02.08.2017 - by John U'Ren
Automotive Writer Makes the Switch to EVs

This week we feature a guest post from Steve Schaefer, who has written a weekly automotive column for 25 years, testing more than 1,200 cars. Now, he’s focusing on electric cars and hybrids. Steve recently took delivery of a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV – his first electric car.

As an auto journalist, I’ve driven nearly 1,200 cars over the last 25 years. I’ve sampled pretty much every electric and hybrid car you can get, from the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to the Nissan Leaf to the Cadillac ELR. I even took a short drive in the ill-fated GM EV1. I liked the smooth, quiet ride and loved the environmental benefits of driving an EV, but none of the cars had enough range to make me feel like I could use them most of the time.

I normally test cars for a week, but last year, I snagged a three-month test of a Fiat 500e. It was delightful, but again, range was a concern. So, when I heard about the Bolt EV, with its 238-mile EPA range, I decided then and there to get one.

One month ago today, I went to Boardwalk Chevrolet and drove my brand new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV home. I remember how beautiful it looked parked in front, plugged into the charger, soaking wet with rain. I didn’t see it dry for days.

I ordered my car in October and waited nearly three months for it. There was no picking one off the lot–I didn’t see a real Bolt until I visited the San Francisco Auto Show around Thanksgiving.

The ordering process was easy, but I got impatient. My salesman, Don, as well as mychevrolet.com, gave me periodic updates: my order was accepted, the factory was ready to build it, it was in the loading area waiting for the train from Orion, Michigan, and finally—that it was here.

I agonized over the paint color. I liked the light blue and medium blue. But white looks great on the Bolt, too. I even went down to my local Chevy dealer and stared at cars in the lot painted in those three colors. I eventually went with my gut and ordered the Kinetic Blue Metallic I loved best—and it turned out to be a $395 extra cost (but worth it).

The day I got the good news from Don, was the same day I turned in my old neglected 1993 Plymouth Voyager minivan to California’s Vehicle Buyback Program. From gas guzzler to EV in one sweep.

After a month and 1,646.1 miles, the car is all I’d hoped for. I am surprised, though, that nobody seems to notice me as I drive all over the place. Maybe the looks aren’t distinctive enough.

I like the styling inside and out. Its looks are cute but also strongly drawn. The front and rear have interesting textures in the lights and “grille.” The large windows provide a broad view of traffic around me and the tall roofline add spaciousness. Although the car’s only 164 inches long, it has midsize space, and with the quick-folding rear seats, I can slide in my upright bass, or my electric guitar and amplifier with ease.

You can pick from two interior color schemes. I chose light ash gray and ceramic white instead of the darker gray theme. It adds to the airiness. I also chose the upper Premier model over the LT. It has leather seats, nicer wheels, bonus safety features, and numerous other attractions. I rode in an LT it felt much the same, so all Bolts are good.

I appreciate the upgraded Bose stereo system, as I commute up to two hours a day. The Bolt comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can take your apps with you. In fact, your phone serves as a trusty navigation system.

The sweeping curves inside look designer perfect, and the 10.2-inch center screen is easy to use and view. There are no needles on dials in the colorful instrument panel—but all you need is there, especially the range gauge. Seeing 200 miles available is very reassuring.

A primary requirement for the Bolt EV was to take me on the 165-mile round trip to visit my granddaughters without any charging along the way. We made the trip with 53 miles left on the battery when we got home.

I bought a Level 2 charger for my garage, but I need an electrician. I charge at work, and in a pinch, grab 50 miles or so overnight with slow charging. It hasn’t been an issue. I’m waiting for my stickers so I can drive in the carpool lane and pay half price bridge tolls.

The Bolt EV’s one-speed transmission lets you drive in Drive (D) or Low (L). Low regenerates more electricity while giving you “one-pedal” driving. Just press the accelerator to go forward and lift your foot to stop. There’s a paddle on the steering wheel to add regeneration, too. It’s addictive, and a real EV-only experience. As a new EV driver, I’ve been enjoying the camaraderie of the Chevy Bolt EV Owners Group on Facebook. They even featured a shot of my car as their cover photo for a few days.

Complaints? Well, not many. The sun visors are too short when you use them on the side. I’d like to have adaptive cruise control and automatic intermittent wipers in a car in this price range. But that’s about it.

Base price is $37,495 before the Federal tax credit and California rebate kick in, so with both, you’d have a new EV for under $30K. My car, a loaded upper-level Premier, retailed for $43,905; I’m expecting the California rebate soon. As a lease, the dealer gets the Federal tax credit, but they can factor in some or all of it in the lease payment. I made a larger down payment to keep my monthly payments lower ($335). PG&E now offers a flat $500 payment when you buy or lease an EV.

Last night, on the way home from orchestra rehearsal, with my bass tucked in back, I turned off the radio and cruised home in near silence. What a pleasure.

For more on Steve’s experience with his Bolt, check out his blog at www.stevegoesgreen.com.

2 comments on “Automotive Writer Makes the Switch to EVs”
  1. Bruce Forsberg says:

    Nice writeup Steve! I’m a retired guy who got his Bolt EV just over a week ago. I don’t have any daily destinations to drive to but I love just going for a spin, anywhere. Looking forward to the rain letting up so the drives I take can be longer and even more pleasurable. See you on Facebook!

    1. Steve Schaefer says:

      Bruce, are you in the SF Bay Area? I’ve seen your FB posts. Thanks.

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