Let me start by saying that, yes, I mean the Chevy BOLT and not the Chevy VOLT. Both are great cars and both have very similar names but there’s one HUGE difference.
The Chevy Volt, introduced in 2011, is a plug-in hybrid. The way this plug-in hybrid works is that is runs on all electric until the battery has been depleted and then it switched to a combustion engine which powers an electric generator. Originally, it would drive up to 30 miles on all electric before switching to hybrid mode. It’s now improved to over 50 miles on all-electric before switching to hybrid mode which will help give you a driving range of over 400 miles combined.
For people who are interested in electric vehicles but can’t commit to all-electric (usually because of range limitations and the resulting range anxiety), the Chevy Volt has been a nice compromise. In fact, it’s what my husband drove for many years.
For those that are interested in all-electric, there’s a new way to commit and banish your range anxiety. And I’m here to share everything you need to know about the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV.
Since the preview of the Chevy Bolt two years ago, I’ve been dying to get behind the wheel. I personally love the driving feel of both hybrid and electric vehicles but admittedly, I suffer from range anxiety. When you run out of gas, you find a gas station, fill up, and you’re back on the road. When you run out of electricity and you have no backup, you’re done driving. Sort of.
So much has changed in the way of electric cars and the Chevy Bolt is leading the way. So I asked if I could “borrow” the Chevy Bolt for a few days and see just how far I could drive this car without feeling any anxiety.
I was handed the keys (okay, key fob) to a 2017 Bolt EV Premium at the end of my time at the WAPA Road Rally a few weeks ago (note: the Chevy Bolt was awarded top prize in the green vehicle category at the rally!). When I arrived home, I announced to my family that we were going on a trip that weekend.
Where are we going? they asked.
Doesn’t really matter, I replied. As long as it’s less than a 238 mile roundtrip.
The Chevy Bolt sports an impressive 238 mile range on all electric. So my thought was that we could drive as far as 119 miles from home (to ensure we had enough charge for the return trip) or we could drive up to 238 miles and plan to charge before returning (more on that below).
My family, in their typical non-committal way, let me decide and I chose to visit a place from my childhood that my son (or my husband, for that matter) had never seen. And we set our navigation (using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) to Strasburg Railroad in Ronks, Pennsylvania. Google set a course that was approximately 90 miles each way and off we went, which the quietest car in the neighborhood.
The Railroad Connection
In about 1 hour and 45 minutes, we arrived at Strasbourg Railroad with about 5 minutes before the next train was leaving. We quickly parked (I didn’t even both to check if they had a charging station – turns out they don’t) and ran to the station where we secured our tickets on the old steam locomotive.
We opted to head to the dining car so we could eat and ride at the same time. But to be honest, we only chose it because the first class car was sold out (that’s where we felt like we belonged).
After a 45 minute, 9 mile roundtrip ride accompanied by a cheesesteak and whoopie pie (I don’t know why I was expecting more elegance in the dining car), we weren’t ready to head home quite yet so we headed across the street for a very timely lesson in train technology.
Directly across from the Strasburg Railroad is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. It’s a place for kids and adults to step back in time, learn about train technology, and even board a few of the cars.
It wasn’t until we boarded one of the many diesel-electric locomotives that we really felt the connection to our mode of transportation. Suddenly, we were able to look at our 10 year old and explain the concepts of the Chevy Volt, with the diesel powered generator providing electricity to the locomotive, and the Chevy Bolt, with the all electric trains connected to overhead lines or a third rail.
I wish I could say all of our adventures end up with the ability to bring science to life and relate it to the modern day world but it worked out pretty perfectly this time.
When we were finished and had our fill of trains, we hopped back in our all-electric Chevy Bolt and quietly cruised on home.
Exploring the Chevy Bolt
If you’re not familiar with an electric car, it might be a little intimidating to drive at first. In fact, the night of the WAPA Road Rally, one of my friends worried that I’d be driving home along in the dark in this completely unfamiliar vehicle.
The truth is that it drives just like any other car. You put it in drive, you press on the pedal, and you go. When you’re done, you apply the brakes, put it in park, and you go. There are just a few other things that make it a tiny bit different.
First of all, there’s this. That’s the plug. You know how you plug in your phone every night so it’s charged for the morning? Same thing. You get home and you plug in your car. We actually have what’s called a Level 2 charger installed at my house (from our former Volt days) so it was easy to plug in. But because of the range of the battery, it does take longer to charge – about 9 hours with a level 2 charger.
This car also had an optional DC fast charging port installed. Although I don’t have that type of charger at home, if I was on the road, I could use the myChevrolet Life app or ChargePoint or PlugShare apps to find a nearby charger. They’re rumored to provide a battery charge offering up to 90 miles in just 30 minutes.
So once you get over the newness of charging your car, you’ll probably want to better understand how to keep that charge for as long as possible. The intelligent screens in the vehicle keep you up to date on your charging level (providing high and low estimates of how many miles you have left) and provide things like an Energy Usage Score that helps you determine how your environment and driving style are contributed to the economy of your consumption.
And once all of that is ingrained in you, you simply have to sit back and enjoy the drive.
You saw that my family enjoyed this as a weekend car. So does it make sense for an all-electric vehicle to serve as more than a commuter car? And, dare I say, be in the running for a family car?
For a little family of four (or less), the answer is yes. The back seat is surprising spacious with the necessities like USB ports and heated seats (commonly used to avoid the power-sucking climate control in the winter).
While the Chevy Bolt doesn’t offer a huge amount of cargo space, it was more than adequate for light errands and offered surprisingly deep storage in the rear. With the second row down, the cargo space rivaled that of a traditional compact SUV.
The final word about the Chevy Bolt has to be the price. This 2017 Chevy Bolt EV Premier came in at $43,905, which includes upcharges for DC Fast Charging, Drive Confidence II package, Infotainment Package, and the Cajun Red Tintcoat. Keep in mind, though, that the purchase of a Chevy Bolt EV will qualify you for a $7500 federal tax credit and your state may have incentives as well.
If You Need A Little More…
The Chevy Bolt is a car that better seen and driven than talked about. So just in case you wanted more, there’s a full video review for you. I’m ready with your questions!