It seems like there should be a whole lot more fanfare about this, but the 2017 Chevy Bolt is here, and it’s the first practical, long-range, and affordable electric car for the masses. What about Tesla, you say? Teslas start at $80 grand, and my god, can you imagine driving around with a surfboard on the roof of a Tesla? [shudders]. The Bolt will set you back around $40-grand sticker price, but with various clean energy rebates, it’s possible to drive one home for less than $30k.
That gets you a stylish hatchback with 238 miles per charge, a huge amount of interior space, and gobs of power. This car probably changes everything. I drove the Bolt last week for one day, and I realized that I’ll probably never buy a gas-powered vehicle again, especially if electric trucks hit the market anytime soon. You hear that Chevy—I’ll never buy a gas powered car vehicle again if you build an electric truck.
Anyway, Chevy hosted a media event last week to show off the Bolt. [Full disclosure: they provided us with incredible food and drinks at a house that I can only describe as “Tony Stark West.”] To be frank, I didn’t expect much. Actually, that’s wrong. I expected to hate the car. I’m a petrolhead (despite my environmentalist hand-wringing about it) and suspect of overly tech-ified cars as it is. A little pretend Jetsons car has never, ever appealed to me. But the Bolt has hatchback/crossover interior space, so you can stuff your quiver in the thing, and if you live within five or ten miles from your favorite breaks, and you have a garage—having a garage is key—and you’re responsible enough to plug the thing in every night, you’ve got a perfect surf/family car that’s always, always, always ready to go, will never break down, and is loaded with room for storage.
One of the demo cars had a board strapped to a Thule rack on the roof (the fins were in the back, I made sure they flipped it around the right way for photos), and the hatchback space was filled with a cooler, wetsuit tub, towels, blah blah blah. Plenty of room back there. The Bolt has about 56 cubic ft of storage space. It’s capable of swallowing a 9’6″ with the seats folded down. Of course, that would get wax and dirt all over the plush light-gray leather, but, point is, the Bolt is ready for whatever ocean toys you got.
Behind the wheel, it’s a dream. Plain and simple. If you’ve never driven an electric car, expect instant low-end torque, and lively pickup regardless of speed. It’s front wheel drive, and can get a little torque-steery, but it’s pretty minor. The infotainment system is flawless and absolutely looks like it was stolen from a JJ Abrams Star Trek set. Lots of pastels, and clean typeface displays telling you all kinds of things about power generation and recovery that mean nothing to the average driver, but look cool as hell.
The future looks like this.
Charging is where things can still get a tiny bit complicated. If you just plug the thing into a standard wall charger, you’re looking at 4 miles per hour of charge. Fine, if you drive ten or twenty miles per day, and can plug it into the garage at night. You can spring for a fast charger in your home (about $600, if I remember correctly) which gives you 25 miles per hour of charging. And, you’ve got all the access you want to public superfast charging stations which provide 90 miles in 30 minutes of charge. The nav system knows where all the public charging stations are, too, which is pretty cool.
Bottom line: this is a hell of a lot of car for $30k (price after rebates). A hell of a lot. If this car had a gas engine, I’d bet it wouldn’t sell for a whole lot less, not with the gadgetry running through the inside. Plus, Chevy says the batteries will last well over 100,000 miles. That means no maintenance besides tires, brakes, and washer fluid for 7-10 years, depending on your driving habits.
My guess is that Chevy is selling these at a loss, or is somehow getting a piece of the federal rebates back, or something. I have no idea if that’s even possible, but I also don’t see how it’s possible to make a car this good, this revolutionary, for the price of a Nissan Maxima.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but your next surf mobile should be electric.