How to beat EV range anxiety? Say hello to the Chevy Bolt!

Do you remember the first time you heard about the iPhone? Like me, did you think “why would I need a phone that did all that?” How long did it take before you were a proud owner and realized that you couldn’t live without it? My bet is that it didn’t take you long. Now, more than 64% of Americans own a smartphone of some variety. That’s nearly double the number from five years ago.

The Chevrolet Bolt will be the first long-range, affordable electric car to hit the market. Photo credit: Forbes.com

I predict we’re about to hear the same story again, but this time the story is about a car – the Chevrolet Bolt. The Bolt is about to transform the car industry in a big way.  We all know Tesla by now – the new car company that developed the world’s first premium all-electric sedan in 2012. They’ve led the electric vehicle (EV) market with the Tesla Model S and are due to release the  Model 3 in 2017 to compete with the more affordable (although lower range capable) Nissan LEAF. The competition to win the hearts of potential EV owners is growing in intensity – we saw more than 100K reservations to purchase the Tesla 3 in just one day – and General Motors’ recent announcement to launch the long-range, affordable Bolt by the end of the year might just be what is needed to move EVs into the “mainstream” and eliminate worries over range anxiety once and for all.

The Bolt is a small, five-door car that looks similar to some of Chevy’s other compact cars. The EPA estimates the battery range of 238 miles. That’s more than double what the popular Nissan LEAF gets per charge and just short of the best-selling Tesla Model S.  That means that I could drive from Atlanta to Charlotte (or many other great Southeast destinations) on a single charge. Plus, the Bolt is also a fraction of the cost of the Tesla Model S or X. It is listed at $37,495, which will make it under $30K after federal incentives. This is huge news for potential EV owners and the industry as a whole.

The Bolt has a 60 kWh battery pack and includes a whole host of features that will be completely new to new EV drivers and others, like three range indicators, that can help you track how many miles you have to travel under different driving behaviors. This offers the driver the potential to actively engage in minimizing the power used and getting the most out of each battery charge. The screens also provide detailed information about how battery power is being used. For example, how much is being used for driving, cooling, heating, etc. Current EV drivers who’ve ever been close to their range and experienced a sweaty “range anxiety” drive to conserve battery power will enjoy having some earlier indicators of the impact of  A/C and heating use. For a full list of standard or premium options, check them out here.

The Bolt also features the newest EV technology: one-pedal driving.  I haven’t had the opportunity to test drive the Bolt yet, but the way one-pedal driving is supposed to work is that the car will decelerate as soon as the driver lets her foot off the accelerator, using regenerative braking that will send energy back into the battery. The level of braking will be determined by how far the foot is taken off the pedal. Drivers will also be able to brake using a paddle on the steering wheel. I am eager to see how this feature actually is implemented. But never fear – for those not quite ready to explore the benefits of this feature, there is still a brake pedal that can be employed.

Like other electric cars, the Bolt is reported to have considerable torque (that’s the “get up and go” of the car).  You’ll be sure to beat any conventional gas car in a stoplight race.

I saw my first Bolt at the EV Roadmap 9 conference in Portland, OR this summer. In my opinion, it is not the most attractive design, particularly in comparison with the Model 3, but the inside is generously sized with lots of leg room and ample storage for a compact. Most importantly, though, the Bolt will prove that EVs are here to stay and will be the next thing you can’t live without. While EVs, like the Nissan LEAF with much shorter ranges, can meet the weekday travel needs of 69% percent of drivers in the U.S, the 238 miles range of the Chevy Bolt means more freedom and travel potential that American drivers want.

Amidst the news last week of the pipeline spill (and reminders of the consequences of the oil and gas industry), the news of the Bolt as the first affordable, long-range EV is guaranteed to set us on a new path in transportation.

To check out the first road-trip in a Chevy Bolt, check out this link.

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