From Sunday, September 27, through Saturday, October 3, Jacob Bolin, Plug-in NC’s program manager, and Wattson, Plug-in NC’s trusty Chevrolet Bolt EV, toured eastern North Carolina and Virginia. The duo visited 12 charging stations along their 1,245-mile trip that took them down to Wilmington, over to the Outer Banks and then up into the home of our northern neighbors.
The adventure coincided with National Drive Electric Week, an annual nationwide celebration to raise awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles (EVs). The goal was to travel to places with less charging infrastructure and to share our experiences — both thrilling and challenging — with the Plug-in NC community while debunking some common EV myths.
We caught up with Jacob to get his perspective on the road trip as he settled back into his more typical routine.
PINC: How did the trip align with your pre-journey expectations?
JB: Well, there seems to be a universal truth for road trips — no matter how much you see and how much time you take, it always feels like you’re moving too fast. Even knowing this, it can be a hard thing to hold as you travel from place to place, so that part aligned with my expectations.
I also expected this to be completely doable with an EV — at least one with over 200 miles of range —and that ended up being true. The trip was planned to a degree to know that there would be charging infrastructure where I would need it (relatively so, at least), and I had the convenience of moving pretty slowly — taking a full week to travel through North Carolina and Virginia — but regardless, there were almost no situations where I dipped below 40 or 50 miles of range remaining.
One thing that maybe I wasn’t expecting? How much I would enjoy each place I passed through. Sometimes you think that you’re driving from point to point and any time and distance between your destinations are just obstacles. But I didn’t feel that way at all. It was great to see so many places of this region that I had never visited. For the ones that I had been to, driving electric made them feel like totally new and fresh experiences, which they were!
I loved how driving electric didn’t at all feel “too inconvenient” and allowed me to see places a little more honestly than I would have if I were driving a gasoline vehicle. What I mean by that is, by charging and seeking places out based on their charging, I think I was more aware of the local businesses, communities, retailers and offerings. It got me off the path of just quickly filling up the gas tank, jumping back on the interstate and not stopping to look at and appreciate so many places that we drive through.
PINC: What was the most rewarding aspect of the trip? Most challenging?
JB: I think the most rewarding aspect was the interest and excitement from Plug-in NC ambassadors and followers! I knew that the trip would be great fun for me, but I was nervous about how it would be received online. We really thought hard about how to do something engaging for this year’s National Drive Electric Week despite COVID-19 and public meeting limitations. It was great to be able to connect with new fans and long-time supporters with something that was different for us. It also created a new platform for us to share some “EV 101”-type information because we were talking about it and experiencing the benefits daily.
Another rewarding aspect was seeing how many businesses and public places were offering — excitedly — charging as a commodity. I talked to small lodging businesses (even ones I didn’t actually charge at) that were happy to offer free charging even if you weren’t staying there because they wanted you to support the local economy and other small businesses in town. It was cool to see these places knowing that this was a value-add amenity for them and the community at large. It really reinforced the idea that charging stations can be an excellent lever for economic development for businesses and communities.
The most challenging aspect would also have to be the social media engagement. Not at all because it was unfun or unpleasant, but because it took so much work to post interesting content and make sure that Wattson and I were sharing our step-by-step journey with those that were following. I was surprised with how much work this was! But it was really fun to do, and I think we got the hang of it as we progressed through the week.
PINC: Did you have a favorite sight or charging location?
JB: There were so many good charging stops! It’s hard to pick a favorite because I felt so appreciative of each one. It felt like they were exactly where I needed them to be. It’s also hard to pick because the DC fast charging for quick charges along the route was perfectly complemented by the Level 2 chargers in overnight/hotel locations.
In terms of scenery, I think my favorite charging station sites were the DC fast charger at Avon Pier, the Level 2 station at Atlantis Lodge in Atlantic Beach and all of the DC fast chargers near the Blue Ridge Mountains.
PINC: The camping coffee maker was a big hit on social media, but what ended up being your most essential items?
JB: The coffee maker and the stove burner were both essentials! Honestly, the cellphone was essential too. It allowed me to post regularly on social media and to locate and pay for charging. The GoPro was also a really fun essential, letting me quickly film all sorts of neat shots.
PINC: What is one new thing you learned or realized about driving electric on the trip?
JB: I thought that over the course of the trip I would find out which charging station providers I preferred, like ChargePoint, Electrify America and EVgo. But I was pleasantly surprised by how easy to operate, convenient and fair (pricing-wise) they all were. It was fun to become familiar with the different software and hardware interfaces and to come away saying that all of them worked nearly flawlessly.
PINC: What advice would you give to EV drivers hoping to head out on a longer excursion?
JB: Trust that stations will be where you need them to be, but planning ahead does help. Staying at hotels that have Level 2 stations to charge overnight was probably the single biggest benefit I had for much of the trip — it was always free in these cases, and I could completely recharge while I was sleeping, which just immensely helped with the convenience factor.
Also, appreciate the charging stops and time as part of the journey. We have such an opportunity to spend even just an hour or two in new places due to charging. There’s so much to see and learn here in North Carolina. It was fun to use charging as a conduit for that (pun intended).
PINC: Can we expect Plug-in NC to have more road trips down the line?
JB: Yeah, I think so! Wattson said he would be really disappointed if we don’t follow up this trip with another one. It would be great to find ways to work in more frequent, smaller trips as well as some other big expeditions. We could visit new stations to spotlight them for the Plug-in NC community and also bring in more of our team to share their experiences and adventures with Wattson. Stay tuned!
All of us at Plug-in NC want to thank you for following along with our National Drive Electric Week road trip. We hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did!