Robert and Karla Smith were the first on the Big Island to receive the Chevy Bolt. They shared their vehicle with us for a Chevy Volt Welcome article in January. They also shared the vehicle with the public during our Bolt Reveal event in February. They’ve had this long-range electric car for over half a year and would like to share their experiences. The following is Robert’s ownership review of the Chevy Bolt.
“My wife and I live in East Hawaii on the Big Island, and wanted an electric car that would serve our rural travel needs.
Our key criteria in an electric car were:
- Sufficient range,
- Available service for the car on the Big Island, and
- A reasonable purchase price.
We drive a lot and, thus, leasing an electric car was not something we sought out. We also wanted a car that was reasonably small, but yet seated five, and could haul livestock food.
We waited on the Bolt to become available on the west coast, and got the car we wanted with all of the options we wanted (we got Premier trim). From there, we shipped the car to Hilo. From the time the car arrived in So. Cal. by train, to the time we had it in Hilo, was about two weeks. We got our Bolt in mid-January 2017 and it had seven miles on it coming off the boat.
Our car now has over 12,000 miles on it (12,108 at this writing), so we are putting an average of about 1,650 miles per month on the car. We have not done anything to the car but rotate the tires, and have had no problems thus far.
Pros – Here are the items we found to be really good about the car, and about which we have been super pleased:
- The range is everything GM said it would be, and more. We feel as though we get about 250 miles per full charge. Our efficiency at first was 4.8 miles/ kW hour, and now it’s dropped a bit to 4.6 miles/ kW hour. We have never had the car below a 50-mile range left “in the tank” and have never had range anxiety. In some of our regular trips, like Waimea to Hilo, the range used is much less than the actual miles, because much of the trip is downhill. However, going to Volcano from Hilo, a distance of about 25 miles, uses about 75 miles of range (sea level to 4000 feet). However, from Volcano to Hilo, we will make more in range than the same trip costs us going uphill. The way we have learned to drive this car, and our normal routes, means we could probably squeeze even more range from the car if we wanted to push the limits.
- The air conditioning system is fantastic. We have never used the heater or seat heaters. We run the air conditioning system almost all the time, and it is terrific.
- Cruise control is a must for us. This little car can get away from you speed wise, so we use the cruise quite a bit, along with one pedal driving with the car in low gear.
- The reverse camera, and front, rear, and side warning features are very good.
- The posture one takes when driving and riding in the car is comfortable. As with many EV cars, it is much more like sitting in chair, and does not involve “low slung” posture. Entrance and exit are easy. Headroom is fabulous. And we haul cattle feed and bags of horse feed–all we can fit–plus people, without issue.
- The “Regenerate on Demand” paddle is located on the steering wheel, and works great regenerate instead of using the brake pedal. We do wish GM had mounted it on the steering column, like the turn signal stalk, as the paddle is thus not available when the steering wheel is being turned.
Cons: The things that are not quite as good, and for which there could be improvement, are:
- The driver’s seat bottom cushion is too small. If it could have been about 2-3 inches wider, it would be much more comfortable. Our car’s driver seat has gotten better with time, presumably because we have compressed the seat some while driving many hours.
- The windshield mounted rear view mirror, in camera mode, is not great. It takes a lot of getting used to. We use it only if we have the car so filled with stuff that we can’t see out the rear window of the car using the regular rear view mirror mode.
- The defogging system for the windshield and side windows could be better. We have to play with the controls to achieve a really nice, clear window glass circumstance. Of course, this is an issue only when there is a large temperature differential between ambient and cabin–usually a morning or evening issue.
- The low beam head light setting takes some getting used to, as these are the types of headlights that “hood” the light to only that portion of the viewscape below roughly the center of the windshield. High beams are fine. Be aware, lots of people think you have high beams on when you are using the low beams.
- All of the safety features built into the shifting lever cause it to be a bit stubborn unless you are really paying attention to the sequence of events. You have to have your foot on the brake, compress a little button on the shift lever, then move the shift lever to the desired gear setting. This three-way process means sometimes the car does not go into gear on the first try. It’s just a nuisance, and GM could have done better with the shift lever and shift process.
- We got the upgraded radio, and it is just okay. The FM is much better than the AM, but clear radio range seems a little less in this car than in our modern ICE drivers.
As a final comment, the recent development of De Luz Chevrolet in Hilo now selling and servicing the Bolt should be a big deal for Big Island Bolt owners. When we decided to buy a Bolt in California, I called Greg Cummings (Service Mgr.at De Luz) and asked him if he would work on the car under warranty. He said yes, and that swayed our decision. While our car has never been in the shop for work, it is a great relief to know there is service available for us, when needed.”