Since its 2017 model year, the Chevy Bolt EV has been a flagship for General Motors' electrification progress. While the Bolt EV wasn't GM's first all electric offering (that was the EV-1 in the 90s), the 2016 release marked a milestone for the company being that it was the first year a vehicle with more than 200 miles of range had been offered by any non-Tesla automotive brands. Additionally, even though sales have declined from its initial 2017 offering, it has been the best selling non-Tesla EV (full battery electric vehicle) every year since. In 2019, more Bolt EVs were sold than even the Tesla Model S. This year, Chevrolet has offered significant discounting and incentives on the Bolt EV making sure it stays an attractive EV option to potential buyers.
The design and styling for the Chevy Bolt EV originally started in 2012 by GM's Korea design studio. Even though it is officially classified as a "small station wagon" by the EPA, the Bolt EV has been called a crossover as well as a sedan because of its mid-size profile. Bright color choices from "shock" yellow to "oasis blue" give buyers plenty of choice for "can't miss" aesthetics. For others, traditional colors like black, white, grey, and silver are also available.
Battery, Efficiency, Range, and Charging
The 2017-2019 model year Bolt EVs came with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and provided an EPA estimated range of 238 miles. More than enough for the average consumer's daily commute, and enough for longer trips as well. The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV comes with a slightly larger 66 kWh battery pack providing a 21 mile bump in range to 259 total miles on a full charge. The official combined city/highway EPA rating for the Chevy Bolt EV 119 MPGe, however, many Bolt EV owners report to be able to drive the vehicle more efficiently without significant or unusual effort to do so. Charging at home on a 110/120 volt AC plug will recharge the Bolt EV at approximately four miles per hour charging. Using 220/240 volt AC will recharge the Bolt EV in ten hours or so. The 2017-2019 Bolt EVs had a maximum charge rate of 50 kWh while the 2020 model year was increased slightly to 55 kWh on a DC fast charger.
Interior Styling and Features
The interior of the Bolt EV has bold styling. Asymmetrical seats and splashes of textured plastic give the car a futuristic feel while providing familiar features and controls in the places you would expect to find them in most traditional vehicles. Generous interior space allows for plenty of room for up to five occupants comfortably. Two digital displays provide feedback to the driver on all aspects of vehicle settings and statuses, from climate control and digital media, to the HD Surround Vision that comes included with the Premier trim level package. Heated seats and steering wheel are optional on the lower LT trim and standard on the Premier trim level where you would also have included heated rear seats. One standard feature we like is called "Teen driver." According to Chevy, this feature lets you activate customizable vehicle settings to help encourage better driving behavior, limit certain vehicle features, and even give you an in-vehicle report card on driving habits to help you to continue to coach your new driver.
Performance Specs and Acceleration
The electric motor in the Bolt EV doesn't disappoint when it comes to power. The 150 kW AC motor provides just over 200 hp, and 266 lb-ft of instantly available tire-spinning torque. In a test by Car and Driver, they were able to get the Bolt EV to accelerate from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds on a prepared track while Chevy reports this time to be 6.5 seconds. Bolt EV owners who have taken their vehicle to the track have reported that it completed the 1/4 mile in 15.1 seconds. That being said, we performed our own tests using our Dragy (GPS Performance Box) and got some real world numbers from unprepared surfaces like what you would experience out and about driving on normal roads. The Bolt EV we tested was a 2019 Premier model with 215/50R17 Michelin Energy fuel-saving tires.
Two things to note. First, regular roads are not designed for performance testing of automobiles. Second, neither are fuel-saving tires. The nearly instant torque of the electric motor on the Chevy Bolt is enough to spin the hard Michelin tires on the best of surfaces and traction was an issue even with the traction control left on. The Bolt EV had about a 50% state-of-charge, so the numbers you see above would likely be improved if we had the opportunity to have a full battery. Acceleration was smooth and linear from the start, which made for a comfortable test. Not surprisingly, our results do not compare with the numbers that have been achieved with the Bolt EV on the test track or drag strip. Our best 0-60 time was 7.18 seconds (or 6.8 seconds with a 1ft rollout), and best 1/4 mile time was 15.32 seconds. When the drag strip opens back up after the COVID-19 illness subsides, we definitely want to perform a new test.
While the Chevy Bolt EV is easily one of the most important electric vehicles to ever be made, we find that it falls just short of what it could be. It's a good car, but it's not great. We like the regenerative braking and one pedal driving. We also like the styling both of the exterior and interior however we wish the Chevy would have used less hard plastic on the interior. The seats were also too hard and while we didn't take a long trip in the Bolt EV, we could imagine that you could easily be sore after a few hours. On the highway, we liked the "passing power" of the Bolt EV and found that it was more than enough for any normal situation. However, we found that if you want to have the drivers window down, it would be best to prepare for significant buffeting even with the rear window rolled down as well. The last thing, and maybe we should have focused on this more: DCFC provision should be STANDARD... and it's not. All said, the Bolt EV is a good car. We aren't surprised that it has sold as well as it has, and look forward to seeing more on the road.