Today would be a different kind of driving I had not yet done on this trip. The main goal of today is distance. I wanted to get from Olympia, Washington, to Boise, Idaho. It’s about 540 miles of driving, wholly composed of high-speed freeway. The all-out freeway is not an electric car’s best path to efficiency, second only to climbing hills on the highway.
I used Electrify America throughout the whole trip. Each stop had its high and low points and an overall good lesson about EV charging for those who don’t drive Teslas.
Olympia, WA ➜ Kelso, WA (66 miles)
I woke up to heavy rain in Olympia, Washington. I didn’t expect “weather” much this trip, especially not a colossal downpour. Driving in the rain keeps the speed on the freeway down, which is generally a bonus to get more range out of an electric vehicle. The first stop on the route is Kelso, WA, just 66 miles down the freeway. Stopping here meant I didn’t have to navigate downtown Portland, which was a bonus.
Upon arriving in Kelso, I found that only one of four chargers was working and occupied by a Chevrolet Bolt. The one working charger supported charging up to 350 kW. It was blocked by the Bolt, which limited charging speed to far less than that; waiting for the Bolt to fully charge added 20 minutes to the trip. It was not life-changing, but slightly irritating that only one out of four chargers was working.
Once I connected to the charger, the Rivian could pull quite a bit more power; however, I needed more energy in the truck than the Bolt needed. Electricity by itself doesn’t make a vehicle more efficient. As I was charging, three more cars appeared. Like I did, each vehicle connected to a charger and saw that they weren’t working. I could see daggers coming from each driver who entered that charging station as I was the beast preventing them from charging. Man, that was awkward.
I wasn’t stranded, but the delay and awkwardness were something I’d never would have experienced in a gas vehicle. Electrify America is known for abysmal reliability, with 75% uptime as of this writing. Tesla claims 99.95% reliability. To put it into perspective, 97% reliability means each station can be down ten days per year. We must do better.
|10:54-11:19 am||67 kWh||139 miles added||$24.12|
Kelso, WA ➜ Hood River, OR (110 miles)
After leaving the daggers in Kelso, Washington, the drive to Portland, Oregon, was relatively uneventful. Traffic flowed smoothly, and it was pretty riding along the Columbia River Gorge and seeing Multnomah Falls off to the south as a reminder of the northbound journey.
I arrived in Hood River, Oregon, just after lunch and figured I would use this charging stop to refill the truck and me. Amenities around a charging stop tend to be hit or miss, so I hoped there would be a fast-food restaurant nearby. This particular Electrify America was set in the middle of a large Walmart parking lot, but a few restaurants were nearby. I connected the truck, confirmed it was consuming power, and I was off to lunch.
I wandered across the parking lot, up the hill, and around some bushes. I found a small pizza place that looked good. Just after I got my food, my phone received a notification from Electrify America that my truck was no longer charging for unknown reasons. Now, the clock is working against me. Every minute I’m not charging delays my arrival in Boise. One of the essential practices is to use charging time to do something else: eating, using the bathroom, refilling supplies, etc. I rapidly finished lunch to return to the charger before idle fees kicked in. For every minute after the first ten, the car remains connected to the charger. Electrify America can bill $0.40 for the cost of the charge.
I reset the charger, and charging resumed uneventfully. I lost another 15 minutes at this Electrify America station due to charging failures. Ugh.
|12:57-1:35 pm||67 kWh||150 miles added||$11.88|
Hood River, OR ➜ Hermiston, OR (122 miles)
The drive from Hood River to Hermiston was equally uneventful. At this point in the journey, I’m experiencing a very different Oregon. This part of Oregon is the true rural country. I am out in the farming communities of the area. Large pickup trucks and tractors dominate the landscape. Gone are the coastal enclaves to my west.
The Electrify America station in Hermiston had a special surprise: a Ford F150 Lightning. I’d never seen one in person up close. It looked better than I thought from pictures online. I was surprised at how big it was compared to the Rivian. The Rivian feels like a peer of the Toyota Tacoma. The Ford F150 was a clear step bigger. I saw Chris on the other side of the truck. He must’ve been 6′ 3″ and precisely what you would expect to find out here in the wide-open plains of Central Oregon.
Chris loved his truck. He drove it to see his girlfriend a couple of times a year in Arizona and talked about how much it saved him compared to the gas equivalent he had back in the garage. “It won’t tow like the big truck at home, but it sure saves me a ton of money in travel,” he laughed. Meeting people like Chris is one of the things I love most about driving an electric vehicle. I’ve met and talked with all kinds of people from all sorts of places on this road trip. Honestly, we need more of this in America: talking to people who are different than us. I am a left-of-center eco-granola Californian, and he’s a right-of-center central Oregon farmer. We both enjoyed the moment and headed our separate ways.
Know the ABCs of EVs: Always Be Charging
|3:22-3:47 pm||56 kWh||119 miles added||$20.16|
Hermiston, OR ➜ Island City, OR (82 miles)
The stop in Island City was entirely optional. The Rivian had plenty of energy to get to Huntingdon (assuming the chargers worked). The drive was primarily downhill, so the truck was getting great range charging downslope. After a couple of hours and a few hundred miles over my belt, I wanted to stretch and have a bathroom break.
US 395 throughout central California is one of the most beautiful highways in the state. It is known as the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway, wandering along the eastern side of truly magical peaks. It also connects each of the Sierra passes, a motorcycle rider’s dream. Up here in Eastern Oregon, the terrain could not be more different. It’s flat and wide open, much like US 395 in far northern California.
|4:55-5:35 pm||79 kWh||184 miles added||$28.44|
Island City, OR ➜ Huntington, OR (89 miles)
Cellular and terrestrial radio coverage along my drive in Eastern Oregon wasn’t great. I tried listening to the first Republican National Debate to understand the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. One of my long-standing frustrations with the Rivian is the lack of Apple Carplay support. Doing anything not explicitly supported by Rivian always takes more time, clicks, and hassle than it does with Apple Carplay.
Listening to the rhetoric was better than driving in silence. I learned a few things. A few things piqued my curiosity. Many things I thought were batshit crazy (looking at you, Vivek). My body isn’t used to 400+ mile days in the truck. Anything to pass the time was welcomed and appreciated. The chargers in Huntingdon were a good 10 minutes off Interstate 84 – hardly acceptable for a gas car, but something is better than nothing in an electric vehicle.
|6:51-7:02 pm||25 kWh||47 miles added||$9.00|
Huntington, OR ➜ Boise, ID (67 miles)
I stopped in Huntingdon because I didn’t know the charging infrastructure when I arrived in Boise. I’m staying reasonably far outside of town and figured I would be using the truck quite a bit and wanted to avoid traveling across town to get power.
This Electrify America charging station sat outside the T&T Country Store, a preview back to the days of the Andy Griffith Show. Huntingdon sports just over 500 people. This charger has a very captive audience traveling into Boise. Westbound travelers need to charge here for the eventual climb up to Hermiston. Eastbound travelers, like me, will likely stop here to top up before entering Idaho, the EV desert.
Each one of these vehicles represents the sale of food, drinks, and other supplies. The store’s audience is captive since charging takes anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. It’s good to see resources funneling into smaller towns that adopt electrification earlier in the build-out.
Crossing into Idaho meant losing another hour, joining the Mountain Time Zone. Speed limits increased from 70 miles an hour to 80 miles an hour. Yet, traffic wasn’t flying along at 90+. All the cars around me were between 80 and 85 miles an hour. It was the first time I had the Rivian at that speed for more than a few moments, so it was great to feel the truck’s performance flying through the Idaho countryside.
I made it to Boise just under 12 hours after leaving Olympia. The truck is capable. The charging network is lacking. However, with more homework, I can optimize my journey even further. In total, I spent about $100 in power so that nets to about $0.18c per mile. In a Tacoma at 19 miles a gallon at $5 per gallon: $141 for the trip and $0.26 per mile.