By Ashyia Hill
Editor’s Note: Ashyia contacted GM-Volt a few weeks ago, asked to post, got a few pointers from us on the topic, and submitted this yesterday.
For now, road tripping with a Chevy Volt is similar to taking a road trip with many other cars, in that you’ll probably find yourself relying on its ability to run on gasoline, rather than its ability to use electricity. You’ll still get decent fuel economy, but the goal down the proverbial road is to make it possible to take an entire long-distance trip on battery power alone.
With that said, the future is rapidly approaching, and more and more Volt owners are able to take long distance trips, plugging in as able at charging stations that are popping up across America. While some gas stations, garages, cities, grocery stores, and hotels have independent charging stations of their own, an easier way to find out where you can charge your vehicle is through the ChargePoint America program.
As many of you know, this program through Coulomb Technologies uses money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create new charging stations in select areas around the country. The goal of the program, according to its Web site is “to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles to substantially reduce petroleum consumption, reduce greenhouse gas production, and create jobs.”
Thus far, the ChargePoint American program works out of Boston, MA; Sacramento, CA; Bellevue/Redmond, WA; San Jose/San Francisco Bay, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; Southern Michigan; New York, NY; Washington DC and Baltimore; and Orlando/Tampa, FL. If you’re planning to travel in any of these areas, you can use ChargePoint to find and use a charging station along your way.
If you have a smart phone, this is even easier, as you can use the ChargePoint app to get online and check out not only where the closest charging station is but also whether or not it’s currently in use. The program will also provide you with the ability to get a notification when your car is done charging and to avoid charging stations that are damaged or in repair, thus unusable at the moment.
In order to use the charging stations, you’ll need to apply for a ChargePass card and a monthly access plan. Soon, you’ll be able to use any Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card to authorize a session or to pay remotely for charging sessions. You can sign up for your card at mychargepoint.net, which will also allow you to get text notifications if your car charging session is interrupted or if your vehicle is completely charged.
Right now, charging stations are free to use, which is part of the effort to encourage more people to buy cars like the Volt. You’ll still need a ChargePass to unlock the station, though, so it’s a good idea to apply for one of these cards before you take your Volt on a long distance trip.
Outside of the ChargePoint Network
More and more hotels, in particular, are installing charging points for their customers, as well. These aren’t shown in the ChargePoint network because they’re operating outside of it. However, planning your trip around these hotels can give you access to charging stations overnight or during the day, so you can top off with a Level I charge or possibly a Level II charge.
According to hospitalityworldnetwork.com, some of the latest hotels to offer free or paid charging stations for their customers include:
• The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
• Parc 55 Wyndham, San Francisco
• Hilton San Francisco Financial District Hotel
• Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Element Hotels
• Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva
• Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center, New Jersey
• Memphis Peabody Hotel
Beyond these few, other hotels across the country are randomly jumping on the bandwagon, though it’s still too early to assume anything. Best bet is to call ahead to hotels on your route to see if they have or will soon have a car charging station available. If not, ask if they’ll consider installing one for valuable customers like you in the future!
Google Maps Application
As the owner of a Volt, if you’re not already, you’re about to become very good friends with Google maps. The long-time supporter of electric vehicles has started showing charging stations for the Volt, as well as other types of electric cars, on its citywide maps. Just use maps.google.com to search for “electric car charging stations” in the city you’re in or are traveling to. To get these maps as accurate as possible, Google teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which supplied the company with a growing list of available charging stations.
As is the case with ChargePoint, many other public charging stations are free for now because they’re another amenity to attract customers to high-end hotels, other businesses, or the bill is still being taken care of by grants to encourage more people to buy electric vehicles. However, eventually, it’s expected you’ll need to pay to charge your Volt at various stations. In these cases, you might find it advantageous to set aside a credit card for your charging purposes, just as you would set one aside to pay for gas. Then, you can pay it off monthly while keeping tabs on a cost of operation. Eventually, some speculate that credit cards will offer cash-back and points perks for car-charging purchases just like they do now for gas purchases.
As you can see, traveling long distances in a Chevy Volt takes a bit of planning, but a growing list of resources maximize the EREV’s ability to run on grid power. Tools like Google maps and ChargePoint America can give you access to the latest information on where you can keep your charge topped off throughout your trip.
What do you think, Volt drivers? Have you attempted traveling long distances and used any of these resources? Can you add to our resource list? Are you optimistic about the possibilities for all-electric travel in coming years? How do we maximize our growing clout as a constituency to make more solutions come along faster?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.