We sit in the mud… and reach for the stars. – Ivan Turgenev
Three years ago I drove to Montreal to pick up my 2017 Chevy Bolt. 3 years and 90,000 km later I am here to report on the joys and sorrows of being an early adopter of this new technology. Would you like to hear the good news or bad news first? How about the good news!
The best good news is that there is so much of it. The car has been [almost] maintenance free: all we have had to do is replace the brakes once. There have been no breakdowns. We have not run out of power and were never stranded. We have taken long trips with it successfully: our longest being to Cape Breton. We have saved a ton of money as the electricity costs are a fraction of the comparable gasoline costs. For example, 1-way charging cost to Cape Breton was under $80! We have been able to make to our cottage in Quebec, a 3 hour trek, without charging [in the summer]. The car is very comfortable: we love the heated steering wheel. The performance is amazing. Once, near Quebec City, were just about to be smushed between 2 trucks as one entered from an entrance ramp [I do not think he saw us] and I floored it – zoom! Within a couple of seconds we escaped the trap. It feels much safer driving a car with that kind of acceleration. The cross-over design means the seats are high enough that my creaky old bones do not have a problem getting up and down. The hatchback means I have enough room to carry `important stuff` to the cottage: this weekend we are carrying a futon and frame there – with the hatch open of course. For shorter trips there is enough room for all 4 of us –as my mother and mother in law both live with us. We have never driven without being able to find a charging station and only twice was a station busy, requiring us to wait for a bit.
Now for the bad news. The range on this first generation Korean battery is reduced by up to 30% in cold weather. That means longer trips in the winter are really out of reach and even getting to the cottage requires stopping along the way at a charging station. However, given that is in Quebec, there are plenty of charging stations. While charging stations are plentiful and cheap in Quebec they are not plentiful away from the 401 and not cheap, but at least I can now drive to Kenora to see my brother as the barest minimum of charging stations have been installed by Petro-Canada across northern Ontario – but only barely! Given that this is really first generation technology you would expect a significant recall, and there was one just last month. It seems that a few Bolts caught fire in the USA, 7 or so, and one even burned a house down. While this is not statistically different than the rate of fires from gasoline cars because this is new technology I am now instructed to only charge to 80% full to avoid risk of a fire as the fires only happen when the battery is 100% full]. This is a major bummer. However, we are told by GM that there will be permanent solution in the New Year: we shall see. Of course you are waiting for me to admit that long trips are longer because of the 1 hour charging time required every 300 km – and that is true. However, as this only happens when we are on holiday and we are in no rush then [and we have no children with us] – we don’t really mind. We must find a nice place to stop and walk around or shop or eat…and enjoy our holiday.
So, in conclusion, I can honestly say that the Chevy Bolt is the best car I have every owned. It is the good balance of performance, comfort, price, minimal maintenance/operating costs and reliability. As expected the second generation 2021 Bolt has increased its range by 45 km and the new batteries do not catch fire and do not lose more than 4% of their range in the winter: I would highly recommend it. However, there is one question I have so far avoided so here it is: is it sexy? No. Sorry. But personally I do not have a fetish for cars [mechanophilia ]so I am OK with that.
Note: This is NOT me!
p.s. some of you may have noticed the mixed rims on the picture, that is because I was in the middle of installing my winter tires when I took the picture and only get them on the back.