2020 Chevy Bolt — An EV for the masses

By Russ Heaps
Clanging Bell

(June 27, 2020) Spending a week with the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt didn't sway me from my conviction that a fully electric vehicle isn't the sensible choice for the majority of one-vehicle households. Despite its impressive government-estimated 259-mile range, Bolt is still limited in where it can carry you before demanding more juice. And there's my beef with EVs.

Bringing Bolt's battery back to 100-percent charge from zero – even at a Fast Charging kiosk – requires the better part of two hours, according to Chevrolet. Achieving the same result on a 120-volt household-current charger is measured on a calendar. Yep, nearly three days is needed to completely recharge a depleted battery when plugged into the outlet powering your toaster. Stepping up to the 240-volt circuit powering your clothes dryer cuts that 65 hours down to a somewhat more manageable 10 hours.

Chevrolet delivered the Bolt to me in the midst of a total kitchen remodel. An intrepid do-it-yourselfer, I was fighting the clock to go from bare studs in places to a point of at least some functionality. Most of my driving that week was reserved for multiple trips daily to the home-improvement store less than two miles away. When I wasn't driving it, the Bolt was parked in my car port, plugged into a 120-volt outlet. It arrived with about 60 miles of range, but was up to its maximum a week later when Chevy retrieved it. But, for the first couple of days, I started out with no more than 70 miles of estimated range.

Have I sufficiently scared you? Well, please relax. The truth is, Bolt is an EV for the masses. Well, for the masses with $40,000 to spend on a small car. It rivals the range of the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus. EVs aren't engineered for cross-country jaunts. They excel in daily commuting. Bolt is ideal for zipping around town and visiting the state park down the road. If you've committed the investment for owning an EV, you are likely to spend the additional cash for a home rapid-charging system. You can find those online for as little as $550.

Although most drivers will average more than the 20 miles per day I put on my test 2020 Chevrolet Bolt Premier, most won't exceed 50 or 60 miles on a daily basis. With a rapid charger, topping off the battery on a typical day would require less than 30 minutes. Who can't live with that?

Chevy offers the Bolt in two flavors: the $37,890 LT and the $42,290 Premier. Both prices include the $875 factory destination charge, as well as the $395 upcharge for any color other than dark gray. They share the same battery array and electric propulsion system. Capable of launching Bolt from a standstill to 60 mph in a factory-measured 6.5 seconds, the electric motor funnels power to the front wheels via a single-speed electronic transmission.

Delivering 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, the electric motor draws its power from a 60-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack composed of 288 individual cells. Tucked away under the passenger floor, the battery, warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles, not only lowers the car's center of gravity, but it allows for more passenger and rear-cargo space.

One thing you have to love about an EV is the instant burst of acceleration when hitting the throttle. Full power and torque is instantaneous and always available. It doesn't mean much when cruising, but when accelerating from a stop, it's eye popping. Still, Bolt has more than enough giddy-up to power around slower vehicles and efficiently merge onto a busy freeway. Moreover, the steering is responsive and ride quite pleasant, particularly for a smaller car. Its size makes for easy urban parking.

Bolt delivers a spacious and comfortable passenger environment. Tidy, efficient styling is the theme running throughout the cabin. The uncluttered, contemporary design of the dashboard and center console is welcoming. On the downside, I think a car commanding, in the neighborhood of, 40 large should have a higher-end passenger space. The cabin doesn't reflect the price tag. On the other hand, people who are committed to driving electric for the sake of the environment probably won't be nearly as critical as I.

In spite of its smaller dimensions, Bolt is quite functional. Folding down the 60/40 split/folding rear seat provides sufficient space for hauling all manner of materials from the home-improvement store. Longer items, such as eight-foot boards, fit nicely between the comfortable front bucket seats.

The base LT grade comes with a wide range of features, such as 17-inch aluminum wheels, full power accessories, heated outboard mirrors, auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights/taillights, 10 air bags, automatic climate control, cruise control, driver info center, teen-driver controls, remote keyless entry, push-button start, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, tire-fill alert, programmable vehicle charging, rearview camera, OnStar connected services capability, Bluetooth connectivity, Chevrolet infotainment system, 10.2-in touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, two USB ports, satellite-radio capability, available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

My Premier grade added a number of extras and upgrades like lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, rear-camera mirror, rear-park assist, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, HD surround vision, heated rear outboard seats and more.

Options for LT include several of the Premier standard features. Both grades can be upgraded with other safety technology.

I did enjoy my week with the Bolt. It didn't convert me, but I get the appeal. Not only is it fuel efficient, but it's enjoyable to drive, as well as surprisingly functional.