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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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