(Thanks to Zac Hall for images and video and checking out the back seats/CarPlay)

I have two electric cars at home – a plug-in Prius and a base model 2013 Tesla Model S. Yesterday, I drove the car that felt like their natural offspring: the compact crossover Chevy Bolt…

Run your house off your car and an inverter

The Bolt is GM’s first long-range electric car, promising over 200 miles of range. GM invited us to test a Bolt that showed 199 miles left on the display, after being driven 38 miles. Note that this Bolt is a prototype, and prototypes aren’t final versions of the car, a point our Chevy rep made extra sure we were aware.

I’d guess we were sitting on a roughly 60kWh battery, the same as the original base (but much bigger) Tesla Model S. That may vary in the final version, likely lower by some factor. But make no mistake, this is a long-range electric vehicle that even meets Elon Musk’s battery standards.

Chevy-Bolt-EV-1

The car itself sits high like a Prius, if not more so because of the location of the battery pack under the cabin. If CES 2016 is any indication, it seems like all electric vehicles going forward will borrow the Tesla Model S “battery between the wheels” layout scheme. Faraday and others had no problems copying this, and for good reason: it makes repairs and replacements easy, creating a low center of gravity and lots of space. The Bolt is no different, and Chevy used the opportunity to make the wheelbase longer.

The center stack is anchored by a 10.2-inch capacitive MyLink touch display which also has an array of physical buttons at the bottom. In a nod to Tesla, the Chevy rep told us that customers want physical buttons when they drive, and I’m actually in pretty strong agreement here. Being able to touch buttons rather than a smooth display allows you to keep your eyes on the road rather than the screen. Speaking of 10-inch tablets, Chevy has built a deep center console that holds an iPad, in case the Bolt’s display gets lonely.

Chevy-Bolt-3

The interior of the Bolt is spacious, with almost 95 cubic feet of space. That outsizes much larger cars due to the elongated wheelbase, thin seatbacks and lack of a foot bay hump in the rear – a stark contrast to the Volt, which has a huge battery block running down the middle of the rear seating area. The Bolt’s trunk is also large and easy to access via hatchback, though the prototype car was deliberately obscured to hide most of the features of the doors and panels.

Chevy Bolt-EV

In the center, you’ll also find four USB ports, though the amperage wasn’t immediately known for each. Also, 4G LTE connectivity is now standard on GM cars. The Bolt has big antennas capable of grabbing a cellular signal even when a phone inside can’t connect to a tower.

Probably the most interesting technology is the rear-view mirror, which turns into a wide-angle video display like one of those cheesy hotel mirrors.  Unlike hotel mirrors, however, the car’s wide-angle display is very useful, as it shows a much wider and unobstructed view of the surroundings than the reflective service. You switch from camera to mirror with a switch that works like a night/brights switch in a traditional rear-view mirror.

Overall, the Bolt has a comfy interior feel that feels a lot like the very popular Toyota Prius.

Driving

As you can see in the video above, the Bolt gets off the line quickly. I wasn’t able to take it to its 90-mile-per-hour top speed in the parking lot. but I was able to test its sub-3-second 0-30, which is important for its target city driving. Chevy says it goes from 0-60 in under seven seconds, which is quite good for a compact crossover that isn’t made by Tesla.

Driving the Bolt feels a lot like driving a compact Chevy, which isn’t a good or bad thing. I’ve driven the SparkEV a few times and it reminded me of this experience. The turning radius isn’t as good as you’d expect from a small car, probably because of the longer wheel base.

What I did like was the “One Petal” drive mode, which is a lot like the re-gen mode on the Tesla… except Chevy takes this a step further, adding a paddle to the steering wheel so you can invoke a stronger brake that will actually bring the car to a stop. This technology not only recoups physical energy and turns it into stored power, but also saves the traditional brakes from wear and heat.

Although there are other modes (including “sport” which makes the power draw quicker), I think most Bolt Owners will prefer One Pedal mode over the long term, just like on the Tesla Model S.

Chevy-BoltEV

While you may or may not be able to get over 200 miles of range on this thing, the big missing link for me (and advantage for Tesla) is supercharging. Yes, you’ll be able to get a full charge overnight from a level 2 charger which will address 99% of needs. But there still isn’t a way to drive the Bolt on long road trips. The SAE DC chargers available aren’t half as fast as Tesla’s, and that will make recouping 150 miles of range take over an hour. That’s no way to live.

Wrap up

Chevy-bolt-1

The point of the Bolt isn’t to be the best car in the world. There are a series of compromises that make this thing accessible and under $30,000 after the $7,500 Federal tax credit.

But those compromises are in the right areas. The core of this car is exactly what we love here at Electrek: it is a very useful electric car, and comfortable for 4 passengers with lots of room. The instrumentation is good, it works with CarPlay and soon Android Auto, it has LTE from AT&T, and the biggest battery pack built outside of Fremont, CA.

We can’t wait to spend more time with the Bolt… and compare it to the Tesla Model 3.

Chevy-Bolt

Chevy’s Press release follows:

LAS VEGAS – Chevrolet is introducing the 2017 Bolt EV at the Consumer Electronics Show, fulfilling its promise to offer a long-range, affordable electric vehicle for the masses.

The Bolt EV, which will go into production by the end of 2016, will offer more than 200 miles of range on a full charge. It also features advanced connectivity technologies designed to enhance and personalize the driving experience.

“It was less than a year ago that we revealed the Bolt EV concept and promised to deliver a long-range electric vehicle attainable by the masses,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said. “The Bolt EV is capable of using the latest mobile app technology to enable car sharing, advanced GPS routing and gamification, all designed to enhance the ownership experience now and into the future.”

Connectivity Simplifies Ownership Experience

The Bolt EV benefits directly from the suggestions and ideas of Volt owners and features technologies that make owning a long-range electric vehicle easy.

The Bolt EV’s connectivity innovations will provide smart, personalized solutions for managing the driving experience. For example, in the future an accurate driving range projection will be based on the time of day, typography, weather and the owner’s driving habits.

Bluetooth low-energy – designed specifically for the Bolt EV to minimize energy draw – seamlessly connects a smart phone to the car while the owner approaches the vehicle.

Many of the Bolt EV’s driver-focused technologies are supported by OnStar 4G LTE, which turns the Bolt EV into a Wi-Fi hotspot, giving owners easier access to apps and services via a high-speed wireless connection.

Other connectivity and infotainment features include:

  • 10.2’’ MyLink color touch-screen display
    • Customizable, widget-based “flip-board style” operation
  • Rear Camera Mirror
    • Rear-facing camera provides a wide-angle view of the environment behind the vehicle. 
  • Surround Vision
    • Provides a bird’s-eye view of what’s around the Bolt EV for improved safety during low-speed driving and when parking.
  • All-New MyChevrolet Mobile App: Combines important owner and vehicle information and functions, such as:
    • Vehicle charge status
    • OnStar Map service
    • Remote start
    • Cabin pre-conditioning
    • Owner’s manual information
    • Dealer service scheduling
  • EV Navigation Mapping
    • EV-specific navigation capability that designs routes to maximize range and provide locations of nearby charging station locations if needed.
  • Gamification
    • In the future, Bolt EV owners will be able to “compete” by comparing driving styles to determine who is driving most efficiently.

The Bolt EV will be built at GM’s Orion (Mich.) Assembly facility, near Detroit.

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 115 countries and selling around 4.8 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.