I finally got a call to come and test drive the 2018 Chevy Bolt. It was worth the wait. I enjoyed the dynamic little EV. I prefer small cars in general — something to take you where you need to go without a lot of space grabbing. The Bolt fit the bill and at the same time seemed to offer enough all-electric car advantages to genuinely consider it.
If I want another EV, my wish is to be able to drive up the Appalachians without range limiting my visit. One can get lost in the mountain ranges, winding up and down and up again to heights that seem they are driving straight up to Heaven. But if you want to do that on electricity, you need a large battery.
The Bolt’s range is impressive 238 miles, especially coming from my 84 mile Nissan Leaf. The Leaf has done well enough in the region from Tampa to Naples thanks to a rather healthy network of charging stations, but the Bolt can go that distance without the time out needed for charging.
My salesperson said that many drivers are reporting over 300 miles range. I believe it, especially down here in flat Florida, which has an abundance of slow side streets if you really want to maximize range. I often stretch the 84-mile range of our Leaf to 120 city miles (due to slower speeds).
But back to the mountains: 84 miles of rated range just doesn’t cut it. Top of the list as the core selling point for the Bolt is that long range combined with the strong regenerative braking in the mountains. All modern EVs have regenerative braking, but the Bolt’s is fairly strong and no other non-Tesla EVs have the 238-mile range needed to ramble around the heights of the mountains.
Mountaintop living offered me the most soulful summer/Indian summer of my life — (living in the heights of Cherokee, NC). The Bolt seems made for the top of a mountain on long winding narrow roads dropping down down down. I know driving up the mountain eats range — up to where I want to go. I could arrive at the top nearly empty on range, though, and enjoy the recharging of the Bolt on the way down. I’ve long enjoyed the idea of rolling down the mountain in an EV that is regaining its electric juice — flying colors for the mountain people’s needs.
The drive quality of the Bolt was similarly responsive and agile as with the Leaf. I liked the grounded feel of the EV. The 2018 Nissan Leaf seems roomier and looser at the wheel, perhaps slightly smoother. The Bolt braking is similar to the e-Pedal of the new Nissan Leaf (and the superb braking of the BMW i3). The Bolt’s range (at that price) is still the top selling point, though.
I appreciate the interior style of the BMW i3 more than the Bolt or the Nissan Leaf. I prefer the recycled aspects of the i3’s interior. It has less “new car” smell (i.e., plastic smell). It is the greenest of EVs. The Bolt’s back seat is roomy enough for my use, but it is not huge. (It is not like the living room of a Tesla Model S or a large Cadillac. I would not want that.) Traveling light is what I enjoy — doing away with stuff for the greener outdoors.
As far as design, I prefer the i3’s style over the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Bolt. The Model 3 inspires even more minimalism. I Iove that. It is more expensive, though, and lacks the perky height of the BMW i3.
On the short test drive, the safety features of the Bolt seemed similar to the Nissan Leaf. The Bolt does have a good light on the side view mirrors that light up to alert the driver that someone is approaching and passing in the “blind spot.” A light such as this can be a lifesaver. I feel those lights are the most useful to regularly and effectively alert the driver to risks in the blind spot.
Another selling point for the Bolt is the time consideration of charging. There is an “impatience barrier” about electric vehicle charging due to significant misconceptions around how electric cars are charged. My experiences with no home charging and time are straightforward (reminder: with only 84 miles of rated range on a full charge) — it’s not that big of a deal. Although, some necessary adjustments must take place. If one has a hectic 3 to 4 day schedule in an area without good charging infrastructure at home or work, the Bolt or a Tesla is the all-electric car for you. You will have the range you need for days (until you find the time to charge and get some exercise or shop). For more on lifestyle charging, see: 10 Things I Do While Charging A Nissan LEAF.
If you are just coming into the all-electric realm of environmentally improved transit and need a lot of range as a cushion and comfort, the Bolt is one EV to consider. If you are a mountain person, the Bolt is one EV to consider. If you live far off the beaten track, the Bolt is one EV to consider. As a reminder, Mitch Stone seems to enjoy his after a year of living electrically (see his One-Year Chevy Bolt Review). I can imagine why.
Read more Chevy Bolt stories.
Image of Cherokee Mountain Falls by Cynthia Shahan, © All Rights Reserved
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