Guest contributor: Sharon Talbott
My husband John and I have been steadily working at electrifying our lives to stop burning CO2. We’ve both been in the climate tech world for decades, and as an anthropologist (me) and an engineer (John), we read with interest all the different experiences people are sharing about their own strategies. John makes prodigious spreadsheets, while I consume user experience stories — that’s how it usually breaks down.
John’s spreadsheets are full of therms and kilowatt-hours hand exponential decay models, based on specs and performance logs reported by early-adopter types, to help us make decisions on PV solutions, energy efficient appliances, how we can DIY Vehicle-to-Home battery storage, or whether geothermal heat pumps are a viable option for us. (Why yes, he is in fact a white, male engineer.) Meanwhile I’m asking my Asian brethren if they can still get the same tasty food out of a wok using an induction stove, or whether a woman can feel safe at a sketchy EV charging stations in the back of the strip mall at night.
I think this yin-yang relationship is probably why our marriage works.
We love the emerging genre of people vlogging their EV life, as a way to help others who are considering EVs and who have practical questions about how to manage their energy and their lifestyle needs.
We learned a lot on our 2,800 mile road trip loop from San Francisco to Albuquerque via the Grand Canyon and Zion, and we want to share.
Impressive Range is Possible — You can go a long way in the Southwest U.S.A. — we went almost 2,800 miles in our Chevy Bolt, and could go around 240 miles on each ~50 kWh charge.
You can save a ton of money — We paid about $150 for charging for the whole 2,780 mile trip. At $6.50 a gallon for gas, an efficient ICE car could conceivably have cost us 10 times that much. Some public chargers we used were free (like in the National Park).
Use apps — With a good app like PlugShare, you can easily map your trip and know where all the working charging stations are, and give yourself some flexibility if you have to change it up because of a side trip or unexpected battery usage.
Charging is easy, but there are some tips and tricks to consider — Electrify America is ubiquitous, the charging experience is easy and intuitive, and the stations are pleasant and well maintained. Watch out for some stations, like ChargePoint, which charge by the hour. Batteries charge more slowly as they near capacity or in hot weather, so plan your routes and your charging times accordingly.
The EV car owning community is diverse — Young and old, couples, parents with their grown kids, families, lots of women drivers, significant representation of people of color. We had a great time hanging out with people at charging stations, even in 110-degree heat.
Electrification and renewable energy has an appeal and a following regardless of rural/urban, left/right politics — In Needles, CA the Electrify America station is a big bank of chargers shaded by a shiny solar-powered cover, next to a bank of free municipal charging units. The town paper’s headline that week was all about their utility commission’s shift to renewable energy and electrification. I keenly felt the historical context, as this re-invention was in keeping with the town’s history of being a transportation hospitality stop — when it was the railroad, when it was Route 66, and now for EV road trippers.
EV love is a thing — EVs are fun to drive. We heard many comments from friends of drivers who said, “I want an EV for my next car because of the power/the quietness/the smooth ride/the cool dashboard.” People also love the easy maintenance, and we heard all sorts of humble-brags about battery maintenance, the lack of mechanical breakdowns, and cool form factor of the parts and mechanisms.
Many happy marriages, including ours, are lived in the context of EV Life — Good communication and trip planning, plus the fun of learning and adventuring together, made for a great trip. I especially loved the couple we met in Vegas who decided to drive there and back from SoCal that day… just to see if they could.
EV as in “Existential Value” ?
I got quite philosophical on this trip. Touching and grounding on ancient rocks will do that to you. All through the trip I thought about change. What needs to pass away to make room for new ways of being? Transition is not an on-off switch — we build on what was here before, and sometimes the old and new co-exist.
We still prop up the old and the familiar, even when it no longer serves — like a petrified tree I saw in Painted Desert, held up by a modern concrete slab to hover over a river that ceased to be a river millennia ago.
Our current existential crisis would not even be a millimeter of a layer in the geological record. But to us, it’s as tall and deep as the Grand Canyon.
Our choices still matter. The threat of future extinction does not invalidate our present vibrancy. Someday perhaps the outcome of our choices might even be unearthed and preserved, a mystery for some future species to wonder at.
Special thanks to Sharon Talbott, who is the Director of Industry Experience Marketing for Energy & Utilities at Salesforce, for permission to reprint an abridged version of this article for EV Love. See the full article with many more photos and embedded content at https://medium.com/@sharon2talbott/ev-life-our-2800-mile-road-trip-in-a-chevy-bolt-through-the-southwest-usa-a5d4e7e8edd9.