Wednesday, July 4, 2018

LIFE WITH A CHEVROLET BOLT – AFTER 14 MONTHS

Never thought we’d own a GM product 
– but dang!  This is a good little car!

Our 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is a fully electric vehicle with a claimed range of 238 miles.  By offering $6,000.00 at closing we obtained a 1,000 mile per month lease for about $350.00. Having held true to that mileage, a monthly report from GM estimates we’ve NOT used about 50 gallons of fuel each month. Although not for certain, it appears our electric bill has increased by around $20.  Those are the facts as I see ‘em.


Now, how do we like the thing?

Performance and Handling. The electric drive system is pretty hot – and by that, I mean cool.  We can easily reach freeway speeds about half-way up the average on-ramp.  On-board gauging lets us know how much electricity we are using (measured in kilowatt hours) as we cruise at highway speeds in traffic.  A graphic on the infotainment screen illustrates power flow from the motor to the wheels and it is gratifying to watch that flow go the other direction when the brakes are being used as they regenerate electricity.

As a front-wheel drive vehicle and with the battery’s weight riding low, the Bolt eats up curves. With the wheels pushed to the corners of the car, it sticks nicely to nice pavement.  It is, however, little more than a short-wheel-base econo-box – just one without an internal combustion engine – therefore, when the pavement is poor or chunky, the driver is informed.  Also, know that the low-slung battery means there's not a lot of ground clearance.  We've scraped bottom a couple of times on unpaved roads.  It'd be a good idea to avoid those - save 'em for the Subaru.  Still, coupling its crisp handling with its zesty acceleration (even when not in sport mode) the drive is engaging and fun.  

Occupant Comfort.  The press gives the Bolt low marks for its relatively small and relatively under-padded seats. This is not fake news. The seats could use some additional bolstering, but, given its purpose – an electric car aimed at pollution free daily commutes – the accommodations are more than tolerable for the drive to work and back.  The rear seat is roomy but positioned near the rear axle so bumps in the road are easily transmitted to bumps in the bum.  That said, as a six-foot-four occupant, I don’t mind hanging out back there and letting someone else ride shotgun.

Fit and Finish.  There’s a groan that pronounces itself, we think emanating from the rear hatch, if the car is wallowed over uneven pavement. Other than that, the thing is as sound as any Japanese or European vehicle I’ve ever owned.  The closure lines on the doors, hood and hatch are remarkably even.  Nothing on the exterior has rattled off as of yet or shows any signs of wiggling loose.

Inside, the trim on the driver’s side A-pillar snapped loose.  Not wanting to push on the thing and risk screwing up or discharging the airbag covered therein, I returned it to the dealer for a two-minute fix. (Interior trim covering air bags need to be secure enough to not fall off, but loosey-goosey enough to fall away in the event that the bag needs to deploy, I was told.)  Other than that, with the exception of a rather dumb brushed chrome strip unnecessarily highlighting the front dash with blinding reflections of sunlight at times, the largely plastic interior is handsome – not outstanding – but serves the purpose well.

Range.  Our first major test of the Bolt’s range came a month back when we headed from our house in Cloverdale over to a B&B in Mendocino via the steep and poorly paved Orr Springs Road.  Orr Springs Road crosses a section of the Coast Range climbing steeply out of the Russian River drainage just north of Ukiah.  Our hearts began to sink as we watched that graphic.  We depleted over 50 miles of range in the first twelve or fifteen miles up to the ridgetop.  Damn! Will there be a charging station in Comptche (population about two dozen)?  Not likely.  The forty-plus mile descent through that little berg and out to the coast revealed something we hadn’t counted upon: Power re-genned to the battery as we coasted, gradually winding from high pastures, though oak woodlands, along the south fork of Big River, through Montgomery Redwoods and out to State Route 1. By the time we reached the coast highway, indications were that we had MORE juice in the battery than when we’d left Ukiah fifty-five miles earlier.  SHAZAM!


Would we buy or lease another one?  

Our contract on the 2017 Bolt expires in less than two years.  So far, we have been impressed with the quality of the car and the savings on fuel.  (If we move forward with plans to put solar on the house, an argument could be made that we’d be driving the thing for free.)  We were encouraged to lease this first generation electric Chevy because by the time the lease is up, there’s a good possibility that technological improvements will be in the offing.  I had a chat with the Chevy salesperson with whom we had dealt.  He confirmed that the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker, Volvo, would be upping the ante on electric vehicles world-wide and that their product might be one to watch when renewal time circles around.

Here’s what we’re thinking: If major improvements in the electric vehicle segment don’t surface by the time our lease expires, we would give strong consideration to negotiating a price for a purchase of the Bolt we have (many will be coming off lease at that time, so residuals may be depressed) or simply buying our next electric vehicle outright.  Given the experience we’ve had thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if that next EV is also a Chevy.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment: