2017 Chevy Bolt EV Really Delivers: Review
First Drive: We take the all-new Chevrolet Bolt EV through some tough terrain in the Colorado Mountains.
Climbing high into the mountains, traversing numerous hairpin turns and descending thousands of feet back down towards Boulder, Colorado, the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV is for many people an unlikely vehicle to take on such a drive. This is exactly what Chevy had in mind when they invited us out to drive it. Turns out Chevy was right and EV skeptics were wrong. The 2017 Chevy Bolt EV handled everything the Colorado mountains and windy roads could deliver.
The Bolt EV is Chevy’s latest addition to their car lineup and is fully electric with an estimated 238 mile range. It is technically classified as a small wagon, yet cargo room and space is much greater than anticipated thanks to Chevy’s design and use of ultra-thin seats. Plus, it is much quicker than a wagon with a 0-60 time in the 7 second range with a great off-the-line speed feel. And surprisingly yes, you can a little bit sideways in the Bolt EV. Trust us. Don’t tell Chevy, but we found this fun fact out on our drive.
In order to truly understand the Bolt EV, Chevy shared with us the development history behind it. Through focus groups, Chevy broke down consumers into several key groups including a group of “EV Rejectors.” These rejectors are the stick in the mud folks who have so far resisted EV vehicles and these groups partly explain why these cars haven’t truly caught on. With the goal of assuaging the fears of the rejectors, Chevy smartly designed and engineered a car that can appeal to all groups.
The rejector crowd had several key complaints on EV cars which Chevy took note of. For example, these rejectors want at least 200 miles of range and a price around $30k. Basically, they wanted it to be a long-range and affordable car. Chevy nailed both marks.
Rated with a total range of 238 miles and starting at right around $30k after $7,500+ in government and state tax credits, the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV delivers.
On the road, it delivers with being exceptionally quick when you need it to be and then smooth and quiet when you don’t. The single, high-capacity electric motor is capable of producing 266 lb-ft. of torque and 200 HP – about as powerful as a standard Chevy Malibu. Unlike internal combustion engines, the Bolt EV delivers power from the get go thanks to Chevrolet’s first Electronic Precision Shift system. This is a drive-by-wire system which propels, the rather heavy for an EV car, 3,563 lbs of wagon forward.
While drag racing an electric car is fun, cornering is where things get exciting. Again, the Bolt EV delivers with a really composed vehicle handling tight corners with ease. This is mostly due to how Chevy engineers incorporated the 60 kWh lithium ion battery pack in the middle and back end of the vehicle. Spreading its five sections with 10 modules and 96 cell groups (three cells per group), under the rear seats and into the trunk, the Bolt EV holds the line in corners much like Chevy sports cars do and has surprisingly little body roll. It simply delivers performance like muscle car builders lust after.
That’s not all. It also delivers a really fun and unique driving experience through one-pedal driving. This seems odd to think of driving a vehicle without using the brakes, but thanks to Chevy’s regenerative braking system utilizing the “L” gear selection on the shifter, it does just that. Letting off the accelerator slows the car down immediately. In fact, it slows it to such a point, there is simply no need to brake at stop signs with a little forward planning. During our 2.5 hours of driving the Bolt EV, we used the brakes one time and, frankly, we didn’t need to. We simply wanted to make sure they did in fact work.
Also, for those EV rejectors who worry about range anxiety, in L mode, we used less battery plus we added range going downhill. We know this thanks to Chevy’s use of a miles of range left indicator in place of the fuel gauge which becomes a fun game in seeing how little you can use and/or how much you can add on while driving downhill.
Charging the car is a simple operation with a front-quarter panel charging port allowing for both DC quick charging and 240/110 charging outlet. Through the SAE standard DC quick charger, the Bolt EV can be charged up with 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes. The 240-volt plug can charge the Bolt EV overnight to a full charge while the 110 outlet connection takes considerably longer. Consumers can purchase an in-house 240-volt charger from their dealer for less than $700.
These charging options mean, depending on your commute, you could be charging the car everyday or every few days. It would just need to become part of your daily habit to plug your car in like you do your cell phone.
It is also possible to road trip with the Bolt EV like you would a normal car with proper planning and patience.
On our drive, we stopped in Nederland, Colorado and used one of the city’s free charging stations to see how it worked. The 240-volt system plugged in easily and the Bolt EV started charging immediately as we stood outside the car. If we had stopped for lunch or coffee, we would have charged up more range and this demonstration really showed how easy it is to charge the car.
Behind the wheel, Chevy loaded our $43k (before tax credits) Premiere package Bolt EV with all the goodies, like the Cadillac-like rear-view camera which reflects an image like a movie camera, and technology found throughout their lineup. From the full suite of safety technology, 10 standard airbags and extensive use of high strength steel used throughout the cabin, there is simply less worry about being in an accident versus other EV cars that came before it.
It is also much more stylish than one would anticipate. The cabin is is highlighted by a bright and colorful 10.2 inch display that fits nicely in the center stack. Also, Chevy designers used a new technique on the plastic dash surrounds which reflects light shining on it and gives it the impression of thousands of small crosshatching lines. This styling, a first for Chevy products, really takes adds to the overall style of the interior and makes it much more attractive.
With this style, Chevy doesn’t sacrifice comfort. After our few hours riding around, the ultra-thin seats (1 inch of foam was removed) still delivered comfort as well as providing additional room for the second-row passengers. Along with a tall roof, it is a very spacious cabin able to comfortably hold people taller than 6 feet.
In the rear, Chevy designed the cargo area with a false floor capable of storing a few small bags with a cover to make it hidden from passerbys. A smart usage of room to ward off would-be thieves. This space also doesn’t impede from the voluminous room afforded when the rear seats are laid down. The Bolt EV delivers with total cargo volume of 56.6 cu.-ft. of space – best among EV vehicles.
One of the last items to consider with the Bolt EV is not only the gasoline savings, but the savings realized from maintenance costs. The electric drive motor doesn’t require oil changes, there is no expensive timing belt and you don’t have to worry about doing a tune up. Just keep an eye on the tires and go really. Its simplicity of operation really delivers.
In the end, the EV Rejectors may still hate on electric cars preferring their tried-and-true gasoline or diesel engines. While going with what you know is comforting, it isn’t the future. The writing is on the wall for these engine choices. Electric cars like the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV are coming and they are simply delivering more than internal combustion engines can like more speed, more fun and more enjoyment. The Bolt EV is currently the closest car we have to mass appeal electric vehicles and Chevy simply nailed it.