Chevrolet recently announced the 2017 Bolt gets 238 miles EPA-rated range, but also just revealed is this is a combined figure made up of 217 miles highway, and 255 city.
Exceptionally efficient, with a class-leading MPGe, the Bolt makes good use of energy, but the compact crossover design was chosen for its utilitarian value, and because consumers are favoring crossovers, and 255 miles range is great for this price point for city driving.
However, this design does impact its value as a highway car where ultimate range is most desired.
Compared to the proposed Tesla Model 3 aiming for a coefficient of drag of .21, the Bolt’s .32 cd and larger frontal area set it back on what it may achieve in the real world in higher speed driving range.
What’s more, the Bolt charges at just a 50 kW rate via SAE combo CCS, a $750 option for either the LT or Premier trim levels, and GM has no charging network. The Bolt at its fastest charge rate may replenish up to 90 miles range in 30 minutes.
These and other details have led some folks to form opinions in advance of the Model 3 even getting here which is promised to have at least 215 miles EPA combined range, but with stellar aerodynamics and a higher power Supercharger network to rely upon.
The Model 3 is also expected to have larger battery options, which will further put it in the long-legged department for vehicles in this class, though of course this will come at a price – possibly higher than the Bolt which can start at up to $41,780.
Notable regarding the Bolt is the EPA does not use its regen paddles to garner results, and Chevrolet says this stands to increase range by 5 percent.
As for charging networks, it is true Chevrolet has no dedicated network, but public infrastructure is increasing. Among other factors, the Volkswagen diesel settlement stands to see billions dedicated to public charging that ought to let the Bolt plug in as well. Some regions, further, already have sufficient 240-volt charging, and a fair amount of DC fast charging.
But looking at things today, the Bolt appears optimized as a city/suburban runabout. Chevrolet is certainly not portraying it as the ideal ride for the great American Road Trip.
Its spacious volume and tall roof are meant to accept stuff to be carried, so this is the classic point-counterpoint between a four-door sedan versus what is really a glorified hatchback.
Around town, considering average trips may be under 40 miles, the Bolt could actually skip the need for daily charging just as a gas car does not have to scurry to the fuel pump every single day. In this sense as a local car, some might say 238 miles – or 255 miles city – is overkill, if they are accustomed to the relative austerity of a 73-106-mile Nissan Leaf, and declare that to be enough.
The Bolt’s 217 miles highway range is otherwise OK – the best at this price by a long shot, really – but the Model 3, it’s conjectured, may beat that, considering its aero profile which helps a lot as speeds increase and wind resistance rises with speed.
As they say, it is what it is. There is room at this stage not to look at it as a zero-sum game.
The two products share the common denominator of price and range, but are otherwise positioned as two products with significant differences, as well.
And lest we forget styling, this is no afterthought in the minds of many consumers, including the 400,000 who have deposits on the Model 3.
Marketers consistently say people buy based on how they feel about a car, and exterior styling is the number one consideration for the majority of these buyers blending emotional considerations with rational decision making.
The Bolt is handsome to some, and those who admire function over form may be swayed all the more by it because it promises to be an effective transportation tool. But as so many have said, it is not as iPhone-cool as the Model 3, and it lacks the brand recognition of the avante garde Tesla. If that’s you, then your decision is clear.
Otherwise the good news is there will soon be a 200-mile EV for $37,495 before subsidies and as soon as next year, another one is promised in this bracket to be here too, and this could not be said even last year.
Buyers have a choice, and to each his own.