The EV From General Motors
Since I first took part in GM’s project Driveway back in 2009 with a hydrogen fuel cell equipped Chevrolet Equinox, an interest in General Motors EV program developed. After that; I was one of the first to test out the Chevy Volt when it debuted. Since then, many improvements have been made across the board to Electrified Powertrains, while hydrogen vehicles are sidelined, Battery Electric and PHEV vehicles have continued to prosper. And the brands building and selling them has grown from a handful of startups to being models within well-known product lines, like GMC’s recently launched Hummer. This brings us to this 2020 slate gray metallic Chevrolet Bolt EV, with a dark galvanized sky cool gray interior, which was delivered for a weeklong trial.
This All-electric hatchback was developed and manufactured in a partnership between General Motors and Korea’s LG Corporation. The Bolt EV began showing up in Chevrolet dealer showrooms in 2017 after debuting at the 2015 North American Auto Show in Detroit. In Europe, it was sold for a short time in Europe under the Opel brand as the Ampera-e. Once Opel and Vauxhall were sold to the PSA Group in 2017, now a part of Stellantis, pricing and availability has not made it viable for the European market.
We found the Korean connection interesting, as that country has become a leader in the development and production of affordable EV’s. The Bolt EV’s sticker says fifty-seven percent of its parts are sourced from Korea, i.e., drive motors and drive units. Twenty-four percent are from America, and the final assembly is done in Orion, Michigan.
Affordable Electric Vehicle
The Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier tested came with a 41,020 and $1,840 in options, totaling out to $43,735, including the $875 destination charge. In the world of EV’s this makes the Bolt EV affordable, compared to the above $50K prices you find on some of the new to market brands and the above $100K price tag on the more exclusive electrics.
Options on this vehicle drive the price point higher. DC Fast Charging is a $750 option, the Infotainment Package, which includes wireless device charging, comes in at $595, and it consists of the Bose Premium 7-speaker sound system and two USB charge-only points in the rear. Note: You can get a lower-priced Bolt EV in the LT trim, but you do not get many of the more desirable features found in the Premier trim level.
Opening any one of the four large passenger doors, the first thing you notice is the low flat floor. This makes the car easy to get in and out of, especially for those with mobility issues. The higher seat height helps to make this a very accessible vehicle for everyone. I have heard complaints about the comfort or lack of padding and support providers in the front seats. I found them were hard, though not as uncomfortable as feared. You will have to decide for yourself, so a longer test drive in the way you would drive one is essential.
Technology is built-in throughout this electric vehicle. Two large clear screens on the dash were omnipresent, the 8″ driver information center multi-color display and the center 10.2-inch color entertainment touch screen, which is compatible with Bluetooth audio streaming and has voice command pass-through to a mobile device. The Bolt EV is compatible with both Android Auto & Apple Carplay. If you want to display a map or navigation, you will need to do it through a mobile device, as there is no native map displays without that connection. The vehicle has a built-in 4G LTE cellular data modem, like ONSTAR Services and Sirius XM Radio with a service subscription. GM has long offered satellite radio services in its vehicles, long before audio streaming. No doubt because satellite signals are often stronger in remote areas where there is little to no cellular data services. Don’t worry, you will probably not be venturing into the wilderness with the Bolt EV.
I liked the clean smartly designed interior, even if there is more than enough hard plastics on the dash and door panels. The two-tone leather-appointed seats include heated front and rear. The only issue I really had with the design was the design on the dash trim, as it is a little too trendy for my taste and in my opinion, will become dated looking. The feel of the leather-wrapped steering wheel that is heated and adjustable with tilt and telescoping features is a bonus.
The center console featured a familiar shifter stalk, not a dial or buttons like you find on both EV and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. Plenty of storage space with nooks and cubbies throughout the car for water bottles and other items you want to have within easy reach. For larger items you will find a deep compartment with removable tray under the center front armrest, and the traditionally located glove box. Front USB ports were easily found with two in the center rearward of the shifter. What I had trouble finding and had to consult the owner’s manual was the optional wireless charging slot, once I found it, it was too small for my Android phone with its Otterbox case. The interior ambient lighting in the footwells and around the dash gives an upscale touch that you might not expect in a car at this price point.
Speaking of upscale, the Cadillac-like interior rearview mirror, that flipped to be both a regular mirror or a video screen playing off an additional rear camera was quite impressive. Which leads you to appreciate the technology to sense your surroundings is built-in this vehicle at this price point.
The rear seats are better padded than the front, and have the 60/40 split-folding back to extends the rear cargo space while still providing seating for one or tightly, two passengers. Otherwise there is plenty of leg and food space. Luxuries you will not experience in other cars at this price point, hide in plain site like rear heated seats. a center fold-down armrest with two cupholders, two USB ports on the back of the center console. A single map pocket on the back of the right front seat, storage areas are found on both side door panels. A single center located overhead light and passenger grab bars located above each door is pretty standard to any vehicle.
When the doors closed, the sound of a solid thud gave me a sense that the Bolt EV is a solidly built car. Having the key fob provide keyless open and remote vehicle start always intrigues me, because do you really start an Electric car? Or just turn it on? Actually, that way you can activate the HVAC system and have the vehicle ready for you when you get in to it.
The Bolt EV hatchback has a hint that it was designed in the style of a Jelly Bean that could be confused as a small SUV or crossover. It is neither of those nor shaped like a futuristic spacecraft or even a regular passenger vehicle. After looking at some historical vehicles from the 1930s, there are some correlations in the overall exterior airplaneesque design styling.
Tech On Board
Technology is where the Bolt EV steps up its game, especially on the outside, even though the car may not be flashy looking, the tech is indeed impressive. Starting with the HID Projector and the Intellibeam headlamps that are a part of the driver confidence II package. Of course, there are heated outside power-adjustable mirrors with built-in cameras that provide an HD Surround Vision display on the center console.
Safety essentials are a part of the build of the Bolt EV. And in today’s world, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, side blind zone, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and pedestrian safety signal make this EV and those around you safer.
More of a hatchback than a crossover or SUV wagon-like, there is adequate space in the back of this vehicle to carry things you will need in every day life. The hatch was large, and though it had a higher lift over, it featured two distinct cargo floor levels. The lower one was great to secure bags of groceries or if you had something tall like a houseplant that you wanted to carry. The hardboard cargo floor set at a higher level extends the cargo floor with the rear seatbacks folded down. Which also provides a large area underneath when putting things out of sight. Below those two levels is a small tool or charger cord storage area. There is no spare tire in the Bolt EV. And for those who like to carry things like bikes and cargo boxes, there is a Roof rack for those items.
While you do not expect the Bolt EV to be like a regular fossil-fuel-powered car, interestingly, they do not follow the front trunk or frunk design that you will find in some of the flashier EV brands. Upfront is basically where the electric drive motor and Electric drive with Electronic Precision shift transmission if you can call it that, sit. Not unlike a regular ICE vehicle.
Bolt EV is rated for up to 250 miles on a single charge, and is rated for EV Economy is 118 MPGe, with 127 city, 108 highway – 29 KW hours per 100 miles which for a city-run-about is excellent. We used the 110V home charger that came with the car, and it took a long time to charge, though if you have a Level 2 charger and like this car, is equipped with the $750 optional DC Fast Charging option using the 7,2 KW high voltage charger, means you can use a higher capacity charger, which will shorten your charging time, though you pay a higher fee to use those chargers.
Driving the Bolt EV on city streets or at speed on the local highways, you can feel that it has plenty of power and felt entirely planted on the road. No doubt having the 17-inch wheels and Michelin tires helped with that. Unlike some hybrids with skinny wheels that get buffeted about on the highway, the Bolt did not feel that way. It took me some time to get used to the Regen on Demand, a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that would slow you down, and on city streets would take you to a stop and hold the car until you flicked the accelerator pedal.
If you are looking for an all-electric ride for those around town adventures? The Chevrolet Bolt EV is a great choice. The Chevrolet Bolt EV has an overall, five-star safety rating with a five-star driver and 4-star passenger frontal and a 4-star rear crash and five-star rollover rating.
I would indeed consider the Bolt EV as a value-priced EV option, especially with my test vehicle’s excellent build quality and the overall driving experience. While I did not give it my six-foot ladder test, I did load it with groceries. I found the Bolt EV to work well both on city streets and at highways speeds. General Motor’s Chevrolet Bolt EV is a buy in my book.
If you are looking to buy or lease one, work with your Chevrolet Dealer to see what they have in stock and if they are willing to offer you a deal. Electrified Vehicle Government incentives have ceased for Chevrolet, as they have been selling EVs long enough to have reached their sales limit to provide discounts to new buyers. The Chevrolet.com website is currently (10/2020) an 8500 US dollar discount. Or you belong to a credit union, professional association, or even big-box warehouse membership store that might offer a buying service that may belong to that may entitle you to other discounts. I would suggest research discounts that are out there when you choose to purchase or lease any vehicle.
Words and Images by William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper has long been an advocate for alternative-fueled mobility. He worked with the startup Segway when they brought out the battery-powered personal transporter in the early 2000s. Mr. Hopper has been an automotive enthusiast since he was a young boy. He is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and the International Motor Press Association. You can find him in person at the Washington DC Auto Show, where he hosts an annual LGBTQ Family event or gives VIP tours to the show guests. You can reach him on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.