The Groundbreaking Chevrolet Bolt EV is the car of tomorrow. Today.
That sound? It's almost imperceptible, but it's there. The soft rustle of air over steel and glass, the muted hum of rubber on tarmac, the faint whirr of spinning metals. It's the sound of electrons at work, the sound of electrical energy being converted into motion, the sound of the automotive world shifting on its axis. It's the sound of the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
The Bolt EV is not GM's first pure electric car. The company has been experimenting with electric vehicles for decades, stuffing batteries into Corvairs in the mid-1960s and developing the fiendishly complex EV-1 in the 1990s. You can buy an all-electric version of the Spark from your friendly local Chevy dealer right now. But the Bolt EV is the first conceived from the get-go by GM to be a viable, affordable mass-market electric vehicle. And it's a game changer.
Two numbers—238 and 29,995—are why. The first is the number of miles the EPA has certified the Bolt EV will travel on a full charge. The second is the price, in dollars, of the Bolt EV, after allowing for a $7,500 federal tax rebate. By offering that range at that price, the Bolt EV has made just about every other electric vehicle on sale obsolete. "Simply put, it's twice the car for half the price of a BMW i3," guest judge Chris Theodore said. "Abetter car, better package, much better handling, with twice the range."
Even the folks at Tesla, the electric vehicle masters of the universe, have been put on notice: The Bolt EV sets a benchmark for value and performance they'll have to work overtime to match. "This is a direct challenge for Tesla to make the Model 3 anything near the Bolt EV for the same price," executive editor Mark Rechtin said. "Chevrolet has made affordable long-range electric transportation available to the masses. Elon Musk should be afraid. Very, very afraid."
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Bolt EV is there are no caveats, no "for an electric car" qualifiers needed in any discussion. It is, simply, a world-class small car, and that's before you factor in the benefits inherent in the smoothness, silence, and instant-on torque provided by the electric motor. The ride is firm and sporty, but transmitted road noise is very well damped. The steering has slightly artificial weighting, but brake feel is natural, and once you learn to use the higher regenerative braking modes, you can pretty much drive all the time without touching the friction brakes at all.
It's not quite correct to say the Bolt EV drives just like a regular small hatchback, because, fundamentally, it drives better than most regular small hatchbacks. The under-floor battery pack keeps most of the mass low in the chassis—and between the wheels. The front-to-rear weight distribution of 56/44 percent is better than any small front-drive car in this year's field, and it's not far off the 54/46 of the tossable rear-drive Fiat 124 Spider. "If this car were fitted with a set of grippy tires, it'd be a helluva hot hatch," road test editor Chris Walton said. "I'd put it against a Mazda3 or Golf for fun per mile."
There may be some who see the selection of an electric vehicle as Motor Trend's Car of the Year—for only the second time in the award's seven decades—as controversial. But to do so would be to suggest the Bolt EV is nothing more than an automotive oddity, a publicity stunt, or a technological dead end of limited use or value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here's how the Bolt EV stacks up against the award's six key criteria.
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