I moved to Raleigh, NC for a job in April, 2020 during the COVID extravaganza. I stayed home for 3 months. Raleigh has so much to offer when things are normal. But we were limited to a few parks and few restaurants then. My company NetApp shuts down for a week every year through 4th of July. I was bored. I had time to kill. I was wanting to perk up my senses a little bit. I hadn’t seen the ocean for a while. Popular destinations close to Raleigh are Asheville, Myrtle beach and Boone. Charleston is a little further out. I had heard about Charleston before I even moved to Raleigh. I hadn’t heard about Asheville. So I wanted to visit Charleston more. West coast beaches are hard to match. So I wasn’t crazy about going to Myrtle beach either. Boone is in the mountains. I know electric vehicles (EVs) can have trouble with cold weather from a former manager who owned a Ford Focus EV. I wanted to avoid a breakdown on my first overnight road trip with an EV. Charleston felt like my top choice because:
- I wanted to see the ocean ✓
- Reasonable number of fast charging spots en route ✓
- 4 hours driving distance ✓
- Charleston is a big city ✓
I stayed at the Ashley Inn located in the residential historic district of the city. I booked the room with the trundle bed. It was quiet, convenient, relaxing and perfect for my needs.
EV Road Trip Gotchas
I did not anticipate that my entire trip would be around EV charging stations and battery quirkyness. I did some prep and learned some more on the way on this trip. This was my second EV trip. The first one was to Kerr lake 46 miles north of Raleigh but 70-80 miles with the detour via I-85. I was stranded for 4 hours at the Henderson Electrify America charging station then. This article has some great gotchas I wish I knew before leaving.
Learn about the best EV charging methods for your car
Chevy Bolt EV’s accept SAE j1772 (j plug) and CCS chargers. CCS is a combination the j plug and fast charging capability. 50 KW is considered fast. My car can take up to 55 KW. I want to prefer a 150KW. If I go lower, I am not charging fast enough. If I go higher (350 KW). It ends my session before my vehicle is completely charged. Tesla superchargers will not work. I could not extend the cord enough to even check. That was a sign on my way to Kerr lake.
Install, update and register for useful EV apps
I installed, updated and registered for a couple of apps on my smart phone that came in handy. As usual, I downloaded offline maps for my entire journey.
Fast charging station apps:
Plugshare is very handy if you are going to use a station you have not used before. EVGO and chargepoint stations work as expected most of the time. ElectrifyAmerica and Verischarge do not. You want to know which ones are broken so you don’t spend your precious time and charge driving to them. I found some charging stations inconspicuous. The app really helped me locate them. Also, plugshare shows all the charging stations on your route and highlights the fast charging ones. Those are the ones to prefer. There is no time to slow charge on a road trip even if it is free. I recommend doing that only when you are in your destination city.
My favorite thing about ChargePoint is that it has a little card I can slip on my car keychain and charge with right away. I have never had trouble with these. I suggest activating the card if you have one and keeping it on your car keychain.
EVGO is a reliable charging network albeit they have single charging stations in some pretty deserted parking lots. The one at the SPINX in Ladson, SC had weird guys hanging around. I felt jumpy. You want to prefer multiple charging stations to account for others wanting to charge and also not rely on one in case it is out of order.
Electrify America was a beast to use the first time. I could not get it to read my card with Apple pay ever. I use Apple pay other places just fine. It didn’t read my friendly samaritan’s credit card either. The only way I can use it is the way the customer service agent explained to me on the phone using the app. Make sure your charging station screen says ‘Plug in’. Log into the app. Then you click on the charging station location on the map on the app. Then you click on the charging station ID. Then you plug it in and wait for the screen to ask you for a credit card. Then you swipe the slider on your app. Wait for it to initialize and listen to some wheels turning. You are set. Take a break while it charges.
I tried but failed to use the VersiCharge station successfully. I almost ran out of charge on my way to Florence. I stopped at the Hilton. The friendly receptionist even reset the power for me. No dice. Installed the app. No dice. Customer service number not reachable. It’s supposed to be plug and go. The thing with this one is that it does not have a screen to give you any error message. The VersiChargeSG app does not allow you to locate any chargers with a map. My best guess is, it needs you to pair or connect with the station using Wifi. The Wifi icon was red where I tried to use it. I gave up. I haven’t used this kind successfully.
I don’t have anything special to say about these apps. I am too used to using them in spite of their extra 35 cents or whatever for each transaction. It’s easy to see where you have parked and renew if possible. I like the convenience.
Charge your EV all the way
I cannot stress this enough. Charge your whole EV battery the night before you leave. This 4 hour drive is boring. So your charging spots might as well be as short as possible. There is so much more to do in Charleston.
Keep the right buffer and fast charging stops
Where I should have stopped to charge: Raleigh, NC -> 1) 5070 Fayetteville rd, Lumberton NC 28358 -> 2) 230 North Beltline Drive, Florence, SC -> Charleston, SC. Where I actually stopped: Raleigh, NC -> 1) 2101 Florence Harllee Blvd, Florence, SC 29506 ->2) 2715 W Lucas st. , Florence, SC 29501 -> 3) 230 North Beltline Drive, Florence, SC -> 4) 9636 Highway 78, Ladson 29456 -> Charleston, SC. I left at 8:00 am. and reached at 5:00 pm. the minimum miles your dash shows is a rough estimate based on your driving usage. It dramatically changes as you drive differently. If you are going to be driving at 85 mph most of the way, you are going to get half the range i.e. 238 mph/ 2 = 119 mph. I get the most out of this car by driving at 60 mph. But that means you block traffic and everyone hates you. Drivers pass me and roll their eyes when I drive at 80 mph. It’s a personal choice in the end. You do you. Using the a/c takes 2 miles off each hour. If you are running low, turning it and the sound off may help some.
Bolt EV charging stop essential tips:-
To sum it up, choose a charging station based on:-
- Charging station compatible with your car’s jack
- CHAdeMO/ Tesla supercharger etc
- Plugshare users confirm it is functional
- I would have avoided that VersiCharge stop had I done this extra diligence
- Maximum Wattage your car can receive but not more
- 150 KW for Chevy Bolt EV as opposed to 350 KW or 50 KW
- Offers a buffer if you need to take a detour
- 20 miles buffer is minimum IMO
- Maximum distance apart keeping the buffer
- If I drive at 85 mph, I’ll keep my charging stations at a distance of 100 miles for example
- Multiple functional charging stations
- For road trips, I’ll prefer Electrify America as opposed to EVGO. They have multiple stations in a safe Target or Walmart parking lot as opposed to EVGO.
- Memorize the next exit, next turn and make sure the navigation screen is responsive
- Google maps freeze and crash when connected with Carplay often. I had to keep an eye often. I had to keep my phone steady also. Otherwise it misunderstood the direction it was facing 🙂
- Don’t idle at the charging station
- If you leave the charging cord plugged in after your session is terminated, Electrify America will charge you an idling fee after 10 minutes. So plan to return soon after charging is complete.
- Good restaurants nearby
- Ideally, you want to have maximum overlap between charge times and meal and bathroom breaks. I prefer charging stations with good food nearby.
and now about Charleston!
I mapped out my plans while charging my car the night before I left.
I wanted to go to Folly beach pier, harbor walk, Ravenel bridge, White points garden, Nathaniel russel house, City market, Mount pleasant memorial water park, Pitt street bridge, Joe Riley waterfront park, Magnolia plantation gardens, Middleton place plantation and Wentworth mansion for brunch.
Folly beach and Pitt street bridge were out of the way. So were magnolia plantation gardens. Middle place plantation was quite far. I did not need more driving. Mount pleasant memorial park was also far.
I ended up seeing Joe Riley waterfront park, Harbor walk, White point garden, Rainbow row and Folly beach. I did not do justice to Charleston. But I do not regret driving there for just that selection.
My first stop was at the Joe Riley Beach Pier. My first attraction was the gorgeous view of the bridge.
I walked to the pineapple fountain in the featured image. Pineapples as I learned later, are a symbol of hospitality in Charleston. I saw them at various places including the inn I stayed at.
I can picture myself hanging out someday with my friends at these park benches. Sometimes, just good company and fresh air can feel like a party.
White Points park is a short drive from Joe Riley Waterfront park. By now, I felt like I was in a different period in time.
There was some public at this park even during cootie time. Just like me …
I love the dense parks in a port town. Ocean breeze + dense foliage = freshest air you will ever breathe! I had missed the smell of saline water too. I grew up in Mumbai. It feels like home.
I love this touch White Points has on it’s water fountain 🙂
I would have missed rainbow row if it wasn’t for the guest book at my Inn. Selfies are hard. But it’s been months dammit. I need social media attention 🙂
Rainbow row houses are multi-million dollars homes. They are so beautiful, I saw a couple there for their pre-wedding shoot.
I just lingered around these house for over an hour trying to capture their beauty from every angle. At one point, the owner walked out of this one and gave me a little scare while I pointed my phone camera at his door. He smiled and said I could take all the pictures I wanted 😀
I almost skipped Folly Beach. I am glad and lucky to have made it.
Masks were mandatory during this time on Folly Beach Pier. The water was so calm and teal and perfect, I did not want to leave.
Charleston is like San Diego will some classic frills. It’s a beach, food and history town. I chose a hot 2 days with severe thunderstorm warnings to go. The weather turned out just fine. It was hot but so was Raleigh. Charleston is a visual treat. I had a smile plastered on my face as I drove around and saw the sights. I found it odd if someone there didn’t.