The electric car goes mainstream with zippy, fun to drive Chevy Bolt
BABCOCK RANCH, Fla. — I was standing in front of the ME Miami hotel in
downtown Miami, just across the bay from Miami Beach, and was about to drive
the new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, an all-electric compact crossover, to Babcock
Ranch on Florida's Gulf Coast.
I must admit, I had never heard of the place, and odds are, neither have
Nestled between Naples and Fort Myers, it's a sustainable 18,000-acre
development set among the 73,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preserve. All of its
power is solar-generated on a 440-acre parcel owned and operated on the
preserve by Florida Power & Light. The town's homes are built to Florida
green building standards using sustainable local materials and are accented
with native plants. Builders even relocate trees on the property in order to
preserve them, something uncommon just about everywhere else.
It was a natural place to recharge the Bolt. And it's 164 miles from Miami.
It would be tough reaching Babcock Ranch in one of the other electric cars
currently available: The Hyundai Ioniq Electric has a 124-mile range, the
Volkswagen e-Golf rates at 126, the Ford Focus Electric can go 115, the BMW
i3 can reach 114 or 81 depending on model, the Nissan Leaf gets 107, the Kia
Soul Electric does 93, the Fiat 500e can travel 84, and the Mitsubishi
i-MiEV is capable of 62.
The Bolt, though, can traverse 238 miles on a single charge — so no problem.
Notice I didn't mention Tesla. Its Models S and X are luxury vehicles that
cost two or three times more than a Bolt. And the $35,000 Model 3, which has
a range of 220 miles, is still hard to get. You can order one, but it won't
arrive for 12 to 18 months. And while the Model 3's slinky silhouette is
more fetching than the funky, functional Bolt, buyers are increasingly
choosing crossovers over sedans, and once inside the Bolt, you can
A screen in the instrument cluster of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV offers
several layouts to display information.
Its size is deceptive, and its shape pays big dividends in convenience. With
nearly 17 cubic feet of cargo space and 95 cubic feet of passenger space —
one cubic foot less than a larger BMW 330i sedan — there's ample room for
four full-size adults, including a rear seat that sits high enough to
comfortably satisfy those older than 10.
The driver faces an instrument panel that's strikingly modern and dominated
by a 10.2-inch color touch screen that's easy to reach and operate. It not
only provides metrics on the car's performance, it also accommodates Apple
Car Play and Android Auto. A backup camera is standard. Other niceties
include wireless phone charging and a compartment large enough to stow a
But it's the Bolt's performance that proves most pleasing.
Eyes on power meter
If you've never driven an electric car, the instant rush of torque upon
acceleration will delight you. Once underway, the Bolt is no sports car but
proves responsive and fun to drive, thanks to quick steering and a
diminutive size that makes it positively zippy.
Credit the 288 lithium ion cells that make up the battery pack. Placed
between the car's axles, beneath the passenger compartment and weighing 960
pounds, it dispenses 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Reaching
60 mph takes 6.5 seconds.
And while you might think the speedometer is the most important gauge in a
car, on the Bolt, it comes second to the power meter, which displays a
minimum and maximum range as well as the actual range based on your driving
habits and accessory use.
Traveling across Alligator Alley, I encountered heavy thunderstorms, which
aggressively drained the car's range. I started to have a twinge of range
anxiety, as there are few EV chargers located along most of the route,
despite the fact that Florida was second only to California for plug-in EV
sales last year. I decided to drive in L mode, which amps up the car's
regenerative braking, a system that uses energy captured during braking to
recharge the battery pack. Braking is so strong you rarely need the brake
Nevertheless, my fears were unfounded.
I arrived at Babcock Ranch with 55 miles of charge to spare, enough to get
me almost a third of the way home again.
Time to recharge
Recharging, though, would take some time.
Using a 240-volt outlet, the Bolt recharges in nine hours, though it's rare
that you'll ever drain the battery. A DC Fast Charger can charge up to 90
miles of range in 30 minutes, though the plug you'll need for this doesn't
come standard with the car. You can use a 110-volt outlet, but it only
provides 4 miles of range per hour.
While the car recharged, I did the same at the Table & Tap restaurant,
following that with a night at the Brandywine model house in Babcock Farms.
At 1,800 square feet, it seemed an ideal home, just like the Bolt seemed an
And for most of us, it is.
Spacious, environmentally friendly and fun to drive, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
is a mainstream electric car that's perfectly suitable for the demands of
everyday use. With 200 horsepower, 238 miles of range and a price tag that
starts at less that the average price of a new car — once you add the EV
federal tax credit — it's a remarkable feat and a landmark car.
No wonder it's the 2017 North American Car of the Year.
Tribune Content Agency
AT A GLANCE: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door hatchback
Base prices: $37,495 to $41,780
Engine: Single permanent magnetic drive with 200 horsepower and 266
pound-feet of torque
Battery: 288 lithium ion cells
Transmission: 1-speed direct drive
Fuel economy: 128 city/110 highway mpg-e
Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds
SOURCES: Tribune Content Agency; Car and Driver
[© 2017 The Dallas Morning News]
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