Tag Archives: Chevy Bolt

How Does The Chevy Bolt Compare To The Tesla Model 3?

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The reality of electric vehicles is that there are many more people who would love to drive an electric vehicle (EV) but aren’t doing so today for a number of reasons. Cost and range are the top 2 reasons, with charging being an issue for some buyers as well. The Chevy Bolt was the first mass-produced, widely available, affordable, long-range EV in the US that also happened to offer fast charging. Right on its heels is the Model 3.

Having owned a Tesla Model S for a few years and having spent some quality time with a 2017 Chevy Bolt loaner, I spent some time to compare the two in the categories I felt were most impactful based on my years as an EV driver (owning or having owned a Mercedes B250e, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model S).

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Charging

Drivers are split into two categories — those who have owned and lived with an electric vehicle and those who have not. To those who have not owned an EV, they may appreciate the benefits of driving one and have an idea what charging might look like if they were to buy an EV, but it is a different thing altogether to own an electric vehicle. Living with an EV with fewer than 100 miles of range forces the owner to work the kinks out of the system where the rubber meets the road.

Those who have taken a journey that is longer than the range of their EV understand what it is like to really, truly have to rely on public charging in their area. The Chevy Bolt is a big step for electric vehicles with regards to charging, as it has an option for a DC Fast Charging CCS port that enables much faster charge rates. While CCS chargers are not as prevalent as Tesla Superchargers, there are not as many vehicles looking to use a CCS charger to refill.

[Editor’s note: It’s important to understand that Tesla’s Superchargers allow a driver to add about 170 miles of range in ~30 minutes, whereas the Bolt is more likely to max out at about 90 miles in ~30 minutes. However, again, the faster charging stations the Bolt would need to charge this fast can probably be counted on one hand. They will be increasing in number, but not nearly as fast as Tesla’s Superchargers.]

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Chevy Bolt DCFC @ 21 kW. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Here in progressive Southern California, there are generally one or maybe two 50 amp DC Fast Charging stations in each city. They are typically bundled with a CCS and CHAdeMO port, which makes it easier for the stations to charge up a DCFC-capable vehicle but can also further restrict the charging station’s ability to deliver a charge to more than one vehicle at a time. In my time with the Bolt, I fast charged via DCFC stations several times and found the experience better than I expected, but I also realized that range anxiety came back. With just one station, it was all too easy for the station to be ICE’d with a gasmobile parked in the charging spot or found to be non-functional, which would have left me stranded.

Tesla’s foresight and upfront investment in building multi-station Level 4 Supercharging stations serves the company well in this regard. Most stations include 8 or 10 stalls, and (almost) no station has fewer than 4 stalls. Tesla is also adding stalls to high-traffic stations in advance of the flood of Model 3s that are expected to hit the road in the next 12 months.

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Oxnard Supercharger expansion from 10 to 18 stations. June 6th, 2017. Photo Credit: Kyle Field

On my 2,600 mile road trip across most of the United States in my Tesla Model S, I never worried about whether a Supercharger would be available when I arrived or even where it was, as they are built in as stops by Tesla’s integrated navigation by default. This highlights the difference between Tesla and Chevrolet. Tesla is run by people who drive electric. They understand the real barriers and benefits of electric vehicles and operate with that in mind. No other automotive manufacturer has had the foresight into electric vehicles to invest in a charging network like Tesla has … and no, VW’s dieselgate-mandated Electrify America initiative does not count.

In my mind, the first major automotive company that forces all of its executives to drive electric cars will be the first one to truly make an intelligent push into the electric vehicle market.

The Tesla Model 3 wins the charging wars with its massive network of ~130 kW Tesla Superchargers boasting multiple charging stations in an intentionally deployed, integrated charging network that spans most of the US, Europe, and several other regions around the globe. Yes, any other manufacturer could do this, and it’s just a matter of a few billion dollars … but they have not done it to date and suffer because of this inaction.

Price

Affordability of a long-range electric car was, until recently, a major constraint for those wanting to drive electric. The new $30,000 Chevy Bolt (after the US federal tax credit for ZEVs) is a major accomplishment and evidence that Tesla has indeed scared mainstream manufacturers into bringing long-range, affordable electric vehicles to market. It was clearly a response by GM to the threat of Tesla’s Model 3 and I’m sure Tesla is excited about its existence.

Before rebates, the price of the Bolt at $37,500 is slightly higher than the Model 3 at $35,000. Federal tax credits for Tesla vehicles are expected to run out in the next 12 months, meaning that anyone who is not already in the reservation queue for the Model 3 will likely not get a tax credit for it. Chevrolet has similarly produced numerous plug-in vehicles over the years and is thought to be nearing the end of the 200,000 plug-in vehicles that are eligible for the $7,500 US federal tax credit. Though, with lower demand for the Bolt (available in showrooms today), a tax credit is all but guaranteed for buyers.

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Chevrolet Bolt specs at CES reveal. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

The base Tesla Model 3 does not include important add-ons like the current Autopilot suite and full self-driving software, features expected to add thousands to the price of the vehicle. Based on data gathered by the Model 3 Owners Group, the average selling price of the Model 3 is expected to be around $50,000. That’s not to say that you have to spend that much, but most buyers will add options. Bolt does not have as many options in this regard and many buyers are comfortable with the base model with the exception of the missing DC fast charging option at $750.

I’m calling the price category a wash. Though, technically, Model 3 beats the Bolt at the base price.

Availability

For drivers who are just done driving a gasmobile, the Bolt can be purchased today, and as some of our single-car readers are aware, it meets the vast majority (if not all) of the needs of the average driver. (More on that later, though, when some of our Bolt-driving readers publish their own reviews of the car.) Deliveries of the Bolt started in December, while Model 3 will not be delivered to the first people in the reservation queue until July. Having said that, if you are not in the reservation queue for Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that you should expect to wait until late 2018 to get your Model 3.

This gives the Bolt a sizeable advantage with the average consumer, as it can literally be driven off the lot today, whereas that same luxury for Model 3 is around 18 months away for most prospective buyers — and even then, we don’t know how long demand will outstrip production capacity and force consumers to wait a bit for their cars.

Autonomous Driving

While not specifically cleantech focused, autonomous driving technology has become synonymous with Tesla. Its Autopilot suite of technology changes the driving experience for drivers today, with nearly hands-free freeway driving in most regions and Elon Musk committing the company to performing a fully autonomous hands-free cross-country road trip by the end of this year.

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Zach testing Autopilot in a Tesla Model X. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Chevrolet, on the other hand, has developed a healthy suite of autonomous driving technology that it has demonstrated in San Francisco but with none of the features included in the production version of the Chevy Bolt EV. In response to Tesla, Chevrolet has escalated the pace of its development of autonomous vehicle technology — but, again, the technology is absent in the production version nor has Chevrolet committed to bringing it to market in any future vehicles.

Model 3 will have all the hardware necessary for full self-driving functionality and clearly comes out on top for autonomous driving technology.

Performance

The Chevy Bolt is no slacker when it comes to performance. Stomp the pedal and even with its impressive traction control it is possible to chirp the tires. It boasts an impressive 0–60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and is a blast to drive. Most people do not care about a 0–60 time, and in my 7 years of owning my Prius, I had and still have no idea what it was. Performance for most is about the day-to-day driving experience, and in that regard, the Bolt delivers a peppy pedal with all the torque one could want.

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Matte Black Tesla Model 3. Image Courtesy: Tesla

The Tesla Model 3, on the other hand, will have a 0–60 time of around 6.0 seconds, with Tesla’s famous Ludicrous mode being available as an (expensive) option farther down the line. The addition of a second motor also promises to offer an incremental performance boost for those who want a faster vehicle but want to retain the ability to breathe during acceleration. Tesla has always had a sweet tooth for performance, clearly claiming it as one of the top selling points of its vehicles (example: the Tesla Model S boasts the fastest 0–60 time of any production sedan at just over 2.2 seconds!!!).

For the average driver, these two cars will feel about the same in terms of acceleration, but with Model 3 offering extra options to step it up, Tesla takes the cake for performance.

Dealership Experience

When I bought my Model S, I was very impressed by the “dealership experience” Tesla provided. It had been a few years since I had visited a dealership, as I bought my Nissan LEAF online (which was also a very satisfying, low-stress purchase). Unrelated, unsolicited, and unpaid aside: we bought our LEAF from John Dibella at Wayzata Nissan. They had (have?) LEAFs from the factory that had/have not been titled but do have a few miles on them at great discounts. I highly recommend them.

Tesla is known for its all-out customer service and held up to that high standard in spades. I was VERY impressed and enjoyed every aspect of it. Knowing that prices are not negotiable at any Tesla store anywhere in the world at any time is nice. Tesla vehicles can also be configured and purchased online, which is handy in states where Tesla still cannot operate a physical sales center.

Tesla Santa Barbara. Image Credit: Kyle Field

And then we have … Chevrolet dealerships. I went into a few to test drive the Bolt before I took possession of the loaner Chevrolet that provided to me to review for CleanTechnica, and it was an eye-opening experience. To be fair, this is not a Chevy thing — it’s a dealership thing for all major automakers with very few exceptions. The salesmen were high-pressure sales people, were uneducated on the product, and left me feeling gross. I was pressured with follow-up phone calls to the point that I had to threaten to escalate to the manager to get him to stop calling (harassing) me. This is an issue with all dealerships, not just Chevrolet, but it is a HUGE disadvantage. (Editor’s note: Automakers would do well to understand and try to solve this sooner rather than later. And, no, fighting Tesla in the courts regarding its right to sell directly to customers is not the solution.)

Similar to how conventional vehicle manufacturers should force executives to drive electric, they should also be forced to buy a car from a handful of their dealerships … and from Tesla. The contrast is stark. I like going to the Tesla dealership even though I have no reason to go there. Granted, I’m a fan, but it goes beyond that. The experience was so positive and the approach is so different. (Editor’s note: I’ve heard of other Tesla stores being places for Tesla enthusiasts to hang out as well, almost like clubhouses.)

Tesla has redefined the car-buying experience in a way that makes it a competitive advantage. If I had to choose between buying another Tesla from a dealership or having to negotiate at a Chevrolet dealership for a car … even if it were free in the end, I would be hard-pressed to not choose Tesla.

Safety

The foundation of the autonomous driving technology is a base of sensors and cameras that, even on the base Model 3, provide a brilliant array of active safety features that will enable Model 3 to perform feats like “Automatic Emergency Braking,” swerving and dodging — and even accelerating — to avoid incoming vehicles. These features truly raise the bar for what it is to be a safe vehicle. Model S and Model X are the safest vehicles in their respective classes, and with safety as the #1 priority for Tesla, all signs point to Model 3 being an extremely safe vehicle as well.

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Bolt Airbags. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

While Chevrolet offers many of these active safety features, they are only included on higher-optioned vehicles, meaning most buyers will not benefit from them. Chevrolet has high hopes for a favorable safety rating for the Bolt, and based on the performance of the Volt with its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Pick rating, I am hopeful that the Bolt will earn high marks.

Because of Tesla’s proven track record of delivering safe vehicles, the inclusion of active safety features in all current Tesla vehicles, and its safety-first focus, I’m going with Model 3 for the safety category.

Summary

The Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV are neck and neck in just about every area, and everyone will weight each of the categories differently, which makes it difficult to compare the two. With the massive advantage of the Tesla Supercharging network and the autonomous vehicle technology the Tesla Model 3 will arrive with next month, I’d say the Model 3 takes the cake. Buying a car is often an emotional decision not driven by categories or data, so take this comparison for what it is — my perspective — and do your own research. Become an expert and, most importantly, Drive Electric!

24 Hours With The 2017 Chevy Bolt (CleanTechnica Review)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Many electric vehicle designers felt the need to stand out, to create a design that flies a bold flag to everyone around that proclaims “I’m modern and different!” While this is great for individuals or businesses looking to make a bold proclamation, most people are looking for a car that looks normal, that drives like a normal car with cool features inside that make day-to-day life just a little bit easier.

Being an electric vehicle advocate, I find myself in the first group, wanting my vehicle to scream out that it is different and that it doesn’t use any gasoline, which is why I paid just a bit extra to get a custom license plate that reads “NOGAAAS”. Having said that, I fully realize that for electric vehicles to achieve mainstream adoption and to usurp petroleum-fueled vehicles, we need vehicles that appeal to the masses to replace the Chevy S10 trucks and Toyota Corollas that sell by the millions.

It’s clear that this is what the team that designed the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt had in mind. On the outside, it looks very much like many modern subcompact cars on the market today. It features styling cues that place it right in line with the current Chevrolet brand identity. It looks and feels just like a “normal” car, a great feat.

The shiny exterior, the normal look and feel, and maybe even the new car smell are all part of an elaborate ruse to camouflage what is in all likelihood the most technologically advanced vehicle ever to set rubber on the floor of a Chevrolet showroom. The hard work done by the Chevy team in such a short period of time to develop the Bolt and move it to production shines through, and that work set the new high bar for what it means to be an affordable, long-range electric vehicle. Nothing on the market today comes close to the Bolt.

Range

The Bolt is a breakthrough first and foremost because of its range. With an estimated range of 238 miles per charge, it gives drivers more all-electric miles per charge than any vehicle in its class by a large margin. To put that range to the test, I took the Bolt out from the sunny beach town of Ventura, California, to the hilly wine country of Central California to see how it would handle long jaunts of freeway driving paired with a serious climb up the coastal range.

Over nearly 200 miles, the Bolt maintained an impressive efficiency of 3.9 miles per kilowatt-hour. This is an impressive achievement considering its official rating is 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour. I attribute this to the efficient regeneration capability of the car. Given my initial results, I plan to put this to a more scientific test later in the week.

The efficiency is a noticeable improvement over the 3.0 miles per kilowatt-hour my Tesla Model S achieves on normal roads. Higher efficiency translates into faster effective charging rates that allow the vehicle to absorb more “range per hour” of charging than the Model S.

Interior Space

The Bolt is not a big car but the interior does not feel cramped. The cab-forward design enabled by the electric drivetrain puts the driver and passengers farther forward and in higher seating positions to allow for great visibility from any seat. The absence of a drive shaft and tunnel open up the center of the interior, which Chevrolet fitted with a number of roomy compartments that give drivers plenty of options for smartphones, chargers, and hand sanitizers to be stashed.

Asking my kids what they thought about the car from the back seat, they said they liked that the ride was smoother than our Model S and that it left a lot more room in the garage. I have to agree and both are nice features. For those who don’t want a large vehicle, the Bolt offers the interior features of a large car without leaving the passengers feeling cramped. I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall and fit in the car very comfortably.

Throttle Response

The first thing one notices when driving the Bolt is that the throttle response is extremely impressive. For those who have driven an electric car before, they are blown away with the snappy pedal that immediately throws your head back when punched. The EV smile comes out quickly as drivers realize that the Bolt accelerates with the speed and finesse of the famous Roadrunner from childhood cartoons, just without the “meep, meep” sound.

With the car weighing just 3,500 pounds (1,590 kilograms), mashing the pedal off the line throws you back into your seat and makes you question whether pounding the pedal was a good idea or not. The tires will squeal if you’re not careful, as the power overcomes the otherwise well tuned traction control. The torque from the motor also has the unhealthy tendency to pull the car to the right as it takes off, which is something to watch out for and potentially unsafe.

After slamming the pedal to the floor off the line a few times, it became clear that the steering is a bit squirrely after launch in general. Granted, I am not talking about the usual pace of driving around the neighborhood or on the way to get groceries, but it is worth noting. The design of the vehicle leaves the front wheels surprisingly light on the ground, and thus jittery through the acceleration of a launch. Having said that, it is a ton of fun to drive and that same 266 foot-pounds of torque all ready and waiting at zero RPMs makes this the most sporty subcompact I’ve driven — electric or not.

One-Pedal Driving

The Bolt diverges from the EVs of times gone past because of how it uses regeneration. First, the Bolt has the addition of a regeneration paddle that allows the driver to turn heavy regen on at the pull of a paddle. This paddle serves as another way to brake and can bring the vehicle to a complete stop but slows the vehicle at a more moderated rate than the actual brake pedal. On the downside, the regen paddle is either on or off. There’s no easing into it, which can make braking with the paddle nauseating if not used carefully.

The Bolt also has a “Low Drive” setting that allows for the famed one-pedal/single-pedal driving style. For drivers familiar with a Tesla, this is similar to driving with regeneration set to standard except that, in the Bolt, it can bring the vehicle all the way to a stop when the accelerator pedal is released — no need for the brake at all. Low Drive mode essentially activates aggressive regeneration when the accelerator pedal is let up.

In contrast with the regen paddle, single pedal driving in Low Drive allows the driver to throttle how much acceleration or regeneration they want based on how far the pedal is depressed. This mode admittedly takes some getting used to and can then enable mostly single pedal driving all the time. In my time with the vehicle so far, I’m a recent convert to the world of single-pedal driving and plan to use it exclusively moving forward. In summary, push pedal down = go, go, go. Release pedal = slow, slow, slow.

Traction Control

The Bolt packs a traction control system that is comparable to the system in Tesla’s Model S and X. Under normal driving conditions, it maintains solid traction and keeps the power going to the ground instead of to squealing the tires as many other EVs are prone to do.

Taking off around a right turn at full throttle or attempting what could have been interpreted as a drift slide around broad turn brought the system into question as the tires screamed in opposition, but those cases were extreme and not representative of normal driving conditions. My Tesla Model S was also able to be convinced to break traction with the ground but far less frequently. Having said that, the Bolt is the only other EV I have driven that even comes close to the traction control system in the Tesla … and at half the price.

Infotainment System

The infotainment system in the Bolt is a huge step beyond just about every other car on the road today, with a few exceptions. The 10.2″ color touch screen is beautiful and relatively intuitive to use. Users are able to customize it to their liking, but not so much as to confuse users who aren’t too tech savvy. For example, it allows users to change the color scheme, but only has 3 options. The panels on the home screen display can be rearranged, but only with a preselected set of panels.

On the awkward side, the angle of the screen is a bit strange. It is almost as though the screen were laid down at an angle to make it seem like more of a tablet, but it results in the screen looking and feeling a bit counterintuitive, just based on its physical placement.

Navigation in the Bolt is similarly awkward. I wasn’t able to find the map on the infotainment system so called the integrated On Star service to help find it. The representative I spoke with confirmed that the Bolt does not have a built-in map-based navigation system but that it was able to offer turn-by-turn directions through On Star. I gave my representative my destination and he was able to download the turn by turn directions to the vehicle.

After years of using integrated map-based navigation systems, it felt strange navigating to a destination with just the arrows and instructions. It was as if I were only driving with one eye open or with earplugs in. Something was missing. A bit of digging revealed that the integration of Apple Play and Android Auto were meant to solve this, giving connected drivers the ability to display maps from their phones on the infotainment screen.

This approach ensures that the maps being used are always current. Though, it requires the user to have a smartphone and a data connection. I see where they’re going with that … but for me, it’s a bummer. Perhaps that’s something Chevy will fix with an over-the-air update sometime in the (near) future.

Stay tuned here on CleanTechnica for more details on the 2017 Chevy Bolt as our exclusive in-depth review continues next week.

Images Credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica