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Jan 25

OnStar project promises renewable energy for recharging


As we’ve seen with the Volt and other green initiatives, GM is working to promote sustainability with perhaps its latest project being enablement of recharging from renewable energy.

On Monday, OnStar Communications contacted us and announced Volt owners “may soon be able to charge their vehicle using renewable energy.”

The actual time frame is “to be determined,” but the kinks are being worked out by OnStar and a company called PJM Interconnection with 17 Chevrolet Volts operated by Google’s Gfleet.


The way it generally works is OnStar-enabled technology receives a signal from PJM Interconnection showing the percentage of available renewable energy on the grid.

Data from this forecast is downloaded to the OnStar cloud, or Advanced Telematics Operating Management System (ATOMS). OnStar uses this signal to simultaneously manage the charging of many Volts and to match the renewable energy availability.

OnStar says a mobile app could be used to alert customers when renewable energy is available.

Google’s Gfleet is based at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and as many of you know, Google is highly involved in other green projects and automotive experiments that include cars that drive themselves.

At the same time, Google is naturally willing to collaborate with real human drivers, as the species does not yet seem ready to go extinct.

This week, the OnStar-enabled fleet’s technology will be demonstrated at the 2012 DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition in San Antonio.

The public demo fits with an announcement by Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development, who said it is nearly ready for prime time.

“This demonstration shows that in the near future customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” said Pudar. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”

Note that Pudar says demand will prompt utilities to increase (now limited) renewable energy supply.

We asked Adam Dennison, an OnStar Communications representative who sent the info, “How hopeful are you that this will have a measurable or significant influence that it will push utilities to adopt more renewable energy sources?”

In response, he said “We think that as EVs continue to penetrate the marketplace that customers will drive a variety of demands throughout different industries. Certainly we believe that the energy industry will be one of these. Based on the level of interest a number of utilities have expressed in OnStar’s Smart Grid solutions, we are pretty confident that that they’ll be willing to look to more renewable energy sources.”

At present, peak hours for renewable energy generation from wind is generally between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. according to PJM data.

OnStar says it would therefore be possible for customers to use Smart Grid solutions to further reduce their carbon footprint and – as is already possible regardless of energy source – “save money by charging during these off-peak times.”

“Solutions like this one will ultimately lead to increased renewable energy generation and allow Chevrolet Volt owners to be a key part of that energy transformation,” said Pudar.

If the renewable energy service goes into production, customers interested in using it would need to sign up. Dennison did not say if it would cost extra or be made available with existing OnStar service.

Once signed up, OnStar would regulate customers’ charging using the renewable energy signal.

This video is not directly about the current project, but OnStar says it highlights an app it did for Google’s Gfleet of Volts.

OnStar says this renewable energy technology is the latest addition to its suite of Smart Grid solutions.

For your review, OnStar says it has developed other “intelligent energy management technology solutions,” including:

Demand response – This solution connects utilities to companies that have intelligent energy management products. These companies can use OnStar to manage energy use for Volt customers who opt in for the service. This future service allows the customer to save money on energy costs while enabling more efficient use of the electric grid.
Time-of-Use (TOU) rates – OnStar can receive dynamic TOU pricing from utilities and notify Volt owners of the rate plan offers via email. Owners will be able to use OnStar to load the rate plans directly into their vehicle and access them to schedule charging during lower-rate periods.
Charging data – OnStar also sends and receives EV data that helps utility providers without having to interface with the vehicle’s electric vehicle supply equipment. This includes location-based EV data that identifies charging locations and determines potential load scenarios.


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Jan 18

GM and Powermat Studying Wireless Recharging of the Chevy Volt


Recently, GM announced a small investment in a company called Powermat.  That company makes wireless device charging systems.  Their current product allow users to place a receiver in the charge port of their device (cell phone, iPad, etc) and plug in the mat.  If the device is rested on the mat, it is wirelessly charged.

The first automotive application expected to result from this partnership is an option for the 2012 Chevy Volt that will become available next year.  It will be a wireless charging mat in the center of the console that drivers can rest their cellphones on while driving to have them wirelessly recharge.

The technology works through the use of induced magnetic fields:

Powermat uses magnetic induction to transfer energy.   Specifically, energy is transferred from a transmitter (which will be embedded in vehicle) to a receiver (which is connected to or embedded in the device) through a shared magnetic field.   Communication between the Mat (transmitter) and the Receiver (personal device) allows the mat to deliver an exact amount of power for the proper length of time so that the transfer of power is safe and efficient and no energy is ever wasted.  When a device reaches full charge, power is shut off to that device. This not only saves energy, but it also prevents overcharging of the device’s battery, which can shorten battery life.

This story begs the question as to whether this option could this be all the relationship is about?  After all, GM Ventures is a VC unit that invests in small companies that may have big automotive futures.

Over the years there has often been talk and theoretical discussions about wirelessly charging not only small devices, but whole electric cars themselves.

The concept would be to have a large wireless mat in one’s garage, simply park on top of it, and the battery will recharge automatically.

Powermat spokesperson Scott Eisenstein admits his company is looking at how to charge large electric car batteries.  “Yes, we are certainly looking into that,” he said.

Also according to Volt vehicle line executive Tony Posawazt, so is GM. “We are studying many exciting new technologies for the future, said Posawatz.  “This includes wireless, hands-free inductive charging of the high voltage battery.”



Dec 09

Supercapacitor Breakthrough Allows Electric Vehicle Charging In Seconds


Note — Apologies for the Bolt Farm Bureau story. A dealer had the Bolt and rebate offer tied together and when I contacted Farm Bureau media reps about the Bolt, they did not correct the record either. Turns out the car is not at this time listed for the Farm Bureau rebate. The Volt is however. A list of eligible vehicles is here. If I learn more from Chevrolet, will let you know. – Jeff

By Larry E. Hall


UK technology firm Augmented Optics has revealed a new supercapacitor material it says can accept a charge in an electric vehicle as quickly as refueling a conventional car while threatening to render lithium-ion batteries obsolete.

The new material intended to replace conventional batteries is a polymer based on soft contact-lens technology that may dramatically boost the performance of supercapacitors – lightweight electronic components that store and distribute high volumes of power.

They are based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a three-dimensional network.

The new material has been tested by researchers at Great Britain’s University of Surrey and University of Bristol, with their analysis estimating it to be between 1,000 and 10,000-times more effective than current supercapacitors.

Dr. Donald Highgate, technical director at Augmented Optics, said the potential is high indeed.

“If these are half as good as we think they are, and with more experience, they may take over entirely,” said Hughes. “Disruptive, yes — it would be a terrible shock to car manufacturers — but cars could be built on the same factory lines.”

Heathcote said that the group has been working in secret on the project until this point, having filed worldwide patents only last week.

SEE ALSO: European Electric Carmakers Announce Major Ultra-Fast Charging Network

Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles, but current supercapacitors are unable to hold charges as efficiently as batteries. Some existing examples used on buses in China require charging every three or four miles.

The new material brings the new supercapacitors closer to the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery, but with the added benefits of immediate recharging and cheaper production costs.

University of Bristol’s Dr. Ian Hamerton, a scientist on the project, said: “Although we didn’t initially look at the automotive industry, as the results came in, it became apparent the car industry could be one of the first ones to adopt this technology.”

Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk previously said he would bet on supercapacitors over batteries to deliver a breakthrough for electric cars.

Heathcote said the group is actively seeking partners in order to supply the polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra-high-energy density storage devices.

British publication Auto Express reports that the team hopes to build a prototype electric car by 2017 that can be charged up to a 150-mile driving range in just a few seconds.

Auto Express,


Nov 30

European Electric Carmakers Announce Major Ultra-Fast Charging Network


Notable is GM is not involved …


If things go to plan for a pervasive ultra-fast charging network in Europe, by 2020 automakers will make publically recharging electric cars as convenient as a fuel station stop.

That’s the takeaway from an ambitious collaboration announced today by BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche.

As they anticipate a profound ramp up in plug-in electric cars starting now, the major automakers say they are investing in an initial 400 ultra-fast charging 350-kW sites along critical highways.

SEE ALSO: Europe Is Awakening From Diesel-Induced Sleep to Chase New Electric (Car) Dreams

“By 2020, consumers should have access to thousands of high-powered charging points,” said Ford on behalf of fellow collaborators in outlining the undertaking.

While estimated recharge times were not given – and ultimately will depend on how large a battery needs to be filled – the up-to 350 kW charge standard is significantly above anything now in service, including Tesla Superchargers.

 Tesla cars cannot presently use CCS chargers. They can use CHAdeMO chargers via an adapter that Tesla sells for $450 in the U.S. That adapter is limited by specification to CHAdeMO's existing 125A specification (really 62.5 kW but sometimes called 50 kW) specification.

Tesla cars cannot presently use CCS fast chargers. They can use CHAdeMO chargers via an adapter that Tesla sells for $450 in the U.S. That adapter is limited by specification to CHAdeMO’s existing 125A specification (really 62.5 kW but sometimes called 50 kW) specification.

Indeed, the planned faster network using a competing charge standard, while not stated by the collaborators, appears to be a direct response to Tesla’s Supercharger network, Tesla has also announced aggressive EV expansion plans and recently said it plans a new joint Gigafactory battery plant and car assembly plant in Europe.

On that note, the collaborators have agreed to use the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard, with the aim of being as inclusive – not exclusive – of as many EV makers as possible, assuming they also design cars compatible with this standard.

At the Paris Motor Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche introduced its new EQ brand. The move parallels ongoing initiatives by VW Group and BMW.

At the Paris Motor Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche introduced its new EQ brand. The move parallels ongoing initiatives by VW Group and BMW.

The automakers, who will be equal partners in the collaboration, say their next-generation battery electric vehicles will be optimized to take advantage of the quick fill, and they invite other automakers to join in.

“Vehicles engineered to accept the full power of the charge stations can recharge brand-independently in a fraction of the time of today’s battery electric vehicles,” said Ford on behalf of the collaborating manufacturers. “The network is intended to serve all Combined Charging System-equipped vehicles to facilitate battery electric vehicle adoption in Europe.

Unstated is exactly how much money all this will cost.

“The automobile manufacturers intend to make substantial investments to create the network, underscoring each company’s belief in the future of electric mobility,” said Ford.

Otherwise, the chief executives of the different brands all gave their take on why they are doing it, led off with BMW which has its i-brand represented by the i3 and i8.


“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move toward electric mobility,” said Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG. “The BMW Group has initiated numerous public charging infrastructure projects over the last years. The joint project is another major milestone clearly demonstrating that competitors are combining forces to ramp up e-mobility.”

BMW was one of the companies who in October said it wants 15-25 percent of its sales coming from plug-in electrified cars. While it got an early head start on electrification, it’s caught criticism for being slow to develop new i-series models faster.

Today’s news indicates it has not at all lost the vision, which in turn is shared by rival Daimler AG which in October announced its EQ brand, and plans for 15-25 percent of all sales to be plug-in by 2025.

Generation EQ.

Generation EQ.

“The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive: by 2025, our portfolio will include more than 10 fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance e-mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle.”

Audi e-tron Quattro.

Audi e-tron Quattro.

And not to be forgotten is the VW Group, which intends 30 battery electric cars spread among its 13 brands by 2025, and said this year it wants 20-25 percent of sales coming from plug0in cars by 2025.

Brands Americans know, aside from VW, are Porsche and Audi.

“We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging,” said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of AUDI AG. “Reliable, fast charging services are a key factor for drivers to choose an electric vehicle. With this cooperation, we want to boost broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift toward emission-free driving.”

The one U.S. based carmaker doing business in Europe that’s collaborating in the charging network initiative, Ford, says it too is on board, as it otherwise reinvents itself into a mobility company.

“A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving,” said Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “Ford is committed to developing vehicles and technologies that make people’s lives better, and this charging network will make it easier and more practical for consumers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”

“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” said Oliver Blume, chairman of the executive board of Porsche AG. “Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As an automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles, but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”

“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” said Oliver Blume, chairman of the executive board of Porsche AG. “Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As an automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles, but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”

The carmakers call the initiative an “unprecedented collaboration” but more will need to be seen. Plans are to get started in 2017 and appear to add substance to the push to make EVs mainstream.

Behind it all are of course regulations forcing automakers to clean up their fleets. The Paris Accord on climate change in 2015 also saw 195 nations agree that the world faces a deadline to slow the rate of global temperature increase.

These forces backed by threat to the ecosystems and environments of the world are the lever that appears to be moving formerly reluctant players to embrace electrification.

These are truly unique times in the history of motorized transportation.


Nov 04

What Makes More Sense – Chevy Volt or Bolt?



Want to drive tailpipe emission free in an electric vehicle? Chevrolet has the car for you – the Volt. Or, rather, the Bolt. OK, either one could work, but which is a better way to go?

Aside from the names that are confusingly similar even for well-spoken Americans, and which can give speakers of other languages fits, both cars are capable tools intended for a similar job in life.


To General Motors’ credit, these two gems adorning its alternative energy portfolio arguably represent the pinnacle of their respective segments.

The extended-range Volt is technically classified as a plug-in hybrid, and its 53-mile e-range means it offers more all-important electric mobility per charge than any other full-range plug-in hybrid sold.

Last year the Volt became the first plug-in car to receive a full redesign. It’s the cumulative best-selling in the U.S. and one of the most awarded cars out there.

Last year the Volt became the first plug-in car to receive a full redesign. It’s the cumulative best-selling in the U.S. and one of the most awarded cars out there.

Alternatively, the just-being-introduced Bolt blows away every other EV in its price class with a 60-kWh battery and 238 miles range.

But these are otherwise two different ways to achieve a similar task. Does Chevrolet have a dilemma on its hands, or a complementary pair?

It’s too soon to tell, but in the meantime let’s do an overview of attributes to help determine what makes more sense to you.


Make no mistake, these cars’ advanced powertrains including thermally managed batteries and electric motors are what set them apart from comparably styled conventional cars, and why they cost before subsidies from the mid 30s to mid 40s.

A number of components were built by Korea’s LG, including battery cells, motors, infotainment screen, and more.

A number of components were built by Korea’s LG, including battery cells, motors, infotainment screen, and more.

The 2011 Volt was introduced as a bridge technology to compensate for earlier generation EVs’ shortcomings, and built on the premise that 40 miles was enough for three-quarters of all drivers’ daily needs. The 2016/17 generation-two Volt now has 53 miles range meaning it can work like a pure EV for even more people day to day.

Backing it up is a 1.5-liter aluminum Ecotec engine for zero “range anxiety” because gas stations are plentiful and fast filling. When the juice runs out, the engine kicks on seamlessly and the car morphs to a 42 mpg hybrid.

By contrast, the 238-mile Bolt is all-electric, with enough miles for nearly anyone’s daily needs, and more than double that of the still-first-generation Nissan Leaf. This over-200 mile range is unprecedented at its sub-$40,000 price. It’s so remarkable, in fact, Motor Trend was compelled to compare the small Chevy to a large $72,000 as-equipped 60-kWh Tesla Model S as the next-nearest competitor range-wise until the Model 3 gets here next year.

But the Bolt can still run out of juice in a world where car charging is less plentiful and its “50 kW” charge rate is slower than a Tesla’s.

GM kept updated the LG Chem-based battery assembly for 2016 while keeping the formula of the 35-40-mile range generation one basically intact.

GM kept updated the LG Chem-based battery assembly for 2016 while keeping the formula of the 35-40-mile range generation one basically intact.

The charging infrastructure picture is improving, but recharging from zero still takes 9 hours on 240-volt equipment, or if you know where a level 3 CCS charger is, GM says 90 miles range can be restored in 30 minutes or 160 miles in one hour at today’s charging rates. So, for longer trips, it is less convenient for sure.

Are you OK with that? Can you work around it? If not, the 53-mile Volt could let you drive what is essentially a pure EV day to day that lets you keep going until you find time and place to recharge. This takes overnight on 120-volt house current, or around 4.5 hours at 240 volts.


Both the Volt and Bolt are positioned as “fun to drive,” don’t you know? That descriptor has been nearly obligatory PR-speak by EV advocates to help stand-offish and uninitiated folk become interested, but it is relatively true.

Though they can’t pull extreme gravity around bends, and acceleration is shy of a Tesla Model S, the plug-in Chevys’ torque from 0 rpm – AKA “instant torque” – make them feel quicker than they are, and they handle respectably with quiet drive.


“Fun” therefore is also that novel whispery operation, and if there is one thing Volt owners want more of, it’s electric range so the mildly droning gas engine stays off and the pure EV experience can keep going. If EV drive is your priority, chalk a point up for the all-electric Bolt, then, as you are guaranteed to never hear an engine turn on and burn gas.

Beyond that fun factor, numbers can help quantify the question of visceral rewards.

According to Car and Driver, the Bolt’s performance data make it look like a pocket rocket next to the Volt. Its top speed is just 93 mph, versus the Volt’s 102, but it is otherwise free to focus all its 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet torque to run with greater authority up to maximum velocity. By contrast, the Volt serves up 149 horses and 294 pounds-feet of torque.


According to Chevrolet, the only place the slightly more torquey Volt outdoes the Bolt is in a 2.6-second 0-30 mph sprint, versus 2.9 for the Bolt. To 60 mph, the Volt takes 7.5 seconds, and the Bolt takes 6.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Other comparisons showing the difference include: 30-50 mph – Volt: 3.2 seconds, Bolt: 2.6 seconds. And then there’s 50-70 mph – Volt: 5.1 seconds, and the higher horsepower Bolt is really coming on stronger at 3.1 seconds. The standing quarter mile sees the Volt take 16.1 seconds at 85 mph; Bolt does it in 15.0 seconds maxed at 93 mph.

The Volt’s time to reach 100 mph is 24.8 seconds, and the Bolt – which cannot go that fast – saw 90 mph in just 13.2 seconds.

Before being overawed by that massive 11.6-second gap, understand those last 10 mph are the hardest for either car.


The 3,569-pound Bolt’s curb weight as tested by Car and Driver is very close to the 3,523-pound Volt, but the Bolt’s battery is all in the floor lowering center of gravity, whereas the Volt’s T-pack sits down the middle tunnel area.

On the 300-foot diameter skid pad, both are compromised by low rolling resistance tires, with the Volt seeing a decent 0.84 g, and Bolt managing 0.78 g – about the same as a then-sporty 1970s Alfa Romeo Spyder Veloce.

The Volt handles relatively well, and despite any talk of LRR tires, is satisfying in the real world.

The Volt handles relatively well, and despite any talk of LRR tires, is satisfying in the real world.

For all the fun-to-drive accolades, while these numbers are enough for excitement, this is a fair bit below sports cars that register above .90 g thanks to tuned suspensions and sport tires. If one wanted to retrofit stickier rubber to the Volt or Bolt, it would improve road holding, at the expense of some efficiency/range.

Most people however will likely be fine with the cars’ legal and extra-legal capabilities, although C&D did nick the Volt a bit.

“Because the Michelin Energy Saver tires prioritize low rolling resistance over grip, the 190 feet required to stop from 70 mph is longer than desirable, and we discovered rather bizarre cornering behavior,” said Car and Driver.


By contrast, the Bolt brakes from 70 to 0 in a bit-better 181 feet, is further aided by its lower center of gravity, and C&D was less critical of it, despite its lower skidpad rating.

“The Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires deliver a modest 0.78 g of grip around the skidpad while the low-mounted battery pack helps keep handling relatively flat,” it said.


Form-factor wise, both are hatchbacks, and both hide their true identity.

The Volt is designed to look like a sedan, and Chevrolet has classified the Bolt as a “compact crossover” – that’s marketing speak for tallish-hatchback-but-we-call-it-a-crossover-because-Americans-don’t-prefer-hatchbacks-but-do-desire-crossovers-so-that’s-what-we-call-it.


Both are compact in size, though the Volt is the largest a “compact” can be by U.S. EPA reckoning, and the Bolt, a “small wagon,” would be called mid-sized by interior volume if classified as a regular car.

Volt dimensions are: Wheelbase: 106.1 inches, length: 180.4 inches, width: 71.2 inches, height: 56.4 inches. Bolt dimensions are: Wheelbase: 102.4 inches; length: 164.0 inches; width: 69.5 inches; height: 62.8 inches.


So, the Bolt on its 3.7-inch shorter wheelbase is 16.4-inches shorter overall, 1.7-inches narrower, and 6.4-inches taller. It also proves superior in internal space maximization: passenger volume: 94 cubic feet; cargo volume: 17 cubic feet. In contrast, the Volt’s passenger volume is 90 cubic feet and cargo space is 11 cubic feet.

Chalk one up for the Bolt’s skateboard chassis, a design GM originated and featured on last-decade concept vehicles, but which Tesla, Nissan, and BMW adopted first.

Stowing the battery in a long and wide floor cavity creates a flat open palette above for designers to optimize interior volume, and the Bolt takes advantage of this, while the Volt gives up interior room with a battery along for the ride.

Not bad. 2017 Volt.

Not bad. 2017 Volt.

The Volt’s rear seating is thus also compromised. Theoretically, it’s a five-passenger car, but the middle rear “seating position” is not as generous, and neither is rear legroom.

Bolt EV

Bolt EV

GM designed the Bolt as a commercial-capable vehicle, positioned for its Lyft operation, while the Volt is not bad, some may find it less than desirable, though ultimately it would be best to sit in it to determine for yourself.


Both these Bowtie brand cars are relatively premium as Chevrolets go. Outwardly, the Volt’s design is very similar to the Cruze, and the Bolt is not dissimilar to a tall Sonic. Inside, both get gee-whiz dash displays, and accoutrements. The Bolt’s 10.2-inch touchscreen does outdo the Volt’s 8-inch screen.

Bolt EV.

Bolt EV.

As far as aesthetics, both are contemporary, mainstream-oriented, with design language adopted from the family line which in turn, frankly, borrows heavily from others.

Both are serviceable, and useful designs. To those who have strong feelings one way or the other, to each his own.

The Volt’s lower stance does cut the air far better with a 0.285 coefficient of drag, versus the Bolt’s number believed to be between 0.312 and 0.32. Notable is the Bolt’s superior 119 MPGe compensates for the Volt’s 106 MPGe/42 mpg powertrain.



The Bolt is meant as a utilitarian runabout for urban/suburban settings, whereas the Volt could be this too, but is the better car for long-distance convenience.

The Bolt meanwhile has greater overall cargo capacity, better people hauling ability – and too bad there is no DC fast charge network like Tesla has to help accommodate electric touring, though this picture is due to improve in coming years.

If you want a sleeker looking EV, hold out for the Model 3, or a next-gen Nisan Leaf, assuming they get that redesign the way you like it.


The Volt starts at $34,095, and the Bolt starts at $37,495. So, by Chevrolet reckoning, the Bolt is better because it costs $3,400 more, right?

Both are priced to come in below $30,000 with a $7,500 federal tax credit for those to whom it will apply. State-level incentives and rebates may be the same for each, or lower for plug-in hybrids, as is the case in California.


Actual cost of ownership depends on factors including financing terms, insurance, taxes and fees, estimated depreciation, fuel/energy costs, anticipated maintenance and repairs – and of course the tax credits/rebates as the case may be.

Historically, the Volt has not had great resale value, in part because the federal credit was assumed. How the Bolt may fare is anyone’s guess.

These vehicles may also be leased, and leasing has been preferred by plug-in consumers to compensate for resale values that drop more quickly than internal combustion models due to fast-changing technology, and other factors.


Which ever way you go, a test drive is always desirable, though many at this stage will buy these cars based on their research and gut feeling.

Both promise to be well engineered, and despite the Volt’s being downgraded recently by Consumer Reports, it has previously topped its list for owner satisfaction, and anecdotes attest that the Volt has been a relatively reliable car.

SEE ALSO: Erick Belmer’s Chevy Volt Traveled Its 100,000th All-Electric Mile Today

GM has also never had to replace a Volt’s battery due to it wearing out before its 100,000 mile warranty was up, and it says it has applied powertrain lessons learned to the Bolt.

At this point, there is no reason to believe otherwise, though the most conservative advice is waiting a year to let any bugs get worked out.

If you take that recommendation, then the Volt is the only choice, but many won’t want to wait for the first sub-$40,000 EV with over 200 miles range.

We shall see therefore how they do, how Chevrolet markets them, and what the court of public opinion otherwise decides.

This article appears also at


Sep 16

5 Cool Things About the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV



As its on-sale date and production start approach, this week Chevrolet released more info on the 2017 Bolt EV which is a first in its class of next-generation electric cars.

Automakers are always looking for ways to amplify excitement for their products, and Chevrolet’s bite-sized revelations are a latest trend to tease a new product along in the public eye, but ultimately the car’s merits will have to speak for themselves.

General Motors said it made it a priority to fast track the first EV with over 200 miles range at a $30,000-after-subsidy price point, and to date it’s been so far so good for the merit count.

People interested in the car – or already pre-sold in their mind – are still anticipating when Chevrolet will open up ordering through its network of dealers who’ve signed on for this and other electrified vehicle sales, though it has started a new website for it.

Many other questions remain, but meanwhile here’s a list of 5 cool things about the 2017 Chevy Bolt

238 Miles Range


Chevrolet said the Bolt EV would provide “more than” 200 miles range, and its EPA estimate of 238 miles in combined city/highway driving is remarkable for the car with a 60-kWh battery which is the size that nominally comes also the base Tesla Model S.

Drivers accustomed to the tremendous energy stored in gasoline may not appreciate a whole 38 miles over the minimum 200-mile target but at this stage, it was a big jump. In contrast, the first 2011 Nissan Leaf came with 73 miles from its 24-kWh battery, and that started the current major manufacturer EV era. Nissan then upped this by 11 miles in 2013, and again by 23 miles in 2016.

The now-107-mile Leaf has been a standard bearer in this EV category and over the past six years the Leaf has squeaked out incremental gains. Does that help put GM’s under-promise and over-deliver extra 38 miles over the bar achievement in perspective?

To test whether the Bolt’s 238 miles was attainable, drivers from various media were sent on a 240-mile road trip from Monterey to Santa Barbara, Calif., and without recharging en route all completed it, with a few finishing with over 30 miles potential remaining on the Bolt’s range meter. Does that mean a careful driver might get 270 miles from a Bolt in slower driving? More?

While not being positioned as a mega-distance conveyance for traveling salesmen, or for long road trips, the Bolt EV has radically upped the range-comfort zone for those looking for zero emission city/suburban cars at this cost level. Many people may be able to go a few days between charging instead of the typical daily plug-in with today’s lower-range EVs.

Stupendous Energy Efficiency


Earlier this year GM’s engineers were brimming with pride for the efficiency of their powertrain, and this week’s revelation of estimated EPA MPGe numbers of 128 city and 110 proclaim that was not idle boasting.

To put this in perspective, the Bolt now lays claim to best highway MPGe of any EV with range over 81 miles. It’s only slightly bested by the the BMW i3 with the original 22-kWh battery and 111 MPGe. The new 33 kWh i3 highway rating drops to 106.

Remarkable is the Bolt’s frontal area is larger than that of a Tesla Model S, yet the 60 kWh Model S is rated for 20 miles less range.

The larger, more-powerful Model S weighs much more which can’t help. And, the Model S may actually surpass the Bolt’s range with its superior aerodynamics at higher speeds than the EPA tests at, but preliminary test results from the aforementioned magazine drivers indicate the Bolt is not too shabby at all.

Respectable Speed and Performance


Although a city/suburban runabout designed to make the Prius look like a gas guzzler, the Bolt is being praised for satisfactory road handling and spritely acceleration from a stoplight – and on the highway.

Its 0-30 mph time from its 200 horsepower, 294-pounds-feet motor and single-speed transmission with two drive settings is as quick as 2.9 seconds, and its 0-60 is reportedly 6.5 seconds. Its 50-75 mph passing power speed is 4.5 seconds.

Top speed is only 91 mph, so it appears the emphasis was on legal performance, and thus usable get-up-and-go power.

SEE ALSO: Bolt EV Nearly As Quick As 300HP Dodge Charger From 50-75 MPH

As for cornering, the battery in floor lowers the center of gravity for the 3,580-pound hatchback to let it drive and feel normal – not boring. Low rolling resistance tires do not help the ultimate lateral acceleration g-force potential – though enterprising drivers willing to forego some efficiency may opt to change out to stickier aftermarket rubber.

Even as delivered however, while not a hot hatch by any stretch, nor likely to best what Tesla’s Model 3 is hoped to deliver, the Bolt should not disappoint.

Excellent Space Utilization

GM developed flat in-floor battery “skateboard” chassis in the 2000s ahead of others which used the concept first including Nissan, BMW, and Tesla, and now GM is using the smarter design in the five-passenger Bolt for maximized interior packaging.

A flat vehicle floor without obtrusive transmission tunnel or battery occupying valuable space is basically like a palette for designers to build the car of their ideals upon.

The automaker says its 16.9-cubic feet of cargo space tops that of the 16.6-cubic feet Honda Fit which itself is the next best thing to Dr. Who’s Tardis for being big on the inside while small on the outside.

Details like thin-frame seats also lend to the roominess in an interior with a mix of trendy but functional design elements.

Outside dimensions are 102.4-inch wheelbase, 164 inches long, 69.5 inches wide, 62.8 inches high. Its 94-cubic-feet of passenger space plus the 17-cubic-feet of cargo room add to 111 cubic feet which technically just makes the cut for mid-size by volume under EPA rules.

GM just says the car is two sizes bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.


Final pricing for the Bolt EV is not set although materials previously sent out by Chevrolet indicated $37,500 which would bring the car to $30,000 assuming a $7,500 federal tax credit. Potential state incentives also stand to reduce the outlay, as could in due time, dealer discounting.

Though not as easy on the eyes as is a sleek Tesla – in the estimate of many observers – the main takeaway here is the Bolt is as close as one comes today to a comparative steal in the range-for-dollar metric.

The 60-kWh Model S starts in the upper 60s, so if the objective is to have an electric car with maximum range, the Bolt could be had two for the price of one – though again, it is not being positioned against the Model S, or even the promised Model 3.

Actually, a more-even comparison for the Bolt would be to the Leaf, and other EVs in the sub-$40,000 range – and even a bit over that if including the BMW i3.

Compared to Leaf with the 107-miles range at just over $35,000 before incentives and discounts, the Bolt has more than doubled what the EV buying dollar can get in this echelon.

Nissan says it has a competitive second-generation Leaf in store but has not indicated when it will get here, and meanwhile 238-miles EPA rated range for the Bolt for $30,000 – or $37,500 MSRP – otherwise blows anything else in this league out of the water.

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