Chevy Bolt EV electric car range and performance in winter: one owner's log
Jan 30, 2018  John Voelcker

[images  / D Gadotti
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car after snowfall, Glacier National Park
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car showing snow accmulation in windshield
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car charge port with accumulated snow
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car charging at home after snowfall
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car showing snow accmulation ...

The arrival of the first affordable long-range electric car on the market
has naturally led some owners to push the car in a way that they might not
do with a plug-in car offering just 80 miles of battery range.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, EPA-rated at 238 miles combined, removes most
daily range anxiety and allows owners to cover predictable commutes for
several days before plugging in, if they choose.

But what about more strenuous usage? Our reader D Gadotti of Western Canada
put a white Bolt EV through its paces in some of the snowiest weather any
electric car may have seen.

What follows are Gadotti's words, lightly edited by Green Car Reports for
clarity and style, and photographs.

Around Christmas, there was a cold snap here in Western Canada, accompanied
by abundant snowfall. I decided to take a break from plowing and shoveling
and go back-country skiing for a couple days at Rogers Pass in Glacier
National Park.

It's a trip of 300 km (186 miles) from my home in the Kootenays to Rogers
Pass, but there are no charging stations there—so I would need enough range
to continue on or return to Revelstoke, a minimum of 370 km (230 mi). 

I was curious to see how my Bolt EV would perform in cold weather. I had
equipped it with the meanest studded winter tires I could find.

So I tossed my warmest sleeping bag on the back bench, put some food and
drink in an insulated chest, loaded my ski equipment ... and off I went.

The trip to Rogers Pass is one I could have done on a single charge earlier
in the year.  Throughout the summer and fall, I got more than 400km (250
mi), confirming reports that the EPA range rating of 238 miles (383 km) is

Once I started using the heater to keep the cabin warm and, presumably,
condition the battery, my Bolt’s range dropped alarmingly to around 250 km
(155 mi) or less.  The number varied depending on outside temperature,
desired cabin temperature, and fan speed. 

I truly wish I could read KWh rather than projected range remaining, but
alas Chevy does not provide that information. 

If I don’t have far to go, or if the outside temperature isn't extreme, I’ll
pamper myself and set the car to 21 degrees C (70 deg F), but on this
frigid-weather trip I kept it to a more frugal 17 deg C (63 deg F). 

While rating agencies give “combined” ranges, meaning city and highway
driving—a bad habit inherited from cars with engines—a much more relevant
datum for EVs would be to give ranges in temperate and cold conditions. 

Some of us live where winter takes four months or more of the year.  Knowing
how far our vehicles can take us in winter is a crucial consideration when

The morning of December 24, I drove to Rogers Pass, where I got my ski
permit. The car's built-in thermometer showed  -20C (-4F) in the sun. I
planned to spend Christmas Eve at the Asulkan cabin in the back country,
skinning a 900-meter (3,000-foot) elevation gain on my skis. 

Meanwhile, my Bolt EV would be parked in the notoriously shady parking lot,
right where a pocket of cold air often stagnates in that bend in the valley.
I had no idea how cold it would get there overnight. 

When I returned, late in the afternoon of the 25th, the Bolt had been parked
in temperatures below -20C for 30 hours.  It had used up almost 40 km (24
mi) of range to keep its battery conditioned, and had 80 km (48 mi) of range
left, just enough to get back to Revelstoke. 

Good thing that route is mostly downhill.

I was just grateful that the doors opened; I had read horror stories of
owners being locked out when the 12-volt accessory battery failed.

There is a backup way to unlock the car, of course—but the owner's manuals,
both on paper and the electronic version on my tablet, were of course inside
the locked car!  (EDITOR'S NOTE: They're available online too, if you have
internet connectivity and a smartphone or laptop.)

Upon turning the car on, I immediately got a warning message about "reduced
propulsion”, likely due to the cold battery. 

With so little extra range, I was scared to use up precious energy even to
defrost my windshield fully, so I sprayed it with isopropyl alcohol instead,
since the windshield washer was freezing on the glass. 

Once on the road the battery began to feel better, my range improved a bit,
and I think I reached Revelstoke with 48 km (30 mi) to spare—thanks also to
the downhill.

The charging port of the Bolt EV opens sideways. When it snows while
charging, the recess fills with snow, some of it turns to ice, and that
makes it hard to open next time. 

I sometimes put a plastic bag on the handle. It ain’t chic, though it helps,
but a door that swings upwards would be much better.

Someone suggested the side opening is best in case you forget to close it,
but no, the car will give you a warning if you try to drive away with the
charge port open.

It was -16C (3 F) in Revelstoke, so cold the local car wash was closed due
to the frigid weather. But I was able to recharge at the Greenlots DC
fast-charging station. 

It's well-known that charging is faster with an empty battery, and slows
down as the pack approaches its full capacity. The Bolt EV, in fact, is
notorious for an early and sharp tapering down of fast-charging.

It took a full 90 minutes to load the first 40.65 kilowatt-hours into the
60-kwh pack, after which I was disconnected.  Wanting to top off to 100
percent, I started a second session.

This time it took almost another hour (53 min) to load a mere 9.93 kwh. The
display showed a charging rate of just "6 kw," no better than a 240-volt
Level 2 station.

I had never seen a "fast" charger slow down that much, so I presume the
temperature was affecting the rate the battery could accept.

The Bolt EV is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and equipped with good tires,
its purchase on ice and snow is as good or better than any car I have ever

Alas, however, it does not offer all-wheel drive nor does it have high
clearance—despite Chevy's occasional claims that it's a "crossover"—and
those are two factors are what I’ll be looking for in my next electric car. 

Right now My Bolt is “snowed in” and I have to drive out my steep,
1.2-kilometer-long drive with my work truck.


I left from home in relatively balmy temperatures around -10C (14F).  My
first stop was going to be Nakusp where about an hour at the Level 2 public
charging station would add some safety to reach Revelstoke and the DC
fast-charger there. 

The road along the way was white with compacted snow, nice and even, having
been plowed recently. 

Nevertheless, the Bolt's steering was squirrely, as if I were driving on a
deeply rutted road surface. 

I finally figured out that ice had built up in all four wheel wells to such
an extent that the front wheels could not pivot to turn without shaving this
ice. This can't be good for the longevity of the car's expensive Nokian
Hakkapelliitta studded winter tires. 

The ice was rock-hard and impossible to dislodge by hand, so I hatched a
plan to hose it off in a car wash and then spray some kind of hydrophobic
coat on the wheel wells. 

However the Nakusp car wash was closed due to the frigid weather and none of
the local stores had a suitable compound. I continued my trip with my
clogged wheel wells.

In Revelstoke, I was able to buy a liquid ski wax, which I intended to use
to coat the wheel wells. (I do this to my aluminum snow shovel in the winter
so snow won’t stick and freeze on the cold metal.)

Alas it hasn't yet been warm enough that I could dry out the wheel wells, so
I can’ t report on the effectiveness of this hack. 

Why didn't General Motors anticipate the problem, or discover it during
testing in Kapuskasing,and avoid it in the first place by coating wheel
wells with hydrophobic materials? 

Electric cars are particularly vulnerable to this problem, as there is no
engine heat bleeding through the inner fender walls to help melt ice blocks
so they let go of the car body.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car showing snow accmulation in windshield
trough [photo: D Gadotti]

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car showing snow accmulation in windshield
trough [photo: D Gadotti]

The area at the base of the windshield where the wipers sit tends to fill
with ice that's very difficult to remove entirely.

Alas, winter is hard on all vehicles, but this trough is a particularly
persnickety recess.

I anticipated some limitations using a Bolt EV for hard winter driving, but
I find that so far, the car is performing better than my expectations. 

A major limitation would be the scenario when it has to be left for a week
or more in very cold temperatures, away from any place to plug it in to keep
the battery conditioned.

That's not as far fetched as you may think: Here in British Columbia,
spending a full week in a remote ski lodge is quite common.

Over to you, GM Canada!
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