'The past ten years was the “lost hybrid decade,” when technology tripped
all over its own shoelaces'

After 10K miles, the electric Chevy Bolt is the best car I’ve ever owned.
You should buy one.
Sep 17 2017  Ethan Stock


The Bolt and trees, coexisting happily

I am not an environmentalist. I grew up on a farm where we planted corn,
logged trees for lumber, and shot deer because, despite great PR, they’re
actually the vampires of the plant kingdom.

I like good cars. I like fast cars. After a series of teenage and college
cars that I thrashed within, and on one memorable occasion past, an inch of
their lives, the first car that I ever purchased was a 1988 BMW 535is, the
near-twin of the original, earth-shattering M5. Mine had been heavily
massaged by world-famous BMW tuner Steve Dinan, and it was glorious.

I then moved to London and entered a delightful, insane 100 horsepower
motorcycle phase that featured a Honda VFR 800 and CBR 600, the latter of
which left me in several pieces on the shore of Lake Geneva at the
French-Swiss border during a truncated European adventure that averaged
north of 80mph.

Returning to America and to reality, I bought an Infiniti G35, the vastly
more reliable Japanese reincarnation of the BMW 5 series, and then, moving
into my family phase, an Acura MDX to haul the kids in 300 horsepower style.

I think that I averaged about 19 miles per gallon for the two driving
decades of 1997–2017, even including the motorcycles, which doesn’t make me
particularly proud, because our planet is melting.

Saving the planet is not something that I spend every waking hour thinking
about, but I’ve got two kids under 10 years old, and I’d like this place to
not actually fully melt during their lifetimes. As someone who puts a lot of
miles on my car every year, I know that I’m part of the problem, and as a
guy who builds technology for a living, I’d always imagined that technology
would solve the problem.

We will someday refer to the past ten years as the “lost hybrid decade,”
when technology tripped all over its own shoelaces. The first hybrid to
cause a big stir — the Toyota Prius — had the acceleration of worn-out
rubber band, the handling of a Carnival cruise ship, and for all that
misery, still only improved its planet-melting gas consumption from ~30 to
~45mpg. Its imitators, like the horrific Honda Civic Hybrid, which I was
doomed to drive for several years after inheriting it from my wife’s
ex-college car to my long-distance-commute slug, were even worse.

Imagine my delight when I read about Chevy’s new all-electric Bolt,
introduced in January of this year. Fast. Stylish. Amazing 238 mile range.
$29,900 after federal incentives, and yet a practical hatchback with lots of
interior room. It seemed like the perfect car to move into a more
enlightened phase of my automotive existence.

I ordered one of the very first ones made from my friend Derek at Tom Bell
Chevrolet, and he delivered it on January 9th, 2017.

Yesterday, it crossed 10,000 miles, and it’s the best car that I’ve ever

As my first electric car, I need to say a couple things about the whole
electron lifestyle. The immediate, vivid impression is how smooth this car
is. I’ve owned some fairly premium gas-powered cars where a lot of engineers
put a lot of effort into twiddling the mechanical geometry of their moving
parts, but no amount of human ingenuity can fully address the fact that
several hundred pounds of metal are rotating, counter-rotating,
reciprocating, springing, and vibrating in every gasoline car. The Bolt is
perfectly smooth, a perfectly linear experience. It’s hard to describe in
words, but it feels luxurious.

Convenience is the other remarkable change. We installed a 220 volt charger
on the side of our garage, and every night, I plug in the car, and every
morning, it’s got a “full tank of gas” to go wherever we want in the whole
metro area. Never being “low” and never needing an extra 10 minutes for a
gas station stop is a delightful, unexpected benefit to going electric.

But did I mention that this is the best car I’ve ever owned? The “electric”
part is great, but this is a car. And I like cars.

It is fast. How fast? 0–60 in 6.3 seconds fast. But it feels even faster,
because from the very first foot of acceleration, it’s already pulling hard,
because electric cars have 100% of their torque from zero RPM, unlike any
gasoline car.

But how fast is 0–60 in 6.3 seconds, really?

Here’s a brief history of my 0–60 times plus two comparables:

1988 BMW M5 [ice], 6.4 sec, $48K. The fastest sedan in the world at that

2004 Infiniti G35 [ice] 6.1 sec, $33K.

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid [ice]. 11.8 sec, $23.9K. Like watching paint dry.

2017 BMW 330i [ice], 5.4 sec, $38.7K.

2017 Infiniti Q50–2.0 [ice] 6.6 sec, $34K.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt [EV] 6.3 sec, $29.9K after incentives.

Let me parse that list for you.

The Bolt is as fast as a typical entry level luxury car, and thanks to the
federal tax incentive, it’s cheaper. It’s as fast as the nice cars I drove
over the past two decades, and it feels luxuriously smooth in a way no
gasoline car can match. At the same time, it’s way more planet-friendly than
any hybrid, and gets to 60 mph *nearly twice as fast*.

Despite the sheer joy I feel having instantaneous,
sneak-through-holes-in-traffic acceleration on tap at any highway speed, the
Bolt is awesome in many more ways.

Visibility, Visibility, Visibility. It’s got loads of glass and a great
driving position, making it bright and airy and pleasant inside. Crash
regulations have made cars more and more like caves over the past decade.
Somehow the safety engineers at Chevrolet have gone dramatically against
this trend, while still delivering an extremely safe vehicle.

It handles well. Due to the stiffness of the battery box and the low center
of gravity, it’s strong through the corners. It drives like a lot of little
details were thoughtfully polished by someone who knew about handling —
someone like chief Bolt engineer Josh Tavel, who happens to be an SCCA-racer
and an ex-NASCAR-crew member.

The interior space is fantastic. Despite passing exterior resemblance to
other, smaller, shorter-range EVs like the BMW i3, the Bolt is way bigger
inside. I am 6'2" and I can comfortably sit in the back seat. Our children’s
two car seats not only fit easily, they have plenty of room in between for
the armrest / cupholder to swing down and create essential between-kid
space. The hatch area holds plenty of groceries, and even larger items.

I could go on about the big touchscreen, the cool 360-degree backup cameras
that aid in parking, and the many other great features, but all of that is
pretty secondary, and draws attention away from the main point:

My wife and I like it so much, we debate who gets to drive it every day.
We’re seriously considering buying a second one, so we can both drive a

There is no downside to this car. It is reasonably priced, fast, smooth,
spacious, and environmentally conscious. It’s made in America by union
workers. And yet, for reasons that I don’t understand, it isn’t selling as
well as it should be.

Coastal millenials are waiting — perhaps years — in line for the
thus-far-vaporware Tesla Model 3, while Elon Musk borrows more billions,
“ships” 30 cars to his employees, and waves his hands. Why?

Urban liberals are buying other inferior EVs like the eGolf and the Nissan
Leaf, or sticking with outdated hybrid technology. Why?

Normal Americans, tens of thousands of them every week, in every state of
the nation, should be buying a Bolt EV. Instead they’re buying Hondas, BMWs,
Infinitis, Acuras, Subarus, Lincolns, and other similarly priced cars that,
on many dimensions, are inferior to the Bolt. Why?

I worry that people have the wrong idea about this car.

Here are some things the Bolt is not:

This car is not is a gutless misery eco-box like a Honda Civic Hybrid.
Trust, me, I’ve driven both. Did I mention that the Bolt is fast? Like,
premium fast.

This car does not handle like a pregnant whale or a Toyota Prius. It’s not
the best handling car I’ve ever driven, but it’s way better than, say, an
Accord. It’s stiff and responsive and was designed by someone who obviously
cares. Want to autocross the Bolt? You can.

This car is not a planet-first, driver-second kind of car. It’s a
driver-first, planet-first kind of car. Yeah, it’s actually both.

This car is not a compromise. When I’m driving it, aside from the joys I’ve
described, I don’t think of it an an electric car. It’s just a car, and a
great car at that.

Everyone in America: After 10K miles, the electric Chevy Bolt is the best
car I’ve ever owned. You should buy one.
[© medium.com]

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