Thirteen months ago, I plugged-in our long-term 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for the first time—filling it not only with electrons but expectations.
It had been named our 2017 Car of the Year, I wrote, because it wasn’t just a good EV, or the first affordable EV to eliminate “range anxiety,” but because it was both of those things and (perhaps most importantly) a good car regardless. More than a year and nearly 17,000 miles later, our Bolt has maintained its worthiness of our early praise.
Everyone who drove Chevy’s EV came to a familiar conclusion: The Bolt is a solid hatchback which happens to be battery powered. Whether providing ample room to take my in-laws out to dinner, hauling four half-barrel planters and four bags of potting soil home from the store in one trip, taking me on an 800-mile road trip, or saving me from setting foot in a gas station for the past year, the Bolt made few demands and never let me down.
It wasn’t perfect, though. The big infotainment screen developed a tendency to freeze (or not boot-up at all) if I shifted to reverse too soon after starting the car, but it was cured by a software update. On three occasions, the power steering failed to boot-up, but could be fixed by cycling the car off and on a few times. This, too, was cured by software updates. While the Bolt was at the dealer for that fix, the shifter was replaced under recall. None of these fixes cost us a dime. Total maintenance and repair costs: $0.
Indeed, the Bolt was very inexpensive to run. We charged it 154 times total; 69 times at the office, 47 times at public chargers, and 27 times at home. Altogether, driving 16,730 miles cost us $630.58. Public charging was by far the most expensive at $0.27/kW-hr average ($362.97 total), compared to $0.17/kW-hr ($131.04) at home and $0.07/kW-hr at the office ($136.58). For the sake of comparison the EPA estimates it will cost $550 to drive 15,000 miles in a Bolt (ours had cost us $540.99 at that mark). A Toyota Prius will cost you $800 to go the same distance and a gas-powered Kia Soul of similar size, shape, and mission will cost $1,450-$1,550.
Along the way, we learned a lot about the particulars of EV driving. In collecting an exhaustive amount of data, we learned that despite numerous staffers driving the Bolt in different environments and weather conditions, our behavior behind the wheel was remarkably consistent. The average distance driven between charging stayed right around 95 miles. We typically plugged it in when the battery dipped under 50 percent and generally removed the charger at around 90 percent. The average cost to charge at home, in public, or at the office varied less than $2 each no matter how many times we charged in each location.
Interestingly, the average amount of electricity consumed during charging actually rose by 2 kilowatt-hours, despite the average distance between charges remaining consistent. Possible explanations for this could include the growing sample size and increased variety of charging types (i.e. using more DC Fast chargers), or battery degradation. Similarly, the car’s predicted range before and after charging fell by 10 to 15 miles, which may simply be the car learning our typical driving style and adjusting its predictions.
Like many EV early adopters, we had the option of charging at the office (dirt cheap), at home (pretty cheap), or in public (comparably expensive), so we took advantage of the convenience and cost savings charging at work and at home. With a commute of less than 20 miles roundtrip, I ended up plugging in the car once every five days on average. I could have gone longer if I felt like running the battery below 50 percent. But when charging is as easy as plugging in before I walk into the house or office, why wouldn’t I top-off?
In between the regular commutes, we performed a number of special tests. We found the steering-wheel paddle to engage regenerative braking can seriously reduce braking distance compared to L mode. As a result, we made “one-pedal driving” an everyday habit. We learned summer performance tires make a big difference in handling and stopping, at the cost of about 30 miles of range and worse ride quality and interior noise. We discovered its real-world range is six miles farther than the EPA estimates at 244 miles. And it’s possible to do an 800-mile road trip using public DC Fast chargers, though it’ll take nearly twice as long as doing it with gasoline. We even decided it’s nearly as good as our tested $60,000 Tesla Model 3, while costing $15,000 less. And you can buy a Bolt on Chevy dealer lots, right now. Great deals. No lines.
But we also found a few things we’d change. The front seats are too narrow and can be uncomfortable. The back-up camera is disappointingly low-res, and the electronic shifter is needlessly frustrating to use. A navigation option with public charging locations would be appreciated, as would the ability to secure cargo to the roof rails without having to buy the $549 cross bars.
In making the Bolt our second-ever electric Car of the Year—and the only one so far you can buy for under $40,000—we put a lot on its little shoulders. A few easily resolved teething issues aside, the Bolt proved itself the everyday replacement for a gasoline-powered compact car we predicted it would be. If you’re ready to make the switch to electric, it’s the best EV for the money you can buy today.
|SERVICE LIFE||14 mo / 16,260 mi|
|OPTIONS||DC Fast Charging pkg ($750); Driver Confidence II pkg ($495: forward-collision alert, emergency braking, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams); Infotainment pkg ($485: Bose system, 6-speakers, wireless charging, 2 USB charging ports); Cajun Red metallic paint ($395)|
|PRICE AS TESTED*||$43,905|
|AVG ECON/CO2||121 mpg-e / 0.00 lb/mi (at vehicle)|
|PROBLEM AREAS||Intermittent power steering failure, infotainment screen failure|
|3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE**||$21,900|
|*Before applicable tax rebates|
|**IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years|
|2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD|
|MOTOR TYPE||Permanent magnet AC synchronous electric|
|POWER (SAE NET)||200 hp|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||266 lb-ft @ 0,000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.8 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs|
|BRAKES, F; R||10.9-in vented disc; 10.4-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||6.5 x 17-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||215/50R17 91H (M+S) Michelin Energy Saver A/S|
|TRACK, F/R||59.1/59.1 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||164.0 x 69.5 x 62.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||35.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,555 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||56/44%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||39.7/37.9 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.6/36.5 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||54.6/52.8 in|
|CARGO VOLUME BEHIND F/R||56.6/16.9 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.0|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 92.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||128 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||5,800 rpm|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|BATTERY CAPACITY||60 kWh|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||28.6/26.3/27.8 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||128/110/119 mpg-e|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||26/31 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.00 lb/mile (at vehicle)|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||110-volt, 220-volt electricity|