The 2017 Chevy Bolt: An exceptional EV at an affordable cost.

Tim Stevens, Editor in Chief of CNET Roadshow, took the new 2017 Chevy Bolt on a long test-drive to find how the car would hold up on a real road trip. Stevens’ journey began in Monterey, California and took him all the way to Santa Barbara via Highway 1. The route is 240 miles of winding coastal road – a bit longer than the Bolt’s estimated range of 238 miles.

Stevens decided to treat the Bolt EV just like a gas-powered car. Running the AC, keeping the foot on the pedal and flooring it on a nice straightaway or during a passing opportunity:

            “I promised myself to treat the Bolt like a normal car: no babying the throttle, no hypermiling, and no lifting and coasting at any opportunity. I just drove.”

238 miles of range, 240 miles of road and a car pushed to its limit – will Stevens make the journey on one charge?


In the end, Stevens arrived at to his destination with 17 miles of distance to spare, despite pushing the Bolt to its limit and driving aggressively with the AC on. The fact that the Bolt was able to make this trip on a single charge with miles to spare, driven in the way an average driver would, demonstrates how far EV’s and the Bolt have come. The Bolt’s EPA estimated range of 238 miles actually exceeds the Tesla P60, a car that costs over $60,000.

The Bolt has all that range for under $30,000 after the $7,500 federal tax credit (Additional savings will result from state incentives). A considerable EV for an affordable price, the Bolt is hands down the best in the $30k price range.

State of the EV Market

The new Chevy Bolt is an impressive and much-needed addition to the EV line-up. Many car manufacturers have tried their hand at creating an Electric Car from BMW to Mercedes. Most come up short where it matters: range. Aside from Tesla’s Model X, Model S, and the Chevy Bolt, only the Nissan Leaf provides over a 100 miles of range (EPA estimated range of 107 miles). Let’s be honest, any vehicle with less than 100 miles of range is a novelty. Much more range is necessary if the EV is going to become the primary vehicle for a household.

Electric Vehicle technology has been proven to work, and Tesla has shown that an EV can provide great range, superior safety, and impressive driving performance.

2017 is shaping up to be the year where EVs live up to expectations

There are two main requirements for Electric Vehicles to become mainstream:

  1. Great range (200+ miles/charge) at an affordable price.
  2. Prevalent DC EV chargers that can recharge a car in an hour or less.

The first requirement is being slowly being fulfilled as more manufacturers step up to the plate. One promising contender is the Model 3. Tesla is set to ship the Model 3, its newest car, in late 2017. The Model 3 will directly compete with the Chevy Bolt. The Model 3 will have ~200-250 miles of range at a price of $35,000 before the federal tax credit and additional incentives. Expected delivery date is late 2017. Tesla also announced that from now on all Tesla cars will come equipped with the hardware for fully autonomous driving. The Model 3 will be quite a package at the $30k price range and Tesla seems set to deliver on time as promised. VW continues their big push into EVs. Their 2018 EVs will aim to supplant Tesla 3 and Bolt as the cost effective EV to own with range and affordability. BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan are all improving their existing EV offerings as well.

However, decent range isn’t the only requirement for EV’s to become mainstream.

The Rapid Growth of EV Charging Stations

A difficult, perhaps impossible­-to-replicate feature of gasoline cars is the ability to fuel up in just a few minutes. Right now, I can drive for ~250 miles, stop at a roadside gas station, fuel up in 5 minutes and be ready to drive another 250 miles.

The closest option is battery-swapping ­– a drive-thru station where your drained battery is removed and replaced. An Israeli startup, Better Place, pioneered the idea, generating lots of press in 2012. They eventually went bankrupt after spending over $800 million of funding. In 2013, Tesla announced the creation of a battery swap facility in California.

After a few years, the results were clear: no one was using the battery swapping. Perhaps it was the need to make an appointment and pay a $70 fee for each swap… Or it might have been the bank of Tesla Superchargers across the street that offered rapid charging at no cost.

A Tesla Supercharger can provide 170 miles of range in just 30 minutes of charging. Not quite the “full tank in 5 minutes” experience of a gas-powered car but effective enough to be convenient. There are already over 700 Super Chargers across North America meaning you can drive anywhere throughout the U.S. and always be in range of a Super Charger

Chevy offers a similar but less impressive rapid charging option: Chevy DC Fast Charging. Chevy’s DC Fast Charging will provide up to 90 miles of charge in around 30 minutes. Chevy makes no mention of how many DC Fast Chargers are in North America or the coverage.

Regular EV chargers (240v) are popping up more and more across the U.S. Cities are installing more dedicated EV parking with chargers; businesses are adding chargers to their parking lots. The number of chargers is growing rapidly. The more chargers, the easier and more convenient driving EV’s will be.

Conclusion:

The 2016 Chevy Bolt is the first of many affordable, long-range, high-performance EV’s. Increased competition will lead to lower costs for consumers, further incentivizing individuals to adopt Electric Vehicles as their primary method of transportation. Chargers are widespread already and more are being installed every year. 2017 will mark the beginning of a serious trend that will eventually see the majority of our roadways being powered by battery.

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