This past November (2022), I replaced my 2017 Chevy Bolt with a 2019 Tesla Model 3. This is a quick recap of my thoughts after owning the Bolt for 2 years.
Let me start by saying the Bolt was an extremely great car for me! I owned it just over 2 years and put almost exactly 65K miles on it. I had almost zero issues. Paid $0 for maintenance, well if you don’t include the cost of filling up the windshield washer fluid. During these 2 years, I did a fair bit of gig work driving Uber/Lyft and delivering packages with Amazon Flex. That is how I put so many miles on it. I did do some longer multi-day trips, but this car is NOT well suited for distance travel due to its slow charging speed.
For any EV purchase, you need to take some time and really understand the impact of charging. Even this slow-charging EV can work for long-distance travel, but that travel will take longer and be very different than driving in an ICE car.
Let me list what I really liked about my Bolt:
- Form factor: It is small, but the space is extremely well allocated. The driving position is more upright than a small sedan. I’m about 6′ tall and still had 4″ of extra headroom. The back seats sit even a bit higher than the front and give ample legroom for my Uber customers. All this passenger space comes from having a very small rear storage area, but that is the perfect compromise for me. If I’m hauling something, I fold down the rear seats and have very ample room. I even used it for sleeping on several occasions.
- Efficiency: Well it is an electric car for starters which just rocks! Acceleration is phenomenal. My point here is though, that I routinely got 4 miles/kWh which is really excellent. The efficiency would only drop during very cold or high speed.
- Driving: This car drove like a dream. Tracked straight. The one-pedal driving was nearly perfectly implemented. Brakes should last forever.
- The 360 birds-eye view is incredible! I did not realize how much I had come to rely on this to get out of my narrow home parking. I really really miss this on my Tesla. There is no comparison. The Bolt was built with this feature in mind and has the cameras to make it work. Tesla does not have the cameras to make it work well. Tesla did recently release a software update that provided a similar view. But rather than being a real-time camera view that shows exactly where your car is in relation to the surroundings, it is a computer-generated guess and does not show the ground (road, driveway) at all.
More problematic features:
- Charging speed: Yeah the max 50kW charging makes this car only practical for local travel. My basic estimates are if you are going to do long-distance travel, plan 2 hours of driving and then 1 hour of charging. And the CCS charging network is neither dependable nor frequent. This is one of my primary motivations for getting the Tesla.
- Seat Comfort: I found the driver’s seat to be torturous! After adding several inches of dense foam, I did get it to be tolerable.
- Minor Issue: The steering came loose. It is hard to explain this one, but at one point the connection between the steering wheel and the steering drive linkage became loose. This turned out to be such an easy fix. After a short internet search, I saw others had had a similar issue and gave a quick fix. All I had to do was to tighten (re-torque to spec) a bolt on the floor in the driver cabin near the pedals. I was able to complete this myself in just a few minutes. Seems a somewhat common issue.
- Range: The range of an EV is a very complicated issue that you probably need to experience to truly appreciate. The base range of the Bolt, at 238 miles, is very good for a car in its price range. But, the useable range is often much less. First of all, you really do not want to get anywhere near 0, because you will need a tow (as well as possibly damage your battery). You will often not charge to full, because the charging speed really slows as the battery fills. And then in the cold, not only is the battery less efficient but also running the cabin heater can take away another 35% of your range. I think GM has a large extra battery capacity that goes unused because they do not dissuade you from charging to full. So most nights, I would just plug in to charge at home and have over 200 miles of range every day. Even with lots of gig driving, this was mostly fine. Occasionally, I would stop to “fast” charge and get in a 30-60 minute walk. So the range issue, while always on my mind, was seldom an issue at all.
I’ll review some of the numbers in terms of cost and resale for this car. I will remind people that I bought this car on 2020-08-18 and sold it on 2022-11-11. So this covers a time period that included Covid madness and some odd effect on auto pricing. Although, my purchase and sales date were not during any peak oddness of this time.
|Total purchase cost:||$23,529|
|===> Depreciation (w/ tax cost)||==>||$6029|
|Mileage at purchase:||18,500 miles|
|Mileage at sale:||83,500 miles|
|Miles driven:||65,000 miles|
|Electric at 3.8 mi/kWh||17,105 kWh|
|==> Electric Cost at 12¢/kWh||==>||$2050|
|Approximate tire expense:||==>||$1,800|
|Insurance, tags, etc:||==>||$2,500|
|Total cost of ownership:||==>||$12,579|
|Total cost as cost per mile driven:||19.4 ¢/mi|
I have tried to be very inclusive of all the expenses I occurred in owning this car. When I purchased this car, it was double the price of any other car I owned. It was a stressful decision, but my whole life I had wanted an electric car. I was waiting to try to get a practical one at a reasonable cost. It seems that about the time I purchased this, the 2017 Bolts were coming off of 3-year leases and there were enough of them to drive the prices down.
During these 2 years and 2 months of ownership, I drove 46,475 miles of gig work in this Bolt. I had optimistically estimated that my cost per mile would be 25¢. Nice to see that I bettered that. With this cost of 19.4¢/mi and a business use tax write-off rate of 55.5¢, I got about $16.7k of income reduction beyond my actual expenses. With my small income the actual benefit of this is pretty low, but still very nice to have.
I really enjoyed owning this car. I’m especially glad I went ahead and got the Premium trim with all the fancy features. It was really almost perfect for the gig work I was doing.
Drive Battery and Bolt Fires
The first generation of Chevy Bolts (2017-19) had some issues with drive battery fires. This is extremely unfortunate. GM did the right thing and recalled and replaced ALL the cars at a huge expense after quite a long period of investigation.
My car had the battery replaced at a local dealership at no cost to me when it had about 50,000 miles on it. My car was the first battery replacement for this dealership. They did make a minor mistake with the battery cooling fluid and I had to take it back in the next day. This was a common occurrence. Everything worked fine before and after this replacement. Also, the new battery came with the original warranty of 8 years and 100,000 miles. Pretty sweet.
During this period of ownership, I knew the car would not be well-suited for long-distance driving. I had access to the 2 Priuses I had given to my kids and would borrow them occasionally. That did not really work out very well, so in the summer of 2022, I bought a 2007 Honda Civic to have available for longer trips. Perhaps I should add in the $6k that that car cost me. What do you think?
The net cost per mile of 19.4¢ is pretty extraordinary!
Another plus that I did not include above is the user community that I found at https://www.chevybolt.org. It is filled with great people and once you have read lots of the posts out there you really start to feel Bolt owners are generally exceedingly happy with their Bolts. I definitely include myself in that group.
The purchase of my 2019 Tesla Model has been a similarly difficult purchase decision. I hope that it works out as well.