Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Chevrolet’s quiet EV is a Bolt from the blue

You won't know the meaning of quiet until you get behind the wheel of this neat electric city car

It’s never a good look when you are sitting behind the wheel of a car, in full public view, unable to work out how to get it moving. Considerably more embarrassing is the realisation that the car was ready to go all along, but you didn’t realise that because it’s an electric vehicle and didn’t announce its preparedness with a growl of engine noise.

Perhaps The National bears some responsibility for that given our motoring pages often feature monstrous vehicles that let you know they’re ready to go with an aural assault akin to a jet taking off.

The silent electric vehicle (or EV as they are also known) we were referring to was the latest version of the Chevrolet Bolt. When you first catch sight of it, it seems similar to a lot of upmarket hatchbacks. It’s smart, compact and not dissimilar to a scaled-down people-­mover, with its designers clearly concerned about how best to use the limited space in the cabin.

But get the Bolt on the road and it turns out to be rather more charming than many of its breed. It zips about the place with the agility of a hamster on a manic hunt for food, while making about the same amount of noise.

Actually, the scampering of a rodent is probably louder than the electric Chevy. Golf carts make more of a racket, particularly if it’s after lunch and the buggies are carrying two bags and their suitably well-fed owners across the course.

This EV is so quiet you could probably drive up behind someone dozing in a chair outside their house, hit the horn and send them into orbit. We don’t recommend you actually do this, of course.

Project Bolt began in 2012, when Chevrolet’s parent company, General Motors, gave a group of engineers a brief to produce a small, efficient electric vehicle. The men and women in question clearly put a bit of work into it, as it was 2015 before the Bolt EV concept made its debut at the North American International Auto Show.

A year later, the production model of the Bolt was unveiled and there was applause all round. That is despite the fact the model has since cost the company money, rather than earning it any. That is a little disappointing because this is a car worthy of public attention.

That engine won't cause a rockfall.
That engine won't cause a rockfall.

In EV terms, this production timetable might not make the Bolt a pensioner, but you could certainly say it is middle-aged. The latest model shows no signs of slowing down, though, as it behaves in as sprightly a fashion as a K-pop band dressed in their shiniest trousers who have consumed half a litre of espresso each. Speed won’t be an issue in the Bolt, that’s for sure – it will do 0-100 kilometres per hour in 7.3 seconds.

EVs are still in their infancy in the UAE, but the government has encouraged motorists to use them to help reduce their carbon footprint. It will take time for people to make the change and this year a survey by YallaMotor suggested 77 per cent of drivers in the GCC had yet to get behind the wheel of an electric or hybrid vehicle.

People still worry about how they’ll fare with an EV, with the chief concern being charging points. But there is already a network across the UAE’s main urban areas and more are opening up all the time. Chevrolet says the Bolt will have a range of up to 520km after a full charge, so, unless you’re doing a lot of driving, you won’t need to top up too often.

A YallaMotor survey suggested that 77 per cent of drivers in the GCC have yet to drive an electric or hybrid vehicle

The time it takes to get power into an EV is also a concern for potential customers. Chevrolet says you can drive 145km after a 30-minute charge. Gone are the days when you had to leave your EV hooked up to the charger overnight.

You can’t get around the fact the Bolt is on the expensive side, though. In the UAE, prices start at Dh174,500, which is not a small amount for a car of this size. This is an impressive and futuristic vehicle, but you will pay for the privilege of driving one.

But it is worth noting the Bolt has been given some encouragement from official circles. Last year, Dubai’s police bought eight of them for its patrol units. If other police forces follow suit and begin ordering EVs then directors of realistic action movies might have a problem, as it’ll make on-screen car chases considerably less noisy.

Filmmakers may have to resort to stealth tactics to generate tension and villains certainly wouldn’t hear the police Bolts coming. Not until the officers creep up behind them and sound their horns in unison, at least.

Updated: October 10, 2019 05:43 PM

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