One year with the Chevrolet Bolt EV: Takeaways from my immersion into
May 5, 2018 Tim Ellis
The Bolt EV ready to go on its most punishing trip
Since the Bolt EV has a standard 12V battery, it can still provide ICE cars
with a jump
A pair of Bolt EVs that happened to park together at the Everett Costco
The aftermarket roof rack has come in handy
[image] The Chevrolet Bolt EV
Just over a year ago, I finally realized my long-time dream to purchase an
affordable all-electric car with over 200 miles of range. Now that I’ve got
a full year and around 8,500 miles of road behind me in the Bolt EV, let’s
check in on the good, the bad, and the awesome.
One year into owning the Bolt EV as our family’s only vehicle, we are
loving, it. It is peppy, smart, and comfortable. Plugging in at home has
given us back so much time that used to be wasted waiting in line and
filling up at gas stations. We have only had “range anxiety” once, when I
was intentionally pushing the car to its limits (we’ll get into the details
of that a little later). So far there have been zero mechanical issues or
problems with the car. We exclusively use one-pedal driving, which took no
time at all to get used to, and now just feels like the “natural” way to
drive. Added bonus: since we almost never hit the brake pedal (except in
reverse), the brake pads will likely last a very long time.
Much to my surprise and dismay, a year after our purchase the Chevy Bolt EV
is still the only sub-$40,000 electric car with over 200 miles of range that
you can buy and drive home today. I had expected the Tesla Model 3 to meet
those criteria by now, but they’re still only shipping the tricked out
models with prices in excess of $50,000. I also really thought that the new
Nissan Leaf would be packing a 60kWh battery similar to the Bolt EV, giving
it a similar range, but Nissan only increased the size of the Leaf’s battery
to 40kWh, giving it a range boost from around 105 miles to 150 miles.
Going the distance
The subject of range is a good place to start. We took a number of long-ish
trips over the last year that would not be possible in most other “mass
market” electric cars, including trips from our home in Everett to
Leavenworth (203 miles round trip), Vancouver, WA (195 miles one-way), Port
Orchard (110 miles round trip), and La Conner, (95 miles round trip). The
Bolt EV performed flawlessly every time, giving us reasonable range
estimates and inspiring full confidence that we would have no problem making
it to our destination.
Of course, I had to push the car to its limit at least once. On our way back
from visiting my parents in Vancouver for Thanksgiving we decided it would
be fun to strap a ridiculously large Christmas tree to the top of the Bolt
EV. I knew that having what was essentially a huge fractal sail strapped to
the roof would destroy our efficiency, but even still, I underestimated just
how severe the hit would be.
We made it to our planned charging stop at the Chevy dealer in
Olympia—barely. Starting with a full charge at my parents’ house, we burned
through 58 kWh of the battery’s 60 kWh capacity in just 109 miles.
Unfortunately, the supposed DC Fast Charger (DCFC) at the dealership was not
up to full DCFC specs, and barely pumped out more amps than my Level 2 home
charger. We got nowhere near the theoretical “90 miles of range in about 30
minutes of charge” that the Bolt EV is capable of on a true DCFC station.
After two hours at the charger we finally had enough in the battery to make
the remaining 90 mile drive home.
Fortunately, that was both the first and the last time so far that I have
used any public charger for my Bolt EV, because its range has proven to be
more than enough for 99 percent of the trips we take, even in the winter
when the cold weather pushed the maximum range a little below 200 miles.
One frequent objection that people seem to have about electric cars is that
they aren’t sufficient for road trips. I concede that point. There were two
times this year that we went on road trips beyond the capability of the Bolt
EV—a 570-mile one-day round trip drive to Walla Walla, and 2,000-mile 4-day
round trip to Visalia, California. In total we spent about $156 to rent cars
for those two trips.
Fuel cost comparison
How did our fuel costs compare to our old gas-powered car? Our previous car
was a relatively fuel-efficient 2001 Saturn SL2 that averaged around thirty
miles per gallon (despite having over 200,000 miles on it). Using monthly
average Seattle-area gas price data from EIA.gov, my calculations show that
if we had continued driving the Saturn, we would have spent $863 to travel
the same 8,700 miles that we put on our Bolt EV in its first year.
Meanwhile, our actual cost of the electricity that we put into the Bolt EV
was almost exactly $300. So we saved $563 in fuel alone ($407 if you
subtract the rental car expenses for the road trips), plus the cost of
around three oil changes and whatever other maintenance our old gas-burner
would have needed.
A less fuel-efficient gas-powered car that averages around twenty miles per
gallon would have cost around $1,300 in gasoline, for a savings of $1,000.
The tax savings
Speaking of savings, as of right now there is still a pretty big federal
income tax incentive available if you purchase most EVs. I’m the type of
person who prefers to file my taxes as early as possible, so you can imagine
my frustration when the IRS delayed publishing the 2017 tax year version of
the EV tax credit form (Form 8936) multiple times. They eventually released
it in late February and I was finally able to file my taxes. We received
that sweet $7,500 EV credit in late March.
It’s also worth mentioning here that if you live in Washington State, the
incentive that exempts the first $30,000 of the purchase price of an EV from
sales tax is set to expire at the end of this month, so if you’re thinking
about buying an EV soon you may want to do it now while you can still save
up to $3,000 in Washington State sales tax.
The little things
Here are some of the cool little features that we’ve noticed in our first
year of Bolt EV ownership:
- The parking brake sets itself when you shift into park if you’re stopped
on a steep enough a hill.
- The volume displays on the screen closest to where you’re setting the
volume—if you use the buttons on the back of the steering wheel, it displays
on the driver’s screen, but if you use the center console knob, it displays
on the center screen.
- When you turn on the rear window washer a small jet also washes the rear
- The on-screen guide on the reverse camera turns as you turn the wheel,
which makes perfect parking ridiculously easy.
- The HVAC fans turn down automatically when you make a call or talk to
Google via Android Auto (or Siri via Apple CarPlay).
- The stereo has a setting to increase volume automatically when you go
faster, accommodating for road noise at high speeds.
- You can still provide a jump start to ICE cars in need (I actually did
- The rear view mirror camera is super rad (and has a brightness
adjustment button on the back).
- Cruise control stays “on” even when you turn off the car (why do so many
cars reset cruise to “off” every time you get back in the car?!?).
- Safety feature – In “L” mode the car creeps forward if your seat belt is
not buckled, making it immediately obvious that you’re still in gear if
you’re about to try to get out. Also, as soon as you open the door the car
will auto-shift into park.
- While plugged in to charge, you can use the app or the key fob to
precondition the heat in the winter without depleting any battery.
- Parking brake auto-releases when you hit the accelerator, and auto-sets
if you’re creeping forward down a hill in “L” mode with your foot completely
off the pedal.
- Android Auto is super useful and after a software update is now (mostly)
full-screen (previously it did not fill the width of the screen). You can
jump to Android Auto by holding the “Home” button for a few seconds.
There are also a few complaints, but they are all very minor:
- The headlights are a little too bright for other drivers.
- One time we experienced a software glitch that disabled all the steering
wheel buttons (cruise control, on-screen menu selection, volume). It fixed
itself on the next drive.
- The stereo flips back to FM radio every time you turn on the car.
- The window control rockers have an “automatic down” mode for all four
windows but, but only the driver’s window has automatic up.
- The way the My Chevrolet smartphone app calculates efficiency is stupid
(they divide your miles driven by the entire amount of electricity you’ve
put into the car, not just what you’ve actually used).
While the Bolt EV is great the way it comes, there were a couple of
aftermarket add-ons we opted for:
- $180 – Full-coverage all-weather floor mats from WeatherTech
- $378 – Yakima roof rack system, which consists of the LP19 landing pads,
Skyline Towers, 50? CoreBars, and SKS Lock Cores
As mentioned earlier, if you want to drive home today in a relatively
affordable all-electric car with over 200 miles of range per charge, the
Bolt EV is still your only choice. But just because Chevrolet is taking home
a default victory in this category doesn’t mean that the Bolt EV is not a
worthy competitor. I’ve been seeing more and more of them on the road
lately, so the word must be getting around. In retrospect, I’m glad we
bought the Bolt EV, and I’m looking forward to driving it for many more
years to come.
What's an inexpensive electric vehicle that can handle Canadian ...
May 6, 2018 ... If you're thinking about an electric car, I'd suggest
getting it now: The Ontario government subsidy is
$14,000 on a purely electric car (called a BEV, or battery electric
vehicle), which is the most generous in North America, by far. Incentives
are available in Quebec and British Columbia, too. But who knows how ...
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