Step aside, Tesla. The Chevy Bolt has made a move to steal headlines in the electric-car market.
What’s cool: First affordable electric car to break the 200-mile range barrier.
Favorite feature: Zooms from zero to 60 mph in under seven seconds.
Competes with: Nothing now, then the Tesla Model 3 when it comes out next year (maybe).
Price tag: $37,495 before tax credit and rebates.
The second wave of plug-in electric cars is coming, and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is leading the charge with a best-in-class range of 238 miles. Combine that with its $37,495 price tag — minus credits and rebates — and the Bolt will likely appeal to much more mainstream buyers.
Tesla has been teasing the car-buying public with promises of the Model 3, starting at $35,000, but it won’t be on sale until the end of 2017 — though Tesla is already taking deposits — and will offer only 215 miles of range. Now, Chevrolet has stolen Tesla’s thunder by being the first to offer an affordable all-electric, five-passenger hatchback by the end of 2016. The Bolt — not to be confused with the plug-in electric hybrid Chevy Volt — recently proved its EPA-rated 238 range in real-world testing.
Until now, most affordable electric vehicles offered only 100 miles of range and, as such, were considered errand runners and commuter cars. But breaking the 200-mile barrier opens new horizons for the EV owner who wants to make round-trip drives from Los Angeles to San Diego or Santa Barbara.
The beauty of Chevy’s move is that the bar has been raised. When other soon-to-be-redesigned EVs are launched — such as the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen e-Golf — they’ll have to match that number if they want to stay in the game. Put another way, 200 is the new 100.
The Bolt can be recharged on household current (110 to 120 volts). But for faster recharges, owners may want to install a 240-volt home charger, costing between $500 and $1,000 and providing an estimated 25 miles of range for every hour of charging. With the optional DC Fast Charging connection, the Bolt would add about 90 miles of range in 30 minutes.
Although recharge times are important, most EV owners plug in when they arrive home and leave them charging overnight to take advantage of reduced electricity rates. Furthermore, recharging never begins on empty because most EV drivers arrive home with a partial charge.
A test drive wasn’t available yet for the Bolt. However, those few auto journalists who’ve been allowed to drive one report that it’s quiet and responsive, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in under seven seconds thanks to a 200-horsepower, 150-kilowatt motor. Unlike a gas-powered car, the Bolt uses a direct-drive transmission so it accelerates without interruption of gear shifts. This makes plenty of power available for midrange passing maneuvers. Drivers find the combination of a silent motor and instant torque to be a pleasurable mix.
The Bolt battery pack is mounted under the car, giving it a low center of gravity, which improves the handling by counteracting body roll. The tall windows provide excellent visibility.
Shoppers are often scared away from buying an electric car because of high price tags, but the final cost to the buyer is a combination of many factors. Buyers can use a $7,500 federal tax credit. If the car is leased, the manufacturer takes the credit and often passes the savings along in the form of reduced monthly payments. Furthermore, California offers a $2,500 cash rebate for buyers and those who lease the car, significantly cutting the cost.
Another perk for electric-car drivers is entry into the carpool lane, a time saver and frustration reducer. Several states allow EV drivers to enter the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For those who see time as money, this is an attractive benefit.
EV owners also will discover that the cost of charging a battery is much less than filling a gas tank. The EPA rates the fuel efficiency of the Bolt at the equivalent of 128 mpg highway and 100 mpg city.
The Bolt comes in two trim levels, the LT and the more upscale Premier edition with leather seating. A 10.2-inch screen in the center of the dashboard serves as a navigation system and monitors the efficiency of the motor and charge level of the battery pack. The Bolt offers the latest safety equipment as an option in the LT trim that includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist. The Premier trim includes “surround vision” as standard equipment, using four cameras, and an option package that includes forward collision avoidance, lane centering and front pedestrian braking.
Although the footprint is small, the interior is designed for maximum efficiency. Fold-flat seats increase the versatile cargo area, and a hidden storage compartment is available in the rear.
The Bolt is expected to be a game-changer because of its increased range and lower price tag. But keep in mind that Nissan, VW and Tesla will soon launch redesigned or upgraded electric cars. Keep an eye on the market for news of upcoming models and release dates. Add in the cost of buying a charging station, or make sure you can get by on slower charging at available household current. And remember that pricing an EV is a matter of researching all tax credits, deductions and rebates.
Although people love talking about electric cars, few actually take the plunge. Therefore, it’s hard to predict the acceptance of the Bolt. It’s safe to say, though, that there will be a large number of “early adopters.” If you’re interested in buying one early in the game, contact your local Chevrolet dealers and get the names of salespeople who will be handling the Bolt. Find out how you can reserve a Bolt and ask about pricing. It’s possible that early arrivals will be sold for full sticker price. Waiting even a few months could cut the price.
Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The article 2017 Chevrolet Bolt: The Next Game-Changer for Electric Cars originally appeared on NerdWallet.