2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV – The Best Electric Vehicle Deal of the New Millennium
by Michele Spencer
When the decision has been made to go all electric in that next vehicle, there’s a secondary decision that must also be made: luxury or basic.
The high-end EV buyer will be looking for expensive interior materials, probably wood and leather, with state of the art technology, including self driving mode, and the car’s style must be futuristic and look costly. The price tag of the high end buyer’s vehicle is going to start in the $60,000s.
The buyer who doesn’t need interior luxury amenities, self driving mode, or Silicon Valley cred will pay far less, with the price starting at $36,620. It is this buyer who Chevrolet has made the 2017 Bolt EV for. Chevrolet has made EV ownership a reality for everyone, not just the well-heeled.
An automotive critics’ darling, the 2017 Bolt EV was named the 2017 North American Car of the Year, the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal.
The Bolt EV wasn’t intended to do battle with the Tesla Model S, but because it hit the market way ahead of the Model 3 (which is still not readily available due to production glitches), Chevy’s Bolt EV sales numbers have been giving Tesla a run for its money, with the numbers steadily climbing each month since the Bolt EV’s introduction in January 2017.
No wonder, since the base price of the Bolt EV LT is $29,995 after the federal tax incentive is factored in. The battery range is comparable that of Fremont’s finest, and the crossover delivers on driving experience. For a lot less cash out of pocket, the buyer is in a quality EV with an 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty.
The Bolt EV’s EPA estimated range is 255 miles city, 217 highway, and 238 combined. In the week of testing, it charged up to 260 consistently.
Driving the Bolt EV is a pleasure. Any doubts about EV performance are quickly dashed. It offers a smooth and quiet ride. Off the line, sheer power is delivered instantly and without hesitation. 0-60 is reached in just under seven seconds. The Bolt EV cruises comfortably at highway speed and its suspension and handling are more than acceptable. The windshield is large, offering outstanding visibility. The cabin is quiet at highway speed.
Electronic drive shifting is done with a by-wire lever unit similar to a manual transmission shifter, with four modes available: park, reverse, neutral and drive. To enable regenerative braking, the driver pulls the lever rearward, then the on-demand paddles behind the steering wheel are used to regulate braking. “One-pedal” driving is done in order to maximize range. The by-wire shifter is more compact than traditional mechanical shifters, allowing for more than expected cabin space.
There is a back up camera standard on the LT (base trim level). Surround vision is an outstanding safety feature on the Premier trim, on today’s tester. Both trim levels have traction control, side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert.
The tester was equipped with the Driver Confidence II package ($495), which provides Intellibeam headlamps, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and low speed forward automatic braking. This package is highly recommended – it’s a bargain for the safety features that it provides.
On the interior, the driver’s information cluster shows speed, driving efficiency, battery range, and regeneration status. Three choices of readout configurations are available. The 10-inch in-dash infotainment screen displays music, phone, navigation, and heating and cooling data for the occupants. OnStar vehicle diagnostic information (subscription required) and 4G LTE wi fi are standard on both trim levels, as is Chevrolet Roadside Assistance, which is free for the first 5 years/60,000 miles.
On the LT trim, the interior is dark galvanized sky cool gray with deluxe cloth seat trim. With Premier trim, the same color scheme is complimented by perforated leather-appointed seat trim.
The tester’s Infotainment Package ($485) added a wireless charging pad, Bose premium 7-speaker sound system, and dual USB ports for rear passengers, all which are worth the additional charge.
The driver’s steering wheel controls and dash controls are similar to non-EV GM vehicles and will be familiar to Chevrolet or Buick customers. The tilting and telescoping steering wheel comes standard with a heater, as well as the driver and passenger seats, with three levels of heat settings available. There is ample storage space in the cabin, with two cup holders in front and two more in the back. Knobs are available for audio volume control and buttons for air circulation control. Phone pairing for Bluetooth operation is easily done through the control panel.
The Bolt EV is a crossover, so it has plenty of room in the back seat for passengers and their things, as well as cargo space in the rear hatch.
Orange burst metallic was the tester’s color ($395). Other Premium trim colors are Cajun Red Tint Coat and Kinetic Blue Metallic, which will add $395 to the tab. The LT trim Bolt EV comes in Arctic Blue Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic, Nightfall Grey Metallic, and Summit White, at no extra charge.
In California, the best thing about EV ownership is HOV/carpool lane access as a single occupant.
As the EV market sits right now, there’s absolutely no way any other electric vehicle can beat the Bolt EV for what it delivers for the money: Superior battery range, comfortable ride, good handling, excellent technology, and all the roominess that a crossover provides. Kudos to Chevrolet on a job well done – for the rest of us.
A Word on Adjusting to the EV Lifestyle
As a first-time EV owner or driver, there’s a bit of an adjustment period. The dreaded “charging anxiety” that comes with EV ownership is caused by not knowing where to get your vehicle charged, and how to pay for it. Knowledge is power in this regard.
If you don’t have a charger installed in your garage, it is necessary to learn where all of the EV charging stations are near your home and near your workplace.
It’s a lot like having a washer and dryer in your place versus having to go to the Laundromat to do your laundry.
The Bolt EV’s navigation system pulls up a list of charging stations in the area, but use of an app or website on your phone is recommended. The ChargePoint and PlugShare apps are good ones that most owners use. In my experience, most of the available public charging stations shown on the apps are owned by ChargePoint. The problem is that the ChargePoint charging stations do not take credit cards, but rather their own prepaid card, the ChargePass. Some shopping centers, car dealers, and hotels offer free charging.
The MyChevrolet app provides information on locations of charging stations, allows the user to check on the charging status of their vehicle’s battery, and enables remote charging initiation.
The electric vehicle infrastructure is growing, but it is not at the point where electric charging stations are easy to find or widespread at the places where people live, work, eat and shop. Because of the current situation of limited availability of public charging stations, most EV and hybrid owners choose to incur the cost of having a charging station installed in their garage.
An optional portable charger is available from Chevrolet dealers for $535 that you can plug in overnight in a standard 120 volt outlet. This will give the vehicle 4 miles of range per hour. This “trickle method” of charging takes substantially longer than plugging in at a charging station, but at least you’re at home while it’s charging.
If your garage has a 240 volt outlet, a 32-amp charger is available from the dealer for $699, and will give 25 miles of range per hour.
The Bolt EV calculates and displays how much time it will take to fully charge as soon as you connect to either a charger or an outlet.
An EV works best for people who have a daily commute that is predictable and who do not have the “need for speed,” since high speed causes the battery to deplete much faster.
Staying at 65-70 miles per hour on the highway is the way to maximize range. Lead foots, be warned. Because there is nothing even close to a nationwide infrastructure of charging stations, EVs are not road trip warriors and it would be impossible to go cross country in one. At this point in time, they work out best for those doing mostly in-town driving.
It’s also interesting that EVs use less power in stop and go traffic, unlike their gas engine counterparts.
The EV lifestyle works for people who can charge at home in their garage. It also works for people whose regular work place has a charging station (or 100, in the case of Hyundai’s corporate headquarters in Orange County).
If you’re able to work around the current limitations on public charging, then you’re not going to experience “range anxiety” or “charging anxiety,” and the EV lifestyle is a good fit for you.
2017 Bolt EV Details
Type: compact crossover SUV, hatchback, five doors.
Power: Permanent magnetic drive motor, 60 kWh lithium ion battery, 288 cells.
Range: 255 city, 217 highway, 238 combined.
Chassis: Front independent MacPherson strut-type with direct-acting stabilizer bar. Rear compound crank (torsion beam) with coil springs
Steering: Column mounted rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Four wheel disc, partially regenerative
Wheels: 17 inch aluminum; Michelin Energy Saver all-season tires
Drive Mode Shifting: Electronic Precision Shift system, by-wire shifter
Torque: 266 lb-feet
0-60: Under 7 seconds
Charging: Standard SAE Combo connector for fast charging and trickle charger (supplied standard) for 120 or 240 volt outlet charging.
120 volt charge time – 4 miles of range per hour
240 volt charge time – Full charge in 9.3 hours
DC Fast Charging time – 90 miles of range in 30 minutes
Braking: Regenerative braking system
Safety: Ten standard air bags, rear vision camera, surround vision (latter standard on Premier only)
Curb Weight: 3563 pounds
Max cargo space, rear seats down: 56.6 cubic feet. With seats up: 17 cubic feet.
Tech: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB ports, conventional charger, 10.2 inch diagonal color touch-screen, wireless phone charging, 4G LTE wi fi hotspot, and OnStar (subscription).
Warranty: Battery – 8 years / 100,000 miles
Powertrain – 3 years / 36,000 miles