Updated: Apr 1
A quarter-century ago---1996---I was a TV news reporter, not even reviewing cars for a living yet (that would change the following year) and General Motors offered me a week in the all-electric EV1. The EV1 was a two-seater that had a stated maximum range on a charge of 80-100 miles. Pull away from a stoplight and watch the display read 60. Turn on the air conditioner and watch the range estimate drop to 48.
And there was virtually no charging infrastructure. The biggest shopping mall near me had two EV chargers, put there by the power company in cooperation with GM because they were part of the experiment of allowing real-world drivers to live with the EV1 for two years. And since most of the cars in Phoenix went to people in relatively affluent neighborhoods near that mall, those two chargers were tied up when you needed them.
The goal, then, was to charge at home, slowly, overnight and conserve during the day---hoping to make it back and repeat the process the following night.
It was in that week I became familiar with the concept of "range anxiety". At the time, I think I referred to it as "terrified I'm not going to make it home in this @$%!ing thing" (and twice, I damn near didn't).
After three years, 1,117 EV1s had been produced and GM began the process of collecting the cars as leases expired (no one was allowed to buy one outright). All but 40, which are now in museums, were sent to the crusher. Environmentalists howled, accusing GM of killing the electric car.
In truth, GM and other manufacturers just went back to the drawing board and re-invented the electric car. And this time, it works in the real world. The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier carries five people and no small amount of their stuff and has a range of 259 miles on a single charge---80 percent of which you can replenish in 45 minutes on a DC fast charger.
The Bolt is part of the next wave of EVs---the one that represents a tipping point because range anxiety and charging time are two of the biggest worries of drivers who "want to buy an electric, but...". It, the Tesla Model Y, the Kia Niro EV, the Ford Mustang Mach-E (look for my review in February) and the Volkswagen ID.4 are all small-to-medium size crossovers with at least 239 miles of range and base prices below $45,000 before incentives.
The Bolt's electric powerplant makes 200 horsepower and 266 pounds per foot of torque. And it's quick. Zero to 60 happens in 6.5 seconds. Regenerative braking helps put charge back into the battery.
The base price of the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier is $41,020. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are leather-appointed seats (all are heated, as is the steering wheel), 17-inch machined painted aluminum wheels, puncture-sealing tires and a 10.2-inch color touchscreen for entertainment and other functions.
Our tester also had some extra-cost options: $750 for DC fast-charging provisions (say yes to this, or else you'll be limited to Level 2 charging, which is considerably slower); $595 for the Infotainment Package, including wireless device charging and a Bose 7-speaker premium audio system; the Driver Confidence II Package with automatic high-beams, a following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and front pedestrian braking; and $75 for wheel locks.
With $875 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premium is $43,810. GM has sold enough EVs and plug-in hybrids that the $7,500 tax credit has expired for its products, but smaller credits and incentive cash from the dealer and manufacturer may apply.
Bottom line, the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premium is an impressive car that makes a big contribution to tearing down the walls separating average American drivers from EV ownership.