I knew having two electric-powered vehicles in the garage would initially present some charging problems. We have a garage fridge and an air compressor that already like to trip the circuit breaker when both are running full-tilt. Charging two vehicles from that same 120V circuit was going to be tricky.
Offset Charging Schedules
Until we could add a dedicated 240V circuit, the first thing I did was set charging schedules for both vehicles. I set the Bolt to charge from Midnight to 4PM. Because I work from home, I tend to drive my car (usually to rehearsal) after work.Continue reading
Setting the Bolt’s charging schedule is a bit complex. It’s labeled rate scheduling because you can configure it to match your power company’s off-peak, mid-peak, and peak rates for weekdays and weekends, summer and winter. Lots of options!
I set the car to charge on off-peak only when at home and then made the off-peak hours Midnight to 4PM every day, year-round. Done and done.
The Pacifica is easier to set a schedule. It simply has start and stop times for weekdays and weekends. I set it to charge from 4PM to Midnight every day.
Because both vehicles clocks are synced to the cell phone network or GPS, I made them turn on/off at the exact same time. This seemed to work for a while until I tripped the breaker at 4PM one day. Just one second of overlap with one car coming off the charge and the other firing up was enough to trip the 20 amp circuit.
Both vehicles use 15-minute increments in their scheduling software. So I set the Bolt to charge from 12:15AM to 3:45PM to give a buffer. Still, on days when both cars were driven, neither were getting a full charge, so it was time for an upgrade.
240V Outlet & Level 1.5 Charging
To facilitate a Level 2 charger, we had an electrician install a 14-50 50-amp RV-style 240V outlet in the garage. If you have a 240V outlet and don’t yet have a Level 2 charger – don’t worry, you can double your charge rate with the included “portable” charger.
Dual Level 2 Charging
After the electrician installed a 50-amp 240V outlet, it was time to go big
or go home at home. I ordered a Clipper Creek 40-amp dual car charger. While it’s true that most charging stations are just “fancy extension cords” – this one has some smarts in it. If two cars are charging at the same time it will split the charge and feed 20-amps to each vehicle. If only one vehicle is charging, it will get the full 40-amps.
At that rate, the van can charge fully in 2 hours and the Chevy could always get to a full charge overnight. Because having a Level 2 charger means we can really blast some power into charging, I set both vehicles charging schedules to 9PM-9AM which is off-peak for my power company.
While I’m waiting to get my Bolt’s battery replaced because of the recall, I need to keep it outside. To be able to charge in the driveway I purchased a 40-amp J-1772 extension cable. It adds 20 feet to to my garage charger so I can reach it in the driveway. So the charge handle doesn’t just get left on the ground (or in the snow), I mounted a EV holster to the side of the garage.
When I first got the message about the battery recall affecting every model year Bolt, I started parking the car in the driveway (per Chevy’s recommendation). Before I got the extension cord I switched from using the high-amp Clipper Creek charger to the included “portable” charger, but plugged into 240 volts. This worked great for a while because I could use a normal extension cord with the included charger. To work on 240 volts, the extension cord just has to have low-gauge wires (thick) with no extras like LED indicator lights.
It started to become a nuisance as charging both cars meant I’d have to go out and switch the one active charge plug to the other car once the first was done. I could have purchased a 50-amp RV splitter for $100 and used both portable chargers at the same time. The 50 amp outlet would have more than enough overhead as each portable charger maxes out at 12 amps for 24 amps total. This would actually be a great (cheap!) setup for two cars and 240 volts without having to invest in a big charger.
But I already had the big charger and $100 was more than half of the J-1772 extension, so I went that route and it’s been working great.
Garden Bed & TrainsFor the area, I purchased some Vita 4’x4’x11″ vinyl garden beds from Costco. They came as a 2-pack that you can combine to make a 8’x8′ area. I bought two of those packs which let me combine them to make a 12’x20′ area. Before I did any digging, I loosely fit the vinyl bed parts together in the yard to make sure I knew that the space would be appropriate Continue reading
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…Continue reading
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 📕🍫