Chevrolet invited media to Palo Alto, California, to spend time with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is GM’s latest electric car. The Bolt EV is the first electric car to win the Car of The Year honors at the North American International Auto Show. It also won Road and Track’s Car of the Year for 2017

The Bolt EV’s is the first EV that tackles range anxiety. It has a range of 383 kilometers on a full charge. It costs less than US$40,000, making it the most affordable EV available today.

I was very excited to be among the first in the world to experience what this new car had to offer.

It’s ironic that Chevrolet chose Silicon Valley to host the first drive of the Bolt EV. This car, after all, is as much a technological innovation as it is a motoring milestone. Silicon Valley is Tesla’s backyard; by staging drives here, GM was sending a not so subtle message to Elon Musk: “We’re not just coming for you, we’re already here.”

Charging requirements

Charging the Bolt EV is possible using standard outlets with the included adaptor, but this will take roughly nine hours to get to a full-charge. Chevy suggests Bolt EVs owners use a Fast Charger that adds 40 kilometers of range for every hour of charge. An even faster option “supercharges” the car with 145 kilometers in a mere 30 minutes of charge. This option is only available at select dealers.

The Bolt EV’s batteries, co-developed with LG Chem, have an 8-year/160,000km warranty. These batteries have spent thousands of hours in various conditions and temperatures.

Design and features

The Bolt EV is a new kind of crossover, one with the performance of a road car and the functionality and space of an SUV. It has more interior space than the Tesla Model S but in a more compact size and a much more agreeable price.

This car has ample headroom and legroom to accommodate four six-footers comfortably and will suit small families just fine. Best of all, maintenance is simple. There are no fluids, hoses, gaskets, or belts to replace. Aside from brake pads, the Bolt EV will save owners a bunch in the long term.

The Bolt EV’s interior has a tasteful mix of plastic materials which have a unique, yet muted, design and texture. The Bolt EV design team put a lot of thought in creating a visual and tactile feast for passengers, including lots of storage and interior lighting straight out of the movie Tron.

The 10-inch center console serves as a control center to check energy efficiency. This is also the conduit to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto infotainment. 4G-LTE is standard, as is GM’s OnStar security and remote diagnostics. The car has USB ports for charging smartphones and tablets.

The instrument panel and the LCD dashboard show speed, distance you can cover on your current charge, as well as various assistive driving alerts. It is also possible to use this to determine the distance to the nearest charging station. The amount of technology included in the Bolt EV is impressive, yet it all works so seamlessly.

Interior visibility is outstanding with large windows that let in a lot of light. Bolt EV has a rearview mirror which doubles as a widescreen HD display connected to a panoramic rear camera. This is usually better than a rearview mirror, until dirt and grime obscure your view.

The magic of one-pedal driving

My drive of the Chevy Bolt EV took me from Palo Alto to the seaside area of Half Moon Bay in California—an area known around the world for larger waves and great surfing. From there, I drove to Golden Gate Park for an epic photo opportunity. The weather ranged from sunny to bursts of rain lasting several hours. This gave me a chance to experience the Bolt EV in a range of conditions.

The Bolt EV, like most electric cars, is quiet. It is also very quick. Even when not engaged in Sport Mode, it will do 0-100km/h in under seven seconds. This is as fast as some sports cars. While the power is there, you don’t want to abuse it because it will run your battery down quick. The idea here is about measured driving and range, which I found to be just as fun as spirited highway driving.

The Bolt EV is responsive, it corners decisively, and is nimble in highway as well as city driving conditions. I’m not sure how it will do in heavy traffic conditions, but it was a marvel in highway speeds.

I did have to learn some new tricks to make the most out of the EV. Setting the car to drive in L mode (Low Mode) engages one-pedal driving. In L mode, once you ease off the accelerator, the car decelerates without you needing to step on the brakes, like magic.

One-pedal driving regenerates energy instead of wasting it. Once I learned to gauge the Bolt EV’s stopping distance, I rarely had to use the brake pedal to stop. Normal braking will still give you the stopping power you need, but without generating reusable energy.

VERDICT

Is the Bolt EV a car I’d consider over a gasoline-powered model? That depends. If there was a reliable charging infrastructure to support it, and if my commute requirements were well within the Bolt EV’s range, I would. Chevrolet has made the Bolt EV a great car that just happens to be an amazing electric car. It’s fun to drive, practical, smart, and, best of all, has zero emissions. You can probably say the same about a Tesla Model S or a BMW i3, but the Bolt EV is much more affordable and has a wider network of dealers to support it. It really is a game-changing car, one that will help define the future of mass produced electric vehicles for years to come.

Specifications
Engine 200hp/360Nm permanent magnetic drive
Transmission 1-speed direct drive
Suspension MacPherson struts/Torsion beam
Tires 215/50R-17
Brakes Disc/disc
L x W x H 4,166 x 1,765 x 1,594mm
Wheelbase 2,600mm
Curb Weight 1,625kg
Battery 435kg 288-cell 60kWh Li-ion
Test: Chevrolet Bolt EV
Design8.8
Build Quality8.8
Driveability9.5
Performance9.5
Value for Money9.5
9.2Overall Score