Understandably, the main concern most people have with electric vehicles (EV’s for short) is the range. Especially, as a reader of this magazine, since you’re likely to find adventure a little further off the grid than most.
The new Chevy Bolt brings some relief in that regard with it’s claimed 238 mile range on a single charge. And that’s not just going downhill with a tail wind.
To prove it, Chevy invited me and a few other writers out on a camping trip in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Since most of the others flew into Denver Airport, the mission was to drive from DIA to Boulder (where I jumped in) and up to the Peak to Peak highway to get to Estes Park. Then it was up towards Bear Lake and into Glacier Basin Campground. That’s nearly 110 miles one way which gets us pretty close to the 238 on a round trip. And since we drove up to Bear Lake Trailhead for a hike the next day, that’s even closer to 238. Spoiler alert: all the cars made it back to the airport with charge to spare.
The trick of course lies in the regenerative braking and a degree of savvy driving. Although the car can’t get 100 percent of the power it used going up a hill when it’s coming back down, it can get pretty close to averaging the same energy spent as driving along the flats.
Load It Up
While the Bolt looks like a pretty small car, it has more interior space than expected. Granted, it’s not going to haul the car camping gear of a family of four (I have a hard time fitting that into my Gen 3 Toyota 4Runner), but it will easily hold two passengers and their backpacks with gear for a few nights out in the wilderness. In fact, in a squeeze, it will probably take four adults and their backpacks. And even if those two of those packs need to be in the laps of the passengers in the rear seats, they are still going to have plenty of leg room—I checked.
As a family man, I wanted to know how well a child seat fits in the back seat. Again, no worries about a bored toddler being able to reach the back of the driver’s seat with their feet—annoying thumping avoided.
The drive up and along the Peak to Peak highway provided the opportunity to discover that the Bolt is a zippy and fun car to drive. I switched the Bolt into Sport mode and it was noticeably peppier on accelerations and that made it easy to pop around some Chevy Suburbans on a leisurely drive through the mountains. Granted, this extra bit of zing costs a bit more on the battery. Then we engaged the regenerative braking feature. This is how a driver can get as much charge back into the battery as possible. We started in regular Drive mode which is like driving any other automatic car. Taking your foot off the accelerator (can’t really call it a gas pedal now, can we?) leaves the car to coast along as expected. But once in the regenerative mode that coasting distance is met with the resistance of turning against the motor that then sends power back into the battery. I found it turned into a bit of a game as I worked to master the pedal such that I hardly used the brake pedal at all. Once I got savvy with modulating the accelerator, it was very easy to control my speed and to get a feel for how long it takes to slow down. I didn’t even need to use the brake to stop (though, that took some getting used to).
Ok, so those are the basics that were important to me. Beyond that, the Bolt comes in two different trim levels, the LT ($37,495) and Premiere ($41,780). Both trims come with a nice 10.2 inch touch screen to control just about everything but the driving controls and also reports on how efficient of a driver you are. Then there’s GM’s Onstar and XM Radio, USB ports, and options to include all of the modern touches. Unfortunately for us outdoorsy types, only the Premiere comes with roof rack compatibility for hauling extra toys along. Adding anything to the exterior that causes wind resistance will also cause a little quicker depletion of the battery and hinder the range some. Also, there’s no tow receiver available—maybe there’s an option for a third party install. Otherwise, many of the features included in the Premiere package are available add-ons to the LT version.
Remember you can subtract a chunk of change from the prices listed above thanks to the $7,500 federal and $5,000 Colorado tax incentives for EV’s. That will make the Bolt very attractive for anyone considering an EV for their next vehicle. chevrolet.com