We spent weeks shaking down the Chevrolet Bolt EV during the process that culminated in its being awarded our coveted Car of the Year calipers, testing the metaphorical electrical beejeebers out of it in the high desert last September. We feel like we know it pretty well. But a recent opportunity to hang out with the engineers who created it proved we still had plenty to learn. Herewith: our book of Bolt EV revelations.
160-mile top-speed range
Drop your foot to the floor on a freshly charged Bolt EV, and leave it there. The Bolt will whisk you up to its electronically limited 93-mph top speed and run at that speed for about 160 miles (fewer if you’re running the heater or A/C much).
Asymmetric front seats
Like most cars, the outboard front seat bolsters conceal a side-impact airbag, which requires some extra padding. Designers usually pad the inboard side to match, but leaving them skinnier freed up added space for armrest access and center-console stowage. The sew pattern and contrast upholstery design highlights the asymmetry.
Thumbing the Start button on a Bolt EV sets in motion an extensive diagnostics test of 1,400 items, as the central controller queries the 35 sub controllers (a Cruze uses about 20), checking for open or crossed circuits too much or not enough circuit resistance, etc. It’s typically completed in less than 0.5 second.
The Bolt EV does not creep when in one-pedal high-regen mode, so it’s easy to forget you’re in gear and hop out. To prevent this, here’s what happens: Unclick the driver belt, and the electric parking brake sets; open the door, and the car selects park automatically; walk away, and it shuts itself off after an hour—two if you leave the key in the car. (That shut-off strategy apparently holds for most GM cars.)
Tankless water heater
We always figured EV heaters were just industrial hair-dryers blowing through the vents. Nope! The Bolt EV uses a resistance heater not unlike the ones in tankless hot-water heaters to warm coolant that circulates through a heater core just like the ones in every combustion-powered car.
The body weighs less than the battery
Clever usage of high-strength structural steels and unstressed aluminum panels trims the overall body-in-white’s weight to just 815 pounds. That’s 134 pounds less than the 60 kW-hr battery weighs.
How to prank your neighbor’s Bolt EV
There’s a giant circuit breaker located at the high point of the battery pack, accessible by pulling the rear seat cushion and lifting a flap in the sound-deadening stuff near the middle of the car. Yank it, and all the high-voltage electrons are stopped dead in their 288 cells.
Braking out charges a DC fast charger
Monitor your energy-flow meters, and you’ll notice that on some downhill stretches and when decelerating from high speeds—especially in L mode or with the regen-paddle pulled—that the regenerative braking system is dumping electrons into the battery at a rate of 70 kW. The onboard fast-charger can only muster 60.
That’s not a rare estate vintage wine, it’s a setting that ends battery charging at a 90-percent state-of-charge. It’s perfect for owners who live or work at altitude and want to be able to utilize regenerative braking when they leave home or work and for those who don’t want to miss a single mile of one-pedal driving in Low mode.
Activating the rear window washer sends a squirt of fluid down to the rear-facing camera, keeping it squeaky clean when driving on wet, salty, or dirty roads. Also note that if the front wipers are on and you shift to reverse, the Bolt gives you a courtesy wipe of the rear.
Bolt charging Morse Code
Plug in your Bolt and the charge-indicator LED lights on the center of the dash will flash to indicate the battery state of charge:
- At or below 25 percent
- Between 25-50 percent
- Between 50-75 percent
- Above 75 percent
It blinks steadily while charging and glows green when it’s all topped up.