Living as I do in Los Angeles, I spend an ungodly amount of time in cars. Yet whenever I look at the trip odometer, I realize I haven’t actually piled on that many miles at all. In L.A., you see, a lot of your “driving” is actually performed at 0 mph. So when a new 2018 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle showed up at my doorstep boasting an impressive 238-mile EPA-certified range from its 60 kilowatt-hour battery, immediately I wondered: Could I drive this car for an entire week of routine Angeleno travel without ever visiting a charger?
While I’ve logged a good amount of wheel time in the Chevy Volt EREV, this was my first experience with the all-electric Bolt. As I climbed aboard, right away I found things to like. The cabin is spacious, airy, and modern. Ahead of the driver sits a simple display of range, speedo, and power status (consuming or regen). A generous 10.2-inch color touchscreen (included with the Premier edition) is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while simple climate-system controls underneath make adjusting the interior atmosphere easy.
The Bolt Premier is well-trimmed: included are leather seats (heated front and rear), keyless entry and start, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a surround-vision camera, and such active-safety features as rear cross-traffic and blind-spot alerts. My test car also included optional DC fast charging ($750), a driver-confidence package ($495)—which adds additional safety tech such as a forward-collision alert and low-speed automatic braking—and an infotainment package ($495) with a Bose premium audio system and wireless device charging. Total sticker: $43,905—but that doesn’t include the $7,500 federal tax credit to which Bolt buyers are entitled.
While it shines in the technology-per-dollar ratio, the Bolt drives even better. Acceleration is brisk—even on the highway—yet all but silent. Steering feel is quite good, albeit nothing you’d mistake for a Porsche’s. Ride and handling, aided by the heavy, low-mounted battery, is taut and controlled, with minimal roll yet little harshness over broken pavement. The Bolt is a pleasure to spur around town—nimble, responsive, with a lean physique that makes parking even in tight spaces effortless.
The Bolt’s brakes deserve special mention. Chevy has got the feel nearly perfect. There’s plenty of sensitivity in terms of the amount of pressure needed for smooth stops, yet controlling the regen action is easy, too. Slip the transmission into “L” mode, though, and the motor’s regen kicks in hard—so much so that coasting can bring the car to a complete stop on its own, no foot-braking required. Actually, it becomes something of an enjoyable challenge, lifting off at an approaching stop sign at just the right moment to have the Bolt roll to a stop without getting your foot involved. There’s also a small lever to the left of the wheel that allows you to add regen with your fingertips. Between that lever and the L-mode regen, the Bolt’s brake pedal could easily become the least-used input in the vehicle.
After three days of fairly conventional errands and around-town driving—roughly about two hours at the wheel each day—I’d barely eaten into the Bolt’s “fuel tank.” There was easily two-thirds of a charge remaining. To make things a little harder on the Chevy, I took to the highway and put on 40 miles or so at 75 mph. Wind drag is clearly a big enemy, as I saw a noticeable drop in battery charge after that jaunt. Still, I was well above a half-charge left.
With the optional DC fast-charger—and when connected to a Combined Charging System (CCS) fast-charging port—the Bolt can add about 90 miles of range to the battery in 30 minutes. Tesla’s 120-kilowatt Superchargers are faster (most CCS chargers operate at 50 kilowatts), but for urban driving the Bolt’s recharge speed should easily satisfy most drivers. Things become more problematic outside of major cities, though, where CCS stations are currently far more difficult to find. Stuck with a standard 110-volt outlet, the Bolt could easily take more than 30 hours to recharge from empty. Which is to say, for cross-country travel, the Bolt isn’t the EV you want to be piloting.
As a city runabout, though, the Bolt is nearly perfect. There’s no range anxiety when nearby CCS chargers are plentiful and the battery shows plenty of range remaining anyway. (Besides, simply hooking-up to a 240-volt Level 2 charger overnight could easily have your Bolt fully charged every morning.) In my case, at the end of my week’s test drive, the battery still showed one-third of a charge remaining. I notched six full days running around Los Angeles and still didn’t deplete the Bolt’s battery. That’s impressive. What’s more, the Bolt proved to be thoroughly enjoyable driving companion—roomy, ergonomically friendly, and loaded with helpful and convenient technology. As good as the Volt is, I enjoyed the Bolt even more.
At about $35,000 after the federal tax credit, the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt Premium is even something of a bargain—especially compared with anything available from Tesla. If I were in the market for a versatile and affordable urban runabout, this cheeky, entertaining, and impressively capable EV would definitely be on my short list.
|PRICE||$41,780/$43,905 (base/as tested)|
|MOTOR||permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 200 hp, 266 lb-ft; 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack|
|TRANSMISSION||1-speed direct drive|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-motor, FWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||128/110 MPGe (city/highway)|
|L x W x H||164.0 x 69.5 x 62.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||93 mph (governor limited)|