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The news item (above) lead me to make time to see if I could check out the new GM Bolt EV. The news item mentioned a Fremont, CA dealership, but that was across the SF bay (though the miles were not that far, it would have been a hardship of hours in severe traffic to and getting back). Instead, I called a couple of SF peninsula Chevy dealerships to find that each had at least one Bolt EV for giving demo rides.
I took some pictures with my phone at the first dealership, and with my camera at another. See
to follow along with my experiences below.
The first dealership had a black demo Bolt EV. With a lot of help, I got the sales rep to come out and unlock the EV. They do not like EVs at that dealership, and just handed me the keys with the sales rep walking back inside, leaving me alone. I tried the passenger side first ...
[Qualifier: I do not judge cars on my physical size as the majority of people are smaller than I. I judge cars on how well they would service that majority. So, if I can fit in a Bolt EV enough to drive it safely, then it is very likely just about anyone would fit in a Bolt EV.]
There were news items that had mentioned the Bolt EV designers optimized it for Lyft use
Meaning, they emphasized the amount of interior roominess to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the Bolt EV, as well provide comfort even for big and tall passengers.
Note: the before and after images of the passenger seat, showing the amount of adjustment the seat's long rails provide. Usually even with a front seat adjusted all the way back, my knees would still hit the dash or the center console. But in the Bolt EV, that wasn't an issue.
In front of the infotainment / center-console, and between the seats, the shifter is more like a short-throw joy-stick. There is a button on the top-left side that must be depressed to shift it out of park. Near that, there are dual type-A USB ports and a small cell phone storage area between the seats. There is also another set of dual type-A USB ports for the rear seats as well.
The Bolt's owner's manual gives more details:
Switching to the driver's side, with the steering column shown adjusted all the way up, and with the driver's seat all the way back, I see the many controls on the steering wheel.
Many of the GM Volt pih driver's ideas were used in the Bolt EV. Not shown is on the back of the left hand side of the steering wheel, is a paddle for increasing the amount of regen. To maximize the Bolt EV's range, shift from drive (normal) to drive-low (which increases regen), and then also toggle that regen paddle on the steering wheel four times for the most aggressive regen setting.
Back outside, on the driver's side front fender is where the ccs charging port is located. When closed, it is flat and flush with the body. A slight push on the door has it toggle/pop outward. A ccs charging port handles both standard level-2 (L2) j1772 charging, and L3 DC combo charging. The Bolt EV has a 6kW on-board L2 charger, and can charge off L3 DC at the 50kW rate (you have to pay extra for that option. IMO always get it, even if you do not plan to use it, or take long trips).
GM's Bolt EV charging guide:
mentions charge time may vary due to outside temperatures:
- L1 @4mph (too long, not worth mentioning)
- L2-6kW 240VAC-32A @25mph 'will replenish from empty to full in 9.5 hours'
- L3-50kW @160mph 'up to 90 miles of range in about 30 minutes ' (full recharge 1.3hrs)
Continuing on to the front, I took some under the hood images, including close ups for the the left and right side for those that want to see more detail.
To save money in both the production cost of the Bolt EV as well as its manufacturing crew, dealership support crew, replacement part costs, and because GM does not plan to go into a high production output for the Bolt EV, GM chose to use one of their slow selling models, the Sonic ice, as the base for the Bolt EV.
Except for the LG Electronics EV drive train, and other LG EV components, the rest of the Bolt is very much still the same as a Sonic ice. This keeps costs down for GM, even though they have publicly stated that with each Bolt EV sold, GM will lose $9,000
At a second Chevy dealership, their demo Bolt EV was metallic gold/orange. While the sales rep and I waited for the Bolt EV to return from a demo test drive, I asked to see a Sonic ice (painted purple), so that it could be compared with the Bolt EV. The body styles between the Bolt EV and the Sonic ice are different yet, you can see their basic similarities.
I found it amusing that media outlet bloomberg decided to poo-poo the Bolt EV's looks, see
though bloomberg was really not that concerned with the Sonic ice' looks. It is like bloomberg has double standard (or was paid to complain about the Bolt EV).
I did not test drive the Sonic ice, but I did drive the Bolt EV. I fit comfortably in the Bolt EV, and my larger than most people body-size would likely do well on a long trip in the Bolt EV (no knees banging the interior like on other small cars).
I had forewarned the dealership's sale rep that I was going to do a couple of strong accelerations, as well as some strong braking while slightly swerving to get the feel of the EV. He understood and agreed when we rode together during the Bolt EV test drive.
The Bolt EV's acceleration is more than adequate in traffic conditions. Both for getting up to speed to merge into traffic, as well as to get out of any tight situations (reducing accidents).
Swerving while accelerating showed no discernible instability (wheel hopping, etc.), and it showed the center of gravity was low (that is a good thing).
That low center of gravity also showed itself during some strong braking with swerving. Again, stability was good, showing me that GM engineers had done their homework. I feel even an over-caffeinated student putting themselves through College by being a Lyft driver, should do well in a Bolt EV.
I did not bother messing with the infotainment system, nor poke around with the other features of the center console. To me, it will be just like all the other automaker's which are running an Automotive Grade Linux
showing the typical vehicle details like how much juice (energy) you have left, what temperature it is, along with GM's OnStar and other on-line features GM sells in their vehicles.
IMO, the Bolt EV is a lower cost, less frills 200+ mile EV, that can comfortably seat four (average-sized) adults, and have room to stow their luggage, or their gear as in a trip to go skiing (the Bolt has rails on the roof for mounting different options, possibly OEM ski or surfboard rack, etc.). If carrying any bicycles, I would install a small tow hitch for a bike rack (a safer method).
A Chevy Sonic ice sells for ~$15k
The Bolt EV sells for $37.5k (before rebates)
Plus GM will lose $9k on each Bolt EV. Then it costs GM ($37.5k + $9k = ) $46.5k to produce a Bolt EV. This is because of GM's decision to keep production levels down to small quantities so as to only meet compliance with states' mandates (IMO this makes the Bolt EV a compliance car).
Bottom Line: you are getting a $22.5k enhanced, $15k car. There are just enough niceties to do the task, but at a $30k price (after rebates), you are getting a lot more car than you know.
To make the Bolt EV better (things that could be options in the future):
-offer a maximum range mode: which would reduce the acceleration (slope) unless the accelerator was floored (for emergencies), and the mode would keep the Bolt EV at a maximized regen level. This would be a handy tool for drivers wanting to add a little driving peace of mind when they know the next charging point is at the end of their available range.
-offer an increased L3 charging capability. When the higher than 50kW L3 DC ccs charging does come out, that option would allow use of all of its charging power (faster L3 DC charging to compete with a Tesla-3 EV, etc.)
-offer an option for a L2-10Kw on-board charger. This would utilize/maximize all of a RV park's 14-50 50A outlet power out in areas that do not have enough public EVSE (perhaps allow a certified OEM to sell and install it)
-offer a trim or version for businesses that will not carry passengers, but will want to use the Bolt EV for delivery items (pizza), or to carry cargo, tools, etc (in the same way the Twizzy lsEV is used in different ways). Essentially letting the Bolt EV be used for more than just carrying passengers without any major body modifications
-when GM offers their autonomous package, allow multiple Bolt EVs to share traffic data so they can create their own convoy (convoy mode) where they will use a method similar to cyclists' echelon way of hiding from the wind. This will help maximize range, and keep the EVs at a more constant speed (truck drivers already do this)
Question: would I buy a Bolt EV at this time.
No, because I want to wait and compare with what my $30k will get me when the Tesla-3 comes out. I have had 15 years of driving an EV in my life, I can wait a couple years to know that answer (I am old enough to know: patience is golden).
But for everyone else, if the Bolt EV fits your EV driving needs, you may want to get on a GM dealership's waiting list now.
Lastly, I would advise new buyers to consider the smart method the first Leaf owner in the SF Bay area used: to shop around, use the forums to gain knowledge, and consider having two dealerships to deal with. One would get you the best purchase price, and another closer to home would be the dealership you would use for maintenance, recalls, warranty or boo-boo repairs.
Here are a couple more items from that first day that give some different insights:
Far more Chevy Bolt EVs likely to be sold than compliance requires
Dec 14, 2016 For the past few years, several of the electric-car models on sale in the U.S. have been "compliance cars." That means they are built primarily to satisfy ...
David Karpman 12 hrs
Here is a review from a Leaf owner. He just test drove a Bolt in San Leandro:
"I just got back from a test drive on an orange Bolt in San Leandro. Wow!!!
I have had a Leaf for 3 1/2 years and the Bolt is at a completely different level. As we've read in the reviews, the interior is surprisingly spacious considering its exterior dimensions. I found the seats- both front and back- very comfortable and the visibility all around is superb, at least compared to the Leaf. The rear view mirror camera worked as advertised. I found the acceleration in normal mode brisk, in sport mode VERY brisk and in "low" it was way more than adequate. The regen braking is amazing- much more pronounced than in the Leaf and after a couple of tries I found it easy to use the paddle for additional regen braking effect. It comes to a stop quite smoothly and easily, so I don't expect to be using my brakes often when I get my vehicle. It took on sharp curves much better than the Leaf (which was decent, but not much more). As a former sports car afficianado, I can say its low center of gravity almost ensures good handling performance. The two very large LCD screens have dozens of options in terms of what they show- that'll take me a while to master.
All in all, my one word summary is "Wow!" This car will be an EV game changer. I can't wait until vehicles actually available for sale start arriving! My dealer said they still expect some before Xmas."
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This post was updated on .
Nice write up Bruce! With a 60kwh pack that's a lot of EV for the price. Shame the DCFS port is a $750 option though. Then there are destination and dealer fees, and the aggravation of dealing with a dealer. Those things and the supercharger network make the Tesla III much more appealing. Will be interesting to see what Nissan is going to offer, but they have the same problem, not many places to charge a long distance EV with CHAdeMO or CSS, limiting its usefulness.
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