THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Say goodbye to gas pumps with practical range electric driving brought into the mainstream market.
- What’s Worst: Incentive inconsistency. Reduced range anxiety maybe, but for longer trips…?
- What’s Interesting: Despite its smallish size, the Bolt feels roomy and family-friendly. And with the benefits of provincial incentives, gas-free sustainability, green-plate HOV access and relatively reasonable pricing bringing electric power to the masses and might just be a big enough deal to let some air out of the Tesla balloon.
When two esteemed automotive journalists (okay, maybe a bit of a stretch in my case) are piloting an electric vehicle on the crest of the technology wave, you should expect back and forth banter – insights about regenerative braking capacities, aerodynamic efficiencies, battery innovations, etc.
Unless, of course, we’re chatting about other stuff.
“Umm, shouldn’t we be noticing more things about this car?” I asked at one break in the conversation.
“Doesn’t it say something that we’re NOT noticing anything different?” my co-driver replied.
Good point! The mark of technology at its most efficient is its ability to work seamlessly somewhere in the background without drawing attention to itself.
But there is, of course, plenty to be noticed about the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.
The Bolt is an electrically powered, five-door hatchback that GM prefers to refer to as a wagon or crossover.
And, although it might be comparing apples to oranges, its dimensions slot it somewhere between Chevrolet’s Sonic, Trax and Cruze Hatchback models, with an emphasis on tall wagon architecture, upright SUV-style seating, a big-windowed greenhouse and second row roominess.
The Bolt is powered solely by a single permanent magnetic electric drive motor that makes 200 hp and 266 lb/ft of torque, power that comes on instantly and smoothly, propelling the Bolt to highway speed in just under seven seconds.
Its compact motor weighs in at only 76 kg and obviously requires no fuel, no oil changes or related maintenance.
It also applies power without a transmission through a 7.05:1 final drive ratio.
Power choices are selected via the new drive-by-wire Electronic Precision Shift system spreading through GM’s lineup. This stick, with new shift pattern choices, is inspiring some love/hate relationships, but its space-saving, weight-reducing benefits are inarguable.
The motor gets juice from a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack laid out in a flat configuration running the length of the floor.
It consists of 288 individual cells in five sections, 10 modules and 96 cell groups. The pack comes with an eight-year/160,000 km warranty that guarantees a minimum of 65 per cent of the original capacity at the end of the warranty period.
When this is the only source of power for the car, it’s natural to question its bona fides but Harry Ng, Product Manager for the Bolt, told me that while similar individual cells in the Chevy Volt have been replaced on occasion, GM has never had to replace a battery pack so far.
Yes, the battery pack is substantial, weighing in at 435 kg. But that mass of potential power translates into an estimated 383 km range, or just over 200 miles.
That literally goes a long way to alleviate the greatest concern about electric vehicles (EVs) – range anxiety, the dreaded kilometre tick-down to a seemingly inevitable zero power roadside failure.
GM Canada labels the Bolt a “game changer” due to the Bolt’s range, size and pricing, and they set up a little road trip from Toronto to Collingwood for a group of journalists – a typical Canadian getaway excursion designed to illustrate the Bolt’s range.
Sure enough, after an hour or so on the road, you don’t really fret over range limitations and on arriving at Collingwood we still had 200 km of range for our return.
The Bolt exhibits a smooth ride and good handling due to the battery pack’s mass and low centre of gravity and it even manages to feel nimble, despite the added curb weight.
There are a few new tricks to be learned in the Bolt. Capturing regenerative braking power is important and GM has engineered a few different ways of doing it.
A “low” mode increases the recapture of kinetic energy through regenerative braking. “One-pedal driving” technology also modulates deceleration depending on how quickly you release the accelerator pedal. And there are “Regen On Demand” paddles (similar to shift paddles) on the steering wheel that will increase regenerative braking.
Eventually, however, you are going to run low on power and the Bolt allows three charging choices through a 7.2 kW onboard charging module.
Your basic 120V home system (Level 1) would be a long slog, regaining you about six EV kms/hr. A home-installed or public 240V system (Level 2) would recharge at around 40 EV kms/hr, good for an overnight top up. And the public infrastructure DC Fast Charge systems (Level 3) gradually spreading across the grid would return an even quicker 250 EV kms/hr.
Also Read: The BMW i3 – Eco-friendly Urban commuter
Other technologies and driver assists aboard include instrument cluster choices and energy information displays to optimize vehicle and driving efficiency, Chevrolet’s latest MyLink infotainment/connectivity system through a large 10.2-inch touchscreen, new Michelin self-seal tires, surround vision and a new rear camera mirror, to mention just a few.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt comes in two trim choices – LT ($43,095) or Premier ($48,095), and about nine different build configurations once you figure in all the available packages and options. Canadian models uniquely come with standard DC Fast Charger capability and a tire inflator kit for winter tires.
Provincial incentives are available in the top three Canadian markets where the Bolt is initially being introduced – Ontario ($14,000), Quebec ($8,000) and B.C. ($5,600).
Welcome to the future.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
BODY STYLE: Five-seat, five-door CUV/hatchback wagon.
MOTOR: Permanent magnetic drive motor (200 hp, 266 lb/ft)
BATTERY: 60 kWh lithium-ion – 288 cells, five sections, 10 modules and 96 cell groups.
RANGE: 383 km (est)
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
CARGO: 479 litres
CURB WEIGHT: 1,625 kg
PRICE: 2017 Bolt Premier $48,095; As tested $49,730 incl Driver Confidence II pkg ($575), Infotainment pkg ($565), Orange Burst Metallic paint ($495). Destination ($1,600) not incl.