It’s all about the ‘B.’
Early this year, Chevrolet introduced the highly-anticipated ‘BOLT,’ not to be confused with the bow-tie automaker’s longer-established ‘VOLT.’
The all-new Bolt, (with a B), is an all-electric vehicle (EV). Chevy’s Volt (note the V) a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), includes an all-electric driving range of approximately 50 miles when fully charged before seamlessly switching over to an on-board gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Volt went on sale in 2010.
Bolt calms the senses with no tailpipe odor, eerily quiet electric motor and eye-appealing exterior. With no gas to pump or 10W30 motor oil to periodically drain, Bolt delivers zero emission travel in impressive fashion.
Bolt’s compact body design falls somewhere between a five-door hatchback and five-door crossover. A surprisingly handsome design opting for stylistic enhances rather than futuristic hints, resonating better in person than what’s conveyed via a two-dimensional photo.
Long sloping front ‘A’ pillars (about a 45-degree slat) frame an extra-large windshield, creating a large dashboard surface inside and spacious ambiance. With no internal combustion engine, Bolt’s comparatively stout and gently sloping hood disappears from driver’s view.
Looks alone don’t do the front-wheel-drive Bolt justice. The 238 estimated miles when fully tapped, represents a significant charge forward, currently topping the charts. The first-generation Nissan Leaf EV (2011-2017) debuted with an electrical range of about 85 miles. Leaf’s 2018 second-generation reaches 150 miles, far less than the 2017 Bolt.
Bolt’s 238 range, estimated by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency is just that, an estimate. When optimizing the regenerative braking process, more miles may get squeezed out. Regenerative braking captures and transfers friction energy back into the battery.
Tesla, the upstart electric car company, continues hyping its first mass-market, all electric offering, the Model 3 sedan with an expected price in the $35,000 neighborhood. Consumer sale of the Model 3 is expected by early 2018 whereas Bolt’s on sale now. Tesla currently markets two low-volume, higher priced offerings, the rear-wheel drive Model S sedan ($68,000 starting price) and Model X crossover ($82,500).
So far in 2017, U.S. consumers purchased approximately 65,000 all-electric vehicles, primarily from General Motors, Nissan and Tesla. All sell electrics nationwide. Other automakers build and sell EVs (Toyota, Hyundai, Kia) but with a limited sales footprint primarily in California.
Electric vehicle buyers currently benefit from a $7,500 zero-emission federal tax credit when itemizing income taxes. How long this financial motivation remains available is anyone’s guess as the current congress in D.C. hammers out a pledged tax overhaul. Illinois suspended its $4,000 EV state tax credit in 2015.
The 2017 Bolt arrived first in California, seguing to Chicagoland by midsummer, slightly ahead of the national curve, as most other regions waited patiently until August. Trim levels include LT and Premium. Chevrolet predicts 2018 Bolts arriving to dealers early next year, with pricing unchanged from 2017. Expect minimal updates for 2018.
Chevrolet’s Bolt is built from the ground up as an all-electric creature utilizing an all-new unique platform. General Motors recently announced plans to launch 20 new electrified models by 2023.
Bolt’s 960-pound, 60 kWh Lithium Ion Battery pack contains 288 cells, arranged in a flat-pack design spanning the vehicle’s entire length, resulting in well-balanced handling and flat floored rear seat area. It’s covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty. An enclosed, flat underbody streamlines airflow, improving aerodynamics.
The 288 cells drive a single, high-capacity electric motor up front capable of accelerating Bolt from zero to 60 m.p.h. in a peppy 6.5 seconds thanks to 266 lb.-ft. of low-end torque grunt.
How long does Bolt charging take? The answer depends.
During our five-days of testing, a common, garage-located 120-volt socket served as a power source (referred to as a ‘level one’ source). With an average four miles of driving range per charging hour, it’s a long slog to re-energize the system from an exhausted state. However, Bolt’s battery never reached depleted status during our time together, adding about 50 miles of range for use the following day after each overnight session.
A faster, more practical at-home option includes a 240-volt (Level 2) outlet most commonly used for washing machines. Several aftermarket companies install such garage ports with varying degrees of pricing ($500 to $2,000) depending upon rebate opportunities and special offers. Level 2 outlets reduce depleted battery charging time to about nine-and-a-half hours.
Public level 2 charging stations are sprinkled around the Chicagoland area (some free, others requiring a credit card), but remain few and far between.
Another commercially-based option; direct current (DC) fast chargers, providing 90 miles of travel in about 30 minutes.
Our 2017 Bolt Premier included a starting price of $40,905 with most available extras. Options included $750 for internal DC fast-charging provisions, $495 driver confidence package (automatic high beams, forward collision alert, lane keep assist), $485 infotainment package (wireless device charger, upgraded sound system) and $395 for orange-burst exterior paint for a bottom line of $43,905 with $875 destination charge. An LT trim starts at $37,495.
Bolt’s dashboard and instrument panel remain uncluttered, rather intuitive and overall very user friendly. It’s informative without overwhelming the pilot. An eye-pleasing touch weaving through the two-tone dash: narrow blue penlight illumination roaming from one ‘A’ pillar to the other while framing the curved lower dash.
A circular, dashboard-located electronic start button brings Bolt quietly to life when pushed. Bolt features Chevrolet’s first space-saving Electronic Precision Shift system with PRNDL selector fitting snuggly into the palm of the right hand.
Select the L (Low) designation for ‘one-pedal driving,’ a simplistic tap dance easy to master that maximizes driving range by adding a higher level of forward resistance and delivering additional kinetic energy back to the battery.
Lift the right foot off the accelerator pedal and Bolt coasts to a stop quicker than the conventional Drive mode. Feathering the accelerator pedal becomes fashionable when approaching a stop. The brake pedals always available if needed. One-pedal driving’s especially appealing in around-town driving, requiring little muscle memory retraining.
Despite Bolt’s rather elevated front bucket seats, headroom remains ginormous in front. With no floor transmission hump partitioning row two, three passengers can fit with relative comfort in this compact-sized yet airy offering.
Heat and air conditioning operate independently from the sizeable, 10.2-inch multi-function touch screen, relying on old-school, well-marked, tactile push-buttons below. A hearty thumbs up for incorporating this design.
The colorful, animated instrument panel includes a large digital speedometer display with a bar-type graph to the left providing pictorial representations and digital updates of remaining range. Many factors including outside temperature and use of HVAC can impact battery range. Graphics include lower range estimates (with HVAC in use) and standard estimates.
The useful hatch region benefits from second-row seatbacks able to fold onto cushions. Early versions of gas-electric hybrids often stored battery packs behind second-row seating, compromising trunk/hatchback storage capacity.
The hatch door opens to generous head clearance for those six feet five inches and shorter, impressive for a compact. The electric plug-in port hides behind a hinged door on the driver’s side front fender.
Bolt earned the prestigious ‘North American Car of the Year’ honor this past January at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. While pulp publications and cyber space sites dole out awards fast and furiously, the NAIAS honor carries great weight prestige.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Price as tested: $37,495
Driving Range: 238 miles
Battery: Lithium Ion
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Overall Length: 164 inches
Overall Height: 62.8 inches
Overall Width: 69.5 inches
Curb Weight: 3,580 pounds
Assembly: Orion Township, Michigan