On the road with Bolt EV, part 2

The trunk was packed again to make the return trip to Naju from Ulsan

After arriving in Ulsan and charging the Bolt EV's battery as seen in the last post, my four-member family went about our own business for a couple of days. When it was time to return home, we dropped by a nearby Costco to pack up some items in the trunk. While the space was smaller compared to the one in the cars I used to drive, we were able to fit everything in.

We spent 18% of the battery charge during our stay, leaving 76%. It seemed a bit risky to attempt a full return without a mid-trip recharge since the previous trip used 73% of the battery. Still, I thought it presented an interesting opportunity to see the car's limits and pressed on casually, with the air conditioning on. The following time-lapse video shows what happened in its entirety.

As you can see, the Bolt EV was able to return to the charging station in the parking lot at home just barely. Like the previous trip, this sort of drain-to-the-bottom run should be attempted only if you're sure of the range and the charger is ready at the end. So what was the scariest moment?

Bolt EV's instrument screen just before and after the low battery warning

Obviously, it was when the car made a low battery warning, stopped showing how much more I can drive, and displayed "Reduced Propulsion". The screen displayed 22km of driveable range shortly before, so this seems to come on when the battery has 5% of charge left. Acceleration became noticeably sluggish in order to conserve energy. While high speeds were still attainable, I decided not to gamble and kept driving a bit slow - around 50km/h, tad below the 60km/h speed limit on the local roads.

Checkpoint / Type Distance (km) Elapsed (H:M:S) Speed (km/h) Est. Power (kWh) Economy (km/kWh)
By Checkpoint
Depart from Ulsan 0.0 00:00:00 - - -
Ulsan Expressway 12.1 0:22:34 32.2 1.75 6.9
Gyeongbu Expressway 14.1 00:09:06 93.0 3.22 4.4
Yangsan 8.0 00:04:48 100.0 2.63 3.0
Gimhae 25.2 00:15:24 98.2 3.07 8.2
Busan Outer Belt Exp. 4.3 00:03:13 80.2 1.17 3.7
Changwon 26.4 00:16:43 94.8 3.51 7.5
Haman 10.8 00:06:58 93.0 2.78 3.9
Jinju 31.3 00:19:53 94.5 3.36 9.3
Sacheon 26.3 00:15:54 99.2 5.26 5.0
Hadong 17.4 00:10:36 98.5 2.78 6.3
Gwangyang 16.2 00:10:09 95.8 1.17 13.8
Suncheon 25.0 00:15:46 95.1 2.92 8.5
Honam Expwy 7.2 00:04:34 94.6 0.73 9.8
Exit Expressway 22.6 00:15:11 89.3 2.49 9.1
Hwasun 9.2 00:11:33 47.8 1.46 6.3
Naju 33.9 00:39:33 51.4 3.22 10.5
Arrival in Naju 14.7 00:24:44 35.7 0.88 16.8
By Road Type
Expressway 234.8 02:28:15 95.0 35.1 6.7
Regular Road 69.9 01:38:24 42.6 7.3 9.6
Ulsan-Naju 304.7 04:06:39 74.1 42.4 7.2

Eventually, I ended up arriving about 15 minutes later than planned, but had slightly better fuel economy (7.19km/kWh vs. 7.09) and less battery use (72% vs. 73%) due to the conservation efforts at the last leg of the trip. I suppose I could have made it without slowing down, but the car would have had less than 10km of driveable range left instead of 15 as seen in the video.

Another thing to note is that the expressway driving results of the two trips were quite similar in all aspects despite going the opposite ways. For the first and the second trip, fuel economy (in km/kWh) were 6.8 and 6.7, while the average speed (in km/h) were 96.0 and 95.0, respectively.

Essentially, a fully loaded and charged Bolt EV will get 400+km expressway range (except in winter) if you cruise at 100km/h speed except for a few slowdowns due to traffic. Of course, if you take the low battery warning into consideration, you should have at least 5% of reserve and this means you get about 380km of comfortable range.

Let's summarize the lessons learned from the two trips. One is that the Bolt EV provides enough comfortable range to reach all corners of South Korea on a single charge if you respect the speed limits. The other is that you should consider subtracting the last 5% of the battery from range calculation when planning a non-stop trip. I hope to make a lot of fun trips in the years to come with these experiences.
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