Chevy Bolts to EV lead

My previous experiences with electric vehicles (EV) have been somewhat underwhelming. Range anxiety, ho-hum performance, charging logistics hassles and an uninspiring drive experience were some of my chief complaints.

So, when a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT EV was dropped off, I was skeptical, to say the least. After a week of vigorous testing, I can report that things are better and some of my complaints have been removed or minimized.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is the first volume-production electric car to offer more than 200 miles of driving range (238 verified) and not carry a window sticker of $50,000 or more.

There are several things you should do before you drive your 2017 Chevrolet Bolt home. First, get a 240-volt Level 2 charging station ($700 installed; adds 25 miles per charging hour). Second, make sure you have overnight electrical access for standard 120-volt Level 1 charging (adds 4 miles per charging hour). Third, find access to a high-speed, Level 3 stand-alone pay charger like ChargePoint (Level 3 adds 90 miles in 30 minutes).

Unlike the Volt, Prius or Leaf, the Bolt looks like a regular tall, compact five-door hatchback. The difference-maker is a 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located below the floor pan. It holds the juice that’s sent to a small 150-kilowatt motor (266 pound-feet of torque) that turns the front wheels. The power is directed via Chevrolet’s Electronic Precision Shift system (automatic), a shift and drive-by-wire delivery method.

The interior has been designed to attain a roomy 94.4 cubic feet including storage. There is plenty of space for four adults to sit in comfort (and five in discomfort). The dash is full of infotainment displays including a digital 8.0-inch instrument display behind the wheel and a 10.2-inch touch screen in the middle of the dash. You can program charging modes and monitor the Bolt’s battery use and regenerative braking charging.

So, can the Chevy Bolt function as a normal car? Mostly. On the road, acceleration is brisk but eerily quiet. Aggressive driving is not this car’s mission, especially on narrow, low-rolling-resistance tires. Braking is good, and good for replenishing battery life, especially in the “L” driving mode.

Using “L” mode, one-pedal driving kicks in the regenerative braking system. Shifting from “D” to “L” means the car starts to slow down once you let off the gas pedal. This active slowing allows the regenerative system to capture the energy and help charge the batteries. This mode is great for in-town driving, but you’ll need the brake pedal on the highway.

Did my “range anxiety” disappear? Not exactly. Without a 240-volt charger, you can’t replenish range quickly. Turn on the heat or air, and you lose 10 miles of range. I found several Level 3 pay charging stations in the northwest suburbs; while inexpensive, you would still have to wait or remain occupied for at least 30 minutes to add 90 miles. If you had to pick up and take a trip at a moment’s notice or cover long stretches of rural areas in hot or cold weather, I would be concerned. If you live in the city or have a second car, the Bolt could work very well with 238 miles of range on a full charge.

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