Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe in our Bolt

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Sep 21, 2019
For those who have been reluctant to take a challenging trip in a Bolt, our experiences may be reassuring.

My wife and I drove from West Los Angeles (essentially sea level) to Lake Tahoe (6200 feet) and back. Total distance about 950 miles with several 7000 foot plus passes along the way. We relied on Electrify America stations, although in one case we used an EVGo station because it was right along our route while the nearest EA station would have taken us a few miles off our desired route.

I preferred EA because all the stations along our route offered 4 double outlet charging stations, so availability was not an issue. We chose to take US Highway 395 along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains not only because it was much more scenic than the two possible routes through California's central valley (Interstate 5 and US 99) but also because it was more EV-challenging. Highway 99 passes through many cities and towns, and there are dozens of DCFC charging opportunities. I believe that trip could be safely taken with very little advance planning. 395 goes through isolated desert and mountain areas so I planned in advance.

Leaving Los Angeles, Highway 14 climbs several thousand feet into the Mojave desert. Our first planned stop was in Mojave, home of the Spaceport and near the legendary Edwards AFB. It's 91 miles from my home. The second stop was at Coso Junction, 167 miles from home. Theoretically we could have made it to Coso on our initial full charge, but I decided to be conservative in view of the fact that this was my first outing of this type. We arrived in Mojave having used 32.6 kWh so I elected to add some charge rather than stretching things. I believe the high usage of energy was due to elevation change, high speed (typically 75 MPH) and headwind.

The Mojave station is in the parking lot of a Comfort Inn, so no activities but at least there are bathrooms. I tried tapping my phone on the charger, but it wasn't recognized. I phoned EA and they suggested using the app instead, which worked fine. In short order I charged to 70% and proceeded to Coso Junction which is totally in the middle of nowhere. There's a gas station with 4 double EA chargers and a small store. My wife an I dined on beef jerky while the car charged. The clerk said there were typically two or three cars per day using the chargers. It's good we added charge in Mojave because our consumption at Coso Junction was 59 kWh from Los Angeles, so we'd have been sweating a bit

Additional stops were in Bishop (262 miles from home) and Bridgeport (352 miles). In both cases, the chargers worked fine using the app.

Our final stop was at a grocery store in Gardnerville, NV (417 miles). It's a single EVGo, so I was worried it might be unavailable but my backup was the EA chargers in Carson City, a few miles out of my way. I stopped only for 15 minutes there, but I had no idea how much energy I would need on the long, steep Highway 50 grade from the desert to Lake Tahoe. As it turned out, this was unncessary and I could easily have skipped it. The climb from Gardnerville (4700') to Tahoe (6200) required only 6 kWh

We arrived at Squaw Valley (481 miles) having used 153 kWh and with 70 miles of range remaining.

The trip home was much easier...downhill and with a tailwind...and used about 125 kWH Again, average speed about 75. Our first stop was in Bishop (212 miles from Tahoe), then Coso Junction, Mojave, and home. We arrived home with out 40 miles reserve.

In summary, the trip was not as easy as in a gas car, but easy enough. All the stations except Gardnerville supported up to 350 kW charging, so if the Bolt charged faster it would have been nice but not a big deal. In my opinion the claim "...there's no infrastructure, you can't travel out of town..." no longer has validity due to the build-out of the Electrify America network. Basically, even along this isolated route there was fast charging every 100 miles or so.
Thanks for the report. I just picked up a 2020 Bolt, and was wondering if I could make a trip to Mammoth and back. Looks entirely possible.
Michael: Nice report!

FYI: I make the trip to Mojave often from the San Fernando Valley just to get out of the house during the pandemic.

There is an excellent Stater Brothers market a little further up the 14 just to the right after you hit Hiway 58, in case next time you want to pick up some groceries.

I usually buy lunch and eat it at the Comfort Inn EA if I feel I need the top-off, but usually I make the round trip easily back home to charge up.