A few weeks ago, my workhorse of a 2012 Honda Civic was viciously attacked by a deer on a dark road.
It was (and still is overall) a great car…it was purchased just before I started work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as an academic librarian, because I needed the highest mileage vehicle I could find. After nearly 180K miles, it’s still running like a top. But the deer slammed into the driver’s side door at full speed absolutely destroyed the door, broke the outside handle, and bent the door frame away just enough to be annoying. After getting an estimate from a body shop that was 40% of the value of the car, it looked like maybe it made more sense for me to look around at a “new” car for myself.
In 2021, what’s that look like? I started with the presupposition that I’d prefer to buy an electric vehicle, at a minimum a hybrid, but that it didn’t make sense to get a fully internal combustion engine (ICE) car for the sort of driving I do at this moment in time. Most of my driving is inside a 90 mile range of Middle TN/AL/GA, and doesn’t involve hours and hours on the road at a time. After looking around at options in EVs, it was quickly apparent that there weren’t a ton of choices right now, and that also there would be a metric ton of choices in the next 2 years.
Everyone knows Tesla, and as much as I love their technology and they are still the clear leader in EVs in the US, they are out of my price range and I’m largely annoyed by the cult of personality that seem to follow them. After reading and watching a LOT of reviews of the non-Tesla options, I was very intrigued by the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Less expensive, good size, and with enough range that I never really have to think about it (250 miles on a full charge), the Bolt fit in the sweet spot for me.
Once I’d narrowed the search that far, I discovered that it was a VERY opportune time to be shopping for a Bolt. With enormous dealer incentives, external incentives (Costco had a $3K member incentive to purchase one), and the fact that it was the end of the quarter and the beginning of the 2022 season for cars, with new models expected to start arriving over the next few weeks, dealers were very eager to make sales and get the existing cars off their lots.
So I bought one.
What’s Electric Like?
I had ridden in electric cars before this, having had the opportunity at CES in Vegas some time back to attend a press demo of electric vehicles and ride in a whole bunch of early versions. Obviously I’d done a ton of reading about the differences between EV and ICE vehicles as far as driving them goes. But after a week of this being my daily driver, I just gotta say that this car is fun as hell to drive.
Super peppy, corners like a boss, power exactly when you want it, and nearly silent otherwise, this thing is a blast. It has great sound, Apple CarPlay, a ton of safety features that my previous car didn’t have (lane warnings, 360 camera, camera rear view) that make it just easier to relax while driving. It’s fun in a way that no car I’ve ever driven is, and it doesn’t hurt that I feels a little like I’m piloting a spaceship.
But What About Charging?
With a 250 mile range at full charge, I can go nearly a whole week without really stressing about charging. Right now, there’s a few options for me when I need to charge, though. The first is that the Bolt comes with what’s called a Level 1 charger that is effectively a fancy extension cord for a standard 120v outlet. This is the slowest of all possible options, as there’s not a lot of oomph in a standard US 120v outlet. Plugged in this way, the car will gain about 4 miles of range every hour that it’s plugged in. If you plug it in overnight for say, 10 hours, you can bet on roughly 40 miles of range being added to your battery.
My plan is to eventually install a Level 2 charger here at home, which uses 240v outlets similar to an electric dryer. With one of those, I can add 25 miles of range for every hour spent charging, and so can top the entire battery up overnight whenever needed. This will cost me a couple hundred dollars for an electrician to install, and will be well worth it long term (and has a tax incentive attached to it that allows you to claim 30% of the cost as a write-off).
In my immediate area, I have a handful of charging options not at my house. The town next door to me (10 min drive) has free Level 2 charging at their municipal building, where I could park and charge for free if needed. A town slightly farther away (30 min) but where I spend 3-5 nights a week because of various classes and rehearsals has a commercial DC Fast Charger station (Electrify America) which is the most expensive but also fastest way to charge your car…with it, you can add 100 miles of range in about 30 minutes. The charge for that charger is .16/minute, so for under $5 I can add 100 miles of range anytime I have a few minutes after dropping my kid off at dance class.
I’m thrilled, so far. Cautiously so, because this seems too good to be true and I’m sure the cruel hand of fate is waiting to smite me because if 2020 taught us anything it taught us not to assume good things about the world.
This thing is super fun, charging it requires a little forethought but is really not that big a deal, and I live in an incredibly rural area without a ton of infrastructure for EVs. I expect that will improve over time, and my experience on that front will get better and better, and people in more dense population centers will have an even easier time.