My Week with a Bolt

Bolt

We just returned from our Spring Break vacation in Northern California. I used Turo to rent the above Bolt. If you aren’t familiar with Turo: It is a service like AirBnb but for cars (e.g. you can rent out your own car to make money–interesting concept that could have a blog post all its own but I’m not here to talk about that).

I did mention in my previous post that the Bolt is a strong contender for my next vehicle. So now that I’ve driven one for a week how does it fare?

Lets start with the looks: I’ve read many opinions about that with a few people still thinking it looks a bit odd which makes it stand out. To me it looks very similar to the other small GM CUV’s (Chevy Traxx or the Buick Encore–of course some may think those have polarizing looks themselves). Comparing dimensions it is very similar to both of those (wheelbase, length, track width, etc.). To my eyes I don’t think it looks much different from a Ford Escape or the C-Max from the side (the front looks much better than the C-Max).

One of the major complaints about the Bolt is the front seats. Now that I’ve sat in them for a week I understand. To describe it: The seats have a curve to them from side to side for both the back and the bottom. It almost feels like a folding chair where the two side bars holding the canvas aren’t wide enough. Thus if your frame fits within the curvature of the seats you’ll be comfortable, if it doesn’t you won’t. For myself: After a few minutes driving I stopped noticing the curve and found them rather comfortable. By the end of the week seat comfort was a non issue as I could hardly notice anything odd about them.

The Premier trim levels of the Bolt get a panoramic rear view mirror. Flipping the day night switch on the bottom of the mirror switches between a normal mirror and the panoramic one. The panoramic one uses a wide angle camera at the back of the car and when in that mode the mirror is just a monitor.

mirror

This takes some getting used to. When driving with a normal mirror you keep your eyes focused at infinity looking in the mirror which makes it very easy to quickly glance in the mirror and back out the front window. When in panoramic mode the mirror is a monitor which means you have to refocus to a short distance (much like looking down at the dash: you have to refocus at the closer distance). Initially I had found it difficult to do, but our car had some advertising on the back window which I found more distracting than the panoramic mirror LOL. After a day or so using the panoramic mode got to be no more difficult than checking the speed, or charge, etc.

One pedal mode: Putting the Bolt in “L” (as opposed to “D”) enables one pedal mode. In this mode it no longer creeps and taking your foot completely off the accelerator will quickly bring the car to a stop. I had briefly tried one pedal mode when driving around a family member’s Model S. I didn’t have enough time in my brief test drive of the S to get the hang of it. On the Bolt one pedal mode is really easy to get used to and a joy to use. You can and sometimes still have to use the brake–especially on hilly San Francisco streets but with normal flat terrain you can get away without using the brake at all.

dash

The dash is a bit simpler than the Focus Electric or the C-Max–although there could be a more complicated display; I really didn’t explore all of those options (this was mostly because I was cognizant that this was someone’s car and I didn’t want to mess with all of their settings). The important things are there and are an improvement on the Ford implementation. The range display at the left, for example: On the Focus electric Ford’s attempt varied widely based on your most current usage (a reason for the Guess-O-Meter name it has been given). On the Bolt that value was pretty stable and you’re also given a Maximum value if you drive super efficiently and a minimum value if you drive like you stole it. To the right hand side (the 7kW value on the picture above) is your current power consumption or regeneration value. This display is similar to the Focus Electric except that it also shows the power value during regeneration–very nice (in addition that yellow line going through the value is a graph that moves up for driving and down for regeneration).

With 200+ miles did I experience any “range anxiety”? Well I can honestly say that I never really had any “range anxiety” when driving the Focus Electric with its paltry 70 miles of range, so 200+ miles was a cake walk. Note that I’m saying 200+ miles here and not 238–the Bolt’s official range–because this car would only “fill” to a bit above 200 miles; most likely due to the terrain. Since we couldn’t charge at home it was interesting experiencing the “find a charger” problem in California. Fortunately I didn’t mind using the more expensive chargers (which were almost always available) because I was just doing an extended test drive and not using them to charge daily. If I were to own a Bolt between its range and the fact that we have a home charger I wouldn’t expect to use public charging at all unless we went for an extended drive.

Fast charging: Neither the Focus Electric, nor the C-Max have the capability for DC fast charging–this Bolt did (its optional on the Bolt). This is a must have. Even if you never use it it will be there for resale value. I did try out fast charging for about 15-20 minutes: plugged in the car, turned on the charger and went grocery shopping. Upon returning to the car it had gained almost 40 miles and was making a racket LOL (something I had expected: all the cooling systems were in full swing).

On the whole the Bolt is a very nice solid car. It has always pretty much been the top contender for my next car since it came out. Now that I’ve experienced one for a week I’m pretty positive it will be my next car (was a little disappointed I had to return it).

 

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My Week with a Bolt

Whats next…

The closer I get to the end of my C-Max lease the more it is apparent that Ford will have no BEVs of any sort available (they will, in fact, have even less plugin vehicles to choose from than when I started the lease).

This means that to get a BEV I have to look at other manufacturers for that battery goodness. From what I can see of the market I’ll have about 6 different options for a 200+ mile BEV:

Going through them:

The Model S, and X are simply too expensive and thus can be ruled out.

The Model 3 just won’t be available as I didn’t add myself to the 300k+ of people who reserved one.

The Chevy Bolt is pretty much at the top of the list because its affordable, and available in my area (and I’ll have some experience with one as I did get to rent one for our next vacation).

The Jaguar I-Pace looks really cool, but it is a Jag…and expensive (although its cheaper than the Tesla’s! LOL). The only way I can see getting one of these is if there is one available at a local dealer and they make a killer lease deal.

The Kona EV….this one has given me pause for consideration: It will likely be the least expensive EV of the list above. The big question here: will one be available (in Michigan) in time for my lease end–I’ll have to see if I can check out an ICE Kona (as Hyundai has been doing the “multiple powertrains available” thing: you’ll be able to get a Kona as an ICE, a Hybrid, a plug-in Hybrid, and a BEV). If I do end up with one it will be the first foreign car I’ve ever owned/driven.

Interesting times ahead…

 

Whats next…

OK yeah yeah another Bolt post

But its the only 200+ mile non-Tesla EV around lately.

So what is it now??

Now the Bolt’s owner’s manual is online(pdf) so you can peruse all its features at your leisure. Since we have an RV I searched around for towing–not if the Bolt can tow anything, but if it can be towed. There it is on page 300: Can’t tow it 4 wheels down (I kind of expected that) but it can be towed on a dolly.

For those of you with RVs looking for a green toad here you go, get a Bolt–granted it probably costs a bit more than what you’d be looking for in a toad. Still charge up at the campground on the 50A plugs overnight and you’re ready to go (as long as you don’t trip the breaker LOL).

 

OK yeah yeah another Bolt post

They are out in the wild

Looks like Chevy has finally sold the first few Bolt’s. (Yeah with the last few posts I promise not to turn the blog into a “Bolt only” blog but you have to agree that it is a pretty compelling EV–perhaps if Ford would announce something and give me more to blog about I would….) Now the Bolt will only be available in select CARB states for this year (2016) and nationwide rollout begins early next year.

Nonetheless I’m already seeing plenty of them on the road in SE Michigan. So far I see about one every third week or so. This already is more frequent than I see Tesla’s or Leafs (although I’ve noticed that there is a Leaf owner who lives close by and thus I see that one about once a month or so). Since the car isn’t fully “out” yet I have to assume these are GM test cars or management lease vehicles (none that I’ve seen have had manufacturer plates which makes me lean towards them being management leases). Funny thing is I’m pretty far from GM’s two big engineering presences in Southeast Michigan (The HQ at the Ren Cen downtown Detroit, and GM’s Tech center north of Detroit). I am near a GM service facility that would house the people working on the dealer technician tools–perhaps some are from there.

Comparing this amount to what I see in Volts: I pretty much see at least two or three of the older model Volts during my commute daily, and about one of the new one daily but the Volt is a mature car that’s been out in the market for a while now and with Southeast Michigan being the home of GM (and Ford, and Chrysler) you’d expect to see a lot.

So what I’m saying by this rather rambling blog post is that: I’m pretty surprised to see so many Bolts so soon–especially when they only just went on sale (and not in Michigan). I would suspect GM is pushing them on the leases (or at least offering deals on the leases) so they can get more on the road for testing purposes.

 

They are out in the wild

Make your own Bolt

You can now Build and Price a Chevy Bolt on their website.

This is pretty cool. I’ve been following the Bolt now for a while and it looks like its going to be quite the seller for Chevy. Despite reviews like this one. (I have read a rumor that a dealer in California already has 100 pre-orders for the Bolt–one dealer already has more orders than the Focus Electric’s average monthly sales LOL.)

I’m seeing them more and more on the road here–even though Michigan isn’t supposed to get retail versions until sometime next year. I’m pretty sure these are either management lease vehicles or test vehicles of some sort (the few I’ve seen did not have manufacturer plates on them). Ran across an orange one in a parking lot that already had the well used look on it–but it had two car seats in the back thus it would only take one drive with the kids in tow to give the car a well used look! LOL

I do hope they do sell well for GM, especially now. Maybe the market will show that a reasonably priced 200+ mile EV can sell (somewhat reasonably priced: If you check all the boxes on that build and price site you can get the list price up to $44k! Yikes.)

 

Make your own Bolt

Where is Ford?

The question is: Where is Ford in this market?

The answer is: being left in the dust.

What market is that? The 200+ mile EV club. Granted the only members in the club right now is Tesla, but Chevy is knocking at the door with the Bolt.

If this review is any indication the Bolt is going to be a hit. You can spend hours debating if the Model 3 is “going to kill Chevy” or that the Bolt “will be the death knell of Tesla”. Personally I’d hedge towards Chevy: If the Bolt is as good as that review indicates then with a solid year (plus?) lead on the market it will give Tesla some solid competition.

The next few years promises to be exciting ones if you are an EV enthusiast.

So again: Where is Ford?

 

Where is Ford?

Chevy is close to making Bolts

Check out this Ars Technica article about the Chevy Bolt.¬†Seems like Chevy is going to handily beat Tesla’s Model 3–makes you wonder if Chevy timed this news release to beat Tesla to the punch as the Model 3 prototype will be unveiled next week.

The thing is, when I look at the picture in the article, below:

This side view really looks like a BMW i3 to me…not sure why (perhaps its just the relative proportions).

By the time my 3 years is up on the C-Max I’ll have plenty 200+ mile BEV’s to choose from thats for sure.

 

Chevy is close to making Bolts