2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Monthly Update for September 2017
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
We didn't quite add 1,000 miles to our 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV this month, but we got close. Most of the mileage came from commuting, and because our Bolt EV has HOV lane access stickers, it's a favorite with those of us who have a particularly long drive to the office.
A couple of short weekend excursions were mixed in here and there because our Bolt can use DC fast charging equipment, but no one has thus far embarked on any kind of extended road trip. I'm willing to bet that situation will change fairly soon.
Our Bolt has nearly 10,000 miles on it, and we track every fill-up. We own our own ChargePoint Level 2 station, and it's a networked commercial unit that uses ID cards that we assign to each vehicle. These cards allow us to determine the amount of electricity our test cars take on at any other ChargePoint station in the country, too.
This approach helps us determine consumption where it matters — from the point of view of the power meter that determines your electricity bill. The in-car meters most EVs have are generally useless when it comes to money matters because they do not account for the 15 to 20 percent of an electric vehicle's consumption that comes from the act of charging.
The Bolt is unique in that its in-car meter at least includes an estimate of the charging losses. Its dashboard readout is more useful than most, but it's not the same as measuring it directly as we do. The EPA uses the same approach, of course, when it determines window-sticker ratings.
Only 7,671 miles of our accumulated Bolt test data is "good" because our drivers aren't always able to use a ChargePoint station. Sometimes they use Brand X, and other times they use the 120-volt cord at home. In either case we don't get any charge data, so those sessions must be ignored. And more than one charge can get lost in this way if a partial fill for which we do have data is followed by a full fill that lacks any charge information. But we still have a wealth of data from which to draw conclusions, and those missing charges are spread randomly over time. It's unlikely that our averages you see below have been affected to any meaningful degree.
Average lifetime consumption: 26.8 kWh/100 miles (125.9 mpge)
EPA consumption rating: 28 kWh/100 combined (119 mpge)
Best fill: 19.1 kWh/100 (176.5 mpge)
Average onboard consumption meter: 3.9 mi/kWh
Current odometer: 9,817 miles
Data miles analyzed: 7,671 miles
We're handily beating the Bolt's EPA consumption rating, and this month we set a new best-fill mark of 19.1 kWh/100 (176.5 mpge). But we're suspicious of this one because it was a short 39.9-mile run, which means it's likely that very favorable conditions or an overall downhill trend played a part. Longer runs tend to be more believable because the conditions average out.
With that in mind, the next-best fill of 22.6 kWh/100 miles (149.1 mpge) occurred over 85.7 miles, and the third best of 23.6 kWh/100 (143 mpge) was sustained for a full 226.4 miles.
Speaking of range, we're ahead of the game there, too.
Maximum distance driven: 248.6 miles
EPA range rating: 238 miles
Average distance driven: 105.8 miles
Maximum projected range: 298 miles
Average projected range: 244.6 miles
Our average of 105.8 miles between charges is not an indictment of the Bolt's ultimate performance. Driving to the ragged edge isn't how electric vehicles are driven day in, day out, and charging is not the hassle that stopping at a gas station can be. EV drivers plug in when it makes sense, not when it's empty. It's more of a simple parking ritual you do casually every day at home or work or wherever it makes sense.
But one guy on our staff did decide to flirt with running out. He managed 248.6 miles before plugging in — and still had 10 miles left. And that's no fluke if you look at our projected range data, which is the miles driven on the trip odometer at plug-in added to the remaining range on the distance-to-empty (DTE) meter at the same moment. Our average projected range for all full charges is 244.6 miles, and the best one of 298 miles suggests that it may be possible to squeeze 300 miles out of a Bolt without trying too hard.
Here are a few other random tidbits from a deep dive of our data.
People always ask how long it takes to charge an EV, but the idea that one will charge only when the battery is absolutely empty and unplug only when it is completely full misses the point. It's more useful to know how many miles of range you can add in an hour of charging. The Edmunds ChargePoint unit is connected to 208-volt commercial power, so the following numbers are probably about 13 percent slower than a home unit wired up to 240-volt residential power.
Average charging speed: 22.4 mph (miles added per hour of charging)
Average remaining range at plug-in: 113.7 miles
Average charge duration: 4.1 hours
Average miles added: 91.8 miles
We have used DC fast charging stations on 10 occasions. Four of these were Brand X stations that didn't give us any fill information, but six were networked into the ChargePoint system. Performance varies wildly at these stations, primarily because the charging equipment (and the cars they are designed to support) are still evolving. The fastest one we've visited delivered 148.1 mph, and the slowest one added just 85.8 mph. That's a big difference, and even the fastest ones barely nip at the heels of a Tesla Supercharger, which this car can't use.
Maintenance and Upkeep
"The Bolt is alone in providing a very straightforward and effective approach to blended mechanical and regenerative braking: It doesn't do it. Any time you touch the brake pedal, you're pushing the pads against the rotors, and that's why the brakes feel so predictable and controllable underfoot. In D mode (Drive, if you like), the only regenerative braking you get is a thin veneer that makes it feel like you've got the normal amount of engine braking when you take your foot off the throttle.
"Regenerative braking is cranked way up and takes center stage in L (don't call it Low because it's not a lower gear) such that it transforms the driving experience. Here you get lift-throttle braking that allows one-pedal driving. It works all the way down to a full stop, too. There's enough braking force that touching the brake pedal isn't necessary unless an unexpected hazard presents itself, at which point the pads and rotors provide the extra stopping power. It does not get any better than this." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
"I've got an Android phone and an iPhone, and the Bolt EV supports them both with CarPlay and Android Auto. I've done numerous back-to-back tests, and the iPhone wins for rapid and seamless connectivity, while the Android has the advantage of Waze support right there on the screen. When connected, the iPhone can still be used to run non-CarPlay-supported apps from the phone's screen, but in the same scenario the Android is fully locked out and can only run AA-supported apps via the Bolt's touchscreen.
"And while I used to bemoan CarPlay's enforced use of Apple Maps, the recent iOS 11 update improved the CarPlay version of Apple Maps considerably. It now has accurate lane guidance, improved graphics and a clear ETA information thumbnail screen. I'm leaning toward CarPlay and iPhone at this point, but at least the Bolt supports both and allows an individual to come to their own conclusion." — Dan Edmunds
"I loaded my mountain bike in the back of the Bolt, but it was a very tight squeeze. It's an XL frame with 29-inch wheels, so it is bigger than some. To get it in, I had to move the front passenger seat so far forward that no one could possibly sit there, and even then it was a bit of a game of Tetris to get the bars to clear the closed hatch. And because the space is so short I had no choice but to lay it greasy-side down with the sprocket and chain close to the fabric, something I prefer not to do.
"Look close and you'll also see that one pedal is jammed into the crack where the seatback folds down, which helped it lie flat and was good for some stability. What you can't quite see is how my bike's rear tire is hovering no more than an inch over the center armrest, which puts it very close to my right elbow. It's in there, but this is no way to travel for any significant amount of distance. Most of the trails I ride are no more than 10 miles from home, so this is doable." — Dan Edmunds