By Allen Penticoff
The electric car “wars” are heating up. Chevrolet debuted its new all-electric car, the Bolt, at the Chicago Auto Show. There I had the opportunity to sit in the display car, but no chance to drive it. Unfortunately, the beautiful “Red Fox” color of the display car is a custom paint job and won’t be available on production cars. Darn. In overall size and shape the Bolt is similar to the Honda Fit and Prius C. Small four-door cars with squared off tails and hatch access to flexible seating and cargo arrangements making them all very practical small cars.
The Bolt will have a 200 mile range from the 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that resides under the floor and in front of the rear axle. While it will be capable of quick charging with 480 volts, most owners will be using 240 volt chargers at home. It will take nine hours to recharge a flat battery at 240 volts. However, hopefully you’ll have arrived home without a flat or nearly flat battery, so the recharge rate is 25 miles of range per hour. So after a typical day of running about town you will recharge in about two hours – perhaps at night when electric rates can be discounted. Don’t worry about finding charging stations around town, with 200 miles of range they are not needed. Long out of town trips are another story though.
I found sitting in the Bolt to be quite comfortable. It had a white interior that sort of looked like Styrofoam, but was not tacky. I like a light colored interior. I found some minor knee intrusion for both legs, but they didn’t prompt concern. Much of that has to do with the way I sit in the drivers seat. It featured a digital rear-view mirror – which will become more common. There was a tablet sized customizable 10.2 inch screen on the dashboard for all those things we need to do now. But the heater and air-conditioner controls were laudably more conventional, as was the console-mounted shifter. Dual USB ports we included to charge your mobile electronics. Optional features will include collision, pedestrian, cross-traffic and blind spot alerts. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available as well as 4G LTE Internet via On Star. Ten air bags will make the unavoidable accidents much less severe. Four-camera multi-view is a whole new world in seeing what is going on while backing up. A heads-up display of real-time driving information is controlled via steering wheel mounted switches. A Bose stereo system will keep you entertained.
The Bolt will have a eight year/100,000 mile warranty and is priced to be about $30,000 after the Federal tax credit of $7,500. Residents of Illinois may be able to deduct an additional $4,000, bringing the cost down to about that of many cars now in the mid $20,000 range.
Ford has been announcing it will be producing an all-electric car with 200 mile range in the next year or two and have several by 2020. Tesla recently announced it is taking deposits on its affordable (similar to the Bolt) Model 3. Nissan will be upping the range of its already well-established Leaf. Chevrolet has also improved the hybrid/electric 2017 Volt considerably (a Mr. Green Car review will be out soon). Many other automakers are on the electric vehicle bandwagon as well – so the time for driving on electricity is upon us. The Bolt should be available in late 2016. So stop on by your local Chevy dealer and tell them you want one. Make a small deposit to get a place in line.
Since we bought our used 2013 Volt in the Fall of 2013, my wife Ruth has never, repeat never, stopped at a gas station to fill it up. I do that every once in a great while. It only uses a little over 30 gallons of gas a year – and we expect that to go down now that we have a plugless wireless 240 volt charger. So even that little routine is gone. Just drive. And drive. For a commuter car, or for folks who rarely go out of town, or live in small towns, driving on electricity makes so much sense, and it is proven to be better for the environment no matter the source of the electricity – and yet many of us are getting clean energy from nuclear, solar and wind sources.