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Lightning strikes: 2017 Chevy Bolt is an EV that’s both practical, affordable Featured

Oct 15, 2017 Hit: 175 Written by 
The 2017 Chevy Bolt and its estimated 238 mile top range are a sign of the future for EVs
The 2017 Chevy Bolt and its estimated 238 mile top range are a sign of the future for EVs Photo by Matt Myftiu/AutoTechReviews.com

The future is now. That’s how General Motors sees things, at least.

Having announced this month a move toward a future heavy with electric vehicles (aka EVs), and an estimated 20 new General Motors EV models promised by 2023, GM (and other automakers) are banking on this being the way we travel in the future. The biggest brand in the Motor City sees a future not of loud hot rod engines, but of quietly humming EVs.|

I was able to spend some time in the brand new Chevy Bolt EV this month, and it’s not a stretch to call this vehicle GM’s biggest news in decades. I have driven many EVs in recent years, and the Bolt was arguably the best experience I’ve had in one -- mainly because due to its very impressive 238-mile maximum electric range. I never once had even a thought of “range anxiety,” the issue that has plagued previous EV models and limited their success.

My initial thoughts on the Bolt were that it’s an awesome leap for GM to put out those kind of numbers. This puts other EVs to shame (outside of a pair of overpriced Tesla models that beat the Bolt’s numbers), and has drawn some eyes to GM who normally would not look at the brand.

Built in Michigan at GM’s Orion Township plant, the Bolt ditches the gas backup engine you’ll find on the Chevy Volt (essentially rendering the Volt obselete), and despite being a true EV it actually drives like something pretty close to a normal car. The Bolt offers 200 horsepower from the electric motor, and features a 60-kWh battery pack. Regenerative braking charges the battery, so it’s most efficient in stop-and-go traffic.

Read on for my full take on the Bolt EV, and the future of EVs in general.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle:: 2017 Chevy Bolt EV
  • Price as tested:: Starts at $37,495 ($29,995 after tax credit)
  • Best feature:: Best extended range on an affordable pure-electric vehicle
  • Rating:: 4.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?:: Those who want to make the jump to full EVs and were waiting for some proper range

Range

Here’s the good news for GM as they start to focus more on EVs. They’re making very strong progress and these numbers for the Bolt EV are the best yet on an affordable vehicle. 238 miles is a solid number, but in reality I found it’s probably closer to 200 miles… unless you drive in a way that will really annoy the folks around you. The vehicle’s display screen shows you an actual number of miles left, plus a minimum and maximum that could come into play based on your driving style. (i.e. 100 actual, 120 maximum, 80 minimum).

I think the public’s ears will really start to perk up about EVs when the next wave of vehicles comes around that guarantees 300-plus miles per charge -- which would mean essentially once-a-week charging for many people (plug it in every Sunday night and you’re all set for the week).

But in the meantime the Bolt is your best shot for going a longer distance.
Currently the only vehicle touching that 300 mile range is a $100K-plus Tesla model most people will never own or even see with their own two eyes.


Charging and Infrastructure
You’re probably wondering: How long does it take to charge the Bolt? Well that answer has a few parts.

If you are using a Level 2 charging station (either an upgraded outlet in your home, or one out in public), you can add roughly 25 miles of range per hour charged. These public chargers can be found at charging stations, plus some stores, restaurants and workplaces, allowing your vehicle to charge while you are going about your daily business.

Also, while rare, there are some fast-charging stations around the country that can add 90 miles of range in 30 minutes (for a higher cost).

One thing I’ll say that is pretty obvious but bears repeating: Addition of this type of infrastructure for charging around the nation is critical for EVs to become the norm. Americans love to travel, to go far far away and enjoy the open road. If it’s not practical for us to stop and juice up our electric cars, they will not be selling like hotcakes.

There are costs associated with the charging of your Bolt, but are generally much less than gas charges would be (i.e. charging for 50 miles at a Level 2 station would cost just over a dollar).

Charging at home can only be done realistically if you upgrade to a Level 2 outlet, which can cost you more than $1,000. If you use a regular plug, you’re only going to add 4 miles of range per hour, so it would take 2 days or more fully charge the vehicle, and that’s not a good strategy. If you buy a Bolt and don’t want to charge in public, you must get the Level 2 charger installed for that to work.

Preparedness

However you decide to do your charging, the key with an EV is to be prepared. Since you don’t have charging stations everywhere and can’t just pull into any gas station in a low-fuel emergency like you can with a normal vehicle, you need a plan of action of when you’re going to juice it up. Always. No exceptions. Unlike the Volt, there is no gasoline backup here.

Commuter cities

Until the charging infrastructure grows, the Bolt will likely find its stronghold in cities where people have short or average commutes to work and back home again. With the 200+ range, someone driving 20 to 40 miles a day can make a charge work through the work week. Also, its smaller stature makes parking and maneuvering in tight city streets more manageable.

Price
The price is pretty much right here for the Bolt EV, with a $30K starting price after tax rebates. Compared to the astronomical costs of the only other EVs in this electric range (Elon’s Tesla offerings), it’s a drop in the bucket. I’m curious if the higher-end models like Tesla will have to come down in price once they see the competition from the Bolt and other more affordable EV models.

Design
You’ll want to make EVs look good if you want to sell them. It can’t just be about efficiency and being green.

I was a fan of the Bolt EV’s exterior design; which is a bit shorter than the Volt, but also a bit higher up. One area where GM disappoints is their interior design, which while roomy also uses materials that are rather pedestrian looking, particular in the front seat panel design, which has an odd texture.

Performance and technology

For the first time probably ever, I drove an electric vehicle and felt some sense of driving enjoyment. The 0-60 time was in the 7-second range, which is much better than other affordable vehicles in the category.

Other helpful features are the standard integration of Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and the Chevy MyLink infotainment system is featured. You can also opt for adding safety features like forward-collision warning and auto braking. Touchscreen and backup camera come standard.

A couple options are to pay for the $555 Comfort and Convenience package (includes heated front seats and steering wheel); or the $495 Driver Confidence package (blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors).

Bottom line

The 2017 Chevy Bolt EV is very much a step in the right direction for EVs and for GM.

GM plans on going big into EVs just like every other automaker, perhaps even moreso than others, and the day will come when these types of vehicles are the norm and not the exception

But a lot of pieces need to come together for true EV success. This vehicle at least moves the needle beyond a boutique brand like Tesla and brings possible interest in EVs to the mainstream masses who just want to make their commute without ever having to put in gas..

AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

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Matt Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

Website: www.autotechreviews.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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