Friday, May 12, 2017
TWO WEEKS IN WITH A CHEVROLET BOLT
You don’t see many of these in the wild…
I never considered a Chevrolet, what with GM’s checkered history on quality. I never considered not owning a pickup, given that pickup ownership and masculinity go hand in hand (even if the pickup is a compact Nissan). And I could never consider a plug-in electric car given the range anxiety inherent in having to plug the thing in every 90 miles or so. Granted a Tesla will go nearly 300, but I could never consider putting a hundred large into a car of any kind that didn’t have a stallion on its badge.
But continuing to pour gasoline into the tank and hydrocarbons into the air formed an equation that seemed not too right for my grandchildren’s children. That, coupled with the fact that pretty much any projects I might have and any dump runs I might make are becoming less and less frequent. Why drive from here to there in an empty ¾ ton truck returning 20 miles per gallon, when an electric car uses less than a fifth the energy?
Range anxiety? The evolution of electric car technology began when Elon Musk envisioned his first Tesla. Now the Tesla III is about to hit the market with a 250-plus mile range per charge and “Range Anxiety” will return to its rightful definition: the emotion Billy Crystal felt when confronted by the Jack Palance character in the first “City Slickers” movie. Musk’s III was to be the electric car made affordable to all except GM beat him to the punch.
So now we have this Chevrolet Bolt. The pickup went to a nice young man who paid cash and the Subaru pouts in the driveway, longing for the good old days when there was room for her in the garage.
The Bolt is a nice looking small car similar in style any of a number of econo-boxes. A huge and probably very heavy battery rests beneath the flat passenger compartment floor. Wheels are pushed to the corners of the vehicle making for a well-planted ride. The electric motor offers enough torque to beat a Z-1 Corvette off the line up until about 18 miles per hour. By then all you’ll see is the Vette’s taillights peeking through a cloud of dust and road debris, but the little Bolt wastes little time rocketing up the freeway on-ramp and merging into unforgiving traffic.
A 120-mile loop out to the coast proved that the car could more than make the distance handling four-lanes, highways, county roads, sweeping turns and hills. Going up, it is appalling to watch the KWH meter ramp northward. Descending, however electricity usage almost disappears. Touching the brakes reverses the flow of energy. There’s a graphic on the info-screen that shows when this is happening.
The dash has all kinds of animation and the touch screen is a bit more intuitive than in previous cars we’ve owned. The seats seem substantial and nicely are detailed for a commuter car. There’s a way back with room for Edward, our lab mix, but he’s happier when we flop down at least one of the split rear seats so he can join in our conversations up front. We did want to get out after an hour or so as the spacious interior may seem to shrink a bit over time.
On the road – out in the wild – we’ve yet to see too many Chevy Bolts, however today, when we did, a throwback moment occurred. Recall the VW bugs of the sixties? Recall when driving one, someone driving another would wave at you and you’d wave back. Yeah. That happened in the Bolt today. So, cool…
Electric car buyers benefit from incentives from the feds, the state and our local utility. A $7500.00 incentive from the feds went toward a buy down of the initial lease payment. With a simple application, we are awaiting a $2500.00 check from the state thanking us for reducing our carbon footprint. And although a 220 volt charging station costs the user around $800.00, our local utility offers them for free – pay only shipping and sales tax – to owners of electric vehicles. With installation, the “Juice Box” set us back about $270.00.
The car can be programmed to charge at off-peak hours and we are anxious to see the increase in our electric bill as we appreciate the decrease in the tab we pay to Big Oil and its Washington and Wall Street minions. We leased the vehicle with the expectation that in three years, something more efficient might come onto the market and market forces might be at work to decrease the current initial costs. So as far as out-of-pocket savings, we’ll probably not experience much this time around.
We found that we had put an inordinate number of miles on our relatively new Subaru with around town and over to the next one driving, so the main purpose of the Bolt will be to spare the Sube for longer adventures. That being our goal, the initial impression of this little GM electric is that it offers a pleasant and sometimes exhilarating ‘charge’ for such a wonderfully small car.
At this point in ownership, we’d get another.
Church of the Open Road Press