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Ken G

Our first EV vacation (Canadian)

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We took our first EV vacation in our 2020 Chevy Bolt, travelling from Saskatoon to Vancouver Island and back, a total of about 5100km.  We mostly had shorter driving days as we were visiting friends and family as well as doing touristy things along the way.

We paid a total of $187.16 for charging this trip. We also took advantage of free charging when it was practical to do so, for example, plugging in level 1 charger at hotels and family homes, using level 2 chargers at hotels that had them, and using free public level 2 and DCFCs when we could.  Paid charging accounted for more than half of our energy usage, accounting for 446.9 kWh of the 732.2 we used in the month.

We had 3 longer days of travel where we had to fast charge more than once to get to our destination:

1.      Moose Jaw to Calgary: 4 fast charges ranging in time from 33 to 39 minutes.

2.      Revelstoke to Chilliwack (through Vernon): This was not a planned travel day, but the relatives we were supposed to be staying with in Vernon were under evacuation alert so we changed our plans, had lunch with them, and went on to Chilliwack.

3.      Fernie to Swift Current: 2 fast charges, one 37 minutes (charger was slow), and one 55 minutes to get from Medicine Hat to Swift Current on a single charge (we left with 85% and arrived in Swift Current with 14% state of charge).  The charger in Medicine Hat we used is at Medicine Hat College, and is a 50kW charger, but is also less expensive than others in the city.  It was a windy day with a strong cross wind most of the way.

Some observations:

1.      The Chevy Bolt has one of the slower fast charging speeds of new EVs you can buy today.  Despite this none of the charge stops seemed long to us.  We ate meals or did other things while charging that helped pass time in a productive or fun way.  When eating I sometimes felt rushed to get done and back to the car in time to avoid the slowest part of the charging curve.

2.      We planned our trips using a combination of A Better Route Planner (ABRP) and Plugshare.  The day before each leg I would check Plugshare to see that the stops recommended by ABRP were operational and available. For the trips across the prairies both directions I had to adjust the plan due to unavailable chargers in locations with no other chargers.  The prairies are the weakest part of the charging network right now.

3.      We paid for ABRP pro for the month so it would take into account real time weather and traffic.  We also have an OBD reader and Torque Pro setup so that ABRP had real time data on our car.

4.      Just because a hotel has a charger does not mean you will get to use it.  There may be other guests who need to charge. We were not blocked from using a charger where it was available, but I did observe that others used the charger also.  Make sure you charge and move your car so others can charge.

5.      Hotels without chargers were the most annoying in terms of getting charged up for the next day. We did fast charging the evening before in 3 cases, along with plugging in level 1 in 2 cases.  At one location we plugged into a free level 2 public charger late at night and moved the car early the next morning.

6.      The combination of cruise control and one pedal driving in the mountains in brilliant.  On hilly terrain the cruise control kept the car at the desired speed both up and down the hills.  Your ICE car will not do this…

7.      We had to do an unscheduled charge stop once, when we were going up the hill from Kelowna to Merritt and we hit some heavy rain.  Fortunately there is a free 25 kW DCFC (and level 2) along the route.

8.      The lowest state of charge we hit was coming home, we went from Swift Current to Moose Jaw to visit, then on to Saskatoon.  A 55 minute DCFC in Moose Jaw got us to 83% and we arrived home with 11%.  It was windy and rainy that day so we traveled a bit slower than the speed limit on the divided highway (105 instead of 110).  It would be really nice to have a DCFC available in Davidson or somewhere else along the route.

9.      We never had to wait for a charger.  There was one person waiting for us once (there were other chargers in town), and we had to go to a different charger once.  We never came across a charger that did not work for us, although we did have trouble getting one working once.

10.   For smaller cities and towns, it would really nice to have chargers close to “main street” where there might be some interesting (non-chain) restaurants and shops.  The giant parking lots with a big box store are kind of boring.

11.   Favorite fast charge location: Medicine Hat College.  Charger is less expensive ($12 per hour) in a park like setting with a play structure, pond, walking paths, and solar panels right off highway 1.  Unfortunately there are no services available such as window washing, bathrooms (due to covid), or any place nearby to purchase food.

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This is a great and helpful report! I'll be headed all the way across Canada next month so I'm gathering others experience and info. I realize this is almost a year old now but I'd be interested to know where you found free chargers, especially DC. They are becoming scarce. Did you have much in the way of luggage and cargo to add weight to the car? Interested to know how accurate ABRP was in estimating your arrival charge, especially in the mountains.


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Chris, ABRP is very good at estimating energy consumption, even when you add weight (or drag) it will recalibrate very quickly if you have live data..  If you have the premium version you could set up a new profile for your vehicle (called road trip or something like that), then it would calibrate with the extra weight.  You could then switch between the two profiles.  My wife and I did a 2,400km road trip in BC and Alberta last summer, free DC chargers are not really a thing any more.  Expect to pay for all your fast charging.  That said, our 2,4000km cost CAN$61.  Not exactly expensive.  Just make sure you stick to the "fat" part of your charge curve, and it's very affordable.

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I am going on an adventure soon with my 2018 Leaf (~250km range on a good day) travelling from Victoria, BC to Thunder Bay, Ontario. (3000km)
and will have live data to help me along and will be paying the premium so i can use Android auto.

thank you for sharing your experience....you have a good point of pre-checking the chargers that it suggests for the day to see if there are any problems.
No guarantees on the day-of, but at least worth pre-checking if you can.

With the live data, will it auto-adjust the charging stops based on my driving habits and terrain (mountainous in BC)?
or do you need to keep hitting the re-calculate all the time?
And should I start a new plan each day as my car will be fully charged in the morning.


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Carl, your trip sounds awesome.  If you have live data, ABRP will update itself continously, taking elevation gain/loss, weather, speed, etc into account intitially and as you go.  On my road trip, I did an over all plan, for initial planning, but I did a new plan for each day to account for overnight charging as well as to force a traffic and weather update for better accuracy.

I recommend you also ask ABRP to plan the entire trip before you leave, my IONIQ has a nominal range of 200km (up to 250km in the sping and fall) and when I was looking at a similar trip, there were a few places in Alberta and Saskachewan where DC chargers were spaced further apart than my range.  This meant that I would have needed a long stop and utilise a L2 charger on those legs.  Not a problem if that is where you stay over night or stop for a proper meal, but these are small towns and so probably not a targetted overnight locations.  Hopefully they've installed a few more charge locations by the time you travel.

Hope you have a good trip, keep us posted.

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thanks for the quick reply...I am definetly going to be going premium (it really isn't that expensive..$7 CDN per month and i'll only really need it for about a month)

I've got an overall route figured out...like you said, prairies are a bit tight (Swift Current --> Moose Jaw and then heading east form Regina)

it is doubtful I will follow it to a tee, but at least I have an overall plan....hopefully I can go further than my initial plan...but I haven't really scheduled any lunch breaks, thinking I'll be eating at my charging

also, I don;t understand sitting at a charger for 20 minutes to get you to 60% or something....why not stick around and charge to at least 80%?

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ABRP can plan routes with different priorities.  The default is for quickest arrival, but they also have options for fewer but longer stops and shorter but more stops.

Because most EV's have a pronounced charge curve taper at the top end, it is usually much quicker to have more shorter charges from say 20% to 50% than fewer charges from 20% to 80% (or 90%).  Additionally, because most chargers in Canada, bill you for time, and not power, you also get the added benefit of an overall cheaper "fuel" cost if you can stay away from the taper.

For my IONIQ, the break point is at 74%.  I can charge at full speed from 0% up untill 74%, then my rate starts to fall.  By 85%, it's slowed to half the max speed and by 90% it's a relative crawl.  So I very rarely charge past 75%, unless it's essential to get to the next charger station.  And I never charge at a public charger more than I need to get home where my hydro rate is MUCH cheaper.  Now, the charge curve on the Leaf will be different, but it's definitely something you want to be aware of.  I often see people that have left their vehicle and it's sitting at 95% charging at 9kW (bearly faster than a L2).  It blocks the charger for others and you're still being billed.  For those people, the last 10%, can cost more than the preceeding 80%.  Not great value.  I've often engaged with these people when they return and they generally have no idea that the car will throttle at higher SoC's when using a DCFC.

For the reason above, it's also good to know the expected charge rate for your vehicle at various SoC's.  Because some companies throttle the power delivery rate (PetroCanEV being the worst culperate in Western Canada).  This not only wastes your time, but ends up costing you MUCH more (because they bill you for time and not energy delivered).  Now sometime it's the vehicle that throttles, due to a hot or cold battery, but mostly, it's the charger.  If I see that the charge rate is low, I'll usually disconnect and try again, to see if it's better the second time.  If not and there is another provider nearby, I'll move.  PlugShare is a great resource in this regard.  Reading the check-ins will quickly give you a clear picture of whether the location is well maintained and reliable as well as if they throttle.


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