I’ve had my 2017 Chevy Bolt for over a month now and have been pleasantly surprised about how much it has to offer. Like I really, really love this car even months after our review. While I still prefer my twice as expensive 2013 Tesla Model S overall, there are a number of areas where the Bolt beats the Tesla – and I mean the 2013 Model S but also in many cases Tesla’s new/upcoming models as well. Some of these things Tesla could choose to fix, but most are inherent design decisions.
Also I should note before y’all head to the comments that we love all EVs here at Electrek and before a Tesla vs. Bolt fight breaks out remember that we’re all on the same “Team EV” here.
And with that, let’s look at some advantages of a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV…
- Regenerative braking – The Bolt’s L mode is already stronger on regen that the Model S and with the left hand paddle that adds more regen, I can come to a complete stop in all but emergency braking situations without ever touching the actual brake. The Model S has fantastic regenerative braking but I need to use the brake way more often. I could see going weeks or months without ever touching the Bolt’s brake. I don’t think either car will ever need any brake work but the Bolt’s will certainly last longer and produce less brake dust.
- 4G LTE Hotspot in the car. Why? Because both my Tesla Model S and Chevy Bolt get way better signal than either of our phones and even a MiFi hotspot. The reason is because with a car, you can put seriously powerful antennas on the hotspot and get a signal even when phones and their compact circuitry are out of range (also the FCC allows way more transmit power on a car than a pocket device). Could Tesla do this? Sure but billing software is a concern says CEO Elon Musk. Chevy/AT&T give me 3GB of data to start with and a $20/month option which I’ll be tempted to buy when my free data runs out.
- CarPlay/Android Auto. I’ve got a great set of apps and music on my smartphone and Carplay and Android Auto both work great for me on the Bolt. As good as Tesla’s version of Google Maps is and its OK voice recognition and music app, it is unlikely to get to Android or iOS level. Add the messaging options and other apps and the advantage is clearly with the Bolt, even with its half the Tesla-sized, but still bright and capable screen.
- Size: The Tesla Model S and Model X are huge cars. They weigh a lot with their huge batteries and they take up every inch of a parking spot or a garage. Sure that space is nice to have on a long trip but lugging all of that car around day to day becomes a chore. The Bolt on the other hand with its “Micro Crossover” design is big on the inside with a bunch of headroom and cargo space but small on the outside. The amount of space in our garage we save with the Bolt, even over our old Prius, is substantial. When I just need to make a quick dash to the store? Bolt…every time.
- Ride Height. Since we are comparing the Model S and the Bolt, it should be noted that you sit about a foot higher in the Chevy. That means you can see more of the road and adds visibility and some confidence in driving. The BMW-like surround cameras when backing up and parking don’t hurt here either.
- Getting in/out. That ride height also translates into making the car easier to get in and out. At “crossover” height, it is easy to kind of lean over into the seat and do the same getting out. On the Model S, you are getting much lower and have to climb out. For my parents who have some mobility issues, getting in and out of the Bolt is way easier than the Model S. Obviously, Tesla’s taller Model X and 3 may not have this “problem”.
- Winter FWD vs RWD. Since we are comparing base models, Tesla’s is rear wheel drive (RWD) and the Bolt is front wheels drive (FWD). For driving pleasure, I’d take RWD any day of the week but when it is snowy outside, FWD definitely feels a lot safer especially into slippery turns. Give the advantage to the Bolt in the winter, unless of course you want AWD, which in electric car world, is still a Tesla exclusive.
- Perceived pretentiousness factor – reduced. My wife doesn’t like taking the Tesla to work because she doesn’t want to have a better car than her boss. Even though we got ours when Teslas were selling for $49,000, people think you are driving a $100,000 car (and frankly it is exotic enough to warrant that). But that’s not great when you want to blend in. The Bolt looks and acts like a (hot) hatchback which is standard fare in these parts.
- Charging can be better…sometimes. In our garage like many, the power is toward the back and that means the Bolt’s front based charger is easier to get to. When doing public charging stations, I don’t need to back in nor do I need a Tesla->J1772 adapter. Oh, and there happen to be some Chademo/CSS combo stations at the ski resort we frequent near Bennington/Manchester Vermont. We had to buy the $450 Chademo adapter for the Tesla to use these (which are overpriced, flawed NRG EVGO stations that need to be restarted every 30 mins). Overall however, Tesla’s Supercharger network is the best in the business by many order of magnitudes. I really hope that in the near future, every EV can use every charging station.
- More range per kWh. Both cars have 60kWh batteries but I can easily get 240 miles out of the Bolt. Even when the Model S was new, I didn’t get 210 miles because it is a much bigger car. Now, 4.5 years later, I get in the high 190s – which is a very small degradation for a car that has 50K miles and lots of DC charging under its belt. However, our trip to the Vermont mountains is about 180 miles which means the Bolt will make it without issue while the Tesla will likely need to charge along the way to be safe.
Notice I didn’t mention Chevy’s dealers or GM’s politics here. I think both of those really
suck need work and of course there are a ton of things I love about the Tesla Model S over the Bolt (or any other car for that matter). But I think the GM engineers who built the Bolt should be applauded – they’ve built an extremely fun car that is easy to drive and frankly fall in love with.