The Chevy Bolt is now a compact SUV with 250 miles of range and ‘hands-free’ driving

Chevy Bolt undergoes a growth spurt. General Motors unveiled two new versions of the Bolt on Sunday: an updated Bolt EV hatchback with longer range and new high-tech features, and the all-new Bolt EUV – essentially a compact SUV – with more legroom and less range than the Bolt EV.

Due to this summer, the updated Bolt EV will sell for $ 31,995 – or about $ 5,000 less than the current model year Bolt EV. Bolt EUV (which stands for “power tool”) will also be cheaper and cost $ 33,995. A limited edition “Launch” version with unique wheels, special badging and an illuminated charging port will be available for $ 43,495. Bolt EV and EUV were expected to go into production at the end of 2020, but were delayed until this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

First introduced in 2016, The Chevy Bolt was intended to be General Motors’ first foray into a mass market, pure battery electric vehicle with 200 plus miles range and an affordable price. But sales have been anemic since the release of the Tesla Model 3 in 2018, which has come to dominate the EV market in the US and abroad. Bolt’s compact hatchback size is not what most American car buyers are looking for these days. And one recent recall of bolts for model year 2017-2019 related to a defective battery has certainly not helped GMs image problems with EV.

The carmaker hopes to lift Bolt’s fortunes with these two new versions, but it could be difficult as the technology that strengthens the Bolt quickly becomes obsolete. Both the Bolt EV and the Bolt EUV will be built on GM’s BEV2 platform, which differs from the new one “Ultium” battery pack announced in early 2020. The recently unveiled Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV will be the first vehicles to build on this new architecture. GM has said that Ultium’s advanced battery chemistry will allow its future electric vehicles to travel longer on a single charge and recharge at a faster speed. But the automaker has no plans to move the bolt onto the Ultium platform, according to Chevy’s lead engineer.

As a consolation for its immediate irrelevance, both versions of the Bolt come with Super Cruise, the “hands-free” advanced driver support system that has previously only been available in Cadillac vehicles. Bolt EV and EUV are the first non-Cadillac vehicles and the first electric vehicles to have Super Cruise.

The price helps compensate for Bolt’s shortcomings. When it was first introduced five years ago, the automaker was still eligible for the federal government’s $ 7,500 tax deduction, effectively making the Bolten a $ 30,000 vehicle. But in 2019, GM sold its 200,000. EV in the USA, triggers a phasing out of the tax credit. No longer eligible for this incentive, GM decided to stick to the reduced price for these latest versions, which is encouraging.

GM claims that the Bolt EV’s 65 kWh battery pack enables 259 miles of range on a single charge, while the slightly heavier Bolt EUV will have 250 miles of range – pretty much the same as the current model year. The original 2018 Bolt had a range of 238 miles, but typically became smaller due to cold weather or other external factors. Neither vehicle range is yet certified by US or European regulators.

Chevy also includes an active thermal management system that uses coolant to maintain battery temperature. Late last year, General Motors was forced to recall over 68,000 Chevy Bolts manufactured between 2017-2019 after reporting several battery fires. Federal regulators investigate and a class action lawsuit was filed claiming that Bolt’s battery is “prone to bursting into flames.”

According to Jesse Ortega, chief engineer at Chevy, the new bolts use a different battery chemistry that helps prevent future incidents, the same chemistry that allowed the automaker to increase range from 238 miles to 250 miles.

Both versions of the bolt come with a single engine unit that can deliver 200 horsepower thanks to 150 kW of power and 360 Newton meters of torque. Like previous models, the new bolts will have regenerative braking and a one-pedal driving mode that is quite common among electric cars today.

Bolt EUV and the redesigned Bolt EV share an architecture, but their design is unique. No exterior sheet metal parts are shared between the two vehicles after some owners complained about defective sheet metal in previous versions. EUV is approx. 6 inches longer and will have approx. 3 inches extra rear legroom than Bolt EV.

The grille has been fine-tuned and replaced the previous Bolts dual-tone look with a more monochromatic fascia. Chevy holds a small ventilation panel instead of embracing the completely flat front of other EVs like the Tesla Model 3.

Bolt’s interiors have always been more practical than inspiring with hard plastic in abundance. Now, the interior of the Bolt EV and EUV has been redesigned to include more screens and sensors, mostly to help Super Cruises promise “hands-free” driving. Chevy has even ripped out Bolt’s often criticized seats and replaced them with seats that have a triangular geometric pattern and contrasting stitching, which the carmaker claims is a “premium design that provides a smooth and exclusive atmosphere.” Not words you typically see are used to describe a $ 30,000 vehicle.

The main 10.2-inch infotainment screen is still embedded in the dashboard, but is integrated more seamlessly into the center console than the original Bolts design. The physical buttons are smoother and less lumpy. And Chevy switched the gearshift out to a series of electronic buttons to free up more interior space. There is also a new drive button with a pedal that keeps the system active between drive cycles.

Other new additions include the light bar at the top of the steering wheel and the infrared sensor on the steering column. These are components of GM’s Super Cruise assisted driving system that use cameras, radar and map data to allow users to drive hands-free on separate highways. Super Cruise is not a self-driving system, as it still requires drivers to keep an eye on the road and committed enough to be able to take over at a moment’s notice. In particular, the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV only come with the standard version of the Super Cruise, not the enhanced version that includes automatic lane change.

EV charging in the US is a bit messy, and while Chevy may not be able to solve some of the more unmanageable issues, it does what it can to make charging a little less of a headache. A two-level charging cord is included in the bolt, which Chevy said will eliminate the need for many people to purchase a separate charger for their home. The replaceable plug allows customers to connect a standard 120 volt three-level socket for level 1 charging and a 240 volt socket for level 2 charging up to 7.2 kilowatts. Both vehicles are also capable of 11 kW level 2 charging, but separate charging equipment is required.

As an added benefit, anyone who buys or leases a Bolt EUV or Bolt EV, gets free installation of a level 2 charger in their home through GM’s partnership with Qmerit, an installer for a home charger. For on-the-go charging, GM is partnering with public charging station operator EVgo to include over 80,000 public chargers in the My Chevrolet app.

However, charging times will still be subject to the power levels of each charger. When Bolt EV and EUV are connected to a normal 120 volt system (ie most electrical outlets in the home), they get only four miles range for every hour of charging. Connected to a 240 volt socket gets the bolt to fully charge in seven hours. And a DC fast charger adds up to 100 miles in 30 minutes for both vehicles.

Affordability has always been Bolt’s strongest selling point, offering a decent battery and a fitting range of under $ 35,000. Chevy wanted to ensure that the Bolt remained affordable, even though it added new features, such as Super Cruise, or leveled up to crossover status, said Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevy marketing. Keeping the price low will help spur EV adoption from its current status of just 2 percent of U.S. sales to up to 15-20 percent of the total car market, he said.

“ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles will be for a long time, ”said Majoros. “But the EV movement is real.”

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