There’s a reason that so many people live in Southern California. Those who love the outdoors can often find a slice of paradise in close proximity to home. Or two. Or even more tempting active outlets during mild and sunny winter months. Tackling multiple activities in a single day is a rite of passage for any Californian wedged between beach and mountains—it’s only a matter of deciding which adventures when, and how to navigate the masses and freeways lying in between the Golden State’s array of natural riches.
That being said, the lure of the ultimate geographical two-fer always remains: going from zero feet elevation to mountaintop. We all know that it’s possible to go surfing and snowboarding in the same day. As a coastal California native, I’ve notched a few with little-to-no hiccups. It was time to up the ante. I needed to see if it was possible to bag a single-day surf and ride with no emissions out of the tailpipe, using a 100 percent electric vehicle.
On a recent frigid morning, we embarked on this full-charge adventure starting in South Orange County. Our EV of choice for the day, a 2020 Chevy Bolt EV.
On paper—listed for a maximum 259 miles of range on a full charge—the new Bolt EV looked up to the task, especially considering how much battery technology evolves each model year, allowing vehicles to not only handle longer distances, but also more rugged terrain (the new Bolt EV’s increased battery capacity extends range 21 miles over the 2019). The question was: Would it live up to the specs?
Dawn opened at the Ranch Hotel in Laguna Beach, loading boards to the roof rack and tossing snowboard bags into the back. While the Bolt EV’s trunk is only listed at about 17 cubic feet, folding down the back passenger seats opened up more than enough gear storage into the nearly 95 cubic feet of passenger space. Three adults could easily fit with three board bags (positioned down the side, utilizing the 60-40 split rear seats). First impressions of the interior: attractive styling and tech-forward accents. We hit the road by 5:30 a.m., with just shy of a full charge on our Bolt EV.
With the sun still behind the hills, the wind howled offshore—all indications for an epic day. The air temp at San Onofre State Beach was quite chilly upon arrival, but the wind direction still ideal. As we navigated the bumpy dirt road toward the sand, the Bolt EV handled several sketchy potholes and tricky clearance situations like a champ.
As the sun prepared to peek over the cliffs and light up an empty lineup at the southern ‘Old Man’s’ break, we noticed an uncharacteristically empty lineup. No crowds—a surfer’s dream. We suited up and paddled out.
The conditions were all-time to kick off the day. Aside from the teeth-chattering air temp, of course, everything lined up. The whole crew was psyched, with the energy level in and out of the water at full volume.
After roughly two hours in the water, it was time to dry off, thaw out, and prepare for the next—much more taxing—leg of this journey.
We reloaded the gear around 8:30 a.m., and hopped on the path to Big Bear Lake (roughly 120 miles away). Checking the range, we had 225 miles left to go. As we slid comfortably into cruise control on the freeway, we settled into the two-hour drive up the system of five-lane freeways. With 200 horsepower, the new Bolt EV’s smooth acceleration impressed. There was more muscle than expected as we weaved through heavily trafficked lanes—always a pleasant surprise.
The tech features of the new Bolt EV are beyond smart—equipped with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot—and the integration of your phone using the myChevrolet app makes the whole user experience oh-so simple and streamlined. The wireless navigation from your phone to the vibrant 10.2-inch color touchscreen made following the right route a breeze.
When operating an EV, it’s important to be conscious of your driving style to maximize range. Try not to accelerate too quickly, nor break too hard. The true sweet spot of an electric car is slow and smooth. If we could keep the drive relaxed, we should have no problem getting up to Big Bear Lake with the couple hundred miles of range left on the battery. This was the moment when we fired up Pandora on our phone and wirelessly cranked up the tunes for the hour-long trek to the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.
As we began our ascent up State Route 330, we noticed that we were burning through miles much quicker than on the highway. While the Bolt EV certainly had enough power to avoid getting passed, we chose to take it low and slow and maximize the remaining range. And with only about 35 miles to the alpine lake-side town, we were more than confident that our 138 miles of range would carry us up nearly 7,000 feet of elevation to the base of Snow Summit Ski Resort.
By early afternoon, we arrived in Big Bear Lake with roughly 60 miles of range to spare—plus several hours of daylight to burn for some turns on the hill. Though the runs lacked new snow, resort crews were rigorously blowing the artificial stuff, which was a little rough on the face, but enough to create some fun pockets to ride.
After a few hours spent lapping the uncrowded groomers, we decided that our legs were all officially toast. We rode until last chair, and then ripped the boots off our feet on the tailgate of the Bolt EV, and loaded up. (The wonderful heated seats were a much welcomed feature at this particular moment.) As we took the short drive to nearby Lake Arrowhead, the front-wheel-drive Bolt EV handled the winding descent with no worries at all. While we didn’t take any off-road detours or short cuts, the roads in this area are bumpier than most; we were left confident in the Bolt EV’s electronic stability control system with traction control (i.e., StabiliTrak), which safely handled the stray bump and pothole. The day ended in the parking lot of the Lake Arrowhead Resort for the night.
With charging capabilities on the property, we juiced up our Bolt EV overnight for the easy downhill jaunt back to Orange County. And the coolest part? Our Bolt EV actually gained range on the drive down. It features a Low Mode which helps brake the vehicle—without you having to press the brake pedal. It’s a feature Chevy refers to as ‘One Pedal Driving,’ which regenerates electricity from the friction of the braking and pumps that voltage back into the battery. It was sweet to watch the range mileage slowly climb back up as we coasted down the mountain. We started with about 100 miles of range, and as we approached the bottom of the hill we had about 130 … plenty to get us home.
All in, the 2020 Bolt EV handled everything we threw at it. Not only did it lug all of our cumbersome gear, but it handled the difficult terrain as well as any compact car we’ve driven up to the mountains.
If extended road trips or off-highway adventures were considerations keeping you from getting into an EV, this double-dose day at least helped put some of my anxieties to rest with an EV’s capability. And with brand new Bolt EV’s starting at only $36,620—as well as charging stations popping up all over the country—cases against going electric are only getting twice as challenging.
Note: Don’t forget to explore all of the federal tax credits available for EVs and plug-in hybrids. You certainly don’t want to miss out on any incentive to go green.Check Out All the 2020 Bolt EV Specs Here
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