Long term review of the 2017 Chevy Bolt.
2 years and 11,777 miles into owning a 2017 Chevy Bolt I share my impressions, what I like about the car, and what Chevy could do better. Spoiler Alert – It’s mostly a very positive review!
2 years & 11,777 miles ago I made the leap to an electric car! It wasn’t without some apprehension or concerns. But there was also an equal measure of excitement & anticipation in making this switch too!
So how have things worked out so far? I’m happy to report – significantly better than I could have ever expected!
I realize that my situation / circumstances may be different than yours, as well may be my experiences. So here is where I am coming from…
I had a 13 year old Honda Accord that I had been very happy with up until that point and it only had about 80,000 miles on it. But it was time to replace it – and I was concerned at the end of 2017 that, with the Trump administration not being particularly electric car friendly, the tax rebates for electric cars might soon be disappearing. So I pulled the trigger and purchased a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Although I really wanted a Tesla Model 3, the $35k trim level was not being produced yet & I really couldn’t justify spending more than $30 – $35k on a vehicle.
I briefly considered the Nissan Leaf – but the lack of a true thermal management system for the battery – along with the many reports of people losing significant range in the early years of ownership were enough to scare me away. So I looked around and drove the Chevy Bolt.
I admit to that I did not immediately fall in love with the looks of the Bolt – but I am a practical man – and was ultimately more concerned about functionality and utility than looks or status when it comes to choosing a car.
I did do a little research on driving an electric vehicle, and driving a Bolt in particular. I was intrigued by the concept of one pedal driving, and resolved that from the very first drive that I would drive this car exclusively in this manner.
So as you math geniuses may have already figured out – I don’t drive a whole lot! On average I drive about 15 – 20 miles per day, or about 105 to 111 miles per week. I expect this to increase somewhat over the years as the kids get involved in more activities.
Range Anxiety? Heck No!
I had initially considered investing in a level 2 home charging station – but decided I would wait a few weeks, at least, to see how things went. I’m glad I did wait – because in these 2 years since I purchased the car I have never been in a situation where I could not go somewhere because of my level of charge.
In the winter, I plug the level 1 charger that came with the car into an outside outlet, and use that as my primary charging method. After I return home for the night, I simply plug the car in and leave it plugged in until the morning.
The charging rate from the Level 1 charger (plugged into a standard outlet) is abysmally slow (roughly 4 miles per hour of charging). However – it really doesn’t matter, in my circumstances – since on average, my daily driving is less than 6% of the EPA range of the car! So each morning I get into a fully charged vehicle. (Or 85% charged if have it in Hilltop Reserve mode)
My car is equipped with DC Fast Charging, but I have never used it.
What I love!
1) One Pedal Driving
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, what it means is that the car is in a mode where either maintaining your speed or accelerating requires you to have your foot on the accelerator (‘gas’) pedal and depressed to some degree.
If your foot is removed from the pedal – the car engages the electric motor in a manner that acts to decrease the car’s speed. When doing so it is referred to as regenerative braking, which does not actually use the brake pads. Rather, the electric motor’s polarity is reversed and it generates resistance, as opposed to thrust. When doing so it actually generates electricity that is the sent back to the battery to be stored, as opposed to energy being consumed when the car is accelerating.
2) The Deafening Silence!
Although I have enjoyed the reeving of an engine in the past – I am not missing all the noise associated with and internal combustion engine! I rather like being able to hear the radio better, or carry on a conversation on the phone. It felt somewhat eerie in the beginning to experience the dramatic acceleration with this car – but it to occur with a complete absence of noise!
3) Torque & Acceleration
The torque & acceleration are intoxicating! After all, they do call it the Bolt for a reason!! I love being able to point the car where I want it to go and it to be able to do so instantaneously and without any drama, hesitation or noise!
4) No More Gas Stations or Gas Fumes
I am not particularly fond of the smell of gasoline and I can definitely find better ways to spend my time that at the local gas station.
5) Colorful & Informative Displays
I like the display and find that it is easy to get the information I want and need about the car and my driving situation. The dash offers three distinct looks to suit differing tastes and the center console can be left on one of many screens.
6) The Savings
I probably save about $405 / year in fuel costs driving this car. For roughly 6 months of the year I have no charging expenses – since I charge at a free level 2 charger at a park near my office. I figured I drive roughly 5,500 miles per year and that a similarly sized car should get approximately 30 miles / gallon of gasoline. Right now the average cost of gasoline in our county is $2.54 / gallon.
Additionally, I do not need oil changes and expect the brakes to last me for the life of the car – since I drive it in Low all the time.
So all said and done – I am probably saving between $400 – $500 per year when driving roughly 5,500 miles per year.
When calculating my estimate (for my kilowatt hour cost of electricity) I did factor in all delivery and supply charges into the unit cost. I also used 3.4 miles / kilo watt hour, which is my average miles / kilowatt hour figure for the colder months (which is when I charge it at home) as opposed to my significantly higher figure (5.7 miles / kWh) that I average during the warmer months.
7) Hatchback & Storage
Although having a hatchback is not the most stylish look for a car – I have come to really like the space at the back of this vehicle! I find myself using this space daily for the kids book bags when I take them to school in the morning.
What Could Be Improved
Recirculation (contrary to what you THINK it should do) – actually draws in some “fresh” air. Not a problem unless you are behind someone who has NOT made the switch to electric! I think I should have control over when the car truly recirculates and when fresh air is being drawn in from outside the cabin – because sometimes you do get stuck behind a vehicle that is spewing some nasty exhaust and you just want some true recirculation for a minute.
The car does handle well, since most of the weight is at the bottom of the vehicle ( because of the battery placement). However, an independent rear suspension would be welcome.
This car is truly a joy to drive – on smooth streets. When the pavement gets a little choppy – it is not as much of a pleasure.
Since most of the roads on which I drive are pretty good – this is not too much of an issue for me. However, I do feel that a better suspension would be a worthwhile place for Chevy to allocate a little more cost for building this vehicle.
3) Charging Level Options
I would like greater flexibility in setting the recharge limit rather than just full (100%) or Hilltop Reserve (88%). Specifically, I would like to be able to set it at either 90% or 95%. (UPDATE/NOTE: My understanding is that in the newer models the option to change the charging levels in 5% increments was added)
I’ve noticed that when I charge it to 100% the regenerative braking is not as effective as normal until I get to roughly 97% charge. Sometimes this surprises me when I am trying to slow down – and count on it performing how it usually does. So at times I would like to be able to charge it right about to that level – so it drives the same – but I have nearly a maximum charge.
The car, and indeed the front seats, are narrower than I am accustomed to. It seems to me that the front seats should be wider – even if more compromises needed to be made in terms of size for the center console.
Fortunately I am on the slender side and this has not really been an issue for me – other than it taking some time to get used to the narrower seats.
5) Stupid Messages
Why would you (Chevy) have a message pop up on my screen WHILE I AM DRIVING warning me NOT to take my eyes off the road….
6) Reduced Range & Freezing Issues in Colder Climates
Range is greatly effected by temperature. During the warmer months I get something north of 5.7 mi/kWh. During the colder months it is something closer to 3.4 mi/kWh.
I have had numerous freezing issues with this car – and people who intend on driving a Bolt in a colder climate should be aware of these issues:
- Small button on door handles (lock / unlock) tends to freeze up in colder weather / mornings. Solution – you will have to unlock using the key FOB.
- Windshield wipers tend to freeze up easily with snow & ice and are not as robust as I would like.
- Charge panel door easily ices up & won’t open.
- Charger button on the charger “nozzle” has frozen a couple of times in the past. Proactive solution- wrap in a scarf (or park in a garage). Reactive solution- fill a gallon freeze-lock bag with hot tap water a press the bag against the handle for a couple of minutes.
I really prefer to drive this car now as opposed to any other gas powered vehicle. When I am forced to drive the gas minivan (family vacations, and the like) – I usually bemoan the fact to my family – who consider me to be an electric car snob (and yes – we do look down on PHEV drivers as electric car driver wannabes…). My family has a seemingly low tolerance for the dino-powered bucking bronco comments and references I tend to make when forced to drive our Toyota minivan….
I firmly believe that electric is the way things are going for cars. I’m sure there some of you out there that will argue that electric cars are just a fad – and that only a fringe group of the general population will be willing to make the current perceived compromises necessary to adopt them. Likewise, I am pretty certain that many of you saying such things were probably very late adopters of smartphones….
I eagerly look forward to the improvements that will undoubtedly be made with regards to battery technology, and the more competitive prices of electric vehicles as manufacturing scales up.
Personally, I think that driving an electric car is, overall, a better and more enjoyable experience than driving a more traditional gas powered vehicle. I expect to hold on to my gas minivan for another couple of years, at which time I will hopefully be able to replace it with an electric one. I think that there is a very good chance that none of my children will ever drive a gas powered vehicle!
I don’t foresee myself buying another gas vehicle. For the tiny number of situations that might present themselves where an electric vehicle won’t cut it – I will happily rent a gas one that will.
P.S. Here is an interesting story about the abundance of the rare earth metals located on the ocean floor of the Pacific that could be used in the manufacture of the batteries for electric cars. Why are we (the US) sitting on the sidelines?
CBS 60 Minutes Episode on Sea Nuggets that contain the rare earth metals we need to car batteries: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rare-earth-elements-u-s-on-sidelines-in-race-for-metals-sitting-on-ocean-floor-60-minutes-60-minutes-2019-11-17/
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