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10 things you’ll want to know about Chevy’s new Bolt EV

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Ambient lighting in the Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (Nakano)



Story and pictures by Roy Nakano

Every few years, a car comes along that garners the buzz from the world of automobilia. Among the green car enthusiasts, the second-generation Prius had this distinction. Its popularity sent the car companies back to the fuel consumption drawing board. During the height of the recent economic recession, the Chevy Volt electric car with the back-up gas motor had the political pundits all in a buzz. This year, it’s Chevy again, with the Bolt EV. The car combines two attributes heretofore unavailable in a pure electric car: affordability and long range. With an EPA rating of 238 miles, the Bolt even beats out the range of the entry level Teslas.

“No, it’s the Bolt, not the Volt”

When you try to explain this car to acquaintances, be sure to factor in some time to clarify that it’s the Bolt and not the Volt. Chevy must have thought it was real clever to come up with two similar sounding names with electrical connotations. Some car experts think it’s a mistake. But Chevy may have the last laugh on this: Whenever people talk about one car, the other one is forced into the conversation. It’s free publicity for the car company.

Cajun Red is a $395 option on the new Bolt EV (Nakano)

This car has COTYs

For 2017, Chevy has been boasting about how it’s the most awarded car company. A large chunk of that claim is attributable to one car: The Bolt EV. It’s won virtually all the Car of the Year (COTY) awards for 2017. Google “Bolt EV” and “game changer”, and you’ll see all the accolades the automotive press has bestowed on this car. We’ll skip that in favor of 10 things we think you’ll want to know about the new Bolt EV. Consider the following:

1. You can get a killer deal on a Bolt EV

Much to the dismay of Chevrolet, the new Bolt EV is not selling well. Cheap gas prices may be the main culprit. In any event, the car hasn’t been good for dealers that like to gouge the public with “marketing adjustment” sticker prices above the manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP). Consequently, you can get a killer deal on a new Bolt. In So Cal, look for a car dealer that’s either on the Southern California Automobile Club, Costco or TrueCar referral list. Better yet, look for a dealer that’s on all three lists. This trifecta will yield a price that’s below dealer invoice—i.e., considerably less than the MSRP.

2. Lease rates are not a bargain

As good as the purchase deals are, GM is not presently matching the deals on its leases. This may change, given the soft sales of the Bolt. In the meantime, you can get a great lease deal on a Volt (the Volt, not the Bolt).

You can see a little bit of the BMW i3 in the Bolt EV (Nakano)

3. SUV crossover, or a shrunken minivan?

Chevrolet is marketing the Bolt as a crossover SUV—and why not? Crossovers are all the rage these days. Alas, the Bolt EV looks more like a shrunken minivan to these eyes. Just look at that front end: It can pass for a baby Honda Odyssey. On the hand, as shrunken minivans go, the Bolt is a nicely shaped one.

4. The base model is the bargain

The base models of cars are usually the best bargains. You get to enjoy the basic goodness of the car without paying for the frills. It’s the case with the $37,495 base Bolt EV LT ($29,995 after the Federal tax credit). You get you the same 238 mile EPA-rated range, Apple CarPlay (“Hey Siri, take us home”) and Android Auto (“Okay Google, I’m hungry”) as the more upscale Premier edition. You get the same 266 pound-feet of torque electric motor that’ll propel you from zero to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds. And you get the same sport mode, one-pedal driving mode, and Regen-on-Demand paddle shifter that will scoot you around corners and around town with the greatest of ease. The base model comes with a perky-looking two-tone cloth interior. Alas, one of the tones is off-white, and that can’t be easy to keep clean.

The Dark Galvanized Gray leather interior of the Bolt EV Premier (Nakano)

5. The state rebate and resale value might justify the bells and whistles version

To get the most dirt-resistant interior, you’d have to opt for the Premier edition with the Dark Galvanized Gray leather seat trim. At an additional four grand, the Premier is a hard pill to swallow. If you live in California, it’s a little easier to do so, since most buyers still qualify under the state’s $2,500 cash rebate program (see California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project). From there, the remaining difference can be justified by the Premier’s added resale value, not to mention the leather-appointed front and rear heated seats, heated steering wheel, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, bird’s eye view parking assist (Surround Vision), ambient lighting, and that enchanted rearview mirror (more on this later).

Our review model had just about every bell and whistle you can order on the Bolt, including the Infotainment Package (Bose sound system, wireless charging for phones equipped with it, four USB ports), Driver Confidence Package II (IntelliBeam Headlamps, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning—the Premier comes with Package I) and DC fast charging capability. Hey, we aren’t complaining.

6. That Enchanted Mirror

Disney and its “Beauty and the Beast” don’t have a lock on The Enchanted Mirror. Belle has to share that distinction with the Bolt. For its Premier package, Chevy fits the Bolt with five cameras to help mitigate your potential fender benders. One of the rear cameras is used to support the Premier’s rearview television monitor. Flip the lever on the rearview mirror, and it turns into a high definition TV screen. Like the Enchanted Mirror in “Beauty in the Beast”, the mirror in the Bolt provides you with a view of the outside world—in this case, it’s the rear view without the obstruction of rear seat headrests and heads, and without the C pillars blocking your vision. Chevy says the Rear Camera Mirror improves rearward vision by 300 percent.

In all fairness, Cadillac was the first to offer this feature; the Bolt appears to be the second. And it’s not a perfect solution. Some farsighted journalists are annoyed by the split second it takes their eyes to re-focus from the road to the mirror (younger eyes and those with monovision-corrected lenses fare better in this regard). The feature works well during the day and most of the night (brightness can be adjusted), but at certain hours, you’re better off flipping the mirror back to normal mode.

The review model is equipped with DC fast charging capability (Nakano)

7. DC fast charging isn’t always that fast

For $750, you can equip the Bolt EV with Level 3 DC fast charging. The feature will allow you to charge up 90 miles in 30 minutes. That’s a great feature, but Level 3 DC charging stations are still few and far between. You really have to be an adventurer to want to plot out a long-range trip in a Bolt. Plus, there’ll be no guarantee that someone with an i3 or another Bolt won’t already be using the Level 3 DC charger when you get there. You might want to save that $750, and put it towards the cost of a renting a gas-propelled car for your long-range trips.

8. You don’t have to go with the GM-partnered 240v EVSE charger

General Motors has named AeroVironment’s EVSE-RS as the official charging station accessory for the Bolt EV. It’s a smart-looking 32-amp Level 2 electric vehicle servicing equipment (EVSE) charger. But, you need not be wedded to this particular model. It’s not the most revered EVSE company around. That distinction arguably goes to ClipperCreek, whose models look decidedly less sexy. ClipperCreek has a reputation for durability among EV aficionados. The HSC-40P 32 Amp Level 2 (240 volt) EVSE with its NEMA 14-50 plug and 25 foot cable is attractively priced at $589, but there are other popular choices to consider as well (see Buying Your First Home EV Charger).

9. Range matters

If you’ve been living with any electric cars other than a Tesla, the Bolt will change the way you drive. Suddenly, going to that restaurant on the other side of the city is back on the option list. You won’t care so much about whether the car is fully charged. You can even skip the charging routine an evening or two. In short, the Bolt has pretty much rendered the other pure electric vehicles in its price class obsolete. Unless those other electric car manufacturers are ready to damn near give their cars away, there’s little reason to keep from crossing them off your list (well, in the case of the 500e, some Fiat dealers are damn near giving them away with reports of $69 monthly lease rates). As for the claimed EPA rating of 238 miles, it appears to be grounded in reality. We did a run from Monrovia to Santa Ana in the Bolt EV, and the range gauge said we still had 234 miles left, based on the style of driving just performed. It’s a brand new day.

Does the 238 mile range Bolt EV render its similarly priced competitors obsolete? (Nakano)

10. Should you wait for the Tesla Model 3?

No one will argue that the Chevrolet Volt, I mean Bolt, has the cachet of a Tesla. One look at the high stock value of Tesla versus that of General Motors is a sobering reminder of that. For that matter, one look at the Bolt itself versus the anticipated $35,000 Tesla Model 3 should put the nail on the cachet coffin. The Model 3 looks to be a sleek, shrunken Tesla Model S when it arrives, versus the Bolt’s shrunken minivan proportions.

On the other hand, Chevrolet is a real car company, with a real dealer network to back up its products. As a brand, Chevy’s predicted reliability is pretty respectable, if one goes by the Consumer Reports (CR) surveys. By contrast, Tesla has had teething problems with every model it’s introduced. CR, an early proponent of the Tesla Model S, had to remove its recommendation of the car due to reports of ongoing repair problems. With low-volume cars like the Model S and X, Tesla can handle the repairs. One wonders if it can do the same with a mass market, anticipated high-volume car like the Model 3.

So, you can wait for the Tesla Model 3. Or you can go to a Chevrolet dealer now and get electric propulsion in an affordable car with a 238-mile range. Or you can wait for Chevy to introduce a sleek, new electrified sport sedan called (are you ready for this?) the Jolt ;-)

Want to see more photos or got something to say? See them and add your Facebook comment regarding this article here.
For more information about the Chevrolet Bolt, click here.

Bolt EV photos taken at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (Nakano)

THE MAIN INGREDIENTS

Name of vehicle:
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Price:
$37,495/$27,495 (base LT/with federal and CA incentives)
$41,780/$31,780 (Premier edition/with federal and CA incentives)
See information about the federal tax credit here.
See information about state incentives here.

EPA range rating on a single charge:
238 miles

Charging speeds:
90 miles in 30 minutes with a Level 3 DC fast-charging EVSE
32 miles in 60 minutes with a 32 amp Level 2 EVSE charger
Approximately 9 hours from zero to full capacity with a Level 2 EVSE charger
Approximately 2 days from zero to full capacity with 110/120-volt house current

Electric motor performance:
200 horsepower
266 pound-feet of torque

Transmission:
Electronic single-speed, with Regen-on-Demand paddle shifter and available one-pedal driving mode

Drive configuration:
Front motor, front-wheel drive

Battery configuration:
60 kWh lithium ion pack mounted below the passenger floor

EPA size classification*:
Small station wagon

* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.

The new Bolt Swiss army knife (Nakano)

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