Saturday, February 10, 2024

My nearly new Chevy Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

I have owned two Chevy Volts starting back in 2012 when I first heard about the vehicle and was a huge fan.  It was GM's experiment to see how people would handle a plug-in electric vehicle with a "range extender" gasoline powered generator on board.  They studied aggregated data from their OnStar system and found that the average commute was about 45 miles so they designed the vehicle to run that far in electric mode and then it would switch on a four-cylinder gas engine that powered a 50 kW generator to provide electric power to the vehicle while operating at approximately 40MPG.  It was a have your cake and eat it too solution that worked for me for over 12 years.

They introduced the Chevy Bolt in 2017 - this is a fully electric vehicle with a range of over 200 miles.  My 2021 model has an EPA rated range of over 238 miles in theory (more on that later).   I purchased it used from a nearby dealer for very reasonable price of $18,500 with only 12,000 miles on the clock.  The reason it was so affordable is due to the battery issue that this vehicle had which had caused some fires - a couple of which burned down houses.  GM identified the problem as a manufacturing defect in the batteries and offered three options for owners of these vehicles:

  1. They would replace the battery if it was a known defective one.
  2. They would install updated software in the vehicle that would limit the charging range to a maximum of 80% charge so as not to stress the battery.  And the update would also monitor the battery very closely.  If any of the battery cells showed heating or degradation issues they would then replace the battery.  If nothing shows up after 6200 miles they would consider the battery safe to drive and would then increase the battery back to the full range.
  3. They would simply buy the vehicle back from the owner.

Car dealers took advantage of this situation and purchased them inexpensively from GM.  My dealer had sold 40 of these recalled vehicles last year.  In some cases these vehicles had batteries replaced, and in others the software update had been installed.  This was the case with my vehicle so the range is limited to  around 180 miles nominal.  This suits my needs perfectly since over 95% of my driving is local, and on longer trips I can simply stop at a super charging station for an hour or so to add over 200 miles range quickly. 

On a recent trip where I drove around 120 miles round-trip I returned home with 29 miles range left.  I was carefully monitoring the miles remaining and the range gauge which we EV owners refer to as the "guess-o-meter" changed from green to amber to warn me of this limited range when it dropped below 30 miles.  Temperatures on this trip were in the mid 30s and low 40s Fahrenheit so I was using some cabin heating which draws down the battery, and I also took advantage of the heated seats and steering wheel which use a lot less power to keep me warm.  

I plugged the vehicle into my level II (240V) charging station and it was fully topped up after about seven hours.  If I were to plug into a (level III) super charging station while on the road, I could fully charge the vehicle in about 1.5 hours. All electric vehicles are provided with a charging adapter for a regular 120 V outlet and this would take about 16 hours for the Bolt.  So clearly it makes sense to install a home charging station. The Bolt draws more power from my home charging station - about 6 kW compared to only 4 kW for the Chevy Volt so I can get more miles of range per hour of charging while charging at home.  

it is important to know that the Volt and Bolt both need to be kept plugged in to a charging station at all times. The reason for this is that the battery needs to be maintained at a comfortable temperature or it could be damaged.  I have an energy monitor that shows that during the winter months the charger delivers power to a heating system in the vehicle periodically in order to maintain a safe temperature for the battery.  I recently saw a news story about some people who got into their Chevy Bolt and it refused to let them drive it until it had warmed up the battery.  Clearly they had not left the vehicle plugged in so it was actually draining the battery down throughout the day in an effort to keep the battery warm.  If you drive with a very cold battery, it can be damaged. 

Overall I am extremely pleased with this vehicle - it is even faster than the Volt with a neck snapping acceleration of 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds.  One feature that I enjoy is the so-called "one pedal driving" mode.  When you shift from D to L, the regenerative braking system allows you to lift your foot off the accelerator which slows the car to a complete stop without ever touching the brake pedal.  (note that the letters D and L no longer refer to gears because there aren't any in electric vehicles).  This extends the driving range by putting a lot more energy back into the battery.  I was going down a steep hill recently and the dashboard showed that 50 kW (FIFTY. THOUSAND. Watts!) were going back into the battery for several seconds.  Holding down the brake pedal gently while in D mode would have accomplished something similar, but I find the one pedal driving mode to be comfortable.  There is also a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel which can be used to engage regenerative braking as well.  

There are a few things I need to adjust in this vehicle.  One of the criteria for any vehicle I own is that it should be able to fit 8ft pieces of lumber inside.  A friend of mine has a Bolt and he recently had 6 2X4s inside the vehicle by folding down the front passenger seat and the rear seats.  

In my model year the rear cargo area drops down about a foot behind the rear seats. This would be fine for normal people who use that area for groceries or suitcases, but I prefer a large flat area.  I looked at 2020 models and they had a hinged cover for that rear cargo well that brings it up to the same height as the folded down rear seats.  


I did some research and found that I can put a hinged cover back in to replicate what was in those earlier models at a cost of around $140.  



Another thing I do with all my vehicles here in Maine is put WeatherTech brand rubber floor mats in the two front locations.  Maine is muddy for many months of the year and that can really wear down the front carpets.

Incidentally, the license plate that I've had for many years is SUN PWRD, since all my electric vehicles have been powered from my solar power system which currently has 39 panels rated to up to 7 kW.  This means that I am driving essentially for free from the power of the sun it feels like an Infinite Improbability Drive (a reference to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).  I found a nice chrome emblem that I can add to the back of the car to reflect this:

And I always keep a towel in the back of the car, just in case! 😀


  1. Nice. Do you still have the Volt as well?

  2. No, I sold it privately to a guy who does building energy retrofits and audits. Someone I knew of professionally.


I welcome all thoughtful comments and feedback!