The refreshed Chevrolet Bolt EV and the new Bolt EUV that are coming out this summer are pretty cool cars. The Bolt was already a solid vehicle, with reasonable range and a liquid-cooled battery, and the new EUV version is going to be a welcome addition with many buyers who prefer crossovers. On the other hand, while GM was making these upgrades, why didn’t it upgrade the DC fast charging speeds to match their competitors?
Things GM Did Right
Before I get to my nags here, I do want to complement GM on some solid moves it did make when it comes to charging. It wouldn’t be fair to not acknowledge those improvements.
The company does include a better EVSE with the car. Like Tesla and Nissan, it is offering a charging cord that can handle not only level 1 emergency charging, but level 2 charging. By allowing 240v charging on the included equipment, you can use it at home by installing just a plug and not a full EVSE. That makes ownership a lot easier for new buyers.
The other advantage to including level 2 on the included cord is that emergency or rural road trip charging is a lot better. Level 1 charging would take over two days on a battery the size of a Bolt’s, but on 240v, it’s possible to plug in at RV parks and some cabins to get a full charge overnight or get a few more miles over lunch to make it to the next fast charger. That’s a big improvement that would cost a few hundred bucks to buy your own gear for.
Perhaps more importantly, the company is also working to improve DC fast charging infrastructure instead of riding on Volkswagen’s coat tails (Electrify America). GM is giving EVgo funding to install 2700 more DC fast charging stations around the country. Exact sites haven’t been announced, but with GM trying to sell a bunch more EVs, it’s good that it is contributing to improving the situation for new owners instead of just clogging the existing deficient DC fast charging network that the US has.
EVgo is a pretty solid charging provider already, so GM was smart to work with them instead of trying to do what Nissan did and install a bunch of stations at dealers. Over time, dealers have not been keeping up with maintenance, and they often close access to the stations at night. That’s made their network very difficult to count on. EVgo tends to locate its stations at places that are open to cars 24/7, don’t have a dealer who wants to stop paying for power, and actually keep up with the maintenance.
Those three things are going to make a big difference.
Advertising Could Be More Honest With DCFC
On the press release for the refreshed Bolt and Bolt EUV, specific charge rates aren’t given, but they did tell us that, “Additionally, standard DC fast public charging capability enables the Bolt EV to add up to 100 miles (160 km) of range in 30 minutes and 95 miles (152 km) for Bolt EUV.”
Before I dissect this statement, I want to talk about honest advertising for a minute.
Personally, I’m really annoyed at the way automakers mention charging speeds in advertising. Saying “X miles added per X minutes” isn’t very specific, and is somewhat misleading. Sure, they put disclaimers at the bottom basically saying YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), but that’s not the full story that one must consider when thinking about charging. A consumer would read “100 miles in 30 minutes” and then extrapolate that to mean, “Hey, that means if I need to charge from empty to full, I can do that in 1 hour and 15 minutes.”
No EV gives you full speed all the way up to 100%. They all start cutting speeds at around 60%, and then cut speed drastically at around 80%. There’s nothing wrong with that, because the battery would probably explode and burn down half the mall parking lot if they kept it charging at full speed no matter what.
But seriously, I get tapering. It’s essential. The problem is that they don’t let people know about charge tapering in the ads, so customers don’t know what they’re getting into. I once saw a rideshare driver in Phoenix who was renting a Bolt sit there cussing as he charged from 98% to 100%. “Why the F[dash dash dash] is it going so slow?!”
On top of that, not everyone will get the same number of miles per kWh of battery charge picked up. Some drivers will get 4-5 miles per kWh. A lead foot like me driving in the cold blasting the heater might get only a couple miles out of that same energy. That 100 miles added might only be 50-75 miles.
Something like, “Can charge from 10 to 60% charge in 30 minutes, which will give most drivers 80-100 miles,” would be a lot more honest. Adding “(charge rates slow above 60% for longevity and safety)” after that would help a lot.
But, I digress.
TL;DR It’s Roughly 50 kW, Like The Current Bolt EV
Let’s dissect the vague and dishonest charging data GM gave us. It said, “…add up to 100 miles (160 km) of range in 30 minutes…”
100 miles of range, at 4 miles per kWh (that’s an optimistic, but realistic average for EVs this size) means 25 kWh added per 30 minutes. Double that to 1 hour of charging and you get 50 kWh per hour. Cancel out the “hours per hour,” and that means the actual max charge rate would be about 50 kW — which is roughly the maximum charging wattage of the 2017-21 Bolt EV.
This is a very big mistake. Tesla has been charging EVs twice as fast since 2013, and now is charging EVs 5x faster. GM’s other competitors like Volkswagen and Porsche are doing the same, charging at 125-270 kW maximum. Even the shitty Nissan LEAF is charging at up to 100 kW with the plus model.
There’s no reason GM couldn’t have upped the maximum charging rate to 100-200 kW. There are a growing number of stations that can charge at that rate, and even if you plug into a slower CCS plug, you can still charge slower.
It could be that the company is concerned that the battery won’t last as long, but that’s an easy thing to add to the car’s software. Plug the thing in, and it can ask you “Would you like to charge at half speed to make your battery last longer?” If the problem is cooling, it could have beefed up the cooling system like other manufacturers did. The cost difference wouldn’t be that much, and most customers would probably gladly pay an extra $500 or so for a car that charges as fast the the competition.
As I pointed out a few paragraphs up, Tesla has been doing this for almost a decade. There’s no legitimate reason that GM’s vehicles should be charging at such anemic speeds.
Featured Image: 2022 Bolt EUV (Foreground) and Bolt EV (Background). Image provided by Chevrolet.
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