Gen­eral Mo­tors’ new-age elec­tric car charges ahead with real-world range and price

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS -

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.

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