2020 Chevy Bolt EV Fast Charging Still Tops Out Around 55kW
Tests of the latest model year Bolt EV are underway and it looks like GM won’t deliver on one of the most commonly requested improvements: increasing the car’s DC fast charge rate.
Various updates emerging from social media show the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV topping out at 55kW, the same rate familiar to anyone fast charging a previous model year with the 60kWh battery pack.
Let’s take a look at some of these early tests and what they mean for the 2020 Bolt EV’s overall fast charge time.
Same Bolt Shape, Same Bolt Charge Rate
Last month, we looked at why its greater range might not be enough of an improvement to the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV now that the all-electric field is more crowded. In short, it only hops ahead of its nearest competitors by a few miles and would require additional changes to charge faster than the likes of the Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia Niro EV, which max out around 75kW.
Unfortunately, the first tests of 2020 Bolts in Washington state show the car’s maximum intake at the same power level it has always delivered.
During charge sessions conducted on the high-power Electrify America stations at Three Rivers Mall in Kelso, WA, none showed the 2020 models pushing past the 55kW mark.
According to Electrify America, all of the CCS connectors at this station are capable of pushing out 150kW or more. That’s as long as the vehicle requests it, of course, which GM seems unwilling to let the current incarnation of the Bolt EV do.
In one charge session shown on Twitter, the 2020 model tested (in a polarizing new Oasis Blue color) goes from 16-50% in 27 minutes, pulling in 24.2kWh in that time frame. This and other threads of conversation from early test drives around the state confirm that the car tops out at 55kW.
As you’ll see from the video below and other DC fast charge sessions documented on my channel, that’s about the same as we’ve seen in our 2017 Chevy Bolt EV on 150+ kW stations in Massachusetts and upstate New York. (Note that most of these videos reflect old pricing and Electrify America's new tiers make it significantly less expensive.)
Watch how a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV charges to 80% on Electrify America in the video below (Please subscribe to Torque News YouTube Channel for daily automotive news and analysis).
This all aligns with GM’s recently updated press line that the Bolt EV adds "100 miles in 30 minutes" on a sufficiently equipped DC fast-charge station.
Measuring in miles added is a moving target, of course, as available range depends heavily on factors like speed, terrain, driving style, and use of the HVAC system. It does translate better than kWh for the general public, however, and 100 miles is up from the 90 that GM previously claimed (we'll see why in the next section). If you’re in the market for the new model year and wondering how far it will go with the new battery chemistry, we put together some seasonal range predictions for the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV.
However, power level is only one factor in how long it takes to fast charge an electric vehicle, so let’s examine another that could yet cut charge times for the 2020 model.
DC Charging Could Still Be (Slightly) Faster in a 2020 Chevy Bolt EV
The one kernel of hope for prospective buyers (and returning lessees of earlier model years) lies in the 2020 model year’s charging profile. Yes, 55kW as the maximum limits how much the car can take advantage of increasingly high-power charge stations. However, if that power level can be maintained for longer than previous model years, the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV will still charge slightly faster than them.
This is where the car’s battery management software and charging profile enter the equation.
Many owners have flagged the Bolt’s early taper points as a reason for elongated fast charge stops. As I explained in previous articles about the car’s abilities, the Bolt EV’s fast charge speed throttles back at around 50-55% state of charge, at which point it only accepts around 43kW, even on a high power charge station capable of delivering much more. Another throttle kicks in when the pack is around three-quarters full, slowing to a speed that the car (rather tellingly) labels “Medium” charging in its Energy menu.
However, in the same test session mentioned earlier in this article, the charge station reports a little over half-an-hour to 80% with the 2020 Bolt already at 50% state of charge. That 30% represents around 20kWh of the new pack’s capacity, which would put the average charge rate in that second section of the 2020 Bolt EV’s at around 40kW. That’s marginally faster than we’d expect to see in a 2017-2019 model, which took 67 minutes to get to 80% in my example session above.
Comparing the two sessions based on what the 2020 Bolt EV reports in the test session, we’d get the following results:
2017 Chevy Bolt EV 16-80% on Electrify America 150+ kW:
Energy Added (actual): 38kWh | Charge Time (actual): 65 minutes
2020 Chevy Bolt EV 16-80% on Electrify America 150+ kW unit:
Energy Added (projected): 43kWh | Charge Time (projected): 62 minutes
Under the current pricing, this means that the 2020 model will take in more energy in a shorter time than previous model years. That also makes it marginally cheaper to charge on any network that charges by the minute. In this example, the effective rates would be 22 cents per kWh for the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV and 26 cents per kWh for the 2017 model. Note that’s before tax and using Electrify America’s Pass+ membership pricing.
If the Bolt EV can maintain a higher charge rate even after 80%, the time could be cut further still, although this isn’t indicated by any of the initial tests and seems unlikely given GM’s generally cautious approach to battery management.
The upshot here is that the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV is no faster to charge in the first half of its battery pack than earlier models, but should shave some a few minutes off the overall charge time to 80%. However, in the grand scheme of things and with models released next year expected to push well past 100kW charging, the newest Bolt remains a laggard at the most powerful DC fast-charge stations. This is a deficiency that will grow all the more glaring as other manufacturers up their game and new models emerge.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, however, this news keeps the Bolt EV comfortably in Electrify America’s lowest pricing tier. Unlike the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, which both straddle the tier 1/tier 2 line and can cost twice as much to charge as a result. Comparatively, as the scenarios above show, the Bolt EV will remain an inexpensive electric car to fast charge on this growing network.
The Bottom Line: 2021 Should Be Better
If you’re looking to buy an affordable long-range EV in the next 12 months, the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV remains one of the most capable all-electric cars on the market. It is likely to be available at a price point $10,000 cheaper than a comparable Tesla Model 3 in EV-friendly markets and still outshines its rivals in some respects.
Unfortunately, if these early tests prove to be accurate - and assuming GM doesn’t make any software changes to the cars delivered to dealerships - the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV won’t see any notable improvements to its fast-charge capabilities.
That puts all eyes on the 2021 Chevy Bolt EV and GM’s plan for a more comprehensive reimagination of its flagship electric vehicle. The mid-cycle refresh should address aesthetic concerns both internally and externally, but it’s the battery pack and charge capability where we’d really like to see the company pushing the envelope.
Do you think GM is up to the task of pushing the next model year way beyond expectations or will it save such leaps for completely new models? Let us know in the comments.
Stay tuned to the Torque News EV column for more on electric vehicles and my next story on how to prepare for winter in a Chevy Bolt EV.