We have had five Chevy Volts in our household. We’ve loved them all, and I, perhaps, have become obsessed with them. As a salesperson at the Chevy dealership where I’ve picked up all our Volts, I was excited about the arrival of the Chevy Bolt EV. I just knew this would be a tipping point for electric automobiles in the U.S.
Although its appearance was not appealing to me, what I had learned, through Volt ownership, caused me to expect strong sales and the continued migration of buyers from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to plug-in vehicles. I knew I would not be interested, as I’ve felt the Volt is the perfect car for today’s electric charging infrastructure. I charge at home and (fortunately) at work, but almost never anywhere else. The Volt gives me the freedom to do that. It also allows me to take long distance road trips, without range anxiety. I have driven from the Dallas / Fort Worth area to Chicago and back, in my 2012 Volt. We recently drove our Volt 670 miles, round trip, to follow our daughter, in her Volt, to college. Due to where her university is located, this trip would have been impractical, if not impossible, in the Bolt EV.
I am relatively small in stature and the Chevy Volt’s dimensions fit me like a glove. My 2017 is my private jet. I love it.
Then the Bolt EV arrived
Its styling reminded me of the Chevy Spark or Trax. Not my cup of tea, but a step in the right direction for those who prefer a crossover or small SUV, like the Equinox. Due to the battery pack’s location, beneath the vehicle, in a flat configuration, the driver is seated higher than in the Volt and feels less sporty, due to that. However, it has some features I would love to have in my Volt: what I call the “drone view camera” and the rear view mirror/display. These two features are only available on the upper level “Premier” Bolt EV.
The “drone view” is nothing new. It displays a simulated view from above the car, allowing the driver to see obstacles that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s a computer-generated composite image of four cameras around the perimeter of the Bolt EV and is quite handy.
Car dealerships like to have their inventory lined up perfectly, which usually requires two people: one to park the cars and one to guide the driver into alignment with the other cars. The “drone view” allows a single person to line up the tip of the car (front to rear) with any existing line on the ground, like a concrete seam or fire lane stripe.
The other feature I covet is the rear view mirror/video display. There are two cameras on the back of the Bolt EV, one typical back up camera and one for the mirror. The rear view mirror functions as many do, in the higher end Chevys, employing a light sensor to automatically dim, if a bright light shines on it. However, it also has the old-style handle below the rear view mirror, which functions to toggle the mirror between standard mirror function, and a wide angle video display, replacing the rear view mirror’s function. It stays on the entire time you’re driving, unless you toggle it back to the mirror.
The really cool thing about it is you can see clearly behind you, even if the back of the car is filled to the ceiling with cargo! It takes a little getting used to, though. After years of driving, you unconsciously have trained your eyes to focus, through the rear view mirror, to the cars behind you. That reflected distance can be thirty feet or more. When in the video display mode, your eyes have to focus at the distance between you and the surface of the display, which is less than two feet. The first two days I drove the Bolt EV, when I’d glance up to check the display, it would take a split-second for my eyes to adjust. That’s not a long time, but it is noticeable. Now that I’m used to it, I want it for my car. Desperately. With 56.6 cubic feet of storage, when the rear seats are folded down and 119 MPGe, I expect the Bolt EV to become very popular with delivery service companies.
Some of the advantages of the Bolt EV that I did not expect were handling and roominess.
The battery pack is a 60 kWh pack, which is very heavy. It gives the Bolt EV a very low center of gravity and smoothes out bumps in the road. Part of my standard test drive, is cornering at fairly high speed. The Bolt EV can handle up to .85 Gs in lateral acceleration, in a turn. Not that long ago, that kind of performance was the realm of high-end sport cars.
The roominess is helped by two things, the battery pack not being in the passenger compartment (like it is in the Volt) and the thinness of the seat cushions. Just about every review you can find on the Bolt EV will mention that it looks like a small car, from the outside, but has surprising roominess inside. I knew this before I sat in one, but the reality of experiencing it was surprising, nonetheless. However, the seat comfort (or lack of it, for some) has been a deal-breaker for potential buyers. The cushions are half the thickness on those found in a traditional Chevy and the bolsters are snug, even for someone my size. I find that handy and comfortable, since I enjoy quick cornering.
There are some items, that my Volt has, that are missing from the Bolt EV. One is voice control of the radio. The only voice commands the driver can give, to the car, are OnStar-related. I just cannot understand why this would be left out of the Bolt EV. I find it much safer to press a button and say, “Tune XM Classic Vinyl,” instead of having to look away from the road to select a radio station. The other item missing, and most people probably won’t care about it, is assisted parallel parking/back-in perpendicular parking. I love this feature on my Volt and look forward to parallel parking opportunities. Once the system engages, I put my hands behind my head and let the car do all the steering.
Yes, I’m a big old nerd and a show-off.
How has my exposure to the Bolt EV changed my feelings about my Volt? Now, the snugness of the Volt’s interior (by comparison) makes me think of it as my personal jet fighter, instead of my personal jet.
The other, unexpected thing is: I no longer have any qualms about the Bolt EV’s outside appearance.
Also See: On ordering a 2016 Chevrolet Volt.