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Nov 16

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premium

General Motors have been building electric vehicles [EVs] for quite some time – remember the EV1? GM produced and leased it out to only 660 people living mainly in California and Arizona, it survived from 1996 to 1999 before being recalled and destroyed.

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain Shankland

Why? There are plenty of theories out there, but aside from being hideously ugly and an advertised range of 70–100 miles that was actually closer to 60, it was never going to set the world on fire. 

Although not a raging success, GM showed up at the auto shows in 2002 with a completely different take on the EV, perhaps the most audacious concept car ever – the AUTOnomy. Remember that one?

GM planned to change the way we purchased/leased our cars in the future. We would buy the skateboard or standard “autonomous” platform and shift out whatever body we wanted for any particular need/desire. You could have a sports car or a pickup truck, you just had to lift one off the platform and replace it with the other – the steering and braking would be accomplished through “drive-by-wire” electronic controls. GM promised to have a car based on Autonomy on sale by 2010, but we know that didn’t happen. But here’s a bit of irony: the technology of the AUTOnomy underpins Tesla Motors!

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain Shankland

GM’s Autonomy Concept

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain Shankland

Fast-forward to 2017 and we have the Chevrolet Bolt EV – an electric car for the masses. This isn’t a concept or a small-sale/lease exercise, this is planned to eventually go everywhere. Timing was perfect, the Tesla3 was announced but wouldn’t be delivered in serious numbers till 2018 at the earliest – the Bolt would be available to the masses in 2017. Range anxiety – always the bane of EVs is cast aside with a range of 383 kilometres. The Bolt was going to be a serious player and thanks to Tesla there were more and more cities, states, provinces and even countries installing charge stations en-mass for all these future EVs. With 385 kms travel distance though, people could easily drive to a destination and return home to re-charge – they’d never have to worry about getting stranded. Plug it in every night to keep it topped up and the “tank” is always full.

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandThis sounds like a challenge: take the car for a week and see if it’s really a one-car family vehicle – one the masses can buy/lease and actually live with day-to-day. A full day-by-day breakdown is available at the end of this article, but for now we’ll use our usual vehicle review format and a little more…

What Is It?    

  • Compact Electric Vehicle (EV) using a 200 horsepower permanent magnet motor driving the front wheels
  • 5-door hatchback – hatchbacks are the best way to really use a vehicle. Think about it, all the SUVs you see are essentially hatchbacks or (gasp) station wagons with bigger tires
  • Seating for 4 people + a kid (the person in the middle of the rear seat should be small)
  • Comes in two trim levels – LT and Premier – we’re driving the Premier this week
  • With a fully charged lithium-ion battery, the Bolt is capable of driving up to 383 kilometres on a single charge
  • Transmission – electric drive unit, continuously variable

EV: Charging, Fuelling Etc…
Plug Types
There are essentially four (4) types of plugs in North America for recharging EVs:

  1. Type 1 is basically just plugging it into a regular 3-prong 110V outlet in your home
  2. The most common is the J1772 (Type 2) capable of charging at 80 Amp/240 Volt, although most charge at 30 Amp/200 Volt (6kW)
  3. The other plug is call HPWC (Type 3) which is Tesla only. A Tesla can use a J1772 socket station by using the supplied adapter, but J1772 enabled vehicle cannot use the HPWC socket
  4. Most recently there are also DC Fast Charge Very few vehicles can use these stations as the plug is completely different from the Type 2 plug

GM in their wisdom installed the DC plug in the Bolt EV to future-proof it. A DC Fast Charge port allows you to re-charge up to 145 kms of range in 30 minutes of charge or 258 kms in about an hour.

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain Shankland

DC Fast Charge port

Recharge Time (approximate)
Location-based charging – Based on GPS data, a programmable “home” setting for charging allows you to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates when you’re charging at home but always begins charging immediately when you’re charging off-site.

Charging abilities for a fully depleted battery are:
Level 1 (120V @ 8 or 12 amps) takes 50 hours
Level 2 (240V) takes 9.5 hours – you can get about 80 km of range from a Level 2 charge in less than two hours
Level 3 (480v outlet/DC Fast Charger): You can expect 145kms of range in 30 mins or a full charge in about 2.5 hours

Re-charge Options – On-The-Go
While I was on the Chevrolet website (www.chevrolet.ca/volt-electric-car.html) looking at information on the Volt, I spotted “Charging Stations Are All Around” and entered my local town into the location, and wouldn’t you know it TWO locations popped up. Using the Plugshare website (www.plugshare.com), it pinpointed the locations for me – even telling me one of them was in use right now!! Users can give ratings and even text each other to tell others to unplug their car!  Some are free to use, while others charge a fee for the electrical top-up.

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandRe-charge Options – Home
If you are serious about getting any type of EV, then get one of the J1772 (Type 2) sockets installed at your home – approximately $2,000. (The Ontario government will pick up the tab for 50% of the cost and installation, so you’re only out of pocket about $1,000).

Note: Kia provide you with a unit when you purchase one of their EVs, so you just have to pay for the electrician part of that equation.

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandThe other option when charging at home is to use the standard 120v outlet. Since I don’t have an EV yet that’s what I used. The screen warns you of potential problems with your home wiring should you use the faster 12 amp option. I chose to use the 8 amp option because there’s some dodgy wiring around our place – even though it was previously owned and rewired by a “professional” electrician. Burning the barn down isn’t an option, so safety first. Were I to purchase a Bolt or any other EV, I’d get the place fully inspected and install a 240 outlet. To be perfectly honest though, I never found the length of recharge time an issue even with the 110V outlet – thanks to the Bolts very long range. Overnight charging was very convenient and never an issue

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandHow Does It Look?

  • I liked it but didn’t love it when I checked it out at the auto show … BUT to be honest I really like the look of the Bolt now that I’ve seen it on the road… and in my driveway
  • In a sea of cars in the local shopping area, it stands tall above other cars – you can spot it from quite a distance
  • The large glass area makes it a dream to drive – blind spot? What blind spot?
  • The wheels are pushed right out to the corners giving it a long wheelbase, and in-turn a much smoother ride
  • Great looking rims

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandWhat’s It Like Inside?

  • Manual 6-way driver and front passenger seat adjustment (up, down, forward, back and tilt)
  • Although very basic, the seats are surprisingly comfortable – even without a lumbar adjustment
  • My usual pet-peeve with GM vehicles is that there is nowhere near enough support under the knees with the seat cushion usually ending ½ way under my thighs – a non-issue with the Bolt seats
  • Rear seats have 60/40 split and are almost flat when folded
  • Getting in and out is very good.
  • Heated seats – front and rear. Seats can be programmed to be always on when the engine is running – a huge benefit in winter. Combine the seats with the Auto Start feature while it’s plugged in and the car will be toasty-warm in our frigid winters!
  • When plugged in the Bolt draws power from the outlet to warm/run the vehicle –very clever.

Standard features include:

  • Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel
  • Heated front bucket seats
  • Rear heated seats in the Premier model
  • Keyless Open and Start + Push-Button Start
  • Remote vehicle starter system
  • “KeyPass” – You can connect up to three smart phones to the car that allow you to control many features such as lock/unlock, start and vehicle status/informationChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain Shankland

So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?

  • The suspension and comfort level were very good
  • Switching it to Sport mode turns the quick Bolt into a lightning Bolt and dials up the fun factor even more!
  • Through regenerative braking and Regen on Demand, the Bolt uses its own momentum to recharge the battery as it slows down
  • Re-Gen happens every time you use the brake pedal, however to maximize your return there are two other methods that work better:
    • Shift into L and the braking changes quite dramatically – lift of the gas and full braking occurs, maximizing energy returned to the battery while also allowing you to drive literally with just the gas pedal – right down to a full stop
    • The other option is to use the lever on the left of the steering wheel to do the exact same thing
  • For maximum fun and regen, put the shifter into L and press the Sport button
  • The instant on of the gas pedal is addictive and once people can get their heads around the non-existent range anxiety, everyone will be buying an EV in the very near future

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandPropulsion System: 
Engine: Permanent magnet electric driving the front wheels
Transmission: Continuously variable electric-drive system
Horsepower: 200
Torque:  266 (motoring torque)
Top Speed:   157.7 km/h
0 – 100 km/h: 7.1 seconds

What Does It Cost? 
For up-to-date pricing and options in your region visit:  www.chevrolet.ca // www.chevrolet.ca/bolt-ev-electric-vehicle.html

 To Buy…   
Base Price (Premium Model): $47,795 // As Tested: $49,430
(Includes: +$495 – Arctic Blue paint + $575 – Driver Confidence Pkg + $565 – Infotainment Pkg)

Note: Ontario residents would qualify for a full $14,000 rebate in Government Incentives when purchasing/leasing (after taxes) making the base price effectively $33,795. In British Columbia the rebate is $8,250 and $8,000 for Quebec

 To Operate…

  • The Bolt is rated at: L e/100 km (BTW the Volt Hybrid is rated at 2.2)
  • City is rated at: 1.8 and Hwy1 L/100 km
  • Total Range: 383 km (full battery)
  • Transport Canada’s Annual fuel cost is estimated at: $458 (20,000 kms at 13¢ per kWh)… or about $9 per week, travelling….. 384 kms per week!
  • I saw a maximum of 433, an average of 367 and a minimum of 300 kilometes on a full tank
  • Realistically 433 would be unattainable, but somewhere between 367 and 433 (383 perhaps?) should definitely be a realistic goal

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandThe Competition
EV: Ford Focus EV, Hyundai Ionic EV, Kia Soul EV, Nissan Leaf
PHEV: Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fusion Energi, Hyundai Ionic, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Toyota Prius

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Looks great, very well appointed… loaded in fact
  • The Good: With government incentives – this HAS to be on your test drive/purchase list of cars
  • The Good: Stick it in Sport mode and you have an EV sports car
  • The Good: Comfortable, fun to drive and economical – this is the future, now
  • The Good: The cargo/trunk is huge and very usable
  • The Bad: OnStar doesn’t replace a real Navigation system and with extra costs beyond the 5-year coverage – don’t throw away your Garmin!!
  • The Ugly: Price-point it a bit high. With the $14,000 rebate (in Ontario) it’s within range of being affordable. Take that away however and Chevy won’t move very many of these at $51k a pop

 

ChevyBoltEV, BoltEV, Road-Test.org, Iain ShanklandWhat’s The Verdict?  
Before I picked up the Chevrolet Bolt I had very high expectations and quite frankly I didn’t think it could live up to them. I was wrong – it excelled way past my expectation – it is a superb vehicle with the bonus of being an EV. It’s very comfortable and a blast to drive. I am very seriously considering an EV for my next vehicle in about 18 months’ time and the Bolt is at the top of that list.

Forget about range anxiety – l

et’s be honest 99% of people never drive more than 383 kilometres in one direction on a regular basis. With a round-trip range of 383 kilometres, that’s 190 kms to your destination and back – Toronto to Buffalo and back – with 80 kms to spare. Or a round-trip between Toronto and London – or Toronto to Barrie and back – twice!

BUT…
The Chevy Volt is almost $10,000 less. The Hyundai Ionic EV is rolling out as you read this and its EV starting price is $35,649 (minus the $14,000 rebate!!) The Ionic Hybrid starts at $24,299 (minus $12,389 in Ontario)!! GM have got to get the price down – the quality and value is there, but the sale price HAS to be lower by at least $10k if they hope to sell many of these fantastic cars.

Click HERE for a full day-by-day breakdown of the Chevrolet Bolt (along with the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi)


Copyright © 2017 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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