2014 Chevrolet Volt to Ann Arbor. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Michael Bettencourt
It seemed appropriate to take a Chevrolet Volt for a family road trip to watch global soccer powerhouses Real Madrid play Manchester United in Michigan. After all, Chevrolet had just ponied up huge dollars (reportedly US$559 million over seven years) to have its logo emblazoned on the front of the English club’s jerseys. With our two young boys in tow for what would be a long day trip, we wouldn’t need a fifth seat or the huge cargo room that the plug-in Volt doesn’t offer, but that many long family road trips would require.
The original plan was to stop in at whatever rest stop or hotel off the highway that offered a charger, to top up on some electrons while we ate, even though we knew the vast majority of our drive would be on regular (okay, premium) fuel. Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor was exactly 426 km away from home, Google Maps reported, so even if I was in a top-of-the-line $120,000+ Tesla Model S P85, we could not have made the trip without at least a brief electric top-up on route – and a brief top-up in any BEV is about 30 minutes.
But as does happen occasionally at our house (okay, often), we left later than we planned, and had to rush to make it to the 4 pm kickoff. Our full overnight charge, which had lasted a robust 55 km of summer highway driving the day before, lasted closer to 48 the next day, which still impressed me considering that after hell-ish bouts with stopped traffic on the 401 finally cleared up, we mostly kept it between 120 and 130 km/h.
With kickoff time looming, we powered through our expected rest stops, then plodded through an excruciatingly slow 90-minute U.S. border crossing, while the nearby game’s start time came and went. But even had we taken the time to stop, there are no charging stations at any of Ontario’s recently remodeled On Route rest stops, despite multiple signs at the Canadian Tire Gas+ retailers located at all these stops that say ‘Future home of EV plug-in charging stations.’ Disappointed EV owner accounts online suggest that some of these signs have been up for over two years now.
|2014 Chevrolet Volt to Ann Arbor. Click image to enlarge|
While pre-wiring for the stations may have been part of the extensive multi-million dollar remodeling of 20 stations in the past four years, out of 23 such stations controlled by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, exactly zero have been installed. Yes, there are some Level 2 (240-volt) chargers along the route that require only a short hop off the highway, but there are no Level 3 DC quick chargers or Tesla Superchargers (yet) that would make this road trip possible as a one-day trip in any plug-in vehicle that didn’t use gasoline. This is on the busiest highway in North America, with an average of average annual daily traffic (AADT) of more than 425,000 vehicles back in 2004, and likely over 500,000 now, according to U.S. highway statistics.