2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Plug and play?
Price: $43,905 as tested; $40,905 base price. Driving confidence package added $495. More options discussed throughout.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the "sprightly acceleration, long driving range, spacious cabin," but not the "dorky styling, cheap interior materials, gets costly with key options."
Marketer's pitch: "Forward thinking that takes you farther."
Reality: Almost ready for everyday driving. Well, weather permitting.
No comparison: Comparing the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt as electric vehicles is a lot like me comparing the Audi A3 and the Hyundai Accent because they're both gasoline-powered vehicles. It's not fair.
What it is: The all-new electric hatchback looks quite like a Spark and offers a long range — 238 miles advertised. That's along the lines of the Model 3, but the Model 3 also has an extended range battery option that goes 310 miles. But the price is about $12,000 more.
Charging … charging: I'm sitting at the EVGo charging station on Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia. It's 12:51 p.m.
The website told me I could get to 80 percent charge in just half an hour.
The dashboard — when I finally got the machine set up properly — informed me that I'd have 80 percent charge at 2 p.m. That's an hour and 10 minutes by my count. But in the end, it took only about 50 minutes to get the Bolt there.
Fortunately, I had the time, but normally I don't. And this is after paying $750 for DC fast charging provisions.
Electric life: If you're buying a Bolt or a Tesla, the first consideration needs to be range. And infrastructure.
My life is built on the internal-combustion engine. I drive 25 miles to teach three days a week. One day, that is followed by a 55-mile trip to work. Then 42 miles back home. Bye-bye, juice. I'll need to figure out a place to plug in.
Out in the cold: And battery charge is complicated by the weather.
If you don't live in San Diego or the Mediterranean coast, forget everything you've read about electric vehicle ranges. A slight dip in temperatures to the 30s and 40s drained the battery capacity and turned the Bolt 230-mile range into about 180.
Teslas are not immune to this either — the long-range Model 3 will likely have 200 of its 310-mile maximum available, according to owners' comments.
Up to speed: Pickup in electric vehicles is super fast. The vehicle gets to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver. And no transmission is required, so shifts are nonexistent.
Feeling Low: Low mode on the gear selector does offer extra power from regenerative braking. In that mode, the brake pedal becomes almost optional because lifting one's foot from the accelerator starts the brakes engaging.
On the curves: The Bolt handles like the light, tiny car it is. Zipping around turns is fine, but the car does lean a bit and the handling is not exciting.
Driver's Seat: The Bolt seats feel like Econobox seats — a little on the small side, thinly padded and kind of uncomfortable. The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat felt they fit her well, so they're better for smaller people.
Controls: Where the Model 3 feels like a whole new world, the Bolt feels like a Chevy. The steering wheel buttons are the same I've seen in GM models since I started this gig almost eight years ago, and I think they're looking a little tired.
Friends and stuff: The Bolt beats the Model 3 for roominess. Passengers sit tall, so rear-seat guests feel well accommodated. Sturgis Kid 4.0 enjoyed the spacious legroom for his 6-foot-2-inch frame; it's a bit more roomy than the Model 3.
The hatchback offers plenty of storage: 56.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.
Play some tunes: The Bose Premium stereo ($485) in the Bolt EV has the uncanny ability to play things clearly; I noticed parts in songs I'd never really heard before and even couldn't believe I was hearing my favorite live version of a Tom Petty song. Even so, the songs just mostly sounded somehow wrong.
Still, clarity is far more than most stereos offer, so A-.
Volume is controlled via a dial, and skip tracks or change stations through arrows.
Where it's built: Lake Orion, Mich.
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability to be a 5 out of 5.
In the end: Anyone planning to buy a fully electrified vehicle needs to invest in a home charger — or at least a 240-volt outlet in the garage. But you also have to think about where you live and work.
Now perhaps this is simply showing me the ridiculousness of my lifestyle. But I'm stuck with it for now — and even if I could change, what if I'm stuck with it again later?
So I salute people who are going this route, and I wanted to get solidly behind the EV movement. The Tesla experience moved me there, but the reality of cold weather and batteries — not so much the Bolt EV — brought me back down to earth.
We should all work these issues out because I'd highly recommend either the Bolt or the Model 3.