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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chevrolet Bolt EV costs half the price of a Tesla, but isn't close to being half the car

ELECTRIC AND ELECTRIFIED: Chevrolet now offers the all-electric Bolt EV and the Volt, a plug-in that uses gasoline, but can travel on its battery and electric motors for up to 53 miles, at rear. They are on display at The Washington Auto Show, which runs through Feb. 5.
NO FRUNK: Unlike Tesla's Model S, Model X and the upcoming Model 3, you won't find a trunk in front or frunk under the hood of the front-wheel-drive BOLT EV.


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has arrived in showrooms, which is great news for the environment.

But despite what you may have read elsewhere, the humble, all-electric hatchback doesn't offer anything close to the refinement or speed of a Tesla.

On a short drive in the nation's capital on Thursday, I heard a lot more mechanical noise from the Bolt's electric motor and transmission than I'm used to in my 2015 Tesla Model S 60.

And a Chevrolet representative in the front seat couldn't explain why the Bolt didn't have Tesla's automatic regenerative braking -- which charges the battery and slows the car when you lift off the accelerator pedal.

Only after I checked the Bolt website did I learn you have to pull a steering-wheel paddle or shift the automatic transmission into "Low" for regenerative braking, which will bring the car to a full stop at a light or sign -- just like in the all-electric BMW i3.

The Bolt I drove and my Tesla are both zero-emission cars and both have a 60 kWh Lithium-ion battery.

But when I punched the Chevy's accelerator pedal from a standing start, the car was noisy, as I've said, and it didn't leap off the line as does my far heavier Model S.

I also noticed some torque steer or pulling on the steering wheel from the front-wheel-drive Bolt.

Of course, the Bolt has an MSRP that is about half of a rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model S 60 ($37,495 v. $71,000), but with the "affordable" Chevy, you get only what you pay for. 

And a smaller Tesla, the upcoming Model 3, with an MSRP of $35,000 before incentives, looks like it will be a far better value than the Bolt EV.

Right now, the Bolt EV is on sale in California and Oregon. Some Chevy dealers in New Jersey and New York are taking orders this month, with delivery scheduled for March.

EL CHEAPO: The Bolt EV's glove box, above, and interior materials scream "cheap" and "just another econobox."
UNATTACHED: The cover over a hidden compartment in the hatch area isn't attached to the car. It might double as a snowboard for a small child.
ROOM FOR LONG LEGS: The 5-door Bolt EV has a high roof line, and with the front passenger seat back as far as it would go, I had plenty of legroom while awaiting my turn to drive.

Bolt v. Model 3

The Bolt comes in two trim levels starting at $36,620 (LT) and $41,780 (Premier) before incentives, and both have a range of 238 miles on a full charge, according to the website.

Neither comes standard with fast-charging capability or such safety features as forward collision alert or low-speed automatic braking.

They are standard on Teslas as well as on Toyotas and other cars that cost less than the Bolt.

Tesla says its 5-passenger Model 3 sedan, with a starting price of $35,000, will begin production in "mid-2017; have a range of 215 miles on a full charge, and do zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

Model 3 also is designed to achieve a 5-star safety rating, the highest possible and the same as in the Model S and Model X.

In addition, Model 3 will be equipped with autonomous-driving features found in more expensive Teslas, including Autopilot, Autosteer and Autopark; and 1,000 miles of free charging at Tesla's proprietary nationwide network of Superchargers.

If you take Bolt on a road trip, Chevy won't provide any free charging.