By now everyone has noticed how cheap gasoline has become, but it would be foolish to assume the low prices will last.
Inevitably, the cost of fuel will rise again, and when it does car buyers will turn their attention to electric vehicles. And they will have a range of tantalizing choices, from the mundane to the mesmerizing.
Notable examples include the Audi E-Tron (with a 204-mile range), BMW i3 (at 153 miles), Hyundai Ioniq (170 miles), Hyundai Kona (258 miles), Jaguar I-Pace (234 miles), Kia Niro (239 miles), Nissan Leaf (150 miles), Nissan Leaf Plus (226 miles), Porsche Taycan (192-203 miles), Tesla Model 3 (220-330 miles), Tesla Model S (287-373 miles), Tesla Model X (258-328 miles) and the new Tesla Model Y (328 miles).
But one of the most compelling remains the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt, which now runs 259 miles between charges, a 21-mile increase from previous model years, and more than most of its competitors, including the entry-level Tesla Model 3 Standard Range. That said, all of Tesla’s models outsell the Chevy, but the funky, functional Bolt outsells the remaining assortment of EVs, and with good reason.
Its shape pays big dividends in convenience, and its size is deceptive. There’s nearly 17 cubic feet of cargo space and 95 cubic feet of passenger space — 1.2 cubic feet more than the midsize Kia Stinger, with ample room for four full-size adults, including a rear seat that sits high enough to comfortably satisfy those more than 10 years old — all in an overall length that’s 30 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Malibu.
The driver faces an instrument panel that’s strikingly modern and dominated by a large 10.2-inch color touch screen that’s easy to reach and operate. It not only provides metrics on the car’s performance; it also accommodates Apple Car Play and Android Auto. A back-up camera is standard. Other niceties include wireless phone charging and a compartment large enough to stow a tablet.
But it’s the Bolt’s performance that proves most pleasing.
If you’ve never driven an electric car, its instant rush of torque upon acceleration will delight you. Once under way, the Bolt is no sports car, but proves responsive, tossable and fun-to-drive, thanks to good grip, quick steering and a diminutive size that makes it positively zippy.
The car’s 288 lithium ion battery pack is located between the car’s axles, beneath the passenger compartment. Weighing 960 pounds, it gives the Bolt a decidedly planted feel while dispensing 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Reaching 60 mph takes a reasonable 6.9 seconds.
And while you might think the speedometer is the most important gauge in a car, on the Bolt it comes second to the power meter that displays the car’s actual range based on your driving habits and accessory usage. If you start to experience range anxiety, driving in L mode amps up the car’s regenerative braking, capturing energy created while braking to recharge the battery pack.
And recharging takes time.
Using a 240-volt outlet, the Bolt recharges in nine hours, although it’s rare that you’ll ever drain the battery. A DC Fast Charger can charge up to 100 miles of range the Bolt in 30 minutes, although the required plug is optional. You can use a 110-volt outlet, but it only provides four miles of range per hour.
But there’s the problem.
While the federal government has placed onerous fuel economy measures on the auto industry that can only be met through the adoption of electric cars, state legislators haven’t required electric companies upgrade their aging lines or add new ones to meet the forthcoming demand from electric cars. And, since I live in a condo tower without any recharging facilities, I live in an EV charger dessert, with few places to regularly recharge an EV.
But I am not in the majority of American households; 64.2% of Americans live in a house, so for most, a car like the Bolt would be an effective way to reduce their carbon footprint.
With a price tag that starts at less than the average price of a new car — especially once you add the $1,875 EV federal tax credit — the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt is a true Chevrolet. It’s a great value, one that’s spacious, environmentally friendly and fun-to-drive while living up to the demands of everyday use.
It’s a remarkable car, and a bolt of new thinking from one of America’s oldest automotive brands.
2020 Chevrolet Bolt
Base price: $37,495 (before $1,875 federal tax credit)
Motor: Single permanent magnetic drive
Battery: 288 lithium ion cells
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 127/108 mpg-e
Length/Width/Height: 164/69.5/62.8 inches
Cargo capacity: 16.9-56.6 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,563 pounds