The lowest-priced EV in the US is somehow also one of the best. Now in its sixth year, the Bolt EV is also seasoned, having worked through a battery fiasco/recall and significant lapses by GM’s decision-makers while receiving modest but significant updates.
With a clean bill of health, the Bolt is now a huge outlier in bang-for-buck. But the 2023 Bolt is also quick, fun to drive, useful, and often more so than cars twice its price. In fact, I think we should be looking to the diminutive Bolt as the future of transportation.
2022 EV landscape
2022 was an interesting year for EVs. The leader in the space, Tesla, still commands over 60% of the market share in the US and many developed countries. But as traditional automakers ramp up their EV output, that dominance will recede. The Austin-based company hasn’t really done too much in the way of upgrading its cars this year, however. Instead it focused on production, opening new plants in Austin and Berlin and ramping up its Shanghai plant while achieving record breaking quarters, one after another.
There were a ton of new vehicles we loved, however, including E-GMP platform vehicles from the greater Hyundai including the quick charging and beautifully equipped IONIQ 5, Kia EV6 and the Genesis GV60. The IONIQ 6 is coming along as are future vehicles (Ev9, etc) on this platform. If this award was for platforms, the E-GMP would probably take it.
There’s also the hot-selling Ford Mustang Mach-E and F-150, the beautiful Cadillac Lyriq, VW’s improved ID.4 that is now made in Chattanooga with Plug and Charge and V2G coming. But there’s one thing that sticks out about all of these EV CUVs: The sticker price starts at around $50,000.
On the more mundane side, Hyundai/Kia offer the Kona/Niro for around $40,000 and the aging 40kW CHAdeMO-equipped Nissan LEAF comes in at $29,000, but to get over 200 miles of range, you have to add close to $10,000.
The chip shortage, supply chain issues and just overall supply and demand issues for EVs let almost every EV maker jack up their prices in 2022. Some as much as $20,000 or more.
Then there’s the mighty Chevy Bolt EV which actually saw a $6000 decrease in price this year to an outlier price starting at $25,600. That price is changing the game and allowing more people get a full, non-compliance EV. The longer EUV is only $1600 more and offers some of the best Autonomy options on the road. But low price is only part of the equation. (We’re not the only ones seeing this)
Recent Electrek Vehicles of the Year winners:
- The Rivian R1T is Electrek’s 2021 vehicle of the year
- Electrek’s vehicle of the year 2020 is the 33mph Juiced HyperScorpion
My history with the Bolt and background
I leased a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV from 2017 to 2020. During the pandemic, I decided not to buy out my lease partially because I wasn’t driving but also GMC raw dogged me on buyout price, offering more than a new Bolt. Turns out the joke’s on them because soon after I surrendered my beloved Bolt, the vehicles started catching on fire.
I’ve also reviewed just about every other EV out there, including everything from Minis to Mercedes and everything in-between. I’ve also owned every Tesla outside of the Roadster (and Semi, I guess) and currently own a Model Y and 3.
I often compare all of these cars to my previous and future Bolts in my head and often they come up short.
After the Bolt price drop and my mom’s Prius started faltering, I decided to buy my mom a Bolt EV. I liked that car so much, I again bought myself one. It was delivered yesterday, and it is now my daily driver. I expect to sell my 2018 Tesla Model 3 RWD long range for more than the $28,000 I paid for my Bolt EV. My family will still use the Model Y for long trips, and we’ll reassess if and when our Rivian R1S ever arrives (likely the Bolt will eventually go to the teenager).
Bolt EV vs. Bolt EUV
The EV and EUV are incredibly similar, starting with the exact same battery pack, charging system, motor, and electronics. But, the EUV is 6.3 inches longer, translating to three more inches of rear legroom and a few inches each in the rear compartment and front. The rear legroom in the EV vs. EUV goes from “passable” to “oddly more than enough.” The EUV, having been introduced last year, also has some additional options including the sunroof and SuperCruise, which works incredibly well. As a 6-footer, I have no problem sitting in the back of either vehicle unless there is a fifth person in the middle of the rear seat. Then, you are counting down the seconds until the trip ends.
The biggest difference in the two models is the profile appearance with the EUV representing the extremely popular CUV trend and the Bolt looking more like a tall “hot hatch,” or as Chevy used to call it a, “Micro-Crossover.”
Strangely, however, the shorter Bolt EV has more cargo space than the EUV. Is there some sort of wormhole in there? I’m told the shape of the rear end of the EV more than makes up for those extra length inches in the EUV. I don’t see it, but I’ll trust Chevy. My take is the EV is remarkably roomy inside for its footprint.
Bolt EUV cargo volume
- 16.3 cubic feet behind the second row
- 56.9 cubic feet with the second row folded down
Bolt EV cargo volume
- 16.6 cubic feet behind the second row
- 57.0 cubic feet with the second row folded down
The EV, because of its smaller size and weight, gets slightly more range (247 to 259 miles), and therefore adds slightly more efficiency and charge miles/minute. 60-0 braking is also slightly shorter for the Bolt EV. Maybe most importantly the EV hits 0-60 in 6.4 seconds which feels a lot faster than the .3 seconds slower EUV. Something to consider with EVs vs. ICE cars: You can absolutely gun it at every green light and not be ostracized like you would in a down/gear shifting, loud, jerky internal combustion engine vehicle.
So the EV is faster, smaller, more efficient, better at braking, and yet has more cargo space than the EUV?
We’re awarding both cars our car of the year, but if I had to drill it down to the EV vs. the EUV, I’d go with the smaller EV.
Bonus charging offered by Chevy
On top of the Bolt’s low price, Chevy also offers up to $1000 through Qmerit for Level 2 charger home installation, or $500 in EVGO credit. As I discussed in my post about getting my mom a Bolt, my Qmerit experience was awful; but after a ton of complaining, I did get a Nema 14-50 outlet.
Chevy also offers a free charging cable with the Bolt EV and EUV, though upgrading the EV to level 2 is a $295 option. With Volkswagen and Tesla removing the free charging cables from their cars, Chevy’s offer here is fantastic and gets drivers off on the right foot.
Time to think holistically – not just about EV vs. ICE
After driving a HummerEV and Ford F-150 Lightning, I started to wonder if we’re better off electrifying these behemoths of the road or just getting rid of them altogether. In a time where battery supply is the bottleneck to electrification, the HummerEV is carrying 4 EVs or 10 PHEVs worth of batteries on its 9000lb. body. It also takes three efficient cars worth of electricity to go the same mile in a huge truck. That’s not to even bring up the dangers of being way up in the air and driving these huge heavy trucks at highway speeds. Not only is bicycle and pedestrian visibility limited, but they absolutely destroy anything they crash into including school busses. Sure, some small percentage of pickup drivers actually do work in them, but we somehow got by with Ford Maverick-sized trucks 20 years ago, and we should probably strive to go back to that.
Comparatively, the Bolt is refreshingly small, meaning parking is easy and there’s a ton of extra space in your garage. Yet, with its height and low floor entry points, it is super easy to get into not just for aged and accessibility folks. The low side windows and sloping hood make it easy to see kids and bikers in front of and around the car. The Bolt got a 5-star-safety-rating from NHTSA, and though it might not fare well against a Hummer, it will keep occupants as safe as possible.
It also has tons of room and even more when you fold the seats down (see above).
Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto is a gamechanger
As a Tesla driver, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get into a CarPlay or Android Auto-based vehicle. I just don’t see anyone beating Apple and Google in the UX space, and it has become quite standard in the car space. Responding to texts is way easier, and the voice recognition is an order of magnitude better. Apps that I want are there and updated in a timely manner.
I was taken aback recently when I reviewed the Genesis GV60. This luxury car with all of the bells and whistles still required you to plug in your phone to use CarPlay. This review might have pushed me over the edge. CarPlay is great, but wouldn’t it be cool if my phone could just be in my pocket?
And that’s the experience with the Bolt. You get in the car turn it on and go. It connects to the phone in your pocket (or you can put it on the wireless charging pad or even plug into the USBA/USBC plugs like a caveman). You’ve got your favorite apps, music and are ready to go. It Just Works™.
Downsides to the Bolt
Every vehicle has some downsides, but I’d argue that the Bolt has relatively few. Let me try to explain these away…
54kW DC fast charging limit. This one is particularly painful because it was called out six years ago. GM decided, again and again, not to upgrade it citing cost and complexity concerns. Even just getting it over 100kW would have been a big psychological boost, and the thing can re-gen at 70kW, so it is pretty obviously capable of updating.
That said, most folks don’t go over 260 miles on all but a few days of the year, and if so, there are a ton of CCS charging options now. Even better, with Plug and Charge/Autocharge+ from EVGO it is super easy – you just plug in to charge (after a quick setup). One thing to consider is that with the Bolt’s efficiency, it charges much faster on a miles-per-minute basis. For instance, it will get just as many miles as a Ford F-150 Lightning charging at over 100kW.
I’ve easily road tripped in a Bolt before and realistically, that means I have to stay an extra 15-30 minutes per charging session and heck, people have driven their Bolts from Ohio to Alaska. At peak charging rate of 54kW, you’ll get 100 miles of range in a half hour of charging. Relax!
The overriding point is that if you don’t do a lot of road tripping and have a home charger where you’ll wake up every morning with 260 miles of range, the DC charging speed limit isn’t a dealbreaker.
FWD vs. AWD Putting front wheel drive into an EV isn’t as straight forward a decision as an ICE vehicle with the weight of the motor over the front wheels. EVs have equal weight between the tires and will see diminishing returns.
With the Bolt’s instant torque and low resistance wheels, I chirp out a lot more than I mean to, especially on rainy or icy roads and on gravel. This can be mitigated somewhat by changing out for worse range, grippier tires. I was told once by a Bolt engineer that they were fixing that but they never did.
The flip side is that the front wheel drive allows for a lot more regeneration of power than a RWD would. The Bolt offers some of the best and most complete one pedal driving available, especially with the always-on regen button and steering wheel paddle to add up to 70kW of braking.
I still would have loved to see an AWD option on the Bolt even if it was just putting a light sub-100hp motor on the back wheels for snow and a little more pickup. Chevy is offering this kind of small motor option to get the Equinox to AWD.
Chevy is perhaps seeing the light here offering the upcoming Ultium Blazer SS in not only FWD and AWD options but, in a first, offering RWD version as well. It can do this because adding motors to EVs is an order of magnitude easier than ICE vehicles. Just not easy enough to add to the Bolt apparently.
Size and shape. I happen to love the look of the Bolt EV but I think I’m in the minority, certainly of Electrek writers. Most people see the EUV as the better looking variant, but I just see it as another CUV in a sea of CUVs on American roads. I, for one, appreciate the uniqueness of the Bolt EV’s form factor. It’s a HOT HATCH! I wonder if GM could have made something look more like the Mini or GTi.
The interior quality is what I would call middle of the road. Seats are comfy and an upgrade from earlier Bolts, but nothing about this car says luxury; it is designed well, but not over the top. Chevy inexplicably changed the shifter in the Bolt to push/pull buttons which I’m still getting used to.
Both Bolts are quite narrow, and the driver ends up being pretty close to the passenger – sharing that small armrest can sometimes feel like a movie theater or a flight. And that back row middle seat? Small people only.
Bolt Fires. A problem was identified with LG’s manufacturing process in Bolt Batteries in 2020 that very rarely caused fires in previous years battery packs. A sting of Bolt fires and GMs refusal to comment got a ton of negative publicity. The cause of the fires was discovered and fixed. Then GM, mostly funded by LG laboriously replaced all previous battery packs. The packs manufactured now are fixed and should function properly. GM did the right thing here.
Dealers. I’ve had to deal with two Chevy dealers in the last two months getting Bolts for myself and my mom. The experience with hers was typical of my past experience, which means, not great. They tried to trick her into a maintenance package after we’d already paid for the car and didn’t handle the Qmerit mess very well either.
Mine here in New York wasn’t bad (Mt. Kisco Chevy). Mike D. was pretty realistic once I told him my expectations and that I knew exactly what I wanted. Bravo to him. He was well prepared and paperwork took about 15 minutes. As a former Bolt owner himself, he just let me go with a handshake. The one downside was I got a hard sell from a lying OnStar salesman on the phone who then abruptly hung up after I didn’t bite. Sheesh.
Vehicle to grid/load/etc.
It is 2023, and all EVs should build in a simple inverter that allows the car to provide AC power to a campsite, worksite, tailgate or most importantly to the home during an electrical outage. The Ford F-150 highlighted this untapped demand with 10kW of output, and the E-GMP platform cars recently added a smaller 2kW capability.
Unfortunately, the Chevy Bolt has nothing of the sort (we saw some plugs in the upcoming Chevy Equinox and Silverado), but thankfully it is really easy to access the 12V subsystem that is fed by a 1.6kW DC-DC converter from the main 400V battery. That means it is easy to plug in an inverter and take over a kilowatt of power out of the Bolt…. for days. And the Bolt (65kWh) has more than 4 Tesla Powerwalls full of power (4x14kWh) – and somehow costs much less and includes motors and wheels and a cabin.
DIY Solution. I’ve simply alligator-clipped a 1kW continuous/2kW peak inverter onto my Bolt’s 12V lead acid battery to run a refrigerator and internet connectivity in the past. However, I recommend formalizing this setup with something like the purpose-built and fused $180 EV Extend, which actually makes it a lot easier to hook up your inverter and get power out of your Bolt. Assuming a small house/cottage idles below 1kW and doesn’t go over 2kW, the Bolt can keep your house/cottage/campsite powered for over two days. If nothing else, it will keep your fridge and some lights and internet going for upwards of a week.
In the future, all EVs will have a 240V generator port connected to the main battery by a big 10kW inverter. For now, only the Ford F-150 Lightning has this. Tesla is strangely behind here considering they have Powerwalls, solar- and home-switching expertise. Let’s get there!
As we look into 2023
I think big themes of 2023 are going to be Tesla vs. the rest of the market. The Model Y is approaching a 1M cars-per-year run rate which would make it a favorite for 2023 vehicle of the year. That’s an order of magnitude more units than the Bolt will sell next year and possibly all of GM, who seem fixated on beating Tesla’s numbers.
Top comment by Cypress
“Size and shape. I happen to love the look of the Bolt EV but I think I’m in the minority,”
I’m with you. I appreciate that it is from following function. They designed it to maximize interior volume in a small exterior footprint, with some nods to aero and visibility.
But also GM is launching 3 new EVs: Silverado in Spring, Blazer EV in Summer, and Equinox in Fall, so that lineup will be interesting.
There’s a ton more stuff coming as well. I’ve got my eyes on the Kia EV9 3rd row SUV, wondering if they’ll deliver before Rivian’s R1S gets off the ground.
But for now, let’s give the Chevy Bolt its glory. The economy is in some sort of recession/economic downturn and at $25,600, the Chevy Bolt is allowing a much broader swath of the population to get into a new EV – and easily get into a great one at that.
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