2017 Chevro­let Bolt EV Premier Scott Evans

Motor Trend (USA) - - Long-term Test -

Hose and noz­zle, cord and plug. We’re prompted to think of EV charg­ing like go­ing to the gas sta­tion. But that’s where the sim­i­lar­ity ends.

I can plug the Bolt in dur­ing ei­ther part of the day I won’t be us­ing it for hours at a time: work­ing or sleep­ing. Among to­day’s EV own­ers, this is com­mon but will change as more peo­ple buy EVS. Which brings us to public charg­ing.

Al­though it’s still cheaper than fill­ing up with gas, I avoid public charg­ing, as it’s more ex­pen­sive and less con­ve­nient than charg­ing at work or home. You’ll need at least 45 min­utes to get a good charge. Level 2 charg­ing, the sort you can get wired into your home, is OK if you’re go­ing to be in the same place for sev­eral hours. If you don’t have a charger at home, you could get by on public Level 2 charg­ing as long as you plugged in at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. It’s work­able for city dwellers with short com­mutes but not ideal. Level 1 charg­ing, from a stan­dard wall out­let, is so slow it’s a last re­sort only.

Level 2 charg­ers, be­ing the older tech­nol­ogy, are by far the most com­mon. It used to be they were nearly all free to use, a perk to en­tice cus­tomers with EVS, but those days are gone. This brings us to our next is­sue with public charg­ing: pay­ing for it.

I’ve used public charg­ers from sev­eral com­pa­nies, but there are at least 15 providers op­er­at­ing in the U.S. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them would pre­fer you sign up for a mem­ber­ship and down­load their app, but ev­ery one I’ve tried also al­lows for guest use. Mem­ber­ship perks in­clude bet­ter rates and quicker pay­ment and ac­ti­va­tion at the charger, but the real ben­e­fit is not hav­ing to deal with guest ac­cess, which can be cum­ber­some and time-con­sum­ing. Some Evgo sta­tions I’ve used have credit card read­ers, but most I’ve found haven’t worked. Prices vary wildly be­cause the owner of the sta­tion sets the rates. Some charge a flat fee, some charge by to­tal time or elec­tric­ity used, and oth­ers do both.

The Bolt’s 238-mile range is great for ev­ery­day liv­ing and trips around the greater Los Angeles area. Get­ting some­where far­ther than 120 miles, or half the Bolt’s range, re­quires pre-plan­ning. Ide­ally, wher­ever I’m go­ing there’ll be a public Level 2 charger nearby, and I’ll be there long enough to make it a non­is­sue. That’s hardly a given and rarely the case, though. A DC fast charger makes it a lot eas­ier, but they’re far less ubiq­ui­tous than Level 2s and still add an hour or more to your drive.

“Public charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture can ease range anx­i­ety in an EV, but it can in­tro­duce a host of other com­pli­ca­tions.”

That as­sumes the charger is un­oc­cu­pied, of course. Most places have only one public charger, and most of those only have one plug. Al­though most have both the CHADEMO and SAE CCS plugs, many DC fast charg­ers can only charge one car at a time. On top of oc­cu­pied charg­ers, you also have to worry about gaso­line-pow­ered ve­hi­cles parked at charg­ers, as it’s un­for­tu­nately not un­com­mon for peo­ple to treat them like nor­mal parking spa­ces.

Find­ing an avail­able charger can be a crap shoot, but most apps will tell you if the charger is in use. First, though, you have to find it. Some places put up signs to di­rect you, but of­ten you have to go look­ing, and even the big DC fast charg­ers can hide be­hind a pil­lar or large SUV.

Here in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where EVS are pop­u­lar and public charg­ers are com­mon, public charg­ing is work­able if in­con­ve­nient. So far, the num­ber of charg­ers has kept pace with the pop­u­lar­ity of EVS, but we’re al­ready see­ing lines form­ing at Tesla Su­per­charg­ers. As EVS be­come more pop­u­lar, the public charg­ing net­work is go­ing to need to grow at the same or bet­ter pace to keep up, and whether that happens is any­one’s guess.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.