Is Chevy’s little eco-warrior is a practical proposition?
Road test: 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV
While there remains a plethora of vehicles in production that we aren’t fortunate enough to have available in showrooms in the UAE, that list is about to get one model shorter thanks to the introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
The all-electric American supermini arrives touting some pretty impressive range figures – more on the reality of those shortly – and steady sales around the world. Until now, however, real-world factors such as a lack of charging stations had prevented its introduction in the Emirates.
My drive in the Bolt EV is part of the Electric Vehicle Road Trip Middle East, an ambitious journey snaking its way for hundreds of kilometres around the UAE and Oman, starring everything from Teslas to a BMW i3, plus a small fleet of Bolts.
It provides a perfect proving ground for a car that has been marketed with a range of 520km on a single charge.
The optimistic nature of that figure quickly becomes apparent on the first leg of the trip, heading from Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre towards the Tilal Liwa hotel in the Al Dhafra Region.
The journey is about 160km, which clearly should be well within the little Chevy’s grasp – drive carefully and we should, in theory, be able to get there and return, with enough charge left to pop back to the desert resort, where a charging station is being inaugurated.
Admittedly the Bolt isn’t fully charged when we depart, but it is two-thirds towards the maximum mark, which should give us, by back-of-a-napkin maths, about 340km to play with. It actually reads 268km remaining, with a top level of 316km.
When we arrive at Tilal Liwa, despite much of the drive being in cruise control with little in the way of battery-sapping inclines, the range meter is showing only high double figures.
Admittedly, our Bolt is laden with myself, three passengers and a decent amount of luggage, which does demonstrate its capacity for comfortable family carrying, but may not aid its distance between charges.
That said, if you are contemplating to boot out your nearest and dearest just to make it to your destination, ditching the eco-friendly idea of car-sharing in the process, that isn’t the finest endorsement.
The Bolt does possess a couple of trump cards to alleviate some of your range anxiety. When it is switched into One-Pedal Driving mode, you can scrub off speed and even come to a complete standstill without using the brakes: ease off the throttle and, much like the clever technology we tested recently in the Nissan Leaf, the Bolt will slow itself without any shoe-based input from the driver. The second, more idiosyncratic eco feature, is a paddle on the back right of the steering wheel that, when squeezed, allows for regenerative braking that will replenish your battery range. At the other end of the scale, there is a Sport mode.
Your battery won’t thank you for that – nor will the speedo-haloing light that glows from a friendly green into a mildly annoyed yellow should you step up on the accelerator. But with 204hp and 360Nm of torque from standstill, you can dash from 0 to 100kph in a respectable 7.3 seconds.
It is no Tesla, admittedly, but it will leave most petrol cars in this class in its near-silent wake.
The Bolt seems, for now, to remain at its best a city car – although with conscientious driving, a daily Abu Dhabi-Dubai return commute should be manageable.
But if your daily life doesn’t involve unforeseen journeys or particularly lengthy treks, it is a nippy little contender that belies its exterior dimensions.