By Steve Firman
Like most people yearning for an alternative to gas and diesel-powered cars, I wanted a Tesla, but didn’t have the means for a $100,000 car. In 2014, we purchased a used Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and we really like the car. However, it's basically a gas-powered car that is made more efficient with the use of a battery and electric motors to re-capture braking energy. It works great and I’m not knocking it, yet I still wanted a car that did not require fossil fuels. So, in 2017 Chevy announced the Bolt and we wound up buying one in November.
Our First 5 Impressions:
- The car is easy to get in and out of, an important factor for us. It's smaller than the VW Jetta TDI that I drove for 11 years, but it stands a bit taller.
- The car is stunningly smooth. I’m used to the “turbo lag” of a VW turbo-diesel and while I hardly noticed it after a while, the Bolt is a revelation with its instant power, smooth acceleration and no shifting.
- The range. It's rated at 238 miles and it will probably do that in the summer. The car “learns” your driving habits and predicts the remaining range. With a fully-charged battery, our predicted range is about 185 miles. This is in the winter with the heater on and with snow tires. This turns out to be plenty for multiple trips around the Chelan Valley and a trip to Wenatchee and back, and that makes it more than adequate for us. It will probably be back up to 230+ miles in the summer with the low-rolling-resistance tires.
- It is comfortable for a small car. It's easy to get in and out of, and it’s also easy for older people to get in and out of it, as it stands a bit taller than a sedan and nowhere near as tall as an SUV.
- Charging the car: It comes with a level-one “portable” charging cord. This cord is like a laptop charger but about 5 times larger with a heavy cord. It will charge the car from a 120-Volt standard outlet at either 8 Amps or 12 Amps from the outlet. It takes about 2 full 24-hour days to charge it with the portable cord if the car is fully discharged. This has not been an issue for us, because we tend to use maybe a quarter of the battery capacity in a day, and it charges overnight just fine. Nevertheless, I have ordered a Clipper Creek 40-Amp 240-Volt Level 2 charger that will charge it from empty overnight. I just need to get it wired in to my house.
If anyone wants to use a Chevy Bolt for cross-country travel, make sure the car is equipped with the Level-3 charging option. I was told by the dealer that this cannot be added as an after-market option. A Level-3 charger will add about 90 miles of range on the car in about 30 minutes. And shoot, my car doesn’t have this option. Once I get my Level-2 charger hooked up, it will add about 25 miles of range in an hour of charging.
So those are my 5 first impressions. I can now pass by gas stations and not care what the price is! That, and we are blessed with inexpensive hydro power in Chelan - there is no coal or oil being burned to produce our electricity. The car has a 60-kilowatt-hour battery. A full charge from empty costs about $1.80. Someday I may get to installing solar panels at our home, and then we can charge the car for free! That said, I actually didn’t buy the car to save money on fuel. I bought it so that I can have one car that burns no fossil fuel. The side benefit is that it is super fun to drive!