Compact hatchback with long range!

“Practical, fun-to-drive, and great handling.”

“Not hearing any sound made it feel like I was riding in a golf cart.”

“Bolt EV is great in traffic, and great if you have a place to charge it at home and at work.”

“I regenerated 220 km on my brakes driving downwards from the Cedars to Beirut,” said Issam.

Speaking for myself, I never liked or cherished electric vehicles for one simple reason: boring. I do get that they are the future, and they'll endure to be a more significant part of our lives ten, fifteen, or even twenty years from now. Recently I took a few electric vehicles, starting with the Tesla Model X P100D in Dubai, Hyundai Kona Electric in Beirut and of course the Chevy Bolt EV. You can imagine my lack of enthusiasm—but my mentality and point of view changed when I drove the Bolt EV. It was a long weekend from Beirut to the Cedars of Lebanon (a drive of two hours and forty minutes over 120 kilometers).

Driving impressions

How does it drive? Well, a short wheelbase, good steering feel and a decent ride make the Bolt feel a lot like any decent-driving hatchback with a good amount of torque and an ultra-quiet cabin. All in all it’s neither sporty nor luxurious, but it drives well. To surprise you folks, the Bolt EV does zero-to-100 in almost 6.5-seconds (faster than the Toyota 86 and equal to a VW Golf GTI). Yes, believe me: it is fast!

During my drive, I made a few stops on the way upwards so people approached me and asked me many questions. Some of them knew it was an electric car (the experts), some others thought it was a hybrid vehicle and were shocked when I denied it (the ‘kind of’ pros), and a few people were surprised why the car wasn’t emitting any sound (the amateurs).

If I were to give you a very simple explanation why EVs are fast, read this: you all remember playing with RC (remote control) cars, and you know that when you push the forward button the RC car moves immediately. That’s the same concept. No delay of the combustion engine, so you get immediate torque!

I know it feels weird at first, because the Bolt EV is neither a huge car nor a small one. It looks small from the exterior but is pretty spacious from inside. But not hearing any sound made it feel like I was riding in a golf cart—except with more spirit, windows and doors, five seats, plus everyday comfort!

Charging the Bolt EV is kind of simple and easy. Just plug it into your home! Yes it will take time (versus the supercharge stations) but will give you around 120 kilometers if you plug in from around 11 pm until 7 am. Supercharge stations are not abundant yet in Lebanon but it is surely picking up. You have two or three supercharge stations around the capital Beirut, as well as most shopping malls.

In the US, electric cars are designed for people that live in a city and don't need to commute very far from one state to another. That’s why the case is different in Lebanon, especially within Beirut, the capital, and its suburbs (either north or south which aren’t far). Bolt EV is great in traffic, and great if you have a place to charge it at home and at work. But let me tell you something, even if you are an enthusiast that's lived and breathed exhaust fumes and has loved the big V8 or V12 engines for more than two decades, you will still need an EV for your everyday drive. But for people living in an apartment with no garage, which is the case in many buildings in Lebanon, you won’t be able to charge it overnight. Nowadays the construction of buildings gives you a parking sport in an underground garage where you can plug in it at a very close distance.

The challenge was to drive the Bolt EV in a very efficient manner, so I did it. I regenerated 220 kilometers on my brakes driving downwards from the Cedars to Beirut. Believe it or not, I saw the 520 kilometers (as maximum range) on the odometer.

Verdict

When we published the first drive on our social media network, we heard many people criticizing the price tag. I do agree, but let’s make it clear. Keep in mind that all electric cars are expensive for the time being. The Bolt EV's price tag in Lebanon is $50,000 USD on the road with 8-years or 120,000 km on the battery. Why is that? You're basically paying a premium for the technology. It won’t be for the medium-to-medium plus society. This category will pay the same amount to a seven-seater for the whole family. The Bolt EV is now a lifestyle choice for the rich. Give it couple of years when the technology starts aging, and prices will drop. Remember, mobile phones in the 90s used to cost a fortune, right? Nowadays you can get a smartphone for 90 bucks…

Rivals: Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, VW eGolf, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric

Pros: eco-friendly, fast acceleration, spacious interior, comfortable

Cons: expensive price tag, not convenient for people without a garage

4.5 / 5 stars

one word: hi-tech

Specifications 

Battery chemistry: lithium-ion 60 kWh

Motor/ Type: permanent magnetic drive motor/ Single motor and gearset

Power: 200 hp/150 kW

Torque: 360 Nm

0-100 km/h: 6.6 secs, top speed: 145 km/h

Weight: 1,624 kg

Charging time

120V: 6.4 km of range per hour (available with standard cord)

240V: 80 km of range in less than 2 hours, full charge in 9.3 hours

DC Fast Charge: up to 145 km in 30 minutes