Even in its infancy, the story of the Chevrolet Bolt is already the stuff of legend. In January 2015, GM announced that it would develop and produce, within a two-year time frame, a 100% electric car with a range of over 300 km and priced at just over $40,000. This news was greeted with some skepticism: was the carmaker setting unrealistic goals for the project? Many were certain that even if the Bolt could be ready for market on schedule, it would not be able to meet the promises made by the manufacturer.
And yet, here we are two years later and this revolutionary car is ready to go. GM has made a habit in the past of making big splashes before shoddy design and mediocre execution lead to inevitable disappointment. The question now was whether history would repeat itself with this 100% electric car.
At the cost of ruining the suspense right off the bat, I feel that this time GM hit its target and then some. This car is a success, offering as it does a range of around 350 km in optimal conditions and a driving experience that is quite impressive for a car whose principal vocation is practical and eco-friendly transportation.
Sometimes experience does count
The Bolt has so fascinated industry watchers that a number of publications have already given it the title of Car of the Year. The excellence that so many are recognizing can be explained in large part by the experience the carmaker has earned over the years developing electric vehicles. We all remember GM’s very first electric car, the EV1, which had a limited range, was available solely as a lease and was eventually repatriated by the company. Almost all of them were destroyed.
Still, this car was so appreciated by those who used it that a film about it was made, and many took the manufacturer to task for not having continued with its development. The experience did provide GM with a ton of data, both practical and logistical, related to this type of vehicle. The next car to appear was the Volt, an electric-powered vehicle with rechargeable batteries that was also equipped with an internal-combustion engine that ensured drivers could get to destination in peace of mind, even once the battery was discharged.
Experience gained in developing two different types of electric cars allowed the Bolt development team to make use of the company’s acquired knowledge and produce a stunning car. Without getting too bogged down in technical details, here are some of the pertinent facts about the car: It’s equipped with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery consisting of five sections, 10 modules and 96 group elements (three elements per group), which feeds an electric motor able to produce 200 HP and 266 lb-ft of torque.
It is housed in a T-shaped bloc, which is an integral part of the platform and ensures greater rigidity for the whole. Power for the front-wheel drive powertrain is managed by a fixed-ratio transmission operated by an electrically controlled lever.
The Bolt is a five-door model whose silhouette is contemporary without being extravagant. Chevrolet’s styling team successfully addressed both such a vehicle’s practical vocation and the esthetic demands of today’s consumers. As for its size, it’s a few millimetres longer than the Kia Soul, for example. Its American engineers nonetheless managed to provide occupants with excellent interior roominess, even with the constraints imposed by the car’s dimensions.
So even if the Bolt is not particularly large, the front-seat passengers will not feel cramped, and there’s ample space for both occupants. Even in the back row, leg room is sufficient for passengers who are 1.90m tall or more to sit comfortably.
The dashboard is sober, to the extent that some may find fault with its lack of panache. Others may feel disappointed with the quality of the materials used. These are forgivable compromises given that the manufacturer chose to invest more in the battery and the powertrain.
More successful are the indicator gauges, which are simple to consult and the display of which can be modified. Also, the left-side display that indicates the range of the car according to the driving style used is as ingenious as it is practical. Another detail worth noting is how easy it is to get in and out of the car.
In addition to the excellent range it offers for the price of admission, the Bolt seduces us further with its performance on the road. The car is nimble, holds the road well and is pleasant to drive. The suspension is well-calibrated, offering a successful compromise between comfort and road handling. On the other hand, the adherence of the self-sealing Michelin tires – developed specifically for the Bolt – is average at best. It’s also true that the feedback from the brakes takes some getting used to, but a lever placed at left under the steering wheel allows for regenerating engine power and for slowing down the vehicle, without recourse to the brakes. This feature is an addictive one, in fact. Lastly, I would be remiss in neglecting to mention the acceleration, which is impressive: you can reach 100 km/h from a stop in under seven seconds.
To sum up, the Bolt is a successfully realized car, and it seems certain that Chevrolet will struggle to keep up with demand for it. It serves as well as one more indication of just how much things have changed for the better at General Motors.
We invite you as well to watch two videos from Chevrolet