge, the Bolt went from %18 to 60% in 35 minutes. It brought the range back up to 160 miles – more than enough to get home from Eau Claire to Minneapolis with energy to spare.
What do you do while you’re waiting?
One thing I didn’t expect to do was talk to curious people noticing me plugging the monster cable into a little hatchback. One guy who just bought an EV chatted me up while he was going around town to get familiar with his neighborhood charging stations.
Another guy wanted to know what we did while it charged. Well, I had a conversation with him – how meta. We told him about the new Ford F-150 Lightning as he needs a truck for his farm.
If no one else is around and it’s not mealtime, we both brought books. I honestly didn’t get more than a chapter in between the bathroom breaks, the conversations, and snack time 📕🍫