General Motors’ new-age electric car charges ahead with real-world range and price
The knock against battery-electric cars in general is that they’re expensive, have short ranges, take far too long to charge and, with gasoline prices cheap and stable, are somewhat irrelevant.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV scratches as least one of those negatives off the list. It has a range of 383 kilometres, which is more than double that of the Nissan Leaf, and enough for a full week of average daily commutes before a recharge is needed.
The Bolt is significant since it arrives at least a year ahead of the high-profile Tesla Model 3, a small car with about the same range and a similar price, and a car that received several-hundred thousand Online pre-orders. The Bolt seems to be the right electric car at the right time.
The Bolt differs from the more familiar Volt sedan, which makes up for much shorter battery range with a gasoline four-cylinder engine that kicks in to generate electricity when needed. Run out of juice in the Bolt, however, and you’ll be summoning GM’s OnStar emergency assist service (subscription required), or walking home. To prevent that, a dashboard display keeps close tabs on your battery status. A mobile app performs the same function and will also instruct the Bolt to pre-heat or cool the cabin to the desired temperature before driving off.
Measuring the Bolt against the wellestablished Leaf makes for a reasonable comparison. The Leaf’s $36,000 base price is significantly less than the Bolt’s $44,400 (including destination charges). That excludes provincial incentives that are currently only available in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, which are not coincidentally the only three provinces where the Bolt will initially be sold.
Dig a bit deeper and the Bolt’s advantages becomes clear. Outwardly, the electric Chevy appears pretty slick compared to the oddly shaped (and aging) Leaf and the quirky BMW i3. The Bolt should be admired as much for its attractive styling as for its electric range.
Although smaller than the Leaf, the Bolt has significantly more cargo space, but only with both sides of the split-rear seatback folded flat (the Leaf has the edge behind the back seat). The tall body also means that passengers have a grand view of their surroundings. The interior design is contemporary with straightforward controls.
Mastering the Bolt’s propulsion system is equally simple. The 150-kilowatt electric motor is fed by 435 kilograms of lithiumion batteries and produces the equivalent of 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque from the moment you press the accelerator. There’s no waiting for the revs to build as is the case with an internal-combustion engine.
A single-speed controller directs the motor’s output to the front wheels. A “low” mode position on the selector engages regenerative braking that feeds a modest amount of energy to the batteries.
The Bolt is actually pretty spry as Chevrolet’s claim that the 1,630-kilogram car can reach 96 km-h from rest in less than seven seconds.
Electricity isn’t free, of course, but the Bolt costs significantly less to run than a gasoline-powered car and of course has no tailpipe emissions, or even a tailpipe (or costly muffler and catalytic converter). The Bolt is rated at a cost equivalent of 1.8 l/100 km in the city, 2.1 highway on the highway and 2.0 combined. Even though the Leaf has an advertised range of 172 kilometres, its efficiency is nearly identical at 1.9/2.3/2.1.
An available 240-volt home charging station tops up the batteries from empty in about 9.5 hours. Consider this a mandatory installation since charging at 120 volts will take more than a day. The Bolt can also be plugged into a Level 3 480-volt DC fast charger that will provide an 80 per cent charge in about 30 minutes.
The base, but not-so-basic Bolt LT comes with climate control, 25-centimetre touch-screen, rear-vision camera and self-sealing tires that negate the need for a traditional spare.
The Premier trim adds heated front seats, roof rails, fancier wheels, heated steering wheels and rear parking assist that warns you of objects behind you while backing up. Rear crosstraffic alert helps keep you safe when backing out of parking spots, while blind-spot warning/lane-change alerts let you know when vehicles are in the lane beside you.
With real-world driving range, zippy performance and anple passenger and cargo space, the Bolt appears to be the best solution yet for fuel-free driving at a reasonable cost.