Electric vehicles have been making their way into the mainstream since the Nissan Leaf arrived in late 2010. Today, many automakers offer some kind of electric vehicle, but almost all EVs have been constrained by their limited range. Tesla is the exception, but few can afford the price of a Model S or Model X, and the Model 3 is still only now beginning production.
But today you can go out and buy the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for less than $30,000 after the federal tax credit and upcoming state rebate is applied. Here's the value proposition in a nutshell: the Bolt is a nice car that's fun to drive and it will go 238 miles on a full charge. It's the last part that makes the Bolt a game-changing car.
Automotive writers have noticed. It won two awards at the 2017 Drive Revolution competition of alternative fuel vehicles organized in Portland by the Northwest Automotive Press Association — Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year and Northwest Battery-Electric or Fuel Cell Vehicle of the Year.
All of the available EVs are nice cars that are fun to drive. Most are about $30,000 net price, or less. But the Bolt stands alone among affordable EVs in offering a range that lets you get in and drive without worrying about whether you'll make it home if you have to run down to Salem or up to Battle Ground.
The Bolt is comfortable inside, and because it's summer, let's note that the air conditioning blows cold without seriously impacting your range. You get all kinds of nifty electronic gizmos that allow you to visualize your energy use and maximize your range, if you want to play those games. But if you just want to charge up and head to the coast or to Bend while listening to your favorite tunes, the Bolt is the EV you've been waiting for.
On the road, you'll be impressed with the speed and agility of the Bolt. Chevy put the heavy batteries under the floor, so the weight is nice and low to give the car steady handling. And the Bolt is fast! With 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque available from a standing stop, the Bolt delivers sports car performance.
Nothing's perfect, and there are still tradeoffs with the Bolt. The larger batteries take longer to fully charge than other EVs. Charging the Bolt on 120-volt normal house current takes a very long time. So if you buy a Bolt, you will need to invest about $1,200 in a Level 2, 240-volt charging station at your home. But the State of Oregon will refund you 50 percent of the charging station cost as a Residential Energy Tax Credit. See the Oregon Dept. of Energy website for details.
The bottom line is this: if you've wanted a electric vehicle, but couldn't get over the range anxiety, go test-drive the Chevrolet Bolt. This is the EV that changes everything.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV LT
Base price: $37,495
Price as tested: $39,790
Type: Compact hatchback
Engine: Electric motor (200 hp, 266 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated range: 238 miles
Overall length: 164 inches
Curb weight: 3,563 pounds
Final assembly: Lake Orion, Michigan