The challenge is gone..sort of

When the first few EVs came out (Leaf, Focus Electric, etc.) which couldn’t even reach 100 miles some negative nancy pundits coined the phrase “range anxiety” for them (something which has been mentioned on this blog a few times). Having driven one (the Focus Electric, or FFE for short) I can happily say that there really is no such thing. Once you’ve driven it for as little as a week you get to know what the car can and cannot do and plan accordingly–the FFE never left me stranded.

In fact, I always considered driving the FFE more of a challenge than something to be fearful. The challenge was always “where can I go today?” and “how can I figure out to get the FFE to there?”–never “Oh no I’m running out of charge!” LOL. That is the thing here: With the Bolt having a range of 238 (or more, the GOM so far has read 250 miles and more for the first two charges) I have none of those thoughts. In fact, I’m finding I can drive it on my commute for an entire week before needing a recharge (it may turn out to be 4 days–since I’ve only had it just over a week and charged it to full twice I don’t quite have enough data for that).

Thus the immediate challenge is gone: I’ve found myself browsing plugshare.com to see where I would be able to charge but frequently stop when I realize that I don’t need any of the local chargers (even the 3 DC fast chargers (DCFC) within a few miles from my house).

In reality, however, the challenge has just been moved further out. Since my day to day or even weekly needs are met by the range of the Bolt I’ve been browsing plugshare to see: “ok, how far can I get with a Bolt via DCFC’s, Level 2’s, or even campgrounds?” Well take a look at this:

DCFCmap

This is the plugshare map of all CCS DCFC chargers in the US. Hmm looks to me like I could make it all the way across the country–almost (at the least I could make it out East from my base here in the Detroit area, or down to Florida without a problem). There are a few gaps longer than 200 miles or so. Who says there is no DCFC infrastructure to support EVs other than Tesla? Look its there–and growing rather quickly. Instead of just one company trying to build out an infrastructure all on its own here are many companies building out a redundant infrastructure. Companies like Dunkin Donuts, AAA, and Walmart–all of which are starting to add (or have added) chargers at their stores (the 3 DCFC’s near me are two Dunkin Donuts and a AAA).

Ironically I’ll probably never take the Bolt on such a journey–if I’m taking a trip that long I’ll drive the RV and tow the Bolt on a dolly (yeah I realize the irony here using the gas powered RV to take the Bolt for a long distance trip LOL). You never know, however, I may do it at least once….just for the challenge of it 😉 .

 

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The challenge is gone..sort of

There is a lot going on here

Check out the Bolt’s dash:

BoltDash

This is the “enhanced” view (there are 3 views: ok, better, and this one LOL). The enhanced view shows the most information of all the 3 views.

For the basics you’ve got the speed in the big digits top center (along with a compass above it). To the left is the cruise control’s settings (on/off, set speed). Below that is configurable; things like the radio display, trip meter (as seen here), tire pressure, phone, etc. (Note that there are only 25 miles driven on this charge in city streets so my miles/kWh value is much higher than I’ve been getting. Since I reset the trip meter at full charge its artificially high–I’ve been getting between 4 and 4.2 miles/kWh so far. May have to make another post about the kind of range I’ve been getting; perhaps when I put a few more miles on the car…)

The ring around that display (in grey here) changes color based on your current efficiency (this would be similar to “status” on the FFE except that its more instant efficiency–there is another piece in this display that is closer to the FFE’s “status” indicator; more on that in a moment). The ring changes from green to yellow based upon your current driving style/state. Most noticeably it begins to turn yellow when you go faster than about 65 mph and is full yellow at 70 mph (haven’t gone much faster to see if it goes completely red or not).

On the right is the power display. The number will tell you how much power draw (or generation) the car is using. It turns green for regen (and the little regen display animates). In addition to that the horizontal line just to the left of the 1 kW is a bar graph growing one way for power consumption and the other for regeneration.

Below that is the PRNDL display and the go/no go green car (similar to the FFE’s green “ready to go car”). On the top right is the parking brake indicator.

The left contains the “fuel gauge”: The green bar graph gives you a decent approximation of the % of battery left (with tick marks at the quarter positions). The three numbers comprise the car’s GOM (Guess-O-Meter): The top one is an estimate of your maximum range remaining if you drive as efficiently as possible, the middle one is your range based on your current driving habits/style/etc. and the bottom is the minimum range to expect if you drove it like you stole it. Now there is another gauge hidden here: That grey arc just to the left of the green bar graph. This one is the display that more closely matches the FFE’s “status” indicator (when no route is programmed in). This graph will display how well you’re driving against your past history. If you drive more efficiently a green bar will grow from the center towards the top; less efficiently a yellow bar will grow from the center towards the bottom. This gauge isn’t instant like the power meter at the right; its more of a rolling average–like the GOM itself–so it reacts slower. Thus you may be driving on the freeway at 70 mph and see the green bar grow and think: “what? how can I be more efficient at 70 mph”–its because its more of a trend over your trip instead of an instant value. My guess here is that it is an indication of which range to expect given how you’ve been driving. The closer the bar gets to one of the values (max, average, or min) the more you can expect that range from this charge.

To finish things off: the bottom left has the vehicle’s odometer.

Compared to the FFE’s dash; I like it. Sure it doesn’t display some of the things the FFE did (many of those values can be seen on the entertainment system’s display: like the proportion of energy devoted to climate controls instead of propulsion, electricity consumed since last charge, etc.) and in some cases you get more information (specifically a power value for regen–the FFE just had a twirly thing letting you know it was regenerating).

 

There is a lot going on here

Bugs, we’ve got bugs

I was hoping that once I used a different OEM’s mobile app I would be free of all the bugs that Ford’s MyFordMobile app had. To some extent that is true, but the myChevrolet app comes with its own set of bugs. Here is a good example of one:

2018-06-12 05.51.00

Note that the battery level is at 98% showing 252 miles to go (yup more than the EPA rated 238 on the Bolt–at 100% charge it read 265 miles on the GOM). Tapping “Ok” shows a map with the current location in the middle of the ocean somewhere (didn’t think to zoom out enough to see where in the ocean).

Not sure where the app is reading the location from (the phone, or the car) but in either case it doesn’t have the proper one. I’m guessing its the car because when I used the “save parking location” feature to grab the car’s location the above range warning stopped.

You’d also think that they would disable this message whenever the car is plugged in (it was charging at the time).

 

Bugs, we’ve got bugs

Bolt size, looks

I’ve heard some comments that the Bolt has “that funky EV look”? Really, or are you predisposed to think it looks funky because it is an EV?

Lets compare its looks to a contemporary CUV from a competing manufacturer (yeah ok a Ford Escape LOL):

2018-06-10 09.48.092018-06-10 09.48.202018-06-10 09.48.35

Not that it really isn’t that much smaller, perhaps an inch or two smaller in height and length. The hood is definitely smaller which stands to reason since you don’t need that much room for the electric motor.

The roofline is about the same (and pretty much looks like all CUV’s these days). I’d argue that the rear window having a little bit more of an angle than the Escape gives it a slightly sportier look..but that is splitting hairs.

Interior wise: there is a lot less room for stuff in the hatchback but that may be because there is tons of legroom in the rear seat–much more than available in the Escape.

To my eyes it just looks like another on of the millions of CUV’s on the road–its most distinguishing feature is how they put the “Bolt EV” name above the front quarter panel.

 

Bolt size, looks

Another plugin..a bowtie!

I’m now on my 3rd plugin vehicle, two BEV’s and one PHEV. This one is interesting: I’ve been purchasing Ford’s for the past 30 years or so. Walking into a Chevy dealership was a bit odd and the same (all of the American dealerships are essentially the same–just a different logo on the front of the car). After a few minutes conversing with the salesman the odd feeling disappeared and we got down to business.

I’ve now driven it a whopping 15 miles or so (spent most of the evening playing with all the configuration settings/charge settings/pairing phone/etc.–I may have to make a few posts about that). Took some people for a ride; spoke with a neighbor about it (kind of obvious it isn’t a Ford in the driveway LOL).

This one a is a little different from the one we rented in California: For one thing its in LT trim, not Premier so its missing a bunch of options (like lane keeping assist, the fancy screen/mirror, etc.). Many of those features I’d likely not use so I didn’t get them but the biggest difference is the seats…

I mentioned in my other post about the complaints the Bolt front seats were getting. On the Premier one we rented they felt like the side bars of the seat were too narrow and would press/dig into the sides of your rear. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me as I did fit in between the sides but I do understand the complaints.

On the LT trim the seats are…just fine!? (The Premier has leather seats, the LT has cloth seats). The cloth seats don’t have the bucket feeling like the leather seats do–in fact they feel pretty flat (like inexpensive seats would) and thus there is no issue with them..they feel like any other car seat and are quite comfortable. This also could be a model year difference: The one I rented was a 2017 Bolt and mine is a brand new 2018.

I’m sure my posting rate will increase now that I have something new to post about…stay tuned.

Another plugin..a bowtie!

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).

 

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…