What It’s Like Driving Over 4,000 Miles In A Budget EV…While Towing!

I’m not afraid to admit that the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV aren’t known for being great road trip cars. For me, it was what I could afford when I needed to switch vehicles, and it’s head-and-shoulders better than the overheating Nissan LEAF I had before. Sure, it only charges at 55 kW, but it does it consistently. It also has plenty of range to make it to the next charger in most cases.

But, what happens when you cut the range of the Bolt EUV by about 30%? That’s not as great, but I still managed to have a great trip!

My Camping/Cargo Trailer Setup

Before I tell everyone about the trip, I want to briefly go over the trailer I built for this purpose. You can get a lot more detail from my article over at CleanTechnica if you want to see how I built it, etc.

In short, it’s a wooden cargo box built on top of a Harbor Freight 4×8 trailer. On my first trip, things didn’t go very well, so I had to add safe places to keep things like my Jackery 3000 Pro, EcoFlow Glacier freezer/fridge, oven, and microwave. I built a custom slide-out kitchen to hold everything but the Jackery, which I placed in a sloping box on the tongue.

All of this is powered by a 2000w inverter that draws from the Bolt EUV’s 12v battery, which gets recharged by the vehicle’s 65 kWh main battery pack. This means that I have the power to make for a very comfortable glamping setup, including air conditioned Shiftpod shelters.

The First Part Of The Trip Was Challenging

The first several days of the trip was hard. I drove across Texas in two and a half days, and found out that I had no idea what the setup’s energy efficiency was really going to be. Based on previous data collected close to home, I thought it would get about 2.5 miles/kWh, but I ended up getting closer to 2. This meant that instead of a 15% drop from my car’s unloaded efficiency (3.01 miles/kWh, with truck tires), I ended up losing about 30% range.

This meant having to completely re-plan everything mid-trip. I was originally going to drive to both North Carolina and Michigan for two press events, but it wasn’t going to be possible to get to both in time with the extra charging stops and time.

I also found out that it wasn’t great at keeping water out, wasn’t good at staying closed while going down the road, and that the Harbor Freight tires would wear out in only 1600 miles when going 65 MPH. This made for some tough days, temporary fixes with paracord, and replacing the tires in a national park! I also nearly ran out of charge the first night and ran the vehicle dead about 3/4 of a mile shy of a charger in Sweetwater, Texas.

I did see some great things along the way, though. We visited Hot Springs National Park, and got to see an innovative small business in Arkansas that provides EV charging. We also went through the Great Smoky Mountains and saw many other great sights along the way.

Upgrades and The Trip Home

While staying with family in North Carolina, I managed to fix up several of the problems.

First off, I fixed up the water leak issue. Adding a bunch of screws to tighten the boards to the side of the trailer, caulking all joints, and upgrading the doors made the problem of flapping doors and rain getting on pillows go away.

Charging up in Boone, North Carolina before getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

On the way back, I took about half of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I started out in Boone, North Carolina and then spent the next three days taking it easy along the route. Along the way, we visited Grandfather Mountain, Asheville, and ended up at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This part of the trip went very well. The mountainous terrain of the Blue Ridge Parkway generally means less range, but the slow speeds and the regenerative braking both when approaching turns and going down slopes made for great range. I only had to charge in Asheville to get enough juice to make it all the way to the end of the road in Cherokee, NC (just outside Great Smoky Mountains).

The Last Couple Days Sucked, But The Trailer’s Stronger Than Ever

I had to head home via Oklahoma instead of Texas, largely because there’s just not enough EV charging between Dallas and El Paso yet. On flat ground, the Bolt would have been fine, but there’s a climb as you leave Hill Country and the Permian Basin and go to the high deserts near El Paso.

The trip through Arkansas and Oklahoma went pretty well, as there were reasonably good cheap hotels (it was too hot to set up camp) and lots of EV charging. Along this stretch, I saw what a benefit EV charging stations spaced close together can be, as even with the trailer, I was able to charge from 10-60% on many stretches and spent a lot less time at chargers.

But, once I got back into New Mexico at Clovis, all hell broke loose. I forgot to turn the inverter off when I went to bed, and the vehicle’s 12v battery got depleted. It was easily jumped, but the vehicle wouldn’t start even with enough juice. After struggling to arrange to take the Bolt to a dealer for an hour, I tried disconnecting the 12v battery to reset the computer, and things worked again.

Then, I saw that the trailer’s coupler was peeling off of the tongue. Two poorly-done Chinese welds were to blame. Had it come completely apart, both the coupler and the safety chains would have detached from the tongue, leaving the trailer free to do whatever the laws of physics dictated. So, we had to spend several hours finding a welding shop that could fix it up and reinforce it a bit to prevent it from happening again.

Finally, the tires were about bald by this time (again), and we had to replace them. Normal tire shops didn’t have that size or anything else to fit the trailer in stock, so we had to go to Harbor Freight again and buy the crappy tires a third time to get home.

While all this was going on, we didn’t know that an unusually hot and dry part of the forest between us and home had been set ablaze by some poor people who knew they’d get a job putting out the fire. Because it was drier and hotter than previous years (climate change), this created a wild blaze that burnt right into a town, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people. These people, in turn, took up all of the hotels in the region.

We were fortunate to find a hotel about an hour in the wrong direction, and even then it was a terrible place to sleep (it was a “vintage” motel in poor repair). But, as they say, “Any port in a storm.”

Final Thoughts

All in all, the Bolt EUV did a great job being pressed into service doing a job it wasn’t intended for. The vehicle had no problems at all towing an 1800 lb trailer (including cargo) for all of that distance. The only issue we encountered at all was that the Bolt cuts back on cooling when it gets below 25%. This never was an issue until we drove up some hills in 103F heat on the last day as we approached our next charging station. Even then, it only charged slowly for a couple minutes until the cooling kicked back in, and then charged normally. It never derated motor power at any point in the trip or failed us in any way.

The trailer, being a budget build, needed a good shakedown cruise to reveal all of its issues. And, with the exception of the tires, we’ve managed to roll with all of those punches and come away with a better trailer than we started with.

I’d really like to get a vehicle that’s better for towing, but that’s going to have to wait a 2-3 years. Until then, I think the Bolt EUV and the trailer we’re improving will continue to do a great job!

National Park EV News Roundup

Over at CleanTechnica, I recently wrote several interesting articles about national parks and EVs.

First off, there’s a new EV charging station just outside of Arches National Park. Electrify America has partnered with Rocky Mountain Power to open an 8-stall station, including one dedicated pull-through stall. Plus, several others could work well for people pulling trailers with some creativity. This brings the full number of EV charging stalls in Moab, Utah to 16 for non-Tesla vehicles and 20 for Teslas.

Another interesting thing is just how many EVs I saw on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Compared to the other western parks I typically visit, there was just a crazy number of EVs. In the article, I explore why this might be.

While I was out that way, I got a chance to test out my Bolt-powered campsite. I use a power inverter to pull power from the Bolt’s battery, and use it to charge a Jackery 3000 Pro. This in turn powers a slide-out kitchen in my trailer, heat or AC for Shiftpod tents, and anything else I’d like. When there’s good sun, I also have 1200 watts of solar power available.

Sadly, I’ve had to make a number of repairs and upgrades to the trailer (you can learn more about that struggle here). I still need to make some serious improvements to get the trailer ready for its next journey out to explore the EV charging situation. If you’re interested in supporting Charge to the Parks on these journeys, please consider donating here or sharing the fundraiser with friends and family!

New and Updated Guides for Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains

While the site didn’t change much in May and June, that’s only because we were busy traveling to several parks in an EV! While traveling to attend an important EV event in North Carolina, we stopped at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Since visiting, I’ve updated the page for the Great Smoky Mountains, and I created a new page for the Blue Ridge Parkway. A new page for Hot Springs National Park is coming soon.

Along the way, we towed a custom camping cargo trailer about 4,000 miles, which really tested the limits of our Bolt EUV. This is obviously not an ideal travel setup, but it does show that EVs, even budget ones that charge slower than others, are up to the task and people can have a good time.

Our Chevy Bolt EUV and custom trailer charging at a Circle K in Boone, NC near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Bottom Ten Parks Now Covered

With the addition of the Great Basin National Park’s EV Travel Guide, we’ve now covered both the top ten most and least visited national parks! Sadly, a number of the parks in the bottom ten are in remote areas of Alaska and are simply not reachable by car, so they all got put together in one placeholder guide. But, there are guides for the rest.

The next step will be to make sure every state has at least one park in each state with a guide written. After that, parks will be added by reader demand and by our own interests. If there’s a park you’d like a guide written for sooner, be sure to reach out in the comments or on social media!



Updated Guides For New Mexico Available!

After taking some time to visit two national parks and one recreation area in an EV over the last few days, I made some updates and improvements!

First off, I updated Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks with new information and updated photos from my visit. There’s no much more information about attractions nearby, especially on the backroads behind both parks. I have more trips planned for that area in the fall and will be adding more and updating. An important thing I added to both pages was information about the Guadalupe Rim, a great but rugged path into the area.

An image from my recent drive into the area near both parks via Guadalupe Rim Road.


Another important thing I did was add a page for a very underrated recreation area near Socorro, New Mexico: San Lorenzo Canyon. There, you’ll find a very nice set of sandstone canyons that almost any EV can not only get to, but drive in the bottom of!

EV Travel Guides For Top Ten Parks Now Available

We’re chugging along with EV travel guides, and now we have the top ten national parks (by 2023 visitor numbers) covered. These parks (among others with guides) are:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  2. Grand Canyon National Park
    1. North Rim
    2. South Rim
  3. Zion National Park
  4. Yellowstone National Park
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park
  6. Yosemite National Park
  7. Acadia National Park
  8. Grand Teton National Park
  9. Joshua Tree National Park
  10. Olympic National Park

Our next steps will be to cover some of the least visited national parks, and then try to seek your input on what parks to cover next. Also, we’ll be starting on the first trip logs to the national parks in just a few days, where we’ll link to trips we’ve taken and work to improve the guides.

Featured image by NPS (Public Domain).

11 Parks, One Page For Unreachable Alaskan Parks, Mission & Purpose up!

I’ve been busy adding more EV travel guides to the website, including one that isn’t really a guide.

Let’s talk about the guides, first! We’re now up to 11 parks covered, now including the top 5 most visited parks. These parks so far are:

You’ll notice that I split Grand Canyon into two pages, largely because the north and south rims are so different from each other. Sure, they’re only 10-20 miles apart, but the drive from one to the other is over 200 miles and takes several hours. So, it made sense to make sure it’s clear that one is easy to reach while the other can be reached only with some extra work.

Another page I added was for the least popular national parks, and most of them are in Alaska. It’s not that these parks aren’t amazing as much as that they’re super tough to get to. ICE cars can’t even get to them, even if they’re the best four wheel drive off-roading machines. So, it made sense to cover these all at the same time so that people can see why we skipped over so many parks and monuments in that state.

The good news? Three of them can be reached by EV, so I’ll cover those soon.

Right now, I’m working on covering the rest of the top 10 visited parks, and then I’ll start working on the 10 least visited parks. After that, I’ll work on getting the rest of the national parks covered!

I also added a page describing the mission and purpose of Charge to the Parks. You can read that here.


Featured image by the National Park Service (Public Domain).

Four Parks and EV Travel Tips Added!

So far, four parks’ worth of information for EV drivers has been added to the map and list, and the basics of EV backroad driving is now live!

Parks added so far:

Next up is Saguaro National Park, followed by some parks further away from this cluster of parks to spread things out a bit. This project will take several months to finish, along with other plans for this site. Stay tuned!

Featured image on this post: White Sands National Park from the nearby Sacramento Mountains. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.


The goals for the Charge to the Parks project are to:

  • Help people understand that you CAN get to the most beautiful and fun places in America on electric power, even with an RV!
  • Prove that you don’t need to be wealthy to do it
  • Help people with nearly any EV to to these beautiful places with as little pain and struggle as possible
  • Encourage parks and businesses near the parks to invest in EV charging, e-bike, and other infrastructure needed to make the experience better

How I’m doing this:

  • Providing travel tips for people taking electric road trips to America’s parks
  • Provide vital information for as many parks as possible over time
  • Share fun and inspiring stories of people successfully visiting the parks in EVs
  • Networking with parks, affiliated non-profits, businesses, and drivers to move things forward

Want to follow or help with the project? The best way to start is by following me on X/Twitter. More options for social media and subscriptions are coming soon!