Earth Day Event Makes Personal Electric Vehicle Connections
On a beautiful Spring day in Palo Alto, Saturday, April 14, EV owners offered test drives and showcased their vehicles to attendees of the 2018 Earth Day Festival in Palo Alto. The event was put on by Acterra, a Palo Alto-based group that brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. As an Acterra EV Ambassador, I brought my Kinetic Blue Bolt EV, and was joined by owners of Nissan Leafs, Volkswagen e-Golfs, BMW i3s, Fiat 500es, Teslas and other popular electric vehicles.
The chance to drive an EV before you buy
I was one of the folks who left their car parked and had many interesting conversations, answering questions and demonstrating features of the car, while helping people understand how much fun it is to drive an EV, and how we deal with their few shortcomings.
My car was first in line of the staged vehicles, next to a VW e-Golf and Nissan Leaf–two direct competitors. We owners had fun chatting when no visitors were around. Everyone has a story. The VW e-Golf next to my car was a late ’16, so the lease deal was amazing; after a significant down payment, just $75/month! The white ’16 Leaf behind it, owned by my friend Greg, was purchased used, at a significant cost saving over a new one. That’s a good example of how to get into EV driving without a huge initial outlay.
A Chance to Get Behind the Wheel
This event answered all of the questions
Not only were cars on display, but a number of them were also available for test drives, as seen by the orange Bolt, black BMW i3 and silver 2018 Leaf driving through the area in the photo. This gave attendees a chance to get behind the wheel and viscerally sense the smooth, quick, quiet EV benefits. There were three Bolts available, as well as the two stationary ones, so we were well-represented.
There were information booths, including Acterra, charger manufacturer ChargePoint and the City of Palo Alto. I spoke with Hiromi Kelty, City of Palo Alto utility program manager, who told me that 20 percent of Palo Altans drive EVs compared to three percent statewide. She also told me about the EV charger rebate that organizations in Palo Alto can receive when they install EV chargers–up to $30,000. For more information, go to cityofpaloalto.org/electricvehicle or call (650) 329-2241.
Some folks brought their toys
I showed my car to dozens of people and had some interesting conversations. I allowed one 6-foot-5 man to adjust my seat, steering wheel, and mirrors to see if he fit in the car and could see if he was driving. The good news is that he did fit! The bad news is that it took a while to get my driving position back to normal. But I was glad to do it.
One man, who was sharing rides in his new Tesla Model 3, brought along a battery-powered skateboard. At $1,500, it’s an expensive toy, but could be useful for traveling between mass transit and your workplace–or for good clean fun. I declined a test ride.
When the session was over, around 1:30, we put away our signs, folded our tents, and drove our EVs home. It felt like a worthwhile experience. I only hope that someone we spoke with will decide to get their own EV.
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Electric Promise Delivered Over 10,000 Miles
One year ago, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I took delivery of my long-awaited all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV. Twelve months later, it has delivered everything it promised.
After testing most of the EVs on the market, I knew I wanted one, but it had to meet my requirements. I needed enough range to drive 170 miles round trip to visit my granddaughters without charging along the way. I also carry musical gear, including an upright bass. I wanted room for at least four passengers and a high-quality sound system, since I commute up to two hours a day.
Of all the EVs on the market, only the Bolt qualified. It had the range I needed and wasn’t too expensive. Besides, it was brand new. So, after agonizing over what color to get, I ordered my Bolt on October 11, 2016.
At the beginning
Almost 10,000 Miles Later
In a year, I accumulated just under 10,000 miles and made zero dealer visits. Other than a few minor entertainment system glitches, which corrected themselves with a restart, the Bolt has been totally reliable. And, of course, there is no oil to change or radiator to flush, although I’ve received discount coupons and reminders from my dealer.
There are many things I like about my Bolt EV. To start, the range is enough for everything I need to do. When I pull into my driveway after a granddaughter visit, I still have 50 miles range left in the battery. Although I only saw the 238-mile EPA official range during the warm months of the year, I routinely get at least 200 miles per charge.
The Bolt enabled some extensive, but pollution-free trips
I’ve driven my Bolt EV all over the place without range anxiety. Besides the family visits, I took trips to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, The Nut Tree in Vacaville, and a little adventure to Bodega Bay in Marin county. I recently drove to Tracy with my bandmate, Dan, for Texas Roadhouse steaks. I even cruised down to Monterey for the annual Media Days event put on by the Western Automotive Journalists.
The Commuting Sweet Spot
The Bolt EV is ideal for commuting. As a pure electric vehicle in California, it qualifies for DMV stickers that let you drive in the carpool lane with a Fastrak as a solo driver. This has saved me time and stress (and half the toll).
An essential commuting tool–HOV lane stickers
Charging is easy. I park the car in front of my office building and plug it into the ChargePoint charger, using my smart phone app. Depending on how depleted the battery is, I normally receive a text telling me it’s full by lunchtime. Until I install my Level 2 (240-volt) charger at home, I can top off the battery on weekends using standard household current. I’ve used a DC fast charger just twice—only to test it.
When carrying stuff, I simply remove the lightweight cargo cover and flip down the rear seats. Then, I can slide in basses, amps, microphone stands, cables and the rest. The load floor is showing a little wear already, however, as the surface is soft and the carpet is thin. The cargo area has a hidden storage place under a removable panel. When the panel’s in place, it creates a flat, bumper level loading platform.
Beyond all the practical advantages, the Bolt is fun to drive. With a 900+ pound battery under the floor, its low center of gravity means it’s quite stable in turns. The electric powertrain zips the Bolt to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds. The car is whisper quiet without the clamor of reciprocating pistons, so I can listen to SiriusXM satellite radio through the upgraded Bose audio system.
The miles do add up
I really enjoy the one-pedal driving feature. Flip the transmission lever from D (Drive) to L (Low), and you get heavy regenerative braking to not only feed the battery but to slow the car down when you lift off the accelerator pedal. In the Bolt EV, you can literally come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.
While driving, I use the 10.2-inch center-mounted touch screen and its large, well-marked buttons to view and select audio, climate, navigation and EV performance info. You can watch the energy flow from battery to wheels and back, and evaluate your efficiency based on several criteria, including road conditions, temperature, and use of the heater and A/C.
The attractive, gauge-free instrument panel shows, besides speed and the usual stuff, your calculated range and high and low estimates, depending on your driving behavior and conditions. This is lovingly referred to as the “guess-o-meter,” though I have found it to be pretty accurate.
Not a Complaint-free Zone
The steering wheel offers numerous controls; I especially like using the audio volume and station/channel selection controls, and being able to check my tire pressures instantly.
The Bolt can take a load
The low window line and large windshield provide a feeling of airy spaciousness, as does the light gray and white interior. The light dashboard does glare a bit in the windshield in bright sunlight, but polarized sun glasses fix that. I really like the unusually textured white trim sections on the dash.
Some Bolt shoppers and owners have complained about the seats, but they fit me just fine and are firm and supportive, if a bit narrow.
My upper-level Premier model features leather seats and steering wheel, which impart a bit of luxury, although some interior pieces are crafted of typical GM hard plastic. The heated steering wheel is a boon on cold mornings, along with the three-level heated seats.
Tech You Might Not Expect
One of my favorite features is the rear-view camera. This high-tech device replaces your interior rear-view mirror, showing you a wider and clearer image of what’s behind you. I also like the Surround Vision display on the center screen, which helps me park evenly.
The Apple CarPlay interface projects phone content onto the big screen. That suffices for a navigation system, using Apple Maps. I often use the hands-free Siri voice texting app to report my estimated time of arrival to my wife.
My few complaints are minor, and include undersized sunvisors that don’t slide on the side, exposing you to glare, and the entertainment glitches and cheap-looking hard plastic trim. Once, the hook for the rear cargo cover popped off, but it was no problem to slip it back into place.
A Renewal Surprise
One little shock was the price to renew my registration. I wasn’t used to paying the state for a brand-new car with a retail price of $43,905 before rebates. Whew!
One year on–the complaint list is short and the fun is long
Last September, I used my EV driver status to host an event at my company for National Drive Electric Week (NDEW)—a longtime dream. I attended two other NDEW events, too, and let people test drive my car at one of them. Many EV owners are proud and pleased to show off their cars at these public events.
The Bolt EV has won a bunch of awards, including Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year and the North American Car of the Year. It has many fans, over 5,000 of whom have joined the Chevy Bolt EV Owners Group on Facebook (I was one of the first 100 members, joining when nobody had a car yet).
The Bolt EV deserves these honors, because it provides electric motoring to most people with its usable range, practical design, and relatively affordable price. I love the way it works for me, and how it looks, inside and out, especially in Kinetic Blue.
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