With regular unleaded soaring over $2.00 per litre in some provinces, and expectations for even higher pump prices in the near future, Canadians are starting to get serious about going electric. This brings up the question, which EV is most efficient?
While EVs capable of “going the distance” are impressive, an ability to drive 400 to 500 kilometres on a single charge might not be your best choice unless you plan to travel from Toronto to the Muskokas or Vancouver to the Okanagan on a regular basis. Efficiency, on the other hand, is paramount, because it factors in how much you’ll actually be spending. After learning this, you can compare a given EV to the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicle you’re driving now.
This formula would normally require the comparison of an EV’s Le/100km ranking to an ICE vehicle’s L/100km rating, but in this case, we’re borrowing info compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so you’ll be seeing MPGe. Either way, it gives us a good indication of the top 5 most efficient vehicles available in a market that’s very similar to Canada, plus, as an added bonus, we’ll also list off how the “losers” fared.
1) Tesla Model 3: Canada’s best-selling electric vehicle for good reason
Most popular doesn’t always translate into most practical, but in the world of electric cars, efficiency seems to matter just as much as style, performance, luxury features and premium status. The Model 3 has it all, along with best-selling BEV stats and sales leadership in its compact luxury D-segment, beating such perennial all-stars as BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi’s A4 (see our Tesla Model 3 sales story here).
At a starting price of $45,099, the all-electric Model 3 is just $109 more expensive than the $44,990 base BMW 330e, which is merely a plug-in hybrid, while last year’s M-B C 300 4Matic Sedan (the redesigned one is not yet available) started at $49,500 with no motive electrification at all. Similarly, the 2022 Audi A4 Komfort 40 TFSI quattro incorporates no electric motivation, but at least its $43,800 window sticker saves $1,299 off the top, but that’s no small comfort when balancing off all of these German challengers’ premium unleaded requirement.
So how do the numbers stack up? As per the EPA, the Model 3 achieves 132 MPGe combined city/highway for a cost of $500 USD per year, or about $635 CAD at the time of writing. After seeing countless social media posts of Canadians filling their tanks well beyond $100 per fill per week, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how quickly a Model 3 might pay itself off compared to the just-noted ICE vehicles it competes with.
2) Lucid Air: Gorgeous newcomer offers a lot for the luxury sedan crowd
Lucid what? For many, the name Lucid won’t ring any bells, but those keeping an eye on the EV scene will already be well informed of this Tesla Model S sized competitor. Designed to compete with Tesla’s first practical passenger car (which achieves sixth place on this list), the Air is a much more modern take on luxury, plus its $105,000 entry point is much more advantageous than the Model S’ $120,700 base price.
Still, eclipsing the $100k threshold will make Lucid Motors’ initial model out of reach for the majority of Canadians, even when considering its exceptional 131 MPGe rating and second-place ranking on this list, the latter matching the Model 3 at $500 USD per year, incidentally, or $635 CAD.
3) Tesla Model Y: An even more practical Model 3
For those wanting a Model 3 but requiring more space, the Model Y provides a sporty crossover alternative featuring more cargo space, a handy liftback design and a slight increase in ride height for better overall visibility.
Starting at $75,700, the Model Y brings EV ownership a bit more down to earth than the Lucid, albeit nowhere near as affordable as the Model 3. At 129 MPGe, however, its annual running costs are identical to the aforementioned EVs at about $500 USD ($635 CAD).
4) Chevrolet Bolt EV: Affordable from the get-go
General Motors has been building electric cars longer than the majority of its competitors, giving Chevy a competitive edge that’s resulting in strong sales and low running costs.
The Bolt EV achieves a 120 MPGe rating and $550 USD ($700 CAD) per annum running costs, and when including its initial price of just $38,198, becomes one of the more affordable electric vehicles on this list, especially after factoring in any government rebates.
If you’re wondering how Hyundai’s $44,999 Ioniq 5 fits into the picture, which incidentally is identical under the skin to the less dominant Korean brand’s just-mentioned EV6, a ninth-place standing is respectable, plus 114 MPGe rating and $600 USD ($764 CAD) yearly running cost estimate laudable, the two new Korean models making me wonder how Kia will be able to sell any more $44,995 Niro EVs, which sits 10th on this list. That practical crossover manages 112 MPGe, however, for the same annual cost of $600 USD ($764 CAD).
Mustang Mach-E is a strong seller despite being less efficient than many EV peers
Considering its success on the sales charts, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E should seemingly be ranked higher on this list, but its 103 MPGe and $650 USD ($827 CAD) annual running cost estimate won’t allow, although it’s more or less matched to its main competitor, Tesla’s Model X that achieves the same yearly electrical costs, albeit just 102 MPGe. The sharp looking new Volkswagen ID.4 ranks the same for running costs too, but with a 99 MPGe fuel economy estimate.
As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and handling, or Honda’s Fit as far as cargo carrying capability, but those two, like so many others in this class, are gone, leaving a shrinking subcompact market segment that’s now a mere shadow of what it once was only a few short years ago.
Fortunately, the current 2021 Bolt includes a few crossover-like styling cues, such as roof rails plus some thick black cladding around its wheel cutouts and rocker panels, as well as an ever-so-slightly raised stance, so it kind of qualifies for subcompact SUV status. Either way, the tiny rocket would probably beat the aforementioned Fiesta ST off the line, let alone a Mini Cooper JCW, while the impressive load of features in my top-level Premier model comes close to promoting it to premium status.
By all accounts it’s a rather unassuming looking hatchback, not unlike the Spark and Sonic that came before. It’s sized more like the latter car, but provides a sleeker, more windswept look than the now discontinued Chevy subcompact, and certainly more road presence than the tiny little Spark, which has now taken over the mantle of Canada’s most affordable new car from Nissan’s cancelled Micra and Mitsubishi’s slightly pricier Mirage.
Having only arrived in 2017, the Bolt has quickly taken over sales chart superiority in the subcompact segment, with last year’s 4,026 Canadian deliveries clearly outpacing the category’s second-best-selling Kia Rio that only managed to find 3,868 buyers, a far cry from the 15,601 new owners it earned in 2013, a year that saw Hyundai’s Accent in first with 18,884 sales. Interestingly, 2013 wasn’t even the Accent’s most successful year, with 2008 notching up 29,751 unit-sales, this being the highest number of sales that a vehicle in this class has ever managed over a calendar year in Canada. The entire segment didn’t even break 16,000 deliveries in 2020, incidentally, and if it wasn’t for the Bolt, it probably wouldn’t have come close to that number. Looking back now, it’s bizarre to fathom that Canada’s subcompact category almost hit 100,000 units in 2014.
Of course, the Bolt has about as much in common with today’s Kia Rio or Nissan Versa (the only two mainstream volume-branded subcompact models left) as a BMW 3 Series. Sure, it might be sized like the little Korean and Japanese models, but it’s plug-in battery-powered and therefore priced more like the Bavarian luxury sedan. In fact, you can buy the Bimmer for $48 less (not factoring in dealer discounts or government subsidies); the 330e plug-in hybrid starting at $44,950, compared to the base Bolt LT’s starting price of $44,998.
My Bolt Premier tester will set you back $50,298, including its vibrant Oasis Blue paint, this standout hue of blue being one of two standard colours including Summit White, while Silver Ice Metallic (exclusive to this trim), Nightfall Grey Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic, Kinetic Blue Metallic, Cayenne Orange Metallic, and Slate Grey Metallic cost $495 extra, and Cajun Red Tintcoat is slightly more at $595.
You’ll need to pay $750 more for a Driver Confidence II package if you want to get following distance indicator, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and IntelliBeam automatic high beams, items normally standard in this price range, thus pushing the base price up over $51,000, while Chevy also offers a 120-volt charging cord for $850, plus aluminum sill plates for $155, a number of carpeted and all-weather floor and cargo mats, an interior protection package, a cargo net, and the list goes on.
While the price of entry is staggeringly high for the Bolt’s subcompact class, its base sticker costing more than twice as much as the most expensive 2021 Kia Rio 5-Door EX Premium, keep in mind that base models qualify for the federal government’s $5,000 rebate, while BC offers another $5,000 rebate (my total rebate was shown as $8,000 after configuring) and residents of Quebec a maximum of $8,000 (check with each jurisdiction for eligibility), so other than the fact that these incentives are paid by regular Canadian taxpayers (many of which are poor folk barely managing to keep making payments on their Sparks, Micras and Mirages, let alone bus passes), it can significantly reduce the cost of EV ownership.
With or without the just-noted extras, the Bolt Premier’s cabin is very inviting, with a lot of light and medium grey colour tones combined with orange stitching on the perforated two-tone leather seats. It’s a sporty look that nicely matches the little electric car’s spunky character.
Most eye-catching is the digital gauge cluster and large infotainment touchscreen, the former bright, colourful and filled mostly with primary driving information, albeit featuring a useful multi-information display at centre. The main touchscreen on the centre stack was bright and colourful too, plus extremely well-organized with most of the features new car buyers expect these days, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as all the usual audio features like SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming. Redundant controls are included for the single-zone auto climate system too, plus in-depth pages for powertrain efficiencies.
Considering the lofty price, I found it odd that no navigation system was included, especially now that some electric cars provide sophisticated navigation equipment that effectively maps out range and finds the nearest public charging location. Of course, you’ll be able to use your smartphone’s navigation via the aforementioned Google and Apple apps for directions, even if these don’t include the types of EV-specific functions $50k should provide. Fortunately, the just-noted audio system is a good enough distraction to lessen any range anxiety that might develop by not knowing where to hook up, while the moving guideline-enhanced backup camera with its separate overhead view will make slotting into the EV charger’s parking spot a near effortless experience when you’ve finally located one.
Charging is almost a non-issue, by the way, thanks to so much range that you might find yourself blasting up and down the highway just to see if you can drain it, like I did for part of my test. In fact, I drove it most of the week without the need to charge, but take note that larger batteries need longer to top up. Chevy claims about 40 km of range per hour of charging on a 240-volt system, which you can purchase for your home or find elsewhere in shopping mall parking lots, public building parking, or private charging resellers like ChargePoint or Flo, while a public-access DC fast charger only needs 30 minutes on the plug to generate up to 145 km of range.
Max range on a full charge is 417 km, although this is an estimate that depends on plenty of factors, from the load you’re carrying (including bodies and cargo), exterior temperature (colder weather means less range), driving style (if you’re stomping on the throttle all the time, or putting on a lot of highway miles, you’ll dramatically reduce distance to empty), plus more.
Yes, the “tiny rocket” descriptor I used at the beginning of this review says it all, the Bolt lives up to its name and then some. Jabbing right foot to the floor results in seriously neck-snapping straight-line acceleration, the direct result of all the big battery’s 66-kWh capacity and the immediacy of an electric motor’s power delivery, especially one putting out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. With Sport mode engaged (which really does make a difference), it’s 0.2 seconds quicker off the line than the long-gone Fiesta ST, by the way, the Bolt launching from standstill to 100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds, but its 1,616-kilo (3,563-lb) curb weight is just too much to make it as agile through the corners as the 1,234 kg (2,721 lb) blue-oval hatchback.
It holds its own nonetheless, and provides a more comfortable ride, which no doubt matters more to the majority of EV buyers. On that note, I left it in one-pedal mode most of the time, what you get by pulling the gear lever rearward to its L position. This allows you to drive by just using the throttle; what might otherwise be called the gas pedal in a conventional vehicle, or we could call it the go-pedal if you prefer. So set, braking is mostly automatic via electric motor drag when lifting the right foot. It’s an incredibly smooth operator, much better, in fact, than any previous system like this I’ve used. Normally there’s too much braking power, causing everyone’s heads to bob back and forth uncomfortably when pressing and lifting off the go-pedal, but the Bolt was really smooth and easy to modulate.
Chevy also provides a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that effectively does the same when it comes to braking, so if you prefer to have less rolling resistance for a more traditional feel when driving around, you can just leave it in drive and use the steering wheel paddle to brake when needed. Of course, there’s a big brake pedal in the usual spot, just in case you need to stop quickly.
The steering wheel rim next to braking paddle is heatable, incidentally, while the Bolt Premier’s three-way heated front seats were capable of therapeutic levels of warmth. Additionally, a wireless device charger was integrated within the lower centre console, purposely tucked away so drivers won’t be tempted to glance down at an incoming message when on the road. Chevy made sure that texts can be viewed and responded to (via stock answers) on the centre display, so there’s less need to touch it while driving. Two USB-A connectors and a powered auxiliary port can be found right beside the wireless charging pad, while another two USB-A charging points are located on the backside of the front console for rear passengers.
In case you were wondering if the Bolt Premier’s $50k-plus retail price buys you lavish levels of luxurious finishings, Chevy wasn’t feeling generous when applying the types of soft-touch synthetic surfaces found in cars costing upwards of $30,000. Instead, it gets a small rubber armrest on each door panel, plus a more comfortable padded leatherette one in the middle. I found the seats excellent, offering good support all around, but surprisingly they’re not powered. Should we chalk that up to environmentally conscious weight savings?
Along with the manual seats and lack of navigation, my top-line Bolt was also missing a sunroof, and just in case you didn’t notice me mention it above, the automatic HVAC system only has one single zone. Some of these items can be found in similarly sized subcompact hatchbacks sold in the low $20,000s, so when it comes to these creature comforts, at least, be prepared to pay more for less.
Of course, the majority the money goes towards the big battery pack and electrical drive system that makes driving it so much fun, and so ultimately efficient. It’s also roomy, especially for legroom and headroom. Chevy designed it with a long wheelbase to accommodate the battery, which spans the entire floor, from the front foot well to rearmost portion of the back seat. The end result is a noticeable improvement in legroom over its subcompact peers, while head space in this class is almost always open and airy. This said it’s narrower than compacts like Chevy’s old Cruze and Volt, but not by much, while it’s a lot wider than the little Spark, so there’s more room for elbows and knees.
The driver’s position fit my long-legged, short-torso body ideally, with excellent reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, while most rear passengers should be able to stretch their legs out to some extent, due to feet slotting easily underneath the front seat. A nice large folding armrest can be found at the centre of the rear row, while heated seats are included in back too. There’s decent storage as well, with 1,603 litres (56.6 cu ft) available when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, making this a very practical little electric. Chevy even includes a removable cargo floor for fitting in taller cargo or stowing belongings below, one item of which was the aforementioned 120-volt household-style charge cord that can be used at home while waiting for a 240-volt system to be installed.
So that’s the 2021 Chevy Bolt from front to back, with a little sales info and road testing to spice things up in between. If you’re looking for the best deal on a subcompact hatchback it’s probably not the car for you, but if you want the most advanced small hatch on the market, not to mention one of the more affordable new electric cars available, it’s a very good choice that I can’t help but recommend. Its overall performance is strong, range superb, infotainment technology impressive, overall livability great for the small car sector, and overall design appealing for a car in its class.
The all-new 2022 model will remedy a significant portion of my pricing complaint, so if you’re considering one of these outgoing 2021 models, make sure to aggressively push for a final price that comes closer to matching the much more affordable new version. If your Chevy dealer can’t do that, you should probably choose a 2022.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
The Bolt EV, which currently combines subcompact-sized hatchback practicality with a zero-emissions plug-in battery-powered electric drivetrain that’s more fun to drive than anything available at its…
The Bolt EV, which currently combines subcompact-sized hatchback practicality with a zero-emissions plug-in battery-powered electric drivetrain that’s more fun to drive than anything available at its entry-level size, is getting a major update for 2022, including an even more practical EUV crossover variant.
Think of the latter as the modern-day version of the now defunct Prius V, which was a good idea from a practical standpoint, albeit the EUV is purely electric instead of hybrid powered, and arguably more attractive to a broader consumer base. The two Chevy EVs are also smaller than anything that currently wears the Prius nameplate, with even the updated regular variant sized closer to the subcompact Prius C, which was also discontinued for lack of sales.
Despite mighty Toyota failing to create a brand within a brand with its highly successful Prius nameplate, now only offering two slightly different looking versions of the same compact/mid-size hatchback, one hybrid-powered and the other upgraded with a larger battery and plug-in capability, General Motors’ most popular brand will take a stab at the sub-brand business model, but to Chevrolet’s credit their new EUV actually looks like a subcompact crossover, so maybe it will fare better in this daunting quest than Toyota.
The current first-generation Bolt is a raised hatchback as well, and therefore similarly crossover-like. In another attempt to give it crossover status, the new version, shown on a sandy beach in some of its press photos (which is never a smart place to park without four-wheel drive), once again gets a slight lift along with blacked out trim around its lower regions and wheel cut outs, with only a set of black roof rails needed to finish off the SUV look. Alas, you’ll need to step up to the new EUV to get those.
The Bolt EUV also grows the regular model in every dimension, although it’s really only adding 161 mm (6.3 in) of length, being that it’s just 5 mm (0.2 in) wider with 10 mm (0.4 in) more track, plus 5 mm (0.2 in) taller. This improvement, which adds 75 mm (3 in) of wheelbase, allows the EUV to gain 78 mm (3.1 in) of legroom in back, but oddly cargo space is down a fraction, from 470 litres (15.6 cu ft) with the seats up and 1,614 litres (57.0 cu ft) when lowered, to 462 and 1,611 litres (16.3 and 56.9 cu ft) respectively in the larger EUV.
Despite the increase in height, the EUV’s headroom is also lower by a literal 0.2-mm (0.1-in) hair front to back, while it loses 24 mm (0.9 in) more up front when the sunroof is added. Shoulder room gets reduced nominally in the second row too, whereas hip room increases by a similarly wafer-thin sliver up front yet decreases by slightly more in back, so therefore the move up to the larger EUV really only benefits rear passenger legroom, an issue that reportedly causes complaints from current Bolt owners. At least the little crossover’s curb weight only increases by 41 kilos (90 lbs).
The added weight won’t likely be felt by EUV buyers thanks to the aforementioned performance of today’s Bolt, a power unit that Chevy saw no need to upgrade, although it will shave approximately 15 km (9 miles) from the larger model’s estimated range, from 417 km (259 miles) to 402 (250). This means the new 2022 Bolt EV and EUV will both be powered by a permanent magnetic electric drive motor and 65-kWh, 288-cell lithium-ion battery that combine for a very healthy 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Both models will be front-wheel drive only, like a number of other small crossover SUVs currently available.
DC fast charging capability is standard, which provides about 150 or 160 km (100 or 95 miles) of respective EV or EUV range after a 30-minute recharge, while a new dual-level charge cord allows its owner to hook up to either a 240-volt charging station or 120-volt household-type three-prong outlet.
Anyone familiar with the current Bolt will see the new models’ most significant changes inside, where both the EV and EUV receive cabins featuring a more horizontal theme to create a wider visual presence. The new layout is more conventional too, with a less pod-like centre stack that flows downward into a traditional lower console. It remains filled with the same standard 10.2-inch touchscreen, which is not only large for the subcompact class, but has been refreshed with new graphics. The system continues to offer a full assortment of functions, including standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus available navigation, while it’s now supported by standard wireless charging. On the contrary, the fully digital primary instrument cluster appears identical to that in the outgoing car.
Along with the current Bolt’s previously noted rear legroom shortcomings, customers also complained about seat comfort and substandard interior materials quality. While there’s never an excuse for the former, the latter wouldn’t normally be an issue amongst subcompact vehicles, but being that the Bolt EV nudges up against $45,000 before any government rebate programs, more soft-touch synthetics probably should have been part of this EV’s offering all along. Therefore, 2022 variants will reportedly get better perceived quality, with some dash-mounted faux leather even appearing in the press images. Interior switchgear has also been improved, although nothing appears premium-like in its design or execution.
The redesigned lower centre console features a new gear selector, however, ditching the conventional shift lever for a narrow row of Acura/Honda-like push and pull buttons. A green-lit button closest to the driver engages one-pedal driving, which is a more effective way than sliding the shift lever into the “L” position, a system used for the current Bolt and other GM EVs and plug-ins. More familiar to Bolt and Volt users are paddles on the backside of the new flat-bottom steering wheel, which can be used to assist braking and recharge the battery via regenerative kinetic energy.
Speaking of tech, the top-tier EUV Premier will be the first Chevy to offer GM’s Super Cruise hands-free semi-self-driving technology, functional on median divided highways. The EUV Premier also boasts adaptive cruise control and an HD 360-surround parking camera.
As for new Bolt family styling, most should find the smaller EV more attractive than its already reasonably handsome (for a subcompact hatchback) predecessor, unless its prospective owners would rather look at a more traditional grille-filled front fascia. The new car does away with the black mesh grille insert for a grey-painted and patterned panel within an ovoid outline, a very slender opening slotting below being the only real opening. This at least creates a familiar face compared to the Tesla Model 3 that looks as if it’s one of those non-branded cars used for insurance company advertising (and the like).
Chevy once again ties a black strip of fender trim into the headlight clusters, which are now LEDs to enhance forward visibility and potentially lead to a higher IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, but those lighting elements are much more complex than the ones departing. The main lenses are narrower, thanks to the just noted LEDs within, while the old car’s traditional fog lamps get replaced by an extension of said black trim, not unlike today’s Cadillac front fascia designs.
The EUV gets a different frontal look, separating the headlamps and vent-like fog lamp bezels, and providing a deeper air intake at the base of the solid grey grille insert. The aforementioned black fender trim piece flows into the mirror caps of both cars, and appears to follow the black-painted window trim around the glass to a floating roof, similar to the car it replaces and other Chevy vehicles. While the backsides of both models are quite different in execution, they have similar designs overall, with neat, horizontally-shaped LED-infused taillights at each corner, plenty of glossy black composite in between, and big matte black bumpers at the bottom, the EUV a bit dressier thanks to a set of aluminum-look faux skid plates front to rear.
Pricing for the 2022 Bolt EV will start at just $38,198 plus freight and fees, which is an impressive $6,800 less than the outgoing 2021 Bolt EV, whereas the new Bolt EUV will be available from only $40,198. Just as importantly, loading them up should keep their end numbers below $45k, which if exceeded disallows them from government rebate programs. Currently, only the base 2021 Bolt LT, at $44,998, qualifies for the most generous government handout, while the better equipped Bolt Premier’s $50,298 MSRP disqualifies it from any rebates. The new models are expected to arrive at GM retailers this summer, so we expect GM to offer ever-increasing incentives in order to rid dealerships of the current model.
So far CarCostCanada is only showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2021 Bolts, and up to $2,000 on 2020 models, but you’ll need to become a member to find out the details. CarCostCanada’s inexpensive membership provides the latest info on manufacturer rebates, when available, plus up-to-date details on factory leasing and financing deals, while best of all you’ll receive dealer invoice pricing to help you get the optimal deal on any new vehicle.
It should come as little surprise that Chevrolet’s new Bolt EV is now the best-selling electric vehicle in Canada.
It went on sale in January and has accumulated 697 buyers, although according to one of my local dealers that’s been turning away potential customers regularly, they could’ve sold many more if any were still available.
Nissan’s slightly larger Leaf was second, by the way, selling 586 units during the same five months (still respectable considering its age), while the Tesla Model S found 397 buyers, that brand’s Model X another 372, BMW i Series 156 (mostly made up of i3s, but marginally boosted by the i8 supercar), and Mitsubishi lured in 29 new i-MiEV owners (that’s it for available EV sales numbers).
Of note, the Bolt has been available south of the 49th since December of last year when it accumulated a considerable 579 sales, but over the first five months of 2017 it’s managed to garner more than 10 times that amount with 5,950 units down the road.
In comparison, the Tesla Model S walked away with the EV sales crown with 8,900 sold during the same time period, followed closely by the brand’s new Model X at 7,000 units. The more directly comparative Nissan Leaf found just 5,742 American buyers during the same five months, while the more comparably sized and shaped BMW i3 sold 1,919 units. Almost taking up the rear was Mercedes’ B250e with 271 sales, a pure electric not available here (but they don’t get the gasoline-powered B-Class), while dragging its tail (is it technically still available?) was the i-MiEV with 6 sales.
Either General Motors underestimated the demand for its little subcompact plug-in or they just don’t have the capacity to build more at their Orion Township, Michigan assembly plant, where they also produce the Euro-spec version dubbed Opel Ampera-e, as well as the Chevy Sonic (that’s similarly sized albeit built on the new BEV II platform architecture instead of the Sonic’s Gamma II).
GM may want to cut back production of the Opel Ampera-e now that they’ve sold off their European division (it’s doing especially well in Norway) in order to support their North American markets more, or even better they could turn that soon to be phased out model into a Buick Bolt and build/sell it in China where EVs are taking over city streets, and then bring it back here like they’re doing with the Envision compact SUV, but with a new name, a few Buick styling tweaks, and a fancier interior. See, I’ve got it all sussed out. GM just needs to give me a call to sort out the details.
If it were only so easy, but the General is certainly on the right track with its new Bolt. In fact, one of the reasons GM’s stock price has risen over the past month, year, and five-year intervals, and Ford’s has been on the decline for all of the above (except the five-year), is its success in the plug-in arena, first with the Volt, the number one selling PHEV period, and now the Bolt, which could very well zip into the top North American sales spot once availability matches demand.
And no, I’m not about the digress (too far) into the upcoming Tesla Model 3 despite presales humbling any current or past EV, because it’s not yet available and may not be for some time. Of course, most of us are hoping it will succeed, as Tesla is a modern-day success story that’s truly shaken the old guard to its knees (especially on the markets, where real-world results aren’t as important as “fingers crossed” projections), so we’ll cross that bridge (hopefully while driving a Model 3) when we come to it.
The Bolt EV is in the here and now (or at least it was before selling out—talk to your Chevy dealer as I know there’s at least one available in the near future, and it’s sitting in my driveway), and can be had for $43,095 before freight and dealer fees, discounts (good luck with that), and government rebates (up to $5,000 in BC, $14,000 in Ontario, and $8,000 in Quebec).
I know that price is mighty close to BMW’s i3, but despite the Bimmer’s near F1-tech levels of carbon-fibre construction, better handling, mostly nicer finishings inside, and that all-important blue and white roundel, it’s not in the same EV class as the Bolt, at least if the main goal is going as far as you possible can on a single charge, and hardly worrying one whit about how much throttle you use getting there.
Where the 2017 i3 has been boosted to an impressive 200-km range (183-km as per the EPA) thanks to a new 33.0-kWh lithium-ion battery (10.0-kWh more than the previous one), the Bolt uses a much more convincing 60-kWh lithium-ion battery for a claimed range of 383 km! That’s right, almost twice the range of the i3. There’s no gasoline-powered range extender (REx) engine, mind you, but with the ability to cover such distances on a single charge, does anyone really need the added weight and complexity of a tiny putt-putt motor? Hardly. The Leaf, incidentally, can cover an estimated 172 km between charges.
Tesla Model S owners are giggling right about now, or at least those who spent upwards of $170k on a P100D that can manage up to 542 km after a full charge (even the base 75 is good for 426 km), but the Model S starts out at about twice the price of the Bolt and that aforementioned model quickly escalates to nearly $200,000 with options, so it’s just as silly as comparing the go-fast performance of a Porsche Panamera Turbo to Sonic.
The Bolt is surprisingly quick, by the way, and even includes a Sport mode to liven up acceleration. I’ll likely go on at length about its performance credentials and other driving dynamics during my upcoming review, as well as pour over the differences between the base model and my tester’s top-line Premier trim, plus the car’s overall liveability and other attributes/drawbacks (no car is perfect). So stay tuned for all the road test review…