About a month ago, I shared my experiences from the first month of ownership of my Bolt EUV. I thought I had given it a pretty good test, but I managed to test several important aspects of Bolt EUV ownership to much greater extremes since then.
Most people wouldn’t do all of the things I’ve done with a Bolt, but for everyone else with more sane plans for an EV, I hope that what I’m going to share in this series of articles will help you learn about the limits. This will probably give you a good idea of whether the vehicle would fit your needs, or if you need to find something else (or wait for something like the Equinox EV).
In this series, I’m going to cover:
- Having GM and my local utility pay for 48-amp (11.5 kW) charging installation (a continuation of this story)
- A Texas-Sized Road Trip
- The Yee-Hawtobaun (The fastest road in the Americas)
- A grueling off-highway drive
Part 1: GM Charging Station Install (Continued)
One of the really cool things GM does for 2022-23 Bolt and Bolt EUV buyers is provide free charging station installation. The reason for this is pretty obvious: installing Level 2 charging at home makes it a lot easier to own an EV, and it isn’t always cheap to get the job done right. You can learn more about GM’s program and my experience with it so far here, at my first article about it.
Higher packaged Bolt and Bolt EUVs come with Chevrolet’s Dual Level Charge Cord Set, and it can be added during the purchase of base package Bolts that don’t include it (for a small fee), or purchased afterward from GM parts departments. Like Tesla’s Mobile Connector, Chevy’s cord set has removable ends to plug into 120v NEMA 5-15 outlets or 240v NEMA 14-50 outlets, like you’d find at an RV park. I’ve read here that they’re going to offer more plugs, perhaps for TT-30, 5-20, or dryer plugs. 240v charging maxes out at 32 amps with this cord set, allowing for roughly 7.7 kW charging under ideal conditions.
For most people, that’s good enough, and GM will hire Qmerit to just install a 14-50 plug in your garage or driveway that you can use the cord set to charge with. When leaving town, you can always unplug it and pack it under the false floor in the trunk. It’s also possible to fix the unit to the wall or hang it up securely when it’s being used over and over in the same place, which makes for an attractive and safe situation.
For me, 7 kW just wasn’t enough. I wanted to charge my EUV at the maximum power its onboard charger can accept. I paid for 11.5 kW, and I want my 11.5 kW. It’s not a huge difference in charging speed (6 vs 10 hours from dead to full), but where I live, the only DC fast charging stations live on dealer lots and can only be used during business hours. Being able to get a few more miles on a day when I do an unusual amount of driving is worth it.
Plus, I had an Emporia smart EVSE on hand, and it made sense to use that charging station and hopefully test it with some other Emporia power management devices. So, I opted for Qmerit’s “non-standard” installation, where they cover the first $1,250 ($1000 labor/parts, $250 permitting), and bill you for the balance.
To run 6 AWG wiring from my electrical panel, under my manufactured home (yes, it’s a double-wide trailer, but that’s the fancy term), under part of my front yard, and onto a post in my driveway, the electrician quoted almost double what GM and Qmerit would pay. But, I took advantage of El Paso Electric’s rebate program to cover the other half of the installation cost.
The electrician who came out was professional, did a great job putting in a good-looking installation (even if most of it will be buried or hidden under the house), and did it all in one afternoon. The next day, I got a bill from Qmerit for the remaining balance, which I’m going to pay using a reimbursement check El Paso Electric is going to cut soon.
The only thing left is to wait for the inspector to come by so I can bury the conduit and button things up, but I’ve been through enough here to know that GM and Qmerit really will put in Level 2 charging at your house, even if you don’t want the “standard installation.” There was one point where the electrician and Qmerit didn’t understand something, but it was a misunderstanding that was relatively easy to iron out. If you don’t need anything unusual in your charging install, it should be pretty straightforward.
Dealers Need To Understand The Situation Better
While GM and my utility are doing things right, there’s a weak point: dealers.
While I’m pretty happy with the dealer I ultimately bought my EUV from, the sales personnel didn’t seem to understand EVs, charging stations, and available local incentives very well. They knew about the GM/Qmerit deal, but I was surprised that they didn’t offer a lot of information about home charging.
At a minimum, I think dealers should be not only ready to sell you a car and send you an e-mail with information about the GM charging installation, but they should also bury new EV buyers with information about tax credits, local incentives from governments and utilities, and perhaps even have some contact information for local electricians. You should come away from the dealer with a plan for getting charging installed, in other words, or the information you need to make a plan with ease.
They should also tell you where to find local charging stations, how to plan road trips, and many other things they’re not telling you right now. I know some dealers have EV specialists who do this stuff very well, but they’re probably finding that most buyers at this early part of the adoption curve are “power users.”
The total “n00bs” who know next to nothing about EVs aren’t going to do very well unless their needs are totally covered by a standard charging installation and they never drive out of range of it.
In Part 2, I’m going to cover my Texas-sized road trip, followed by the other things I promised at the top.
All images by Jennifer Sensiba.
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