Two Years With The Chevy Bolt — Mixed Feelings & A Family Of Geese

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We’re excited around here right now. A couple of years ago, just about the time I signed my Bolt lease, my friends built me a birthday perch for the pond. They told us it would attract geese and entice them to have families here. Last year we labeled the perch, or at least I did, the barge. It was butt ugly sitting on our idyllic pond — think of a machine shipping skid with blue foam board under it in the hope of keeping it afloat. We love our friends, so I bit the bullet and left the barge anchored on the pond. In truth, I thought it would eventually sink, or if it didn’t, I’d go out on the winter ice, pry it up, and drag it away. Needless to say, I had little expectation of any living thing nesting on it aside from mayflies.

Ducks and geese land on the pond in the spring but usually don’t stay long. However, this spring we noticed a pair of geese spending more than the usual amount of time there, things got exciting! One day they even chased away another pair of geese — things got more exciting! Then the goose started digging at the sides of the barge for building materials. Drum roll please …… she’s building a nest! The barge looks even worse now, but we no longer care — it’s been relegated to form follows function, as the Germans say.

She sat on that nest, sometimes for a week straight without leaving, for maybe a total of 30 to 35 days. Then, last night, three goslings waddled out. Wow! This is why I’m an environmentalist. This is why I do everything I can to keep my footprint on this fragile earth as small as possible. This is why I drive an EV, run enough PV modules to be net zero, and work everyday for environmental causes. We did something, we made a difference, a tiny difference but millions of tiny differences make big differences. And we just got three furry ones.

The Bolt

The Bolt has been fun. It runs well and has had no major issues. We like the sheer utility of it. We’re country people, we have gardens and do country things, and the Bolt has been good for that. The ride could be smoother, but handling would suffer. We don’t mind the tradeoff.

Everyone who drives an EV knows what a pleasure they are, on many fronts. No gear shifting to stay in the torque curve is one of my favorite attributes. I gave up a perfectly good gas car to have this — and it was worth it, I love EVs! It’s no secret that EV drivers will endure a lot for the pleasure and convenience of owning an EV. I pick on the Tesla fanboys, but underneath it all, I understand their passion. Never go to a gas station again, just come home and plug in — better yet, plug into your own solar PV that you have so much of that you haven’t paid an electric bill in ten years. Electric cars are convenient. Until you have one, you never know how convenient.

We picked the Bolt for our first EV because it fit us and a GM dealer is fifteen minutes away — important factors, don’t underestimate them. Sedans don’t work for us, we’re older now and want higher seats so that ingress and egress is easier. We want a hatchback so that we can load 50 lb bags of potatoes for winter storage. We’re not especially concerned about charging stations, since we spend most of our time around the house and our 16 acres of woods and fields.

Everyone should ask themselves what they want in an EV, just like ICE (internal combustion engine) drivers do, only more so. If you need longer range, utility, or room, you have to account for that — one size doesn’t fit all. An 84 mile range Leaf might be fine for some people, but others may need a robust charging network and fast charging times. Too often I read reviewers who blanketly condemn an EV for things that may not be important to everyone. In light of that, these are the things we like and don’t like about the Bolt. Evaluate them according to your own needs.

Acceleration is very good — too good sometimes. The Bolt is quick, not blinding Tesla quick, but quick enough to embarrass several street racers around our area. The interior doesn’t bother us — okay, it’s plastic, it’s light, fairly durable, and easy to clean. The trouble is that it scuffs horribly, especially in the trunk area. There may be a way to clean that up or hide it, but we shouldn’t have to. It’s only two years old, basically a new car.

The visors are too small. My wife constantly complains about how useless they are, so I finally bought her one of those window shades you pull down to help with the problem. Then there’s this metal strip on the dash — when the sun is just right in the sky, it reflects in her face. Did anyone at GM test this thing with a passenger on a sunny day?

We’re not big people, and the seats don’t bother us even after four hours in the car. If you are a big person, you have to try them out for yourself. Personally, I think GM tried to maximize the interior room, which isn’t bad for a car of this size, but they over compensated in the seats. We’ve had four people in the car and it wasn’t tight — in fact, you can stuff a lot of, well, stuff in this thing. Until you own an EV, you’ll never understand how much extra room you get without that bulge running down the middle of the car’s interior.

Ergonomically, it’s excellent, again — for us. We like speedometers in front of us and easy access to statistics that are important to EV drivers. You must learn your car. The range calculator is very accurate on the Bolt, excellent really, and laid out well too. The regen braking is also excellent, maybe the best around — the paddle behind the left side of the wheel becomes instinctive in time. In fact, when I had to drive a gas car recently, I kept grabbing for it! How do people drive these antediluvian gas thingies anyway — no regen braking, this is ridiculous!

Our bill for charging (we have about 18,000 miles on it now), inspections, tire rotations, etc. for the last two years is around $75, but I haven’t kept track. I know it’s under $80 and may even be under $60. It’s so small it’s just not an issue. GM says we’ll likely need tires in the fall — that won’t happen. Our lease is up the following May and I’m not spending 800 bucks on new tires when I may turn it in. I’ll buy snows in the fall if the tires are shot and switch them out just before I trade it in. This way I can sell the tires and rims or, if I buy the Bolt at lease end, just replace the original tires. Which brings us to snow and winter driving.

In the snow, the Bolt’s in the middle, not great but not horrible either. The car makes it up the slight incline of our 600+ foot driveway, but sometimes I have to back across our country road to get enough momentum to make it up to the house. Mud and snow tires don’t do anything well, but the thing I really don’t like is there is no spare — of any kind. The Michelin tires that came with the Bolt are self sealing, but what happens if you want different tires? Better have a roadside assist plan. We do! GM likely did this to save room. Okay, time for an EV that has room for a spare! I drive around with one of the those noisy pumps you plug into your cigarette lighter and a tubeless repair kit — not a happy camper about this.

You shouldn’t think I or my wife don’t love this car. Both of us do. Zero problems, tons of fun to drive, safe, and maintenance free. I charge on “hilltop” because it only charges to about 80 or 90%. Also, I don’t charge at maximum now and probably won’t often in the future. I expect the batteries will likely last a very long time. One of the nice things about getting 275+ miles of range in the summer is that I can charge at hilltop. In fact, I can even do it in the winter. Winter range, in our northern climate, is around 190 miles on hilltop, good enough for us.

Tesla has a grand following, and I think Elon really cares about people and the environment. I don’t think Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, does. I think she’s in business to make money — not that Elon isn’t, but he’s cut from a different cloth. Barra wants you to love her cars so that you’ll come back and buy another one. Elon wants you to love his cars because he loves EVs and he really cares about the air we breathe. I want Elon to succeed. I have a lot respect for him.

GM service treats me nicely now, but I had problems with my first couple of service appointments, one to update software and the other for an inspection. I still don’t feel comfortable going to GM service, my EV appears to be a vehicle GM isn’t ready to address full scale at the dealership level — at least, at the large dealer in my area that has the service equipment required before they can sell EVs.

I don’t know if Kia or VW would treat my EV purchase any better. The only car company that I think would treat me above respect relative to the money I bring through their door is Tesla. You’re getting the idea where this is going. Once geese nest, they usually return year after year. We genuinely care about living things. They’re always welcome here. The Bolt? I’m not so sure.

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