Behind the Wheel

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review: Perfect commuter car for SoCal, but charging obstacles remain

The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV offers over 250 miles of all-electric range.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Southern California is the electric car capital of America. Thanks to sky-high gasoline prices, enticing state-level tax incentives, a free pass for EV drivers to travel solo in SoCal's ubiquitous carpool lanes, endless traffic (where EV's are most efficient) and a general acceptance and desire for "greener" lifestyles, you can't swing a charging cable without hitting a Tesla or a Nissan Leaf or the car I'm reviewing this week: the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Also, just to be clear, the official name of the car is "Bolt EV." I assume that's to distinguish it from the similar Chevy Volt which is not an EV but a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which has both a gasoline engine and a full electric mode that can take it more than 50 miles on a charge.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV The Bolt EV is a fine hatchback.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Just know that if you buy a Bolt EV, you'll spend the entirety of your time with the car clarifying to friends and family that you have the Bolt-not-the-Volt-no-Bolt-with-a-B-like-battery.

The Bolt EV is the perfect commuter car for SoCal and it might be the perfect commuter car for everywhere else, too. With enough range to get through any day, plus plentiful room inside (there's way more room than you would expect, especially in the trunk and rear seats) and truly fantastic visibility from the enormous windows and high roofline, the Bolt EV is worth a look for anyone spending some time behind the wheel every day.

So the Bolt is a great electric hatchback, sporting an EPA-estimated range of 259 miles, which is up 21 miles from prior year models. On a dedicated Level 2 charger, it can fill its electric tank in roughly ten hours and on the optional DC fast charger it can add approximately 100 miles of range in 30 minutes. This is where things get tricky, and why I'm going to abandon talk of the Bolt EV itself for the rest of this piece. If, after reading it, you fancy checking out an electric car, the Bolt EV is a terrific option and there are some seriously good deals to be had right now at many Chevy dealers around the country.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV The interior of the Bolt EV is spacious.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

EVs are complicated and tricky. To the uninitiated, electric cars are a bit like smoking meat. There's a lot of voodoo involved, everyone has their own opinions about the right way to do it even if they've never done it, and the people who love it really, really love it.

But buying the car is only half of the story. You also need to charge it, preferably with a dedicated 240-volt Level 2 charger. This provides a much higher rate of charge than a standard 120-volt outlet, and is basically required for owning a full-EV.

If you never drive more than 200 miles in a day and you have a garage (and you own or rent a single family house), an EV like the Bolt is a great option. You drive it around all day, draining the battery, then when you get back home you plug it in. Because your car is stationary for a lot more of the time than you're actually using it, this means there's plenty of time for it to charge back up again.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Charing the Bolt EV can be a tricky situation.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Level 2 charger can be purchased from a whole boatload of companies including consumer-friendly brands like ChargePoint and JuiceBox.

The concept of charging is the scariest part for potential new EV-buyers, especially if you don't have a (likely very) enthusiastic friend helping you on your EV journey. You need to have a place to install the charger, which means ideally you have a garage and you own your own home. Renting means getting the permission of your landlord and makes things complicated.

Then you need an electrician (unless you're really handy, in which case you don't need me to explain it to you) to run the line to where you want the charger, which might also involve pulling permits or upgrading your electrical box or — you see where I'm going?

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV The Bolt EV is not unattractive.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

EVs are complicated, but they don't have to be. Buy car. Install charger. Never buy gas again. Though, to be honest, I'd probably only buy an EV as a second-car. I bet GM would be happy to sell you a new, road-trip friendly Chevy Tahoe to go with it, though.

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New electric luxury vehicles

Three new Mercedes-Benz EVs we can't wait to see

Mercedes showed off its electric future at the 2021 IAA Mobility show in Germany.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is going electric, and though it only recently announced its firm plans to do so, it already seems that the German automaker is moving quickly toward that goal. At the 2021 IAA Mobility show in Munich, Mercedes showed off some of its upcoming electrified products. We've seen the EQS, a flagship electric sedan, but three newcomers made an appearance at the show.


Mercedes-Benz EQB EQB will be Mercedes' electric family SUV.Mercedes-Benz


EQB

EQB is the brand's family-sized SUV, offering seating for up to seven people. A long wheelbase of 111.3 inches and adjustable second-row seating allows more interior space for people and gear. Mercedes says the EQB will offer two powertrain configurations: The EQB 300 4MATIC will get 225 horsepower and the EQB 350 4MATIC will sport 288 horsepower. A front-wheel drive configuration will go on sale later and a long-range model will follow.


Mercedes-Benz Concept EQG The EQG will eventually become the brand's electric off-roader.Mercedes-Benz


EQG

Concept EQG is a preview of the eventual electrification of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, its boxy, upper-crust off-roader. This concept is far closer to a design exercise than something we'll actually see in production, but it's an interesting demonstration, nonetheless. With 22-inch wheels, wild exterior lighting touches, and what the automaker says will be legendary off-road abilities, the EQG will be an exciting vehicle when it does make an appearance.


Mercedes-Benz EQE EQE will follow the EQS as a smaller, sportier electric sedan in 2022.Mercedes-Benz


EQE

EQE is the second car to use Mercedes' EVA2 electric architecture, following the EQS sedan. The car is currently scheduled for a staggered release in mid-2022 and will feature a more compact and sportier design than its predecessor. Mercedes says that the car will be available with either 19- or 21-inch wheels, and notes that its size is comparable to the current CLS coupe-sedan. The car offers an impressive range of up to 410 miles on a single charge from its 90kWh battery and special charging capabilities through the Mercedes me Charge network.

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The Roadster's specs are impressive, to say the least.

Tesla

Elon Musk took to a stage in late 2017 to announce a new product, the second-generation Tesla Roadster, and the numbers were impressive, even for a guy known to casually drop massive bombshells in 160 characters or less on Twitter. He pledged a 620-mile range and a 0-60 mph time in 1.9 seconds for the car – impressive specs, to be sure. When Musk unveiled the car, production was scheduled to commence some time in 2020, but as we all now know, last year wasn't a banner year for car manufacturing. In January, he pushed that date back to 2022, but the timeline has slipped again - into 2023 at this point - and that's only if everything goes smoothly between now and then.


Tesla Roadster Supply chain issues have caused delays in the Roadster's release.Tesla


Responding to a tweet on Wednesday, Musk stated that "assuming 2022 is not mega drama, new Roadster should ship in 2023." That's a pretty big asterisk, given how things have been going over the last 18 months. It's not surprising, though, and Musk acknowledges what we've known for some time now: The global supply chain is a mess, thanks to microchip shortages and pandemic-related closures and delays. "2021 has been the year of super crazy supply chain shortages," he said, admitting that "it wouldn't matter if we had 17 new products, as none would ship." Again, it's not surprising, but it is most likely frustrating for reservation holders, who've plopped down anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 to hold an order for the Roadster.




Tesla is far from being the only automaker to experience delays, but even if we assume that the rest of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 go smoothly, there's still a lot that can happen. All of Tesla's suppliers would have to get their ducks in a row and there can be no COVID-related production delays. That would also peg 2022 as one of the automaker's flagship years for product releases, with both the Semi and Cybertruck on the schedule. It's possible, but far from guaranteed, that all of those pieces fall into place, making Tesla's 2022 a banner year. As for the Roadster, 2023 could be the year that we're all blown away by its range and acceleration, but recent history suggests that anything can happen at any time, so we won't be holding our breath.

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