What Is It?
Chevrolet is changing the way America thinks about electric cars — or at least our thoughts on EV transportation needed adjusting after spending a few days with the innovative Bolt EV. Prior to the Bolt EV’s premiere, car shoppers looking to ditch their vehicles’ internal combustion engines could either spend upward of $70,000 on a Tesla Model S or opt for a more reasonably-priced Nissan LEAF, Kia Soul EV or a few other options. But the Tesla is expensive and the other offerings only travel about 100 miles per charge — limiting for some drivers if they hope to use an EV as their only vehicle. The Bolt EV strikes a happy medium.
A roomy, useful and fun-to-drive hatchback, the Bolt EV will ultimately be cross-shopped against other electric vehicles rather than other compact hatchbacks. The Nissan LEAF is likely its main competitor, but other similarly sized and priced electric vehicles include the BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen e-Golf.
Our Test Vehicle
Our tester was the Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier with a few additional features: Fast Charging Provisions, Driver Confidence Package II (includes automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and other safety technologies) and an infotainment package. Total MSRP is $43,510. The Bolt EV is also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit as well as additional state tax credits.
What We Like
Chevrolet estimates the Bolt EV’s driving range to be 238 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries. Based on our time with Chevy’s new electric car, this seems like a conservative figure. After driving 66 miles, the Bolt EV indicated an additional 217 miles were possible before having to recharge the battery pack, thanks to its significant capacity.
Prior to experiencing the Bolt EV, our typical practice when testing an EV would be to charge it often and constantly drive in a conservative manner to save as much power as possible. Thanks to the Bolt EV’s extensive range, it gives drivers a different mindset — when operated under normal conditions, this EV can be plugged in and recharged every few days.
Inside, the Bolt EV provides an inviting mix of friendly, high-tech features. Gauges and screens show range and energy consumption information in easy-to-read displays. We really like the customizable home screen that can display multiple information streams such charge time, phone, audio and navigation.
The Bolt EV’s front seats have side bolsters that support without being too tight, providing a comfortable perch. We also appreciate the seat fabric color scheme matching the center console and dashboard. Storage abounds on the floor between the front seats as well as in the center console, and two USB ports give occupants flexibility with their mobile devices.
Since the front seatbacks are relatively thin, the Bolt EV has a decent amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers. The EV also has a flat floor, so even a middle-seat moper won’t feel too cramped. Two centrally-located USB ports give those in the second row options for playing and charging devices as well.
Despite being a small car, the Bolt EV possesses a surprising amount of storage in back. A few small suitcases or several grocery bags will fit with little difficulty. Rear seats can be folded to create a spacious, flat cargo compartment.
The Bolt EV’s cargo floor is slightly raised, providing an additional hidden compartment below — or the panel can be removed for additional space — a smart touch.
A tangible benefit of the Bolt EV’s large battery capacity is peace of mind. Drivers can go full throttle when necessary (freeway onramps, avoidance maneuvers) without worrying about draining a large amount of energy. Quick off the line, the EV’s precise steering and electric motor’s immediate torque make urban maneuvers a breeze — a boon in rush-hour traffic. With its quick throttle, compact size and commendable handling the, Bolt EV makes an excellent daily driver and is actually fun to drive.
Under the Bolt EV’s hood resides a permanent magnet drive motor that generates 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet claims this EV will bolt to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Based on our experience, we have no reason to doubt that figure. Energy comes from a 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Electric cars are rated by MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), which measures the miles a vehicle can travel on the energy equivalent to a gallon of gasoline. The Bolt EV is rated at 128 MPGe city / 110 MPGe hwy / 119 MPGe combined.
Doing the Fuel-Economy Math
During our drive in the Bolt EV we averaged 4.8 miles per kWh. The average price for a kWh is about 12 cents, so we travelled 4.8 miles for 12 cents. The average price per gallon of gas in Washington State (where the driving took place) is $2.97. Extrapolating from there, we were averaging 118.8 miles for the cost of a gallon of gasoline — surprisingly on target with the EPA rating — and quite impressive for any vehicle.
What We Don’t Like
The Bolt EV’s large battery pack gives the small car an impressive range, but it also takes longer to charge than most electric vehicles. In fact, it can take more than two days to achieve a full charge from empty if using a standard 110-volt home outlet. This issue can be resolved using a 240-volt outlet, which drops the time to nine hours — we heartily recommend this option to anyone who plans to purchase a Bolt EV.
Not only will the Bolt EV change America’s thinking about what an electric car can be, it will also change driving styles via one-pedal driving. With the gear selector set to Low, the Bolt EV activates regenerative braking whenever the driver lifts a foot off the accelerator. It does take a while to adapt, but we quickly learned how to modulate the throttle to smoothly slow all the way to a stop while maximizing regenerative power. In fact, once adjusted to one-pedal regenerative driving, we became so used to it that when switching back to another vehicle we were surprised to take a foot off the accelerator and simply coast away all that potential energy.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is unique within the U.S. automotive landscape, thanks to its extended electric range and reasonable price; however, that landscape will surely change in the next few years. But right now, drivers can get a stylish compact car (with a surprisingly spacious interior) that’s fun to drive — and it’s one of the most efficient cars available in America. The Bolt EV is worth checking out, even if you’ve never considered an electric vehicle.