Bye bye Bolt... (and what's next)

  • Sat 23 October 2021
  • misc

Saturday, October 23rd 2021 was a sad day. I am now without an electric car for the first time in over 7 years.

For background, I had a 2015 Nissan Leaf from August 2014 till February 2018, when I bought a 2018 Chevrolet Bolt. Between the two I've done about 100k miles in EVs - 45k in the Leaf and 55k in the Bolt. Note that while I had them for approximately equivalent amounts of time, I put 10k miles more on the Bolt - notwithstanding the fact that over a year and a half of my Bolt ownership was contemporary with the COVID-19 lockdown and ensuing radically reduced driving due to working from home.

The Leaf had an 83 mile range under optimal conditions. Note "under optimal conditions" - on the rare occasions in the winter when the temperature in Northern Virginia hit the single digits overnight, the Leaf was a bit tight for making it to work in Herndon and back - to the point where I'd hitch a ride to lunch with a colleague or eat in the building.

The Bolt? It rang the bell at a a bit over 240 miles, again under optimal conditions. While this could be eaten into badly by cold weather, if it wasn't insanely frigid out I could commute to the work I was doing in Annapolis back in 2018 without charging at the destination. Trips to my parents' house in Delaware required a brief visit to a DC fast charger, either at the destination or on my way back, depending.

Speaking of DC fast chargers, there are a lot more of them (generally overpriced; I consider "reasonable" to not exceed 300% of utility rate for power) than there were in 2014, with more coming every day. Still, maintenance can be spotty and taking a credit card (as opposed to a membership RFID card) at point of sale is still not a universal thing. I had to point out to a friend recently that taking a road trip in a Tesla with its integrated Supercharger network where you can just tell the car to plan your stops for you, and taking a road trip in a non-Tesla and falling back on PlugShare reviews and GMaps for figuring out range and next stop are not even remotely the same thing.

So there's evolution to be done here, but generally speaking the range of the Bolt was satisfactory for most uses. Acceleration on the Bolt was spiffy without encouraging misbehavior due to its 160 kW motor, outperforming the Leaf which had an 80kW motor.

Downsides? Yeah, there were some. The integration between built-in infotainment system and Apple Carplay was "jarring", with single button press to go one way, multi-press dance to flip back. One was left with the impression that the people who wrote the software didn't actually use it as end users. The screen was nice and big though. No OTA upgrades for either infotainment or car electronics, but maybe that's a good thing considering that it's possible to bungle security on them. The radio is highly integrated with the rest of the infotainment system (there are two field replaceable modules: "the display" and "everything else") and VIN-locked to the vehicle, resulting in a quote of $1500 to fix when the radio lost its ability to handle preset stations. Blind spot got a little shady recently too, alerting when there was nothing in my blind spot.

Aside from those minor issues (and that small bit about a propensity for catching on fire), 55k miles of Bolt ownership have been pretty much trouble free. I've owned vehicles that were arguably better for "cool/rarity factor" than the Bolt (the Unimog and Gwagen come immediately to mind), but none that were as good for reliability and fun to drive. And then there's that whole "I'm going to be leaving home every day with full range and no unexpected disruptions in my schedule to buy fuel" thing.

So what's next?

GM could not give me a timetable for battery remediation since they are (rightly) handling battery replacement in order of risk - apparently some batches of batteries were worse for fire danger than others.

Having been in a similar situation a year and a half ago when our local county health department couldn't tell us where we were in the queue, when a program to buy back affected Bolts (which soon expanded to "all Bolts ever made"), I jumped on it.

The transaction offered for the buyback was more than fair; I was genuinely surprised by the comprehensiveness with which GM covered my costs. So a Bolt (or another electric GM product TBD) is at the top of my evaluation list for when I go shopping for a new electric vehicle.

But when will that be? Handing the Bolt back in has left me driving the nicer of our two pickup trucks when I need transportation so we're not jammed up. I'm working from home indefinitely and there's a major supply chain disruption for All The Things including the chips that go in cars. At least one of those things has got to change (or I've got to get tired of waiting) else there's no rush.

And so I wait, with the cord for the EVSE neatly wrapped and hung up on the wall box, with no EV to charge.