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2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Get your grand back

October 17, 2017
Chevy Bolt EV, parked

Photos: Orin O’Neill, unless otherwise noted.

It isn’t just Trump supporters who are willfully delusional. Those who drink gallons of the Tesla Kool-Aid are every bit as out of touch with reality.

“The Model 3 is the ONLY affordable (or “affordable,” your choice) electric car!” they enthuse. It will end America’s dependence on fossil fuel, cure cancer, and end world hunger!” “It’s made with MAGIC FAIRY DUST!!!”

Having delivered 30 “production” Model 3s to Tesla employees, Uncle Elon says his company will be cranking out half a million by the end of the year. In a factory where General Motors and Toyota only managed to build about a quarter million vehicles annually, that will be a neat trick.

Tesla doesn’t talk about the folks who’ve asked for their deposits back. I’m going to guess those requesting refunds had a look around and realized there are lots and lots of electric cars they can buy RIGHT NOW! Among them is the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

You probably know the Bolt went 238 miles on a charge in EPA testing, and that some people have even gone 250 miles in the real world. That beats Tesla’s claim for the Model 3.

Bolt with kayak

Bolt in full Bellingham monty (Photo: Chevrolet)

You may not know what to call it, however. Some say hatchback, some say crossover (FWIW, the EPA classifies it as a “small wagon.”). The Bolt is tall, and it has roof rails with mounting points for crossbars, which makes it seem like a crossover. No AWD, though… at least not yet.

Whatever you want to call it, the interior is roomy, and the ceiling is high. You could fit all kinds of bulky stuff in there if you were so inclined. Or four adults in the glove-like individual seats.

Bolt dashboard

Bolt dashboard is clean and modern. (Photo: Chevrolet)

All of the mandatory tech is present and accounted for, so no need to say anything more about it. There are large LCD displays, with lots of really colorful graphics and lots of animation. The status display below will be familar to anyone who’s driven a Prius, though in this case the resolution is higher. The wheels rotate when you’re in motion, and little green swooshes indicate the direction of power flow. (And yes, it really, really needed to be plugged in.)

Bolt animation

Lest you think the Bolt is just another electric car, its most endearing characteristic is the way it drives. Unlike previous PEVs, the Bolt feels light and nimble.

Powertrain batteries are getting smaller and more energy-dense every day. The Bolt rocks the latest and greatest; where previous electric cars felt weighed down by their battery arrays, the Bolt drives like a really good compact car.

The ride is quite decent on less-than-perfect pavement, the suspension taut, but not too much, and the steering wheel feels like it’s connected to the front wheels, which in this day of overboosted electric power steering is a noteable achievement.

While the Bolt is not something you’d want to blast down Chuckanut Drive with, its relative silence made a leisurely, speed-limit drive on that storied road early Sunday morning a serene experience. Nothing like a scooter rally group ride, for sure.

Bolt, plugged in at the Foothill Villa

The charging experience

Yes, you can drive past gas stations feeling all smug and superior, but in my case, the charging experience held room for improvement.

While there is a West Coast Electric Highway charging station at a Starbucks very close to the Foothill Villa, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that the connector on the DC quick charger was not compatible with the Bolt’s J1772 socket. “You’ll probably need an adapter,” the CSR said. Didn’t have one handy, unfortunately. They cost $250!

OTOH, plugging into a 120V AC socket will require tremendous patience. There’s one right in front of my usual parking space, so Saturday night I plugged in the charging cord and eagerly anticipated a massive flow of free electrons.

The instrument cluster said the batteries would be completely charged at 9:30 am. On Tuesday. Well, that did work out to be 50 hours, which is what the owner’s manual says.

I received the car with a remaining range of 32 miles. Two hours plugged in bumped that up to 34.

Adding electrons

Luckily, the WCEH station had a Level 2 (240V AC) charger, which the book sez would
result in a full charge in 9.5 hours! I plugged in, locked the car, and went home to go to bed. It was past my bedtime.

The following morning, the car was undisturbed and the indicator on top of the dashboard glowed solid green. Fully Charged!!! Woo-hoo! The remaining range display even showed 238 miles.

A Level 2 charger is the thing to have for your garage. Not terribly expensive, and there’s 240V service to your house to run things like washers and driers.

If there’s no place for one of those where you live, you’ll need a membership in a charging network. Or two. Or three. A Nissan LEAF owner showed me a stack of such cards.

None of this is the fault of the Bolt, nor of Chevrolet. Charging infrastructure in the year 2017 CE is about where gasoline refueling infrastructure was 100 years ago. Buying gallon cans of the stuff was as common (and necessary) as buying gas from a place with a pump—the general store, the livery stable, and so on. As more electric vehicles take to the roads, more places to plug in will follow.

The acid test of electric car ownership—a trip to Portland to return the Bolt—unfolds in my next post.

Heartfelt thanks go out to Forth Mobility in Portland, which graciously allowed me to use their Chevy Bolt EV for a weekend. Click the link to learn more about Forth and its initiatives to advance electric, smart and shared transportation in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Plus: Feels light, nimble and totally normal. Roomy inside, compact outside.

Minus: Charging is still challenging.

The details

Base MSRP: $36,620
Built in: Orion Township, Mich. USA
Construction: Pressed steel unit body with front and rear subframe
Curb weight: 3580 lbs (1625 kg)
Length: 164 in (4166 mm)
Width: 69.5 in (1765 mm)
Wheelbase: 102.4 in (2600 mm)
Front susp: MacPherson struts w/coil springs, tubular shocks and anti-roll bar
Rear susp: Torsion beam w/coil springs and tubular shocks
Front brakes: Power-assisted 11-in (276 mm) hydraulic discs with vented rotors and ABS
Rear brakes: Power-assisted 10-in (264 mm) hydraulic drums with solid rotors and ABS
Front tires: P215/50R17
Rear tires: P215/50R17
Powertrain: Sealed permanent-magnet electric motor and gearset
Power/torque: 200 hp (150 kW) @ 0+ rpm/266 lb-ft (360 Nm) @ 0+ rpm
  1. Doug Eide permalink
    October 17, 2017 5:04 pm

    Did you just buy one of these? Or are you a GM stockholder? Or both….

  2. October 17, 2017 5:22 pm

    Doug, did you read the article? Between the last paragraph and the “details” table, I state that the Bolt was lent to me, which is the case with all reviews I’ve ever published. That’s standard procedure in the automotive/moto media. That way, I can spend some time getting to know the vehicle, and therefore write a better review.

    I’m flattered you think anything I might have to say in this little scooter blog would have even the tiniest effect on the price of General Motors’ stock (of which I own exactly zero shares). 🙂

  3. October 18, 2017 3:11 am

    Some of the details are a bit obscure but I get the gist of it (Cards and charging networks). I am looking forward to the journey part which you teased on Instagram.

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