MENLO PARK, Calif. – Here behind the wheel of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV (electric vehicle), I am tempted to drive straight over to the House That Elon Musk Built just six miles away in Palo Alto.
I’d ask: “Mr. Tesla Motors, waddya think? Range is said to be 383 km between charges, and with taxpayer subsidies ($12,389 pre-tax equivalent) in Ontario, I can have one of these Bolts for $30,406. So Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, how will your promised Model 3 top this? And precisely when?”
He’d surely grin and tell me to stay tuned for more Tweets. Something tremendous, magnificent, ground-breaking is coming. By the end of the year, Tesla will begin filling hundreds of thousands of Model 3 pre-orders valued at $10 billion (US). The Model 3 will have full self-driving hardware; the rear seats will fold flat; power will come from
Tesla’s third-generation battery technology; “Ludicrous” mode will be available; range will be at least 346 km;, and, if you want one before 2019, reserve a Model 3 right now. Starting price, $35,000 (US) or about $46,000 (Cdn) minus taxpayer subsidies.
So Tesla is promising a price comparable to the Bolt’s $42,795 actual base window sticker, $47,795 for the fancy Premier Bolt.
And let’s see, what does the Bolt offer right now, as sold through 195 Chevy Bolt dealers in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, and 211 across Canada later this year: each is equipped with a DC (direct current) Fast Charging plug-in which charges at the rate of up to
145 km or 90 miles in 30 minutes or 258 km or 160 miles in an hour. Point is, Chevy’s dealers in Canada form a kind of cross-Canada supercharger network for Bolt owners.
The Bolt is a subcompact rocket, with a 0-100 km/hour getaway of roughly 6.7 seconds. The electric motor (266 lb-ft of torque/200 horsepower) has way more power than a turbocharged Mini Cooper S (189 hp/207 lb-ft torque), and the Bolt has more passenger room than a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3.
It will seat four full-size adults comfortably, five if necessary. The rear hatch opens wide and has a hidden storage compartment under the cargo floor. The flat battery pack running the length of the car under the floor allows for a pancake-like cargo area with about 1,600 litres or 56.6 cu. ft. of space when the 60/40 rear seatback is down.
And it’s a treat to drive. Acceleration is instant, superb for merging into traffic. The under-floor battery is heavy (about 450 kg or nearly 1,000 pounds), but because it’s so low, the weight is evenly distributed, down near the ground. Thus, the Bolt glides through curves with a flat, responsive, unruffled demeanor. It’s also wonderfully quiet and the steering is tight, all-electric, with even a bit of feel to it.
It’s a car most will like to drive. Outward visibility is terrific, too. The thin, floating-like seats save weight, but over long distances they become hard as park benches and lack decent lumbar support. In Texas and Alberta, they’ll like the cowboy-hat headroom and everyone
will appreciate the ample hip, leg and shoulder room. As a practical city car, the Bolt is a gem and it’s cheap to operate: 184.108.40.206/2.0 (Le/100km (city/hwy/combined).
On top of that, we have the gizmos and gadgets. There’s a shift-by-wire system that uses electronic signals to tell the electric motor what to do. So long, mechanical shifters.
The 7.2 kW on-board charger is standard. Why care? GM says you can get 80 km of charging in two hours using a 240 Volt charging unit.
The regenerative braking allows for one-pedal driving, with regen doing the braking under most conditions – while adding extra juice to the battery.
A huge 10.2-inch (259 mm) colour touch-screen sits in the centre console, up high where it spits out all sorts of information while allowing you to command various infotainment features. A rear camera is standard, there’s wireless charging for your devices, and space to stow a tablet. And on and on, including 10 airbags and lots of safety nannies.
This is the Bolt right now – an affordable, long-range EV with reasonable charging times and its own network of DC fast chargers (the Chevy dealer network.). The car is not a promise; it’s reality. This from a General Motors that 18 months ago vowed to deliver the Bolt rolling into showrooms right now.
Could it be that General Motors today has stopped over-promising and under-delivering, instead just promising and delivering? Really. Take note, Elon Musk.
The Bolt EV is impressive, but if it represents a “new” GM, then that’s truly shocking.
(Note: Look for a www.CatoCarGuy video of the Bolt test drive soon.)
2017 CHEVROLET BOLT
Price range: $42,795-$47,795.
Power: permanent magnetic drive motor (266 lb-ft torque/200 hp).
Battery: 60 kWh unit with 288 linked, cooled cells under the floor; eight-year/160,000 km warranty.
Charging: 120 V with standard cordset 12-14 hours (est.); 240 V in nine hours; DC Fast charge to 145 km of charge in 30 minutes.
Fuel economy (Le/100km): 1.8 city/2.1 hwy/2.0 combined.
Comparables: Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV.