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AFS:  Behind the Wheel   2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Slide 1 AFS:  Behind the Wheel   2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Slide 2 AFS:  Behind the Wheel   2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Slide 3
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AFS: Behind the Wheel 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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We get behind the wheel of the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier and discover a great car that just happens to be fully electric!

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AFS: Behind the Wheel 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

  1. 1. Behind the Wheel:
  2. 2. With the emerging electric vehicle market, the toughest nut to crack will be the entry-level. Creating a luxury car leaves room to ramp up volume and demand a higher price. But selling a low-price electric vehicle requires appealing to a large market, keeping costs low, and organizing production for high volumes. None of which have been successfully accomplished, yet. With market leader Tesla planning to enter this field with the Model 3, anticipation for the EV industry explosion has been high. The bad news for Tesla is that Chevrolet has a leg up on the them with an excellent product. Discussions of poor quality and production ramp-up issues are hampering Tesla, but Chevrolet’s Bolt EV just needs the demand to catch up. The Bolt’s cabin is laid out comfortably. The front seating height is high, so the view outward is better than average. The seats are deceptively simple. The seat backs subtly wrap around in much the same way early bucket seats held you in place without being obtrusive. Unlike those early seats, the Bolt’s seat backs have a bit of lumbar support. The seat bottoms also have subtle side bolsters that do a good job of locating your posterior without trapping you behind something you’ll have to climb over while entering or exiting the car. Interior quality is a bit of a mixed bag. While the instrumentation is clear and reconfigurable, the dash materials are hard plastic. This is in sharp contrast to the pleasantly soft steering wheel and nice cloth seating areas. At a distance, the dashboard is modern with a distinctive blue accent light running across, which may be annoying to passengers at night. The firm texture, however, belies the Bolt EV’s price tag. Controls fall easily to hand, though I found the wonderfully thick and grippy steering wheel to be a bit small in diameter. The information layout on both screens is intuitive. Basic control operation can be executed quickly enough, though any intricate operations make you wish you’d read the Owner’s Manual first. Manipulating the shifter with your right hand causes you to find the reverse-gear lockout switch under your right thumb. Pressing that allows you to pull the lever to the left, thus engaging reverse gear. Anyone who has experienced Jaguar’s fabled J Gate will appreciate the homage. Many others will be left fumbling for the ability to back out of a parking space until the movement becomes rote. Another unique feature is the Gentex- supplied digital rear-view mirror. Looking out the rear-view mirror seems to be just like any other car’s mirror. But flip the switch which would typically dim the mirror and it becomes an HD display for the rear-view camera. On the plus side, the clear camera provides an excellent nighttime view of the traffic behind the vehicle. However, it takes quite a bit of time to acclimate to the display. The natural focus in a standard mirror is fifty feet (or so) deep where the digial mirror’s display is flat and a foot or so from the driver’s eyes. Farsighted drivers will find the system difficult to use. Ready to drive forward, step-off is sedate. Speed gathers slowly, regardless of the pressure placed on the throttle (potentiometer, perhaps?). This feels like an electronic intrusion, as if the software was written to defeat jack-rabbit starts. But once at speed, things change. Mid-range throttle response can be surprising, if not explosive. The instantaneous application of torque makes the Bolt move smartly through traffic, and into the next lane if that’s the driver’s intention. But such maneuvers come at a cost to battery reserves. The throttle is best used in a low-key manner. Don’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, and you’ll arrive at your destination almost rested. Throughout your journey, there is no noise or vibration from a traditional gasoline motor to disturb or distract all on board. NVH are almost non- existent.
  3. 3. Driving in traffic, drivers can switch between two ways of bringing the Bolt to a halt. Applying the brake pedal slowly lights the Regeneration icon on the dash. However, pressing past the regeneration section of pedal travel brings a somewhat unsettling feeling. The brakes lose all feedback to the driver. And while in this “dead-zone”, they feel as if they’re doing a worse job of bringing the car to a halt. It’s completely counter intuitive to what most drivers expect and takes some getting used to before a driver becomes confident in their operation. The second way to stop the Bolt makes a driver feel virtuous. Using the regeneration paddle on the left underside of the steering wheel brings the Bolt to a positive, controlled stop. Though there is the question of how far the car will roll while decelerating. It does take a little practice to gauge the appropriate stopping distance before relying on the paddle in traffic. Shifting the drive selector into the “L” position creates a uniquely EV experience. Sometimes referred to as “one pedal” driving, speed of the Bolt EV can be controlled almost entirely with the driver’s right foot. After getting accustomed to it, the brake pedal is only needed in emergency situations. Apply the accelerator in the normal fashion to drive but speed is regulated by the regeneration effect of the motors. Properly utilized, the car can be brought to a full stop just by releasing the accelerator. Drivers with decades of experience will take longer to make the transition, but once there, it becomes natural and the ultimate way to extend the distance between recharges. Underway, the Bolt offers some surprises. Maneuvering in stop-and-go conditions, the car behaves as you would expect, the brake pedal notwithstanding. Steering is precise, but somewhat numb. There isn’t a lot of feedback to the driver through the wheel. But quick maneuvers can be accomplished with confidence. The car handles very well indeed. The highway reveals the Bolt’s great strength as well as it’s weakness. It’s strength is the aforementioned handling. The masses of the electric motor and lithium ion battery are located between the center lines of the axles. The extremely stiff chassis combines with a very well dampened suspension ensures the Bolt takes corners at speed with little or no body roll, but the short wheelbase creates a rocking action when driving over broken pavement. The low-rolling resistance, narrow cross- section tires display their limits gradually and intuitively, which keeps a check on a driver’s urge to explore the Bolt’s performance envelope. The Bolt’s biggest weakness is its range at highway speeds. Cruising at up to 70 mph, the Bolt’s readouts indicate a steady and measured decline in range left on the battery’s charge. Above 70 mph, the battery’s discharge rate increases dramatically. Travelling 100 miles with half of battery reserves left at highway speeds increases the dreaded range anxiety levels. Even the occasional excursion above the 70 mph limit will see the gauge reveal the hefty cost to battery reserve. Driving in stop-and-go traffic is where the Bolt EV shines. The distance-to-recharge display calculates range based on the most recent driver’s relative leadfootedness. When the car arrived, a full charge equated to a driving range of just over 200 miles. After a 25-mile commute, the range dropped fewer than 10 miles, proving that the estimated 238-mile range is possible in real-world driving. With all of the Bolt’s baked-in quality and goodness, not being able to sustain highway speeds seems to be the car’s biggest weakness. A two-speed final drive may be the easiest way to overcome the problem as it would allow the electric motor to make fewer revolutions at speed. Every automaker plans to add an EV or three over the next five years or so. Being first to market does not always bring the best answer, but in this case, Chevrolet has an excellent vehicle. Exposure to EVs like this, perhaps at ride-and-drives or even driver’s education classes, could easily convert skeptical drivers of traditional ICE vehicles. The Bolt EV is reasonably priced (around US$40,000 before local and $7,500 federal tax credits), fun to drive, and quite usable for 90% of all drivers. For buyers looking to swap their gas or hybrid for an EV, the currently available Bolt EV should give the people waiting for a Model 3 a reason to question their wait. - Conrad Layson, Brian Maxim, Joe McCabe, and Sam Fiorani Model Tested: 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier Body Style: 4-door hatchback Segmentation: C-Segment Base Price: $40,905 Price as Tested: $43,905 Fuel Economy: 119 MPGe (238 miles; 28 kWh per 100 mi) Motor 150kW/360Nm permanent magnet Battery 60kWh lithium ion Length: 4,166mm Width: 1,765mm Height: 1,594mm Wheelbase: 2,600mm Follow us:

We get behind the wheel of the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier and discover a great car that just happens to be fully electric!

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