Chevrolet’s Bolt EV, the far-stray Bolt EV, started 2016 with a class that has reached an estimated range of 238 miles (EPA). In a world where its biggest competitors included the 150-mile Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq on one side and the much more expensive Tesla Model S on the other, the Bolt shone brightly and uniquely close to high-tech and cheap price.
Two years on, the Bolt is still shining, only now facing stiff competition from all directions as the rest of the electric car industry catches up. Kia, Hyundai and, of course, Tesla have either unveiled or announced affordable 200-mile electric cars with more on the radar. How is the Chevy stuck in the face of this new opposition? Let’s look again at the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV to find out.
The heart of a traditional car is the engine, but when you talk about electric vehicles, it’s all about the battery. The Bolt’s battery is a 960-pound lithium-ion battery with 60kWh that is in the ground under the seats. This configuration gives the bolt its elevated seating position. The passengers of the sloping wing sit about a head higher than they would be in a Chevy Spark, for example. That’s why Chevy feels it’s OK to call the bolt a crossover. I don’t know if I agree with that.
The electric vehicle jams power into this battery pack via a 7.2kW onboard charger, which adds a range of about 25 miles per hour for the plug when connected to a 240-volt home charging station or public charging station. Therefore, the loading process for the bolt takes a maximum of 10 hours from the time it is recharged. (You can also connect the Bolt to a 120-volt outlet. However, with an extremely slow charging speed of about 4 miles per hour at the plug, you can only do so if you don’t have another option.)
If you’re in a rush, an optional DC combo fast charging system can quickly replenish the battery to 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes. (After that initial boost, the DC Fast Chargers returned to the slower standard charging speed.) With a range of 238 miles, I never experienced a situation where I needed a quick charge in an emergency, but I would still recommend $750 option as it provides plenty of comfort and flexibility for very long journeys.
All of these kilowatt hours of electricity are used by Bolt to power the electric motor, a 200bhp unit that sends torque of up to 266 feet to the front wheels via a single-stage underset gearbox. This high moment of the moment in a car of this size gives the Bolt a very responsive performance at low speeds and a buoyant city feel. Covering it, the 3,580-pound hatchback makes an eerily silent sprint from less than 7 seconds to 60 miles per hour. Of course, you don’t want to reach the total range of 238 miles at an EPA estimated value of 119 miles.
Regen on demand
Like any modern electrified car, the Bolt uses regenerative braking to recover energy when braking to maximise range. To maximize recovered energy, the Bolt has a pretty feature: A “rain on demand ” paddle on the steering wheel. Pulling on this paddle shifter triggers maximum regenerative braking, slowing down the EV considerably as if you had pressed the brake pedal. The brake lights even glow when the delay from rain is strong enough.
The rain paddle is a great way to make sure you’re as close to the optimal range of the Bolt as possible, but in practice driving isn’t very good. Pulling the paddle is an all-or-nothing affair; There is no way to modulate or balance the regenerative brake pressure. I found this to be jerky braking when I tried to press the brakes by pressing the paddle. In addition, the delay you get from the paddle varies depending on the battery’s state of charge, making the habituation to the already unnatural-looking paddle even crazier.
In the end, I mainly dabbled in the familiar foot pedals, preferring the Bolt’s hidden “one-pedal driving ” mode. Pull the shift lever past D into L, and the Bolt’s accelerator starts like the Nissan Leaf’s e-pedal. This causes a strong regeneration when the driver takes a foot off the accelerator. In this mode, it is possible to touch without the friction brake pedal to maximize range and control. This method is much quieter, more natural and easier to modulate than pulling the paddle.
Chevrolet should draw attention to this mode or better flag it, which can easily be overlooked by the owners. I would at least like the option of setting the “one-pedal mode ” as the default.
MyLink smartphone-powered tech
At the front and center of the Bolt dashboard is the 10.2-inch colored touchscreen display with a unique version of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. The software has been reduced to the essentials. There is satellite and terrestrial radio, Bluetooth calls and audio streaming, as well as USB connectivity for audio playback, but no on-board navigation or even the option to add it.
Instead, Chevy relies heavily on the driver’s smartphone to fill MyLink’s functional gaps with standard Android car and Apple CarPlay connections. Why pay for navigation when you already have a mobile phone in your pocket? These smartphone mirroring technologies bring navigation, audio streaming and messaging apps to the dashboard via a simple USB connection. Chevrolet expects the technical-focused drivers, which are the most important demographic for Bolt, to prefer this telephone-centric setup to conventional upgrade models.
However, this reduced tech approach comes with some unexpected drawbacks. Without maps on board, there is no way to search for or navigate charging stations via Bolt’s dashboard. Neither Android nor Apple’s software offers a solution.
If I wanted to find somewhere somewhere to charge, I had to stop by, pull out my phone, open ChargePoint or EvGo and find a station. Then I have to set this transmitter as a target in Google Maps, reconnect my phone and continue navigation with Android Auto. That’s just too much work.
You can use the OnStar 4G LTE in-flight data connection to integrate turn-by-turn navigation (sans maps) and concierge services into the dashboard. This connectivity also supports EV wireless Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, remote monitoring and telematics control via Chevrolet’s MyLink app for smartphones and smartwatches. However, turn-by-turn navigation is part of the most expensive subscription “Unlimited Access ,” and most drivers are better off staying on their phone’s software after Bolt’s three-month free trial expires.
Driver aid upgrades
The Bolt suite with available driver assistance technology is solid but nowhere near as advanced as you’d expect from a car with such a high-tech powertrain.
In my supercharged premiership model with all the frills, there’s a surround vision system. This development of the rear camera is brought together by four strategically arranged cameras to provide 360-degree views of the vehicle’s surroundings at low speeds. This kind of bird’s-eye view is very helpful when squeezing into tight spots, but not as impressive as an autosteering parking system.
The optional Driver Confidence II package adds the lane hold assistant, which uses electric power steering to keep the bolts between lane markers at highway speed. The package also includes a forward precision arm system with automatic emergency braking at low speed. The system can even detect and brake pedestrians. While the following distance indicator lets you know if you’re too close behind the car in front, there’s no adaptive cruise control option that automatically keeps a safe range for you.
This is where the competition starts to catch up and surpass the Bolt. For example, the Tesla Model 3 ‘ s Autopilot suite is much more advanced today and promises future-proof for tomorrow with over-the-air software updates. But even the more modest rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq, the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3 have more complete driver assistance suites with available adaptive cruise control that better the higher technical expectations of buyers of sensitive EVs Met.