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First Drive: '17 Chevrolet Bolt EV


It’s difficult not to call the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle a game changer, given its 200-mile range, the potential to recharge to 80% battery life in an hour and an anticipated sticker price in the ballpark of $30,000.

Those three factors pretty much knock over three major hurdles holding down EV sales – range anxiety, lengthy recharge times and the big check you gotta write to own one.

After driving this pre-production Bolt – it joins the Chevy Volt and Spark as a third player on GM’s plug-in roster – I’ll add a few-more “game-changing” attributes to the list.

For starters, the Bolt’s 2-box design might be the perfect EV package. The car would be classified as a compact CUV, but it has the roominess of something two segments larger. And since there is no internal-combustion engine, designers pushed the firewall forward to open up generous legroom for the driver and front-row passenger.

The styling team added a floating center stack, too, for extra knee room up front. The roof is high and the windows are really big to further impart a feeling of spaciousness. A rearview mirror doubles as a video screen for an unimpeded view of what’s behind.

Second row ingress and egress is easy because of a flat floor and under the hatch there’s 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space – plenty for the active lifestyles of many EV buyers.

The bright-line item is how buttoned-up the Bolt feels. It drives as solidly as it looks because, unlike most other EVs designed off existing car platforms, the Bolt was by-and-large done from scratch so it doesn’t carry any unnecessary weight.

It’s surprisingly agile and doesn’t feel burdened by the battery. An extra steel beam above the frame rails protects the power electronics, and you can feel the added stiffness while cornering.

But here’s the bubble buster: gas is cheap these days and that limits the appeal of an EV for most people. And even if the Bolt takes just an hour to recharge, that’s about 55 minutes longer than it takes to fill a gas tank. So as much of a game-changer as the Bolt might be, it still will be playing on uneven field when it arrives later this year.

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