The Top 10 Chevy Bolt EV Myths
Even three years after its release, the Chevy Bolt EV is a fairly misunderstood vehicle. This is partly because GM hasn't been as active in marketing and defending the Bolt EV as they are with their other products. At the very least, they haven't been very good at explaining it. Most of these misunderstandings are the result of incorrect assumptions or information that was published early in the Bolt EV's history. Eventually that false information percolated throughout the electric vehicle community and media, and even when the correct information later came to light, it wasn't able to fully correct the record.
In this story, I will address the most common myths and misconceptions about the Chevy Bolt EV, and I will share more accurate, detailed information that either corrects that myth or puts the information into its proper context.
1. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV is a Compliance Car
The first myth I want to address is that the Chevy Bolt EV is nothing more than a “compliance car.” For some reason, people continue to use that term, but I do not think it means what they think it means. “Compliance car” was a term that was coined and defined by Green Car Reports back in 2012; however, it has grown and mutated over time. At this point, it is used as a prerogative to attack any electric vehicle one might dislike, and it is used to dismiss the electrification efforts of any automaker that isn’t fully committed to all-electric vehicles (e.g., Rivian or Tesla).
What people are forgetting, however, is that Green Car Reports provided a very specific definition for "compliance car," and strictly speaking, the Chevy Bolt EV doesn’t fit that definition. Essentially, to avoid being considered a compliance car, an electric vehicle needs to be sold directly to customers (as opposed to lease-only programs); sell at least 5,000 units in the United States or 20,000 units globally per year; and be offered outside of CARB states.
The Bolt EV is sold directly to customers (I know – I bought one of the first Bolt EVs that rolled off the delivery truck). Next, the Bolt EV’s annual sales in the United States alone have averaged close to 20,000 units. Finally, the Bolt EV is sold throughout North America as well as a number of other foreign markets. Essentially, not a single aspect of the “compliance car” definition applies to the Chevy Bolt EV.
2. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV Is Based On the Chevy Sonic Platform
One of the most common myths that I see circulating is that the Chevy Bolt EV is built on the Chevy Sonic platform. I mostly see this myth perpetuated by people who are trying to make the case that the Bolt EV is just a $16,000 car with an electric motor and a big battery; however, that is factually incorrect. While the Sonic is built on GM’s aging Gamma II platform, the Bolt EV is built on a completely new BEV2 platform.
One of the reasons this myth persists is because GM did design the Bolt EV so that it could share the same manufacturing line as the Sonic, so GM could save costs and quickly ramp up or slow down manufacturing of either vehicle as needed for demand. The two cars do share some of the same bin parts that are common to many GM cars, but none of those are based on essential to the car. Everything from the Bolt EV’s aluminum body panels, interior design, and chassis are fundamentally different than the Sonic’s.
3. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV Is Actually the LG Bolt EV
Another common myth is that the Chevy Bolt EV was actually designed and built by LG rather than GM. This myth is used by individuals who both want to invalidate GM’s ability to design and develop electric vehicles and want to maintain the appearance of an impartial electric vehicle advocate.
The myth is, at the very least, misleading, but it’s also simply incorrect. GM designed most of the core components for the Bolt EV in house, and LG was primarily used as a third-party parts provider. Yes, GM did outsource the manufacturing of certain components to LG, and the Infotainment system was built by LG. However, the core of the Bolt EV was designed and built by GM.
To demonstrate how inaccurate this myth is, simply ask and answer two simple questions: Could GM have built the Bolt EV without LG? Could LG have built the Bolt EV without GM? The answer to the former is, “Yes, most definitely.” The answer to the latter is, “No, not a chance.” Because LG was primarily a third party vendor and outsourced parts manufacturer, GM could have worked with any number of similar companies such as Panasonic, SK Innovation, Samsung, etc.
4. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV Lacks Blended Brakes
For some reason, we still see people stating that the Chevy Bolt EV lacks blended brakes. Blended brakes refers to a system where an electric vehicle’s regenerative braking can be modulated using the brake pedal. Essentially, some of the pressure applied to the brake pedal will actually increase the amount of energy being absorbed by the EV and fed back into the battery. This limits the wear and tear on the car’s friction brakes.
The myth that the Bolt EV doesn’t have blended braking is based off of a misunderstood interview with a GM representative. The original question was about adaptive cruise control (ACC), and the reason GM didn't include it in the Bolt EV was because it had blended brakes (not because it lacked them. Essentially, it would have required an additional level of programming that GM was not prepared to do.
So yes, the Bolt EV does have blended brakes, and when the brake pedal is pressed, it will increase regenerative braking force. The friction brakes will only engage after max regenerative braking force that’s available has been reached. I go into detail about how Chevy Bolt EV’s regenerative braking systems works on my YouTube channel.
5. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV is Small
For some reason, people continue to refer to the Chevy Bolt EV as a small car. When I hear this, I first try to get a frame of reference. Is the Bolt EV small compared to my Ford F-150? Sure. Is it small compared to a Chevy Suburban? Definitely. Where I draw the line, however, is when people claim that the Bolt EV is small compared to other subcompact crossovers.
Yes, the Chevy Bolt EV has a small exterior and short wheelbase; however, the rules that apply to internal combustion vehicles don’t always apply to electric vehicles, and the Bolt EV is no exception. Because the Bolt EV is built on a dedicated EV platform and it uses a skateboard style battery (there is a hump in the unusable area under the rear seat), the Bolt EV’s interior volume is large for its class. While there is some merit to criticizing the Bolt EV’s behind-the-seat cargo capacity (GM prioritized rear passenger space over rear cargo space), the moment the seats are folded down, the Bolt EV’s interior size becomes more apparent.
To bust this myth, we simply have to compare the Bolt EV’s seat-down cargo capacity to a couple other electric vehicles in its size and format class:
Tesla Model 3: 43 cu/ft (including frunk)
Hyundai Kona Electric: 45 cu/ft
Kia Niro EV: 54.5 cu/ft
Chevy Bolt EV: 56.6 cu/ft
6. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV Has Poor Aerodynamics
Another myth is that the Chevy Bolt EV has poor aerodynamics. Part of this myth is based on a misunderstood interview with a GM representative who mentioned how difficult it was to keep a CUV or tall hatchback’s coefficient of drag (Cd) to below .32. For automobiles, Cd is a measurement of how easily the car’s shape passes through air. The higher the number the more drag (resistance), and the lower the number, the less drag.
Many people, when they read that interview, thought that .32 was the Bolt EV’s actual Cd, and so the myth was born. The truth, however, is that a CD of less than .32 Cd was the goal, but the Bolt EV’s actual Cd is.308. Keep in mind that, with Cd, we’re dealing with small numbers, but .32 to .308 represents nearly a 5% difference, which is significant in terms of aerodynamics.
The second part of this myth is simply due to people being deceptive and insisting on comparing cars with very different formats. A Cd of .308 actually puts the Chevy Bolt EV ahead of most other vehicles; however, several marquee EVs are sedans (which are natively more aerodynamic than crossovers), and some feel that it is appropriate to compare the Bolt EV’s aerodynamics to those cars. For instance, Tesla states that their Model 3 has a Cd of .23, meaning its coefficient of drag is about 25% better than the Chevy Bolt EV’s. But what happens when we compare the Bolt EV to other electric crossovers?
The Hyundai Kona Electric has a Cd of .29 and the Kia Niro EV has a Cd of .30. Even throwing the Tesla Model 3 (a sedan) into the mix, it appears that there’s a direct correlation between Cd and cargo capacity. After all, it appears that the Bolt EV has about 25% more cargo capacity than the Model 3, so maybe the Bolt EV’s aerodynamics aren’t so bad after all.
7. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV is a City Car
The Chevy Bolt EV’s 238 miles of EPA range is only good enough for driving around town, or so the myth goes. This myth is so ridiculous it should be thrown out without further consideration, but people still repeat it often. Even members of the EV media regularly imply or state this in articles and videos; however, in a previous story, I shared five inspiring Chevy Bolt EV road trips. It was actually difficult to pare down to only five stories of Bolt EV owners taking their cars on long trips, and I intentionally left out my own road trips.
This myth is actually an attempt to simultaneously discredit both the Chevy Bolt EV and the public charging infrastructure. On one hand, this myth claims that the Bolt EV’s 55 kW (roughly 220 mi/hr) charging speeds are inadequate for road trips, though many of the same people perpetuating this myth celebrated early Tesla Model S and Model X (which had very similar 200 to 300 mi/hr charging rates) as great road trip vehicles.
On the other hand, this myth is trying to claim that there aren’t sufficient public fast charging options to enable long-distance travel in a Bolt EV. For the most part, this is false; however, if you ever find yourself in an argument with someone who is perpetuating this myth, you’ll find that the goal posts are constantly being moved. Eventually, you’ll be asked about cruising I-94 through North Dakota at 90 mph in the dead of winter.
A quick glance at Electrify America’s map of active charging sites shows that most corridors throughout the United States are well covered. Yes, there are still gaps in Electrify America’s network, but we are still very early on in their build out. Also, they are not the only public fast charging provider.
Another quick glance at PlugShare with Electrify America’s network hidden shows hundreds of other public charging sites spread out around the country. Sure, most of them are clustered around cities, but they are also along key travel corridors.
8. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV’s Charging Taper Is More Aggressive than In Other EVs
This myth claims that the Chevy Bolt EV’s DC fast charging stepdown or taper is more aggressive than the charging curves in other electric vehicles. Essentially, the myth tries to claim that when the Bolt EV’s charging rate steps down to a slower rate, other electric vehicles will still be charging at a faster rate. This myth is partly designed to invalidate the Bolt EV specifically, but it’s also the result of “fanboy” behavior. Basically, “My EV is better than your EV.”
In either case, it’s either untrue or the result of misrepresenting the situation. How to address this myth really depends on who is perpetuating it. The most common comparison is with smaller battery electric vehicles, such as the BMW i3, Chevy Spark EV, or Hyundai Ioniq Electric. Because of the size of their batteries and the format of their battery cells, these electric vehicles can maintain a relatively fast charging rate all the way up to around 80% battery before the charge rate starts to drop off.
What is missed in these comparisons with smaller battery EVs, however, is that the Chevy Bolt EV’s battery isn’t really comparable. Its battery is much more energy dense, so it requires a different charging profile. And while the Bolt EV’s charging rate does step down around 50% battery, 50% of 60 kWh is actually far more energy than 80% of a 20 kWh to 30 kWh battery pack. Essentially, it’s a moot point because, by the time a BMW i3 hits 80% battery, the Bolt EV will have already added more energy and will still be charging at its fastest rate.
The other comparison this myth relies on is electric vehicles that start with a much faster charging rate, which is often the result of having a larger battery. The most common comparison point is the Tesla Model 3. Essentially, the claim is that when the Bolt EV’s first charging rate stepdown occurs at around 50% battery (from 55 kW down to about 38 kW), the Tesla Model 3 will still be charging faster. The problem is, the Tesla Model 3 was charging faster to begin with. So yes, while the Model 3 LR would still be charging at 90 kW when the Bolt EV first steps down to 38 kW, that 90 kW actually represents a larger drop off from the Model 3 LR’s peak charging rate of 250 kW. So in reality, the Tesla Model 3 actually has an even more significant charging rate taper than the Bolt EV.
All in all, the Chevy Bolt EV’s charging rate actually aligns very closely with similar electric vehicles that have the same type of high energy density battery. As an example, both the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV have very similar charging rate step downs that occur at very similar points in the charging curve. In fact, at a surface level, it’s difficult to tell the difference between my two charging sessions on a Recargo charger (one in the Chevy Bolt EV and the other in the Kia Niro EV).
9. Myth: The Chevy Bolt EV Takes a Longer to Charge Than Other EVs
One recurring myth about the Chevy Bolt EV is that it charges too slowly on DC fast chargers, and while there is some truth to this myth, it’s been overstated and misrepresented. First, let’s get the truth of this myth out of the way. GM was very conservative when they set the Bolt EV’s charging rate. They are using high nickel content batteries with thick electrodes. Now, these battery cells can store a lot of energy, but they are also fragile when being recharged.
As far as we know, the cells are rated by the supplier at a 1 C recharging rate (essentially, the Bolt EV’s battery pack would be rated for a 60 kW or 66 kW peak charging rate depending on year). GM did restrict the Bolt EV’s charging rate to about 10% less than the peak rated rate, so yes, in that regard, the Bolt EV does charge slower than it could. Some competitors, such as Hyundai and Kia, have pushed their EVs with similar battery cells to 10% above the rated peak rate; however, GM has a tendency to value longevity over speed, and it is still too soon to tell what type of battery degradation the Kona Electric and Niro EV will see. For my personal Bolt EV, it appears that its battery capacity has only degraded about 5% after over 100,000 miles of driving and hundreds of DC fast charging sessions.
So doesn’t that mean that the “Bolt EV takes a long time to charge” myth is true? Well, not exactly. The truth is, charging times are all relative, and even though the Bolt EV charges at a slower rate than the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro EV, it also has a smaller battery. What this means is, the difference in actual time spent charging is not that significant, so the typical DC fast charge times on the Bolt EV are similar to most other electric vehicles.
Yes, some electric vehicles such as the Chevy Spark EV, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Porsche Taycan, and Tesla Model 3 that can have productive charging sessions of only 15 to 20 minutes; however, in the case of the Spark EV and Ioniq Electric, they’ve come close to maxing out their battery capacities. The Bolt EV will have added a similar amount of range on the same charger in those 20 minutes. The Taycan and Model 3, on the other hand, represent the fastest charging electric vehicles to date. Most modern electric vehicles, though, require about 30 to 40 minutes for their most productive charging sessions, and the Bolt EV falls right into that window.
If a Bolt EV owner does decide to charge all the way to 80%, the Bolt EV will take within 5 to 10 minutes of the time it would take for most of the EVs in its class. The Bolt EV will take a little over an hour to charge from 0% to 80% while EVs such as the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV require 54 minutes to do the same.
10. Myth: You Have to Drive the Chevy Bolt EV Slowly
Essentially, this myth states that you need to adjust or slow your speed in order to make long trips quickly in the Chevy Bolt EV. The idea is that you must drive an electric vehicle slowly to save time charging. This is one of the worst myths about electric vehicles, and people try to apply it to more than just the Chevy Bolt EV. But, because of the charging misconceptions I addressed earlier, the Bolt EV is specifically targeted often.
The truth is, however, that when DC fast charging is available along the route, electric vehicle owners do not need to slow their driving down in order to make the fastest trip times. In fact, doing so actually makes the trip take longer. When using the most prevalent 50 kW public fast chargers, the amount of time spent charging on a 500, 600, or 700 mile trip is far less than the time spent driving. And the amount of time you save by driving 5 or 10 mph faster is far more than the extra time you might spend charging.
As an example, on a 600 mile trip, if you can maintain 75 mph driving the entire way, you will spend 8 hours driving. If the Bolt EV started on a full battery, it would require four 45-minute charging sessions on 50 kW chargers to complete the trip, so it would take about 11 hours total to drive 600 miles. If, on the other hand, you were to drive those same 600 miles at 60 mph, your driving time alone would be 10 hours. Even if that efficiency saved you 15 minutes per charging stop (it wouldn't), the total time to complete the trip would be 12 hours. Despite driving more efficiently, the trip would take one hour longer!
Now there are some limitations to this because at certain speeds and under some weather conditions, only the fastest chargers that are properly spaced will do. If faster than 50 kW chargers are available, though, Bolt EV drivers can feel confident in driving as fast as they are comfortable so long as they’ve charged up to make it to their next stop. On my video channel, I provided a breakdown chart for the efficiencies I’ve seen at certain speeds compared to the speeds at which various chargers will add range.
I still see a number of these myths about the Chevy Bolt EV in particular or electric vehicles in general, and I hope that providing some facts – or at least introducing come nuance – can help to abate them. Unfortunately, I think a number of people are avoiding electric vehicles that would otherwise be right for their driving need because of these types of misgivings. I’d love to hear about any of the other EV myths or misrepresentations you might have heard.
See you next time as I explain how to read and use the Chevy Bolt EV’s Range Estimator.
About The Author
Eric Way focuses on reporting expert opinion on GM brand electric vehicles at Torque News. Eric is also an instructional designer and technical writer with more than 15 years of writing experience. He also hosts the News Coulomb video blog, which focuses on electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and renewable energy. Eric is an active member of the EV Advocates of Ventura County, a volunteer organization focused on increasing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. You can follow Eric on News Coulomb Youtube, on Facebook at @NewsCoulomb as well as on Twitter at @eway1978.