Interview: Chevrolet Bolt EV at One Year

Interview: Chevrolet Bolt EV at One Year

One Year Update for the First Affordable 200+-mile Range EV

Is ‘Game Changer’ over used, or maybe even a bit passé, because everything and anything of late is considered the greatest? Just as actors can be celebrities, but all celebrities are not stars, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV whooshed right past the celebrity tag and quickly became a star. How else would you categorize an all-electric car that goes 238 miles on a single charge and costs in the mid-$30,000 range? That qualifies as a game changer—and a star.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The Bolt story starts with the gauge that tells you there are 200 gas-free miles ahead of you when fully charged

The five-passenger small car market is increasingly being populated by all-electric offerings, with the Volkswagen e-Golf, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul, Ford Focus and Fiat 500e among the top sellers in this category. To design the Bolt from a clean sheet, Chevrolet knew they had to do something far different than these other EVs that topped-out in the 130-mile range and also cost in the mid-$30Ks. And no, they weren’t looking at them for inspiration.

Chevrolet looked higher and went after Tesla. The Tesla S and X can go between 208 and 335 miles on a charge, depending on which model you buy, but you will pony-up between $70K and $120K. The much anticipated (and delayed) Tesla Model 3 is rated at a 310-mile range (for the big battery pack), but the base price is somewhere around $44,000. The latest word out of Palo Alto is that the $35,000, 220-mile range “Standard” Model 3s won’t begin production until the end of 2018.

So, could Chevrolet produce an all-electric car that costs roughly the same as their main five-passenger small car competitors, but has the range of the larger and more expensive contenders? Yep, they did. The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the market for a little more than a year. It is on sale in all 50 states. We thought it was time to catch up with one of the people behind this ground-breaking electric car.

Bolt Philosophy and Importance

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to speak with Darin Geese, Chevrolet cars customer segment leader. We covered a range of topics including the Bolt and the electrification of vehicles at General Motors. It was a fascinating conversation.

CFR: What is the importance of the Bolt and its technology within Chevrolet and General Motors?

Geese: The Bolt for Chevrolet and General Motors is the first long-range, affordable electric vehicle in the industry. We are pretty proud we delivered on the three promises made to Mary Barra (General Motors CEO) at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, that we would be over 200 miles (of range); under $30,000; and available to be onsale by the end of the year. We delivered on all three with a 238-mile EV range, a price of $29,995 (less the Federal tax credit) and the first retail deliveries were December 13, 2016.

As we look forward to what role it is playing, the Bolt is the halo. It provides advanced zero emissions technology, and gives a look at what electric vehicles could be in the future. By packaging the battery pack beneath the floor, this opens the passenger compartment because, with a flat floor you don’t have tunnels and footwells. By not having an engine under the front hood, more components can be placed up there, and the windshield can be pushed forward. The Bolt seems smaller on the outside than it really is on the inside.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The hatchback makes the Bolt a crossover in some folks’ view

CFR: How does this apply to other General Motors vehicles?

Geese: This opens it to different vehicles, body styles and types, and let’s us ask “what are the possibilities?”

CFR: What statement did you want to make about the Bolt?

Geese: We wanted to say: we are an all-electric vehicle, providing enough range that pretty much gets rid of range anxiety, as 238 miles will take you through many days of normal driving activities. We still see the average American driving around forty miles daily, round trip. So at 238 miles, this is five day’s worth of driving before needing to recharge. We do encourage people to treat the Bolt like their cell phone and plug it in overnight.

CFR: The EPA estimates a 238-mile range. What feedback have you received from owners about real-world driving distances?

Geese: The majority of our customers are getting more miles than they expected, with reports of over 300 miles. For Chevrolet, it is good to hear back from an average perspective that we are delivering and exceeding on our promises.

CFR: Any first year warranty issues?

Geese: There has been nothing abnormal to the regular vehicles we produce. It is nits and nats, and mostly customers not understanding how the vehicle is supposed to operate. We get people not knowing how to pair their Bluetooth phone, but nothing at all about the electric vehicle technology.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

In its first year on sale the Bolt vaulted to the head of the affordable plug-in cars

CFR: How have sales been in the first year? Is the Bolt EV sold in all 50 states and at all dealers? What percentage of Bolt sales are in California?

Geese: Sales through November 2017 have been 20,649 units (ed. note: full year sales were 23,297, second only to the Tesla Model S in plug-in cars), with 50-percent of Bolt sales in California. The Bolt EV is sold in all 50 states, but we do not require all dealers to sell the vehicle. It does take some investment on the dealer’s part, such as putting in charging stations and all the tools and equipment and training they need to sell and service the vehicle. So, we see about a third of our dealers have signed-up, which is good as they are focused and committed. These are the kind of dealers we want to see.

CFR: When the Bolt was being developed, was the Tesla Model 3 a prime competitive target? What, if any, strategies were designed for the Bolt with the Model 3 in mind?

Geese: There was a strategy to be there (in market) ahead of them, which we did before their first units were produced. This is the first mover advantage. But we had to look at them not as a direct competitor, because they are offering a different body style, sort of like a compact luxe sedan. The Bolt is a small crossover and that kind of buyer does not cross shop between sedans and crossovers. It’s going to be interesting how the consumer reacts to their vehicle, their likes and dislikes, especially the packaging from the standpoint of rear headroom and rear leg room. We think we are very competitive in these areas with the Bolt EV.

CFR: You mentioned the Bolt is a crossover. I see it as a compact car.

Geese: When we do our product research, that is exactly one of the things we try to understand: What would you call this vehicle? How would you describe it? And for the most part customers said

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

This small wagon that plugs in is popular in California

it is a cross between a SUV and a passenger car. It’s a funny thing, because there is no official SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) definition of a crossover. When we submit our information to the EPA, they also do not have a crossover segment. They have SUVs and they have wagons, so the Bolt ended-up being classified as a small wagon, just like the Kia Soul, Toyota Prius V and Nissan Juke. It’s kind of a mixed bag of what is in there. For the most part, we do feel confident in the crossover designation as you do sit up higher with a bit more commanding view of the road, you have a tremendous amount of cargo space and the flexibility of the vehicle being able to manage both passenger and cargo. We even have the optional Rear Camera Mirror that is geared towards when there is a lot of cargo in the back and blocking your vision.

CFR: Let’s talk about the General Motors autonomous vehicle program. Is Bolt the go-to vehicle for self-driving cars within GM?

Geese: At this time we are utilizing the Bolt EV as the platform to develop our autonomous vehicle technology. And that is pretty much all we can say about it.

CFR: In closing, what are your thoughts on the past year, the next big thing for the Bolt, the Bolt platform, and electric vehicles within Chevrolet and General Motors?

Geese: We are very happy with the Bolt EV at our one-year anniversary. Month-over-month sales increases and everything about the vehicle, from production to customer satisfaction, has been good. You know, these buyers are very tough critics sometimes, very specific about what they want. So, when you hear great feedback and satisfaction, especially with the number one reason they are buying the vehicle, which is the EV range, we are knocking that one out of the park.

We are always looking out for the next big thing, like do we want to do a sedan, or more of a SUV? This market is so new that defining the sweet spot is anyone’s guess at this time. It was very interesting to see all the other manufacturers come out with different types of EVs, with different body styles and how they present those, and the consumers’ reactions.

So, it is very exciting times at this point. We are excited to continue on.

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Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

The First Mainstream Electric Car that Can Go the Distance

Ever get the feeling Chevrolet is daring you not to buy an all-electric Bolt? With the average purchase price of a new car in 2017 being about $31,000, you can get into a Bolt with all tax credits and incentives (Federal and State) included, in the high-$20,000 range for the base model. Oh, and of course you will not spend a penny on gasoline or oil, nor will you have the regular maintenance associated with a gasoline-powered car. Sounds pretty good? So what’s not to like? Could it be an unfounded perception that an EV keeps you from going where you want to go? Or maybe it is not accepting the fact that a pure electric car will satisfy 90-percent of your driving needs and lifestyle. If you are like most people and drive solo or with one passenger, under 50 miles daily, the reasons to own a gasoline-powered car are decreasing daily. This is Range Anxiety debunked.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt goes further

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is fun-to-drive and quiet, but why shouldn’t it be? With no internal combustion engine (ICE) or transmission gears, the all-electric Bolt simply whooshes along with smooth efficiency at any speed.

238-Mile Range Technology

It is hard to believe that General Motors, known for big trucks and SUVs, would be the first full-line auto manufacturer to come out with an all-electric car that can travel 238 miles on a single charge. The EPA arrived at this number as the Bolt gets 110 MPGe on the highway and 128 MPGe in the city. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 60-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by the 7.2-kW onboard charger. A plug-in port offers three charging speeds. The batteries, going from discharged to a full charge, the approximate times would be:

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Charging three ways

  • 120V (Level 1)            20 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)           10 hours                 
  • 480V DC Fast Charging 90 miles of range in 30 minutes

Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity that is stored in the battery. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

The Driving Experience: On the Road

Powered by a 150-kW electric motor driving the front wheels, the 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque zips the Bolt around with great fun. Chevrolet claims a 6.8-second 0-60 time and 91 mph top speed. We matched the former but didn’t even attempt to get anywhere near the latter. At 3,560 pounds, the 2017 Bolt is quiet and smooth. The batteries located under the seats made for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, Michelin Energy Saver 17-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, Chevrolet designed the Bolt with a very good road feel. The electric power steering was not too light, and body roll, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, was predictable and minor. Highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The batteries create road-hugging weight

There is a choice of driving modes that affects the regenerative braking. Selecting the Drive mode, the brake pedal is used as normal for slowing and stopping. But using the Low mode, you can control braking with your fingertips, which is a very cool and useful technology. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel is a paddle “shifter” that, when blipped, initiates regenerative braking. What is cool about this is, once you get the hang of it, driving around without using the brake pedal—even coming to a complete stop. This technique, called “one-pedal driving,” lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. It is an especially fun technique to master when driving on curvy roads as it gives the ability to slow with your fingers and accelerate with your foot.

A good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Bolt comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was aided by dynamic rear brake proportioning and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Chevrolet likes to say the Bolt is a small crossover. The EPA (which classifies all vehicles into categories) says the Bolt is a small wagon. Does the difference matter? To Chevrolet it does, as crossovers are hot sellers and wagons not so much. But if Chevrolet really wanted the Bolt to be a true crossover size, why didn’t they design it as such and eliminate any confusion?

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Non-stand-out styling

The Bolt has a very common hatchback design, a sloping roof-to-windshield-to-bumper profile, that has slim LED projector headlamps wrapping onto the fender, with LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia. The roof, with rack and side rails, never finds a flat surface as it gently arcs to an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Large LED tail lamps wrap onto the fenders. From the side view, the window design is eye-catching and unique, with blacked-out B-pillars and just the lightest touch of a chrome accent strip. The Bolt is clean and looks smaller than it is, partly because of the visual perception from the wide-set wheel placement and the roof height.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Bolt interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, with four full-size adults fitting comfortably, or two adults upfront and three children in the rear. The big issue with the Bolt interior is the materials. There is an abundance of hard plastics and surfaces that should be soft, like the armrests and seats, which were, well, to be kind–hard. Recaro racing seats are firm: Bolt seats are hard. We even noticed the “leather appointed seats” were covered in a leather we had never seen before. For a $43,000 car (the top-of-the-line Bolt Premier model tested by Clean Fleet Report), the interior fit and finish was a disappointment. Also, the seven-shape shifting pattern of the console-mounted gear shifter made getting into reverse a stop-and-think-about-it process.

Now, onto what is good about the interior. The front seating position is higher than would be expected for what looks like a compact car. Sight lines are excellent. This is how Chevrolet came to the conclusion that the Bolt is a crossover, as all vehicles in this class raise the front seats to a road-commanding view height.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

An interior not quite up to its price range

All controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the 8.0-inch instrument cluster, viewed through the steering wheel, with a white background on the gauges making them easy to read. The 10.2-inch color touchscreen housed Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system (information and entertainment) that featured navigation and a Bose, six speaker AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with USB slots. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (90-day trial included), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from Google. Other nice features are wireless device charging, assuming your device has this ability, rear charge-only USB ports, and a front storage area that can swallow a tablet or laptop.

The heated front seats are manually adjustable for height, sliding and lumbar. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable driver position could be found. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot plus crowd. The rear seats are heated in the outboard positions. Exterior road and wind noise were very low.

Storage space with the rear seat up, accessed through the rear hatch, is ample, but not as much as others in this class of EVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Golf and Toyota Prius Prime. If the driver and front-seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat back splits 60/40 and lays flat, providing 56.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity – large enough for a full-size bicycle. Additional storage comes in the guise of a false floor, that when removed, allows for the hauling taller objects.

Other features are a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, power windows with one-touch operation down/driver one-touch up, remote start, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, and a multi-function car analytics and trip computer display.

Safety and Convenience

The Bolt Premier is well equipped with convenience features including power door locks, adaptive cruise control, automatic HVAC, heated outboard rear seats, wireless charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Maybe not sport, but utility

Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the one-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

The Bolt EV has 10 airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision alert, front automatic braking, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist and rear parking distance control sensors.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are two 2017 Chevrolet Bolt models.

  • LT                   $37,495
  • Premier         $41,780

Clean Fleet Report tested a Bolt Premier with option packages of DC Fast Charging, Driver Confidence II and Infotainment. That added $1,730. The MSRP of our test Bolt Premier was $42,635. All prices do not include the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2017 Bolt comes with these warranties:

  • Complete Care – Two years/24,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Electric Propulsion Components – Eight years/100,000 miles    

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

New in 2017 and with few changes for the 2018 model year, Chevrolet says the Bolt EV is “every reason to drive electric.”  Clean Fleet Report agrees.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Leader of the pack

The Bolt has made it possible to go 238 miles on a single charge in a car costing about $30,000 after incentives are applied. Before December 2016, when the Bolt debuted, you would need to spend at least twice that amount for a vehicle with comparable range.

The Bolt is a comfortable and well-designed car, with good handling in a spirited all-electric driving experience. It is also practical in many ways, starting with the ability to handle a full week’s worth of 40-mile per day commuting without recharging. Notice we didn’t say using any gasoline? Well, that also drives home another practical point that zero dollars will ever be spent on gasoline or the usual maintenance that comes with an internal combustion engine.

Other mass market, five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the Chevrolet Bolt are the Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, with only the Leaf joining the Bolt as a car that can be purchased in all 50 states. The Fiat 500e says it can seat five adults, but we have tried and it is more like four. The Tesla Model 3 can also seat five, but it will cost more than $50,000 when optioned equally to the Bolt Premier—and is still trying to deliver vehicles promised to those on the waiting list who have put down deposits.

With our only negatives on the Bolt being the interior, we are confident you can easily overlook these quirks to enjoy miles and miles of silent running, non-polluting electric driving.

All major auto manufacturers are announcing plans for electrifying their models, with an impressive number being released before the year 2025. In eight short years it will be nearly impossible to find a mainstream manufacturer that does not have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen fuel cell. So, getting a Bolt EV now will set you up for that next generation of electrified cars that will cost around $35,000, but go 400+ miles on a charge. It is an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

Personal: My Chevrolet Bolt EV – A Six-Month Update

Personal: My Chevrolet Bolt EV – A Six-Month Update

Smooth Sailing

Today, I’ve had my Chevrolet Bolt EV for six months! Here’s what it’s been like living with an all-electric car with few limitations.

With a 10,000-miles-a-year lease, I’ve been careful to not drive my car every day.  The odometer stands at 5,113 today, halfway through the year, so I think I’m in good shape. Note: The 201-mile range shown below reflects my trip home from work after charging, so it’s not at the 225 that it was when I started out.

Chevrolet Bolt six-month test

The miles have added up

During this time, I’ve tested several other electric and hybrid cars. I have more on the way, including the latest VW e-Golf and BMW i3, both of which have greater ranges than previous editions (but are still not in the Bolt’s territory).

I recently had a chance to interview Brett Hinds, Ford’s Chief Engineer for electrified powertrain Systems. It was connected with a screening of the new film, The Third Industrial Revolution, about what we need to do over the next two generations (and on) to help preserve life on Earth from climate change. It’s based on a 2011 book by Jeremy Rifkin. I proudly presented Brett with my card, with a photo of my Bolt on it.

Range: It Varies

Regarding electrical range, in the cold early months of 2017, I was getting 205, maybe 210 miles on the range meter for a full charge. I was a little disappointed. However, now I consistently see 230 or 240 miles, or around 4.0 miles per kWh. And, I’ve noticed that the estimates the car gives me are close to real-world.

Chevrolet Bolt

A logo I’m proud to drive around

Of course, I drive conservatively (it’s the only thing I do that way). I don’t stomp on the accelerator (don’t call it “the gas”) and I use the Low (L) setting all the time, which adds strong regeneration, so much of my braking happens without the brake pedal. “One pedal driving” is a real thing with an all-electric car, and it is great fun when commuting. You can place yourself exactly into the available space without any braking at all. It’s a skill—perhaps even an art.

The car certainly looks the same. No significant wear and tear to the outside that I can tell. I did pick up a chip in the windshield quite early, but with a quick fix at Safelite it hasn’t become more than an occasional sparkle in the corner of my eye when the sun shines a certain direction.

Inside, the floormats are no longer pristine, and the rear cargo area has proven to be easily marked by amplifiers and guitar cases. I use a little pad I made out of a workout mat if I feel like lugging it from my downstairs office. But the rear hatch is easy to access for musical instruments and various stuff. The gossamer-thin rear cargo shield works great for hiding my “trunk” but comes off in a flash and takes up virtually no space. The rear seats fold down easily, and when they are in place, hold adult passengers comfortably.

The Grandaughter Test

My Bolt has passed the granddaughter test. Before I ordered it, I needed to be sure I’d be able to drive 85 miles to my granddaughters’ house and back. When I’ve done so, I’ve returned with 40 to 50 miles left to spare!

I drove my car to the Western Automotive Journalists annual Media Days event in April in Monterey–about 100 miles away. I was able to use one of their generator trucks to fill up for the trip back. I didn’t need to visit any charging stations there or along the way.

The only negatives I’ve had are electrical and intermittent. A few times, the audio system display has simply refused to come on when I start the car. I found that turning the car off and back on (sometimes a few times) has cleared this. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s a software fix for this issue in early Bolts, but I haven’t had time to swing by my local dealership. They, on the other hand, have sent me multiple offers for service (that I don’t need)—including an oil change!

Joining the Club

I joined the Chevy Bolt EV Owners Group on Facebook. I was one of the first members—there are now more than three thousand! There’s a local San Francisco Bay Area page and a Chevy Bolt Interest group too, but they have a lot fewer members. We share the joy of getting our cars and discussing the various pleasures and occasional issues.

I see Bolts on the road fairly frequently. Yesterday, I was following one on the way home and snapped this shot. I flashed my lights, but the young woman driving it didn’t respond.

Chevrolet Bolt six-month test

Another Bolt on the road

One of the most interesting things for me is that as I drive and enjoy the Bolt, I’m finding that I no longer feel like a journalist with it–I feel like an owner! And that’s a very different experience. Driving test cars weekly can be exciting and interesting, but it’s like living in a hotel. When I’m in my Bolt, I’m at home, and I feel like it’s a step into the future.

Charging Up

I ordered a ChargePoint level 2 home charger when I first got the car, but I haven’t installed it in my garage yet! Besides being an expensive job (I’ve been quoted many hundreds of dollars to install the $500 charger), I don’t really need it. I normally fill up at one of the dozen chargers at work, and if I need to top it off, I can get about 50 miles overnight at home on household current.

Chevrolet Bolt six-month test

Not a stand-out, but it does the job

Like every electric car, to varying degrees of course, the Bolt is quick off the line, and although it’s tall, it stays level on turns and has a supple suspension. Although I’d love to have a manual transmission, none are available—or needed—with an EV.

I still love my choice of Kinetic Blue, but I’ve seen the other colors, and they all have their charms. The white is actually quite nice on the car, and the bright orange really makes a statement. I chose the light gray interior with white accents—in the top-level Premier with every option—so it feels very pleasant inside. The leather is wearing well, but, like the rest of the interior, is good, but not at the exquisite level of, say, an Audi. For nearly $44,000 (minus federal, state and local PG&E rebates), it doesn’t feel like a luxury car. But the smooth, silent running is a joy, and the premium Bose audio system is very capable.

I’ve used Apple CarPlay a lot, which means I get my navigation from my phone. I also can use Bluetooth, but Apple CarPlay (with a USB cord) gives me the ability to do hands-free texting. Siri and I have spent a lot of time together (I’m mainly texting my wife.)

Saving Time—And Money

I’m excited about finally receiving my carpool lane stickers! Now, as an EV driver, I can use the carpool lane with a single occupant–and save half price on my bridge toll! Yesterday, this saved me perhaps 20 minutes on my commute to work, and the cheaper toll is always welcome.

One annoyance is the small, short sunvisors that do not slide back to cover the side window. You can get blinded when the sun is to your left. I also am surprised that there isn’t adaptive cruise control, although I wouldn’t use it much.

Chevrolet Bolt six-month test

Time & money-saving stickers are on

For the National Drive Electric Week (September 9-16 this year), I will be participating in a local event, where I can show my car and give test rides. I’m also hoping to put together something at my office, where we EV enthusiasts number more than two dozen.

One real surprise for me is the lack of attention I get driving my Bolt. Nobody seems to notice that I’m in a multiple-award-winning, brand-new car. I think that Chevrolet intentionally went with mainstream styling, although it is certainly up-to-date. Perhaps folks think it’s another compact hatchback, such as the gas-powered Honda Fit. But I was hoping for more, since I love to talk about my car.

I’m looking forward to two-and-a-half more years of Bolt driving, but with a lease, I’ll be ready to trade it in for one of the many new BEVs that are coming from Audi, VW, Volvo, Ford, Jaguar, Mini, Nissan and other brands. Or I may just keep it!

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National Rollout Planned to Boost Sales

Over the past year or so, anyone with an interest in affordable and practical electric vehicles has been following the upcoming showdown between Chevrolet and Tesla. With both the Bolt EV and Model 3 priced around $35,000 retail—and both with an all-electric range of well over 200 miles—the expectation was that the electric car market was about to move to another, much more popular level.

While no one has yet taken delivery of a Tesla Model 3, those lucky enough to live in California and Oregon have had the opportunity to own a Chevrolet Bolt since last December. For the rest of the country–excluding some states which have now also seen the Bolt in showrooms–deliveries of the Bolt were scheduled for late 2017.

However, recently General Motors announced that it will accelerate its delivery timeline, and confirmed that the Bolt will be available nationwide in August of this year. This is good news for EV consumers across the country, but begs the question as to why GM accelerated its release of the Bolt.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

We got ours! Coming soon to a neighborhood near you

The answer could be twofold. According to GM’s sales numbers reported in Automotive News, the company has sold less than 6,000 cars in the first five months of 2017; far from keeping on track with their goal of 25,000 cars by the end of the year (they also delivered fewer than 1,000 late in 2016).

The new August timeline also comes much closer to the first deliveries of Tesla’s Model 3, which should begin in July (though early models are reportedly only going to employees) and for which the hype has already hit a fever pitch with every siting broadly covered on social media and elsewhere. For the first five months of the year the Bolt is the best-selling pure EV not named Tesla, lagging the two full-size Tesla’s by several thousand sales, according to figures compiled by Hybridcars.com. Of course, Tesla has confirmed it has more than 370,000 folks who have sent in $1,000 to reserve a Model 3 and it has ambitious plans to produce as many as 400,000 in 2018. The auto industry has plenty of skeptics who think those numbers are a pipedream, but Tesla is building a reputation for delivering on its promises, albeit sometimes late.

Whether the accelerated rollout is the result of slow sales or a move to compete more directly with the release of the Model 3, consumers win with access to the electric we at Clean Fleet Report love enough that one staffer has already leased his own.

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Personal: My Chevrolet Bolt EV–One Month Along

Personal: My Chevrolet Bolt EV–One Month Along

Auto Writer Puts His Money Where His Heart Is

As an auto journalist, I’ve driven nearly 1,200 cars over the last 25 years. I’ve sampled pretty much every electric and hybrid car you can get, from the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to the Nissan Leaf to the Cadillac ELR. I even took a short drive in the ill-fated GM EV1. I liked the smooth, quiet ride and loved the environmental benefits of driving an EV, but none of the cars had enough range to make me feel like I could use them most of the time.

2016 Fiat 500e

A warm-up for the Chevy

I normally test cars for a week, but last year, I snagged a three-month test of a Fiat 500e. It was delightful, but again, range was a concern. So, when I heard about the Bolt EV, with its 238-mile EPA range, I decided then and there to get one.

One month ago today, I went to Boardwalk Chevrolet and drove my brand new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV home. I remember how beautiful it looked parked in front, plugged into the charger, soaking wet with rain. I didn’t see it dry for days.

The Wait

I ordered my car in October and waited nearly three months for it. There was no picking one off the lot–I didn’t see a real Bolt until I visited the San Francisco Auto Show around Thanksgiving.

The ordering process was easy, but I got impatient. My salesman, Don, as well as mychevrolet.com, gave me periodic updates: my order was accepted, the factory was ready to build it, it was in the loading area waiting for the train from Orion, Michigan, and finally—that it was here.

I agonized over the paint color. I liked the light blue and medium blue. But white looks great on the Bolt, too. I even went down to my local Chevy dealer and stared at cars in the lot painted in those three colors. I eventually went with my gut and ordered the Kinetic Blue Metallic I loved best—and it turned out to be a $395 extra cost (but worth it).

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Home at last

The day I got the good news from Don, was the same day I turned in my old neglected 1993 Plymouth Voyager minivan to California’s Vehicle Buyback Program. From gas guzzler to EV in one sweep.

One Month In—It Works…and Works

After a month and 1,646.1 miles, the car is all I’d hoped for. I am surprised, though, that nobody seems to notice me as I drive all over the place. Maybe the looks aren’t distinctive enough.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt,storage

It all fits

I like the styling inside and out. Its looks are cute, but also strongly drawn. The front and rear have interesting textures in the lights and grill. The large windows provide a broad view of traffic around me and the tall roofline add spaciousness. Although the car’s only 164 inches long, it has midsize space, and with the quick-folding rear seats, I can slide in my upright bass, or my electric guitar and amplifier with ease.

You can pick from two interior color schemes. I chose light ash gray and ceramic white instead of the darker gray theme. It adds to the airiness. I also chose the upper Premier model over the LT. It has leather seats, nicer wheels, bonus safety features, and numerous other attractions. I rode in an LT and it felt much the same, so all Bolts are good.

Appreciating the Details

I appreciate the upgraded Bose stereo system, as I commute up to two hours a day. The Bolt comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can take your apps with you. In fact, your phone serves as a trusty navigation system.

The sweeping curves inside look designer perfect, and the 10.2-inch center screen is easy to use and view. There are no needles on dials in the colorful instrument panel—but all you need is there, especially the range gauge. Seeing 200 miles available is very reassuring.

I’ve been enjoying the camaraderie of the Chevy Bolt EV Owners Group on Facebook (1,752 members at this writing). They even featured a shot of my car as their cover photo for a few days.

A primary requirement for the Bolt EV was to take me on the 165-mile round trip to visit my granddaughters without any charging along the way. We made the trip with 53 miles left on the battery when we got home.

The Charging Plan

I bought a Level 2 charger for my garage, but I need an electrician. I charge at work, and in a pinch, grab 50 miles or so overnight with slow charging. It hasn’t been an issue. I’m waiting for my stickers so I can drive in the carpool lane and pay half price bridge tolls.

The Bolt EV’s one-speed transmission lets you drive in Drive (D) or Low (L). Low regenerates more electricity while giving you “one-pedal” driving. Just press the accelerator to go forward and lift

2017 Chevrolet Bolt,interior

The command center

your foot to stop. There’s a paddle on the steering wheel to add regeneration, too. It’s addictive, and a real EV-only experience.

Complaints, I Have a Few

Complaints? Well, not many. The sun visors are too short when you use them on the side. I’d like to have adaptive cruise control and automatic intermittent wipers in a car in this price range. But that’s about it.

Base price is $37,495 before the federal tax credit and California rebate kick in. With both, you’d have a new EV for under $30K. My car, a loaded upper-level Premier, retailed for $43,905; I’m expecting the California rebate soon. As a lease, the dealer gets the federal tax credit, but they can factor in some or all of it in the lease payment. I made a larger down payment to keep my monthly payments lower ($335). PG&E (my utility) now offers a flat $500 payment when you buy or lease an EV.

Last night, on the way home from orchestra rehearsal, with my bass tucked in back, I turned off the radio and cruised home in near silence. What a pleasure.

Follow my continuing EV adventures on my blog, www.stevegoesgreen.com.

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