During recent cold months, we’ve been day-tripping to many museums as we research our articles for the Cedar Rapids GAZETTE.

On an early March morning electric car specialist, William Weiland, at Cedar Rapids McGrath Chevyland showed us how to drive a Bolt, a completely electric car. Soon we sped the 70 miles to Dubuque without burning a drop of gas. After a pleasant and productive visit to the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and picnic at Mines of Spain, we drove back to Cedar Rapids and returned the car.

First Experience

It was our first experience driving a totally electric vehicle. We were impressed. As is common with anyone considering going electric, we worried about having enough battery capacity for the 160 miles we drove on a cold, windy day. We didn’t need to worry  The Bolt’s “gas gauge” is an easily viewed display of electricity used and remaining and clearly shows how many more miles we could go until the battery was drained.  We could have done our Dubuque trip and continued another 50, or so, miles before it needed recharging.

How Does the bolt Compare?

We own and like a Chevy Cruze, which is an efficient and comfortable gasoline engine car. It is approximately the same size as the Bolt, so our drive gave us an opportunity to compare similarities and differences between cars. Here’s what we noted about the Bolt:

  • It’s fast and powerful. Step on the acceleration pedal and it smoothly and quickly powers forward. The Bolt is gutsier than our Cruze.
  • It’s quiet.
  • It’s comfortable. Much more legroom for front-seat occupants than the Cruze, although the back seat has less legroom.
  • It’s an engineering marvel. The Bolt goes about 280 miles on a charge and can be recharged in several ways. It lacks nothing in electronic capability. Just about any device can be connected, and the audio was of top quality.

How Does a Bolt Work?

  • It regenerates energy. This took a bit of getting used to.  When going down a hill or slowing for a red light or stop sign the Bolt automatically “brakes.”  Although it really isn’t braking. Taking a foot off the acceleration pedal causes the car to slow and stop by generating electricity that is later used for forward motion.  So, it’s slowing the car without engaging brakes. We found it important to ease our foot pressure off the accelerator pedal to slow down rather than taking the foot off immediately.  This avoids being rear-ended by vehicles behind us. After getting the hang of this we really liked the feature. The Bolt has conventional brakes and a brake pedal that can be used.  But, because of regenerative braking, the conventional brakes are used much less than on a gas car, so they last longer.
  • It’s efficient. We used 50 Kilowatt-hours of electricity from the battery to go 160 miles or just over three miles per KWH. Our electric utility charges us 11 cents a KWH at home, so charging the Bolt would cost about 3.7 cents a mile. Our Cruze gets about 36 miles to the gallon on cold windy days and gas costs about $2.80 a gallon as we write this. That’s about 8 cents a mile or a hair over double the bolt’s fuel cost. Gas prices are rising faster than electricity so the gap will widen.

Maintenance Matters

  • Maintenance needs and costs are lower. Electric cars do not need oil changes, since they have no oil.  Also, no radiator or need to change coolant. No spark plugs to change. Basically, maintenance involves rotating tires.

Overall Impression and Conclusion

Before our test drive, we thought we might buy an electric car in the future. Now we’re certain we will. General Motors will switch to entirely electric vehicles, and many other car companies are also making the transition. It’s transformative. As more electrics hit the road more charging stations will appear and technology will continue to advance.  We are entering an electric future that will be cleaner and quieter than our petroleum present.

* Winding Pathways was not paid to review the Chevy Bolt. Ours is an independent review.

*  For another independent review see www.caranddriver.com/chevrolet/bolt-ev.

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