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- 238-mile range, normal price
- Huge interior, small footprint
- Excellent display graphics
- Range anxiety just vanishes
- Wide view in digital mirror
- Looks smaller than it is
- Quick-charging costs extra
- Economy-car interior plastics
- Bolt name gets confused with Volt
- No AWD option
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV could become the first mainstream electric car, with a 238-mile range and a base price in the high $30,000s before incentives.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is the first mass-market electric car to offer more than 200 miles of range, a capability so far provided only by vehicles that carry Tesla badges and cost $70,000 or more. It's a tall hatchback that packs the passenger volume of a mid-size car into the footprint of a compact, and it has the potential to be the first vehicle to bring electric cars into the mainstream—or at least close. Two trim levels are offered: base LT and high-end Premier.
Shown as a concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, the Chevy Bolt EV was developed in record time by a close partnership between General Motors and battery maker LG Chem. The Korean company LG developed not only the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, but also several other powertrain components—and the digital dashboard displays too.
We rate the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV at 7.4 out of 10, with its strongest points being its lengthy range rating and the surprising interior room. We'll add a safety rating once more information is available. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Chevy Bolt EV styling and comfort
The lines of the 2017 Bolt EV work well to disguise its shape, a fairly upright and tall hatchback with a rising window line. A blanking-plate "grille" at the front is similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, and the Bolt EV's body creases give it a racier look than its basic profile indicates. With its wheels pushed out to its corners, the Bolt EV appears smaller than it really is, perhaps because of its height.
Chevy's engineers have excelled at maximizing interior volume, which is given as 94.4 cubic feet, against 92.4 cubic feet for a Nissan Leaf and 94 cubic feet for the much larger Tesla Model S. The light and airy cabin allows four adults to sit comfortably, though the "five-passenger" description is pushing it. All occupants sit high and upright, and the flat floor and a slim dash and console make the front footwells especially wide. The deep cargo bay has a false floor that matches the level of the fold-flat rear seat back, hiding a storage compartment underneath. Sliding it out gives several extra inches of load height.
The dashboard has a fully digital 8.0-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a 10.2-inch color touchscreen built into the top of the central console. The displays use thin fonts on a bright white background, making them easily legible and sophisticated at the same time. Another high-tech feature is GM's new digital rearview mirror, which uses a rear-facing camera to give a wide 80-degree image in the digital display that replaces the mirror glass.
Chevy Bolt EV performance, range, and safety
The big flat 60-kwh lithium-ion battery pack sits under the floorpan, and sends electricity to a motor that powers the front wheels. That motor is rated at up to 150 kilowatts (200 horsepower) of peak power, and 0-to-60-mph acceleration is less than 7 seconds, Chevy says. The Bolt accelerates confidently even with four adults in the car, and corners relatively flat on its 17-inch alloy wheels. We heard only occasional motor or electronics whine, and the brake feel was consistent enough that we didn't feel any transitions between regenerative and friction braking in our two laps.
Commendably, the Bolt EV offers two distinct drive modes. The normal Drive mode on the “gear selector” lever behaves just like a car fitted with an automatic transmission—complete with idle creep when the car is stopped. Many drivers will soon learn the appeal of the alternative Low range, which increases regenerative braking considerably. It will, in fact, slow the car to a complete stop without using the brakes at all.
The Bolt EV's onboard charger operates at up to 7.2 kilowatts. A portable 120-volt charging cord is housed under the load bay, but Chevy expects most Bolt drivers to recharge the large battery pack using 240-volt Level 2 charging stations, mostly overnight at home. GM quotes a charging rate of "50 miles in less than 2 hours" using Level 2, while a full recharge will take about 9 hours. The Bolt EV will also include an optional CCS fast-charging port, which GM says will provide "90 miles in 30 minutes." It's an option we strongly feel every buyer should choose.
As for safety, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested it yet, though. From the driver's seat, the vision to the front over the short nose is exceptional, which will make the Bolt easy to park. The Bolt EV is built on a dedicated architecture for electric cars, though a few suspension components and accessories are shared with other GM vehicles. Chevrolet says it's confident the Bolt EV will earn the highest safety ratings available.
Chevy Bolt EV pricing and incentives
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV carries a base price of $37,495 for the LT model, including destination charge. The Premier model starts at roughly $42,000. Both versions qualify for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, and a $2,500 purchase rebate from the state of California. The Bolt also gets the coveted "white sticker" for single-occupancy use of California carpool lanes on freeways.
While the battery pack, motor, and drive unit are manufactured in Inchon, South Korea, all Bolts will be assembled in Orion Township, Michigan. The first Bolt EVs are expected to be delivered very late in 2016.