2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Monthly Update for February 2017
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
The answer to this question is not self-evident when it comes to the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV. You can't assume it's simply "to work and back" or "to dinner and a movie" like it might be for other $40,000 electric vehicles. As we've seen with the two Teslas we've owned, 200-plus miles of range is a difference that really makes a difference. You can actually go somewhere in a Bolt.
Take my own first experience as a case in point. I drove the Bolt on the 46-mile leg from work to my home and simply parked it. My wife's Fiat 500e was already plugged in, but no big deal, because the Bolt's range meter still showed over 200 miles. Next morning I drove up into the mountains to Mount Baldy Village (elevation 4,193 feet) and then cut across to my favorite set of backroads: Glendora Ridge Road and Glendora Mountain Road. This trip added another 103 miles, putting the trip meter at 149 miles.
After all that, the Bolt's remaining range meter said I still had 125 miles left. Add them together and you get a possible maximum range of 274 miles. Impressive, especially considering the elevation profile of where I'd been. I've found I have to work hard to meet or exceed the range rating in a Tesla, but after this one drive it seemed the Bolt's number was readily attainable.
We had plans for dinner and a bit of antiquing, so I plugged in at a city hall EV spot while we walked around. It wasn't full three and a half hours later, but the range meter was back up to 208 miles — plenty, in other words. I drove another mountain loop higher up Azusa Canyon the next morning and went back to the same charger later that day, still not filling it but ending up with a more-than-sufficient 230 miles. On the third day I ranged even farther from home, this time stopping to try out a 400-volt Level 3 charge station located 60 miles away after driving 178.7 miles.
Level 3 stations are fast, nearly as fast as a Tesla Supercharger. In the hour and 20 minutes the car sat there (while I walked off to eat lunch) the car took on 196 miles, which works out to a charge rate of 148 miles per hour. I left with 230 miles in the bank, thoroughly impressed.
So far our Bolt EV has already accumulated 2,166 miles in the hands of several drivers. The words "range anxiety" have not been uttered by a single one, except when preceded by "there isn't any."
What Kind of "Fuel Economy" Did It Get?
Energy consumption with an EV is fairly easy to track if you have a networked Chargepoint Level 2 charge station like we do. And we also get data from other networked Level 2 and Level 3 Chargepoint stations out in the wild.
I loathe talking in terms of mpge, because gallons of electricity makes no sense. Yes, I know the "e" stands for equivalent, but dwelling on mpg out of habit makes it hard to know how much electricity you are actually using — and ultimately paying for. Miles per gallon was never a very good unit for gasoline in the first place, so I'm going to spend most of my time talking in terms of kWh/100 miles (number of kilowatt-hours used over 100 miles). After all, that's the official engineering term that shows up on the EPA fuel economy label, albeit in small print.
The EPA pegs the Bolt's consumption at 28 kWh/100 in combined driving, and the corresponding range on a full charge is rated at 238 miles. They also say it takes 9.3 hours to recharge it from empty. No one should ever run the battery down to zero, so it's better to do some math on those last two numbers and look instead at charge rate, which is 25.6 mph (miles of range gained in each hour of charging).
Our consumption average over the 2,166 miles we've driven the Bolt so far is 27.5 kWh/100. That beats the rating, because lower is better with a consumption unit such as this. The most anyone has driven on a charge so far is 210.5 miles, but that's not really a maximum because the person didn't run it to empty. As noted, no one ever should. The thing to do is add driven range to remaining range to determine maximum projected range, a more useful comparative number. The Bolt's best maximum projected range observed so far is 280.1 miles.
If you still can't make sense of this without miles per gallon equivalent, here you go. The EPA combined estimate is 119 mpge, and our average is 122.7 mpge.
Average lifetime consumption: 27.5 kWh/100 miles (122.7 mpge)
EPA consumption rating: 28 kWh/100 combined (119 mpge)
Best fill: 22.2 kWh/100 (137.6 mpge)
Maximum distance driven: 210.5 miles
Average distance driven: 84.9 miles
Maximum projected range: 280.1 miles
EPA range rating: 238 miles
Current odometer: 2,166 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"Handles really well on the twistier parts of Glendora Mountain Road, which is saying something. Small size and a very low center of mass makes this one a hoot. Doesn't roll in turns much either, and it feels nimble in transitions." — Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
"I really like the lift-throttle regen in L with this one. It's much stronger than the effect in the Volt, so you can really use it to your advantage and trail-brake deeper into turns than Bob Bondurant ever thought possible. I drove down a long, tight and twisting mountain road (Highway 39 from Crystal Lake down to Azusa for you locals) that included very tight 15-mph switchbacks and numerous bends of assorted radii, and I never once touched the brake pedal. Really fun. You'd die if you tried that in a regular car, and the Volt can't do it because its regen braking is not nearly as strong — or fun. Lift-throttle regen braking FTW!" — Dan Edmunds
"Plenty of pop off the line, even though the mileage fiend in me doesn't see the point of gratuitous acceleration if you like playing the range game, which I do. Still, it's there if you need it, and with so much range on tap, there's no reason to worry about pulling out to pass someone or getting decisive during a freeway merge." — Dan Edmunds
"My father and my brother are both 6 feet tall. At 5-foot-9, I got the short end of the bargain. I did make them sit one behind the other recently in our long-term Bolt, just to see if they'd fit. Sure enough, there was sufficient legroom and headroom for both of them. The Bolt has a tall cabin and a low floor, so no problem." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor
"I like the driving position, and the telescopic steering wheel pulls back far enough that I don't have to crowd the wheel. Seat is OK, but comes across as small. It's almost as if I'm sitting on it instead of in it. I wonder what I would have thought 18 months ago when there were 50 more pounds of me sitting here." — Dan Edmunds
Audio & Technology
"I'm annoyed that there's no native navigation in a Bolt, even a loaded Premier like ours. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the only way to see maps. I like CarPlay for music and podcasts, but I hate Apple Maps. Likewise, I like Android because of Google Maps, but I can't stand the music and podcast aspect. And neither of them was available on two of my three mountain road excursions, because I didn't have a phone signal all day. No nav for Dan." — Dan Edmunds
"Connecting an iPhone to Bluetooth was easy and playback was OK. Trouble was, each time I turned the car off, the audio defaulted to FM radio when I turned it back on. Bluetooth eventually connects, but not quickly enough. And if I'm listening to Audible over Bluetooth, why does it show me FM radio favorites? And why does that module take up half the screen?" — Mike Magrath, Content Strategist
"I had to take our two Labs to the groomers. They both hopped right in, and there was enough room to close the hatch on them with the rear seats up. They'd have run amok if I'd folded the seats down, and they're crate-trained, so they were more than happy back there for a five-minute ride." — Dan Edmunds
"LATCH child seat connections are hard to access, but you don't do that frequently, so it's not that big a deal. My large rear-facing car seat fits well enough, though the passenger seat needs to come forward. Wide door opening to get the seat in and a nice high rear seat so you don't need to stoop." — Mike Magrath
MPG (well, charging ...)
"Plugging in the Bolt my first time driving it wasn't easy. The closest station with a quick charger wasn't far away, but the cord was hilariously short. Even with the Bolt pulled all the way forward, it barely made it to the car's plug port." — Travis Langness
"Independent of Travis' comment above, and at a different location, I had the same exact experience. I had to kiss the Bolt's bumper up against a pair of steel bollards to get close enough, which was very irritating. Even then, the taut cord wrenched the charge port more than I would have liked. I took a picture of it and tweeted it to the vendor. I don't think they expected this, and I think they're going to start reconfiguring stations. The Bolt is destined to sell in great numbers, but there's a limit to how long Level 3 cords can be. I think they have to set their bollards closer or lower the point on the charger where the cord departs the device so it'll reach out farther." — Dan Edmunds