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  • First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    Posted on July 19th, 2017 ninarussin

    EV boasts extended range, versatility and connectivity features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    Chevrolet has entered the EV world with both feet in, following up on the success of the second-generation Volt extended-range vehicle with the Bolt: a pure electric small crossover with 238-mile driving range according-to the manufacturer.

    The Bolt doesn’t have quite the interior space or driving range of the larger Volt since there is no gasoline engine in reserve, but its well-configured interior, enhanced connectivity and fun-to-drive character should hold lots of appeal for buyers who have been considering an electric car, but were deterred by pricier competitors, or vehicles with significantly less range.

    EVs by their nature are rocket ships off the line, since electric motors develop peak power at very low speeds. The Bolt has the distinction of offering the most powerful electric motor in the segment: 150kW, making the car capable of sub-seven second zero-to-sixty acceleration.

    Pricing for the base LT model starts at $37,495 before the federal rebate while the upscale Premier model starts at $41,780. The car becomes available in 48 states this August.

    Packaging

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    One of the biggest challenges EV designers face is where to put the battery pack. While new lithium-ion technology has made battery packs smaller and lighter than the lead-acid batteries of the earliest pure-electric cars and nickel metal hydride batteries that followed, a battery pack with enough capacity to power a car is still relatively heavy and big.

    The Bolt battery pack consists of 288 lithium-ion cells packaged into five modules that together weight about 960 pounds. The battery pack is located under the floor of the car, beginning at the first-row of seats and ending behind the second-row.

    To minimize overall weight gain, engineers made extensive use of high-strength alloy steel and aluminum throughout the vehicle. Neither trim level comes with a sunroof, the reason being that glass is heavy. To their credit, engineers managed to include leather upholstery and offer a Bose seven-speaker audio system on the Premier grade, while keeping the curb weight below 4000 pounds (the LT weighs in at 3580).

    They also put stickier tires on the car than what one typically finds on standard-issue low rolling resistance treads, working with Michelin to offer maximum traction to offset the car’s peppy propulsion system.

    Buyers with active lifestyles will appreciate the availability of roof rails with crossbars for adding an overhead rack or gear carrier as well as a false load floor on the Premier model that creates a flat cargo space that can be extended by folding the second-row seats flat. Again, the cargo bay isn’t as roomy as the Volt’s, but on a rainy day a road bike frame should fit inside, though it might require removing both wheels.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    This week I had the chance to get behind the wheel of the Bolt EV LT for a short drive on surface streets and highways through Scottsdale, Arizona as well as the two-lane Bush Highway that runs north-south along the western edge of the Superstition Mountains. Chevrolet’s electrified small crossover lived up to the manufacturer’s promise of appealing performance and interior comfort.

    Engineers designed the car for one-pedal driving. Using regenerative braking, the Bolt will come to a complete stop when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal. A regenerative paddle on the steering wheel enables the driver to stop more quickly without using the foot brake, although the foot pedal will always stop the car fastest. The more the driver can avoid sudden stops, the better range he will experience with the vehicle.

    The electric motor is mated to a shift and park by-wire system that works quite seamlessly to replace the traditional step transmission found in a gasoline-powered car or continuously-variable setup popular in hybrids.

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    Acceleration is, as promised, robust. We had no problems moving to the front of the entry ramp on the highway or passing slower vehicles at speed along the two-lane Bush thoroughfare. The battery pack under the floor gives the bolt excellent stability by providing a low center of gravity.

    Response from the electric power assist steering system is impressive, both on the low end and on-center feel at speed. There is none of the numb, disconnected feel that some competitive systems suffer from. The Bolt’s 35.4-foot turning circle gives it excellent maneuverability in crowded parking lots or parallel parking on the street.

    The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut system up front and torsion beam rear axle. The solid rear end is more compact that an independent suspension, enabling engineers to maximize rear passenger room and room in the cargo bay. Since the roads we drove on were relatively smooth, it was hard to tell how well the torsion beam would function on uneven road surfaces, especially with the weight of the battery pack on top of it.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good. Available blind spot monitoring makes it easier to weave through dense traffic by illuminating LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The car comes standard with a rearview camera. A surround-vision camera with bird’s eye view is standard on the Premier.

    Quiet interior

    Bolt4Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior without significant weight gain from sound-deadening materials. All models come with keyless entry and start. Manual seat adjustments are easy to reach. I found both the driver and front passenger seat had plenty of lower lumbar support for our two-hour test drive. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and a safe distance from the front airbag.

    Both the gauge cluster and floating center stack screen are bright and easy to read.

    Recharging

    The Bolt comes with a 7.2 kW onboard charger for recharging with 240-volt household current. According-to the manufacturer, recharging for the typical 50-mile commute takes about two hours. A full recharge takes nine hours.

    Chevrolet also sells a 240-volt wall charging unit through its accessories line for $699. Owners who want to use DC fast-charging stations can purchase a DC unit for the car, providing enough energy on a 30-minute recharge for 90 minutes of driving.

    Standard safety

    The Chevrolet Bolt comes with ten airbags, daytime running lamps, rearview camera, OnStar with automatic crash response and emergency roadside assistance and tire pressure monitoring.

    Chevrolet produces the Bolt at its Orion assembly plant in Michigan.

    Like: A versatile, fun-to-drive electric vehicle with advanced active safety and connectivity features and a range of over 200 miles.

    Dislike: The Bolt’s range will still limit drivers wanting to take longer road trips.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Bolt LT
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $37,495
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 200 HP
    Torque: 266 lbs.-ft.
    Zero-to-sixty: 6.5 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Yes
    Side curtain airbags: Yes
    First aid kit: No
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Driving range: 238 miles on a full charge.

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