Chevy Bolt Mainstreams the Electric Car

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-front-3General Motors has been at work electrifying cars for decades, from the EV1, Spark EV, and an array of ‘mild’ hybrids to the acclaimed Volt extended-range electric that’s seen on highways across America. Volt owners interviewed universally respond with positive accolades, which means GM has done this car right. Now, the automaker’s 5-door, crossover-like Bolt EV hatchback aims to deliver a similarly satisfying ownership experience while providing even greater battery electric driving range.

The measurably fun-to-drive, imagination expanding Bolt EV features an EPA estimated 238 miles between charge cycles. That’s a groundbreaking figure in the realm of affordable electric cars for the masses, at an MSRP starting at $37,495 (before federal and state incentives). And that’s cool, but not what this gearhead finds most compelling when considering the purchase of a very viable, full-drive-time electric.

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-underhood-1In short, the all-new Chevy Bolt EV is the first stand-alone electric plug-in that I could justify purchasing as my sole mode of transportation. The price is right and proven component and battery module reliability is a given, backed by an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty. Importantly, I discovered the Chevy Bolt to drive, ride, and handle well during our travels on country roads and city streets in the San Francisco Bay Area’s urban expanse.

Dropping into the driver’s seat of the Bolt EV not only leaves an impression of a comfortable and spacious cabin, but also proof of how effectively GM has ‘normalized’ the EV experience. Truthfully, one forgets it’s an electric vehicle being driven within minutes of taking the wheel. And that’s precisely what GM engineers had in mind when designing the Bolt EV – it’s that good.

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-rear-1Driving the Bolt EV is enlightening. The car’s low center of gravity delivers minimal side roll, excellent hill-climbing, on-tap torque, and quick sprint speeds. Satisfying power is delivered by a 200 horsepower electric motor powered by a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Chevy specs peg 0 to 60 mph acceleration at 6.8 seconds, and that seems about right. Steering response is better than anticipated and the regenerative braking system offers a familiar hydraulic-like feel.

Transitioning from driving the environs of Half Moon Bay to the more urban streets of San Francisco, the Bolt EV’s in-city maneuverability and ease of parking proved to be exceptional. Little to no electric motor noise was noted while wind and tire-to-pavement noise transmitted to the cabin was minimal, all thanks to advanced glass and considerable noise damping provisions. Keep in mind that these sounds are normally masked by the background sound of internal combustion in conventionally-powered cars, and thus magnified in vehicles with silent electric propulsion. Delivering a quiet driving experience in a battery electric vehicle is no small accomplishment, and the Bolt EV does this well.

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-rear-seat-1The Bolt EV’s compact gel foam front seats are unusually comfortable for a subcompact car, providing ease of adjustment and good driver-to-control positioning. Rear seats accommodate taller passengers without compromises in comfort or position due to the car’s relatively high bodyline.

It took just a few minutes for the learning curve in operating the Bolt EV’s center stack and segmented digital instrument cluster. Features are near-intuitive to operate and driver-to-car personal electronics connectivity is straightforward. In dash navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and your preferred personal entertainment device will all pair and display effortlessly through Bolt’s easy-to-view and manipulate 10.2 inch, center stack color touchscreen monitor.

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-display-1Pushing the Bolt EV to levels that would be considered near-redline in a conventionally-powered car was no problem. After 2 1/2 hours of speeds up to 75 mph over variable terrain and road conditions, our test car still showed 130 miles remaining on the range-minder. That’s just a bit of a mind blower! In fact, real-world driving indicates understated range and we have no doubt the Bolt EV could do better than its rated 238 mile battery electric driving range, given a more reasonable pressure on the accelerator pedal.

With its impressive driving range, driver and passenger convenience features, comfort, quality of construction, and available electronic active safety features. Chevy’s 2017 Bolt EV requires no sacrifices to drive electric. It effectively “normalizes” the electric car while firing a warning shot across the bow of the auto industry. The future of personal transportation seems ever more likely to be an electric one and the tech-rich Bolt EV delivers this message in the strongest way possible, at a price affordable to the masses.