When we were invited to test-drive the brand new Chevy Bolt electric vehicle, we naturally jumped on the opportunity. The new Chevrolet Bolt is Chevy’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle, designed for those who want to go further than a hybrid plugin electric like the Chevy Volt. With a range of 238 miles per charge (better than the Nissan Leaf and comparable to the much higher priced Tesla Model S), for a price tag of around the 30K (after the tax rebates), many have high hopes for the Chevy Bolt as the first true “electric vehicle for the masses”. We were curious to see how this car would fare in real life, and were excited to check it out. Hailed by automotive enthusiasts as the “Tesla Killer,” the Bolt has been a frontrunner in the competition against Tesla’s more affordable electric car, the Model 3, and now enjoys an entire year’s head start to market. Will the Bolt bring a new wave of adoption for electric vehicles? Read on for our thoughts:
We set out in our burnt orange Bolt EV just an hour south of San Francisco, along the picturesque, tree-lined roads of Portola Valley. From the minute we hit our first hill-hugging turn, we knew that we were in for a smooth experience. The car carries the bulk of its weight in its floor-mounted lithium-ion battery pack, which translates to a lower center of gravity, better structural integrity, and ultimately a more enjoyable ride than most gas cars. Naturally of course, the car is extremely quiet as well, without any vroom vroom of an engine. The unique placement of the battery also allows for a flatter floor, making the Bolt noticeably roomier then the Volt and many of its electric vehicle competitors. With AeroVironment’s Level 2 charging station the battery can be recharged to full in only eight hours, making charging as simple and intuitive as plugging in before going to bed.
On straighter stretches we were able to zip from 0-60mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds. Drivers can choose between “Drive” and “Low” modes, and while Low mode permits speeds as highs as those in Drive mode, its “regenerative” braking system cleverly funnels braking friction back into the battery the moment the driver lifts their foot from the pedal. A paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel can be used to the same effect or to increase brake regeneration, so much so that the car can come to a complete stop without hitting the brakes. It’s ideal for stop-and-go traffic and even better for conserving energy. Drivers can visualize the energy captured on the car’s 10.2-inch touch screen display.
With an impressive 238-mile range per charge, Bay Area owners can make a complete one-way trip to Tahoe without having to refuel, making the Bolt far more suitable for weekend trips than many of its EV competitors, such as the Nissan Leaf. The car’s official MSRP is $37,495 but a federal tax credit of $7500 puts it firmly in the under $30,000 range.
All in all, it is easy to see why the Bolt EV might be a tempting choice for those in the market for an electric vehicle. With exceptional range, groundbreaking technology, and roomy interior, we’re convinced the Bolt delivers on everything it promised. Chevy Bolts officially went on sale at dealerships across the West Coast this past December and will be reaching excited customers across the nation by mid 2017.