The 2017 Chevy Bolt finally solves a big problem for EVs: Unless you were wealthy enough to afford a Tesla Model S, you were stuck with EVs whose range hit 100 miles at best. Even though most people don’t drive more than 100 miles per day, that number still gives us pause, because we want that potential even if we don’t use it.
But 200 miles: Even someone like me, whose weekends are filled with errands of all shapes and sizes, sometimes including long drives—I could live with 200 miles of range in all but truly extreme exceptions. While I wouldn’t call a car that’s going to cost about $30,000 after federal incentives inexpensive, it’s a lot more attainable than the Model S for most people.
You get more than that nice range for the money, though. The Bolt offers future-y features including a large, 10.2-inch touchscreen whose layout you can actually customize—since when did a car company ever let you customize the control panel, other than the choice of faux wood-grain finish, perhaps? An app will help you plan your trip with an eye toward battery savings, choosing routes that are easier on the battery or charting EV stations along the way.
My favorite feature starts with this fisheye camera mounted to the rear hatch of the 2017 Chevy Bolt. It projects a wide-angle, real-time image of the environs directly behind your car to the rearview mirror at the front of the car. The unobstructed view removes blind spots we traditionally grapple with. It even has its own little washer nozzle to keep it from getting too dirty. If you’d prefer to look back in the mirror the old-fashioned way, you may turn it off, but if I had this I’d keep it on all the time.
I even enjoyed driving the Chevy Bolt, another thing you can’t say about many EVs. The Bolt, along with a growing number of competitors, builds its battery into the bottom of the car. This placement eliminates the obstruction that occasionally occurs, say, when a battery is put into the car trunk. It also lowers the center of gravity. I had to be somewhat gentle with the early engineering units we were given to try, but still, I swerved through a small slalom course with no feeling I was in a top-heavy crackerbox.
For those of us who remember the EV-1, which General Motors launched and then scrapped, literally, the 2017 Chevy Bolt is a welcome sight. When it starts shipping by the end of 2016, it’ll put General Motors back in the EV game, and this time, with a car that has some staying power.
Melissa Riofrio spent her formative journalistic years reviewing some of the biggest iron at PCWorld--desktops, laptops, storage, printers--and she continued to focus on hardware testing during stints at Computer Currents and CNET. Currently, in addition to leading PCWorld’s content direction, she covers productivity laptops and Chromebooks.