This article is part of a multi-part series. You can find part 1 here.
It’s one thing to go on a road trip, but like any vehicle, you lose a lot of range with speed in an EV. Texas highways are already rough, with speed limits of 80 in rural western parts of the state. You can either go 85+ in the left lane, or get behind a semi that’s going 68 MPH in the right lane. All other choices are too risky. When these speed limits were first put in place, they were the fastest in the United States, but Texas felt the need to step up.
SH-130, a toll road from Georgetown to Seguin (and passing through Tesla’s Gigafactory near Austin), was designed with even higher speed limits in mind. The section from SH-45 to I-10 (from near Creedmoor to near Seguin) has a posted speed limit of 85 miles per hour. Although not the fastest in the world (there are still places with faster limits or no limits at all), it is the highest speed limit in the Americas. So, I decided to do the corny thing and call the stretch of road the “Yee-Hawtobaun” (mom jokes can be just as bad as dad jokes).
You’d think that in the United States, where we value (at least in theory) unfettered individual freedom, that there would be roads with no speed limits, but we’re not that cool, and we don’t. We haven’t been since 1999 when Montana instituted speed limits (and doubled its highway fatalities).
Honestly, though, after driving the length of the freeway (not counting the unsigned stretches going to San Antonio), I can see why Texas didn’t build an actual freeway. Like most places, there are just too many bad drivers. A tractor-trailer tried to pull me off the road when I didn’t get out of its way fast enough when it changed lanes. Too many other drivers to count didn’t realize the left lane is for passing and blocked it for much of the course. Also, the state was stupid enough to subsidize tolls for trucks to get them off I-35, which resulted in some pretty serious traffic jams here and there for such a fast road, despite the weekend .
All this really proves a recent piece to Autoblog to correct. The United States does not offer good alternatives to driving, so people who hate driving and would choose public transit have a good opportunity to instead clog the roads with their stupid and dangerous driving (camping on the lane left, not checking blind spots, etc.).
Moreover, we would have to spend more money on the quality of the roads. There were a number of places along SH-130 where there were huge bumps that made driving at the posted speed limit very uncomfortable and even a bit dangerous. Infrastructure just isn’t a very high American priority, so even if we had bad drivers to get away from cars, we’d still have roads that aren’t good for over 100 MPH.
Why the Bolt EUV might be the cheapest electric vehicle capable of handling this road
With an 85 MPH speed limit, combined with the usual 5-8 MPH wiggle room you get in most states (US cops don’t usually strictly enforce speed limits), it’s perfectly normal to drive 90 to 93 MPH if there is not someone obstructing the left lane. The Bolt EUV maxes out at 92 MPH, so it can drive down the road at full speed without getting pulled over.
There are plenty of EVs that can achieve these speeds, but note that I said EUV was the the cheapest EV that can handle the road. EVs with faster top speeds do exist, but they’re not available for $28,000 new.
Now, I know there are other EVs, like the Nissan LEAF, that are in the same price range and have a similar top speed, but they don’t quite measure up. For one thing, the lack of liquid cooling in the LEAF means that in the summer heat, lowering the Yee-Hawtobaun will quickly heat the battery up, likely into the red. I know this from experience. Also, the Bolt EUV has a much looser suspension that soaks up the bumps compared to a LEAF, which is more car than crossover. Normally a tighter suspension is a good thing, but with the big bumps on the poorly maintained parts of the SH-130 it would be very unpleasant at high speeds.
Even at top speed, the Bolt has enough liquid-cooled range to go up the road and back, so if you were using it to get around that highway, you’d be able to do it. Even if you had to charge at one end, I still got the car’s full 55kW charging speed after driving it at top speed, so that’s not a problem at all.
So, I would say the Bolt EUV is the cheapest electric vehicle capable of driving on the Yee-Hawtobaun, at least for now.
Electric crossovers are probably the best vehicles for the 21st century USA
While I love low-slung, tight-suspension sports cars as much as anyone, the United States just isn’t a great place for this type of car these days. Worse, I don’t see it getting better. Just passing the Infrastructure Bill of 2021 moved political mountains, and it was only for $1 trillion. Estimates of what it would take to really catch up vary, but they’re usually between $2 and $3 trillion, both politically unachievable numbers.
For everyday driving, getting a vehicle with a softer suspension, a bit more clearance, and plastic coating along the bottom is probably the best bet for roads that won’t be maintained as they should be. Add to that the lack of roadway extensions and sometimes even dirt road repairs in rural areas that aren’t happening, and it’s pretty clear that depending on good roads isn’t a good move right now.
As I will discuss in the next part, the only upgrade that I think is probably essential for the Bolt EUV is to put truck tires instead of car tires. For city streets full of potholes and bumps, broken highways and rural rocks, getting a slightly better shoe for EUV is probably a good idea.
Featured Image: A shot of the EUV’s fuel efficiency display after driving the fastest road in the Americas. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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