Those of you who follow the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) on Twitter might recall my excitement over the Chevy Bolt at the Washington Auto Show. I’m honored to head up the nation’s leading trade association for the automotive industry and seeing first-hand the innovation produced by our member companies is phenomenal. After the show, I asked to give the Bolt a test drive, and the people at General Motors were nice enough to drop one off at Auto Innovators headquarters. (I’ll be honest, having the opportunity to get behind the wheel of some of the industry’s latest models is a favorite part of the job.)
That was before the coronavirus swept the nation, turning our lives and the auto industry upside down. (You can see how the industry adapted in the video we recently released.) What hasn’t changed is the exciting technology and innovation packed into the growing number of electric vehicles, including the Bolt EV. Since Auto Innovators has shifted to remote work, I had an opportunity to revisit the Bolt EV and take it from the Auto Innovators Washington office to Connecticut, a 280-mile drive over five hours.
The charging of the car itself is easy: a simple plug in system at the pump allowed me to charge the battery from the convenience of the office garage.
While older buildings will need to install charging infrastructure, going forward, in situations involving new construction, you can easily envision the future where EV charging stations are the norm. By charging while one shops, or works, or sits at home, drivers will gain back the minutes normally spent refilling the gas tank across town.
After giving the Bolt EV a quick charge at the Auto Innovators office in downtown DC, I jumped in, hit the accelerator, and began the nearly 300-mile journey home.
The Bolt EV has a remarkable EPA-estimated 259 miles of range on a full charge, a 21-mile increase over previous model years, so I only needed to make one pitstop to recharge during my trip. Given the six-hour drivetime, pulling into the rest station to juice up the Bolt EV was a welcome break. I needed to stretch my legs, and my driving companion (also known as my wife Rhonda) wanted to pick up snacks.
While I was easily able to locate ample available charging stations on my trip along the East Coast corridor, to fully realize a nationwide infrastructure, strong government support at the federal, state and local levels are still needed.
Maps and different apps allowed me to locate multiple options for charging pitstops along the way, showing just how widespread charging infrastructure has become. Although I ultimately made one stop just to be safe, the myChevrolet app allows Bolt EV drivers to locate charging stations on the move, giving a heads up as to when it would be smart to charge and allowing you to pay for the charge in one simple interface.
Arriving in Connecticut safe and sound, I couldn’t help but think of how fun the drive had been. Aside from being electric, the Bolt EV also uses some engineering ingenuity to elevate the driving experience, like their One Pedal Driving system.
One Pedal Driving lets you speed up and slow down using only the accelerator pedal – pressing down to speed up and lifting your foot off the pedal to decelerate. Such a small change in how we are used to cars operating is exciting in its own subtle way, and its intuitive design makes it easy to adopt as a driver. (Of course, if you need to stop quickly, you should always use the dedicated brake pedal!) Moreover, the One Pedal Driving System captures some of the energy of the car, storing it in the battery for future use.
There are dozens of models of plug-in and fuel cell electric vehicles on sale — and more are on the way. In fact, 130 models are expected to be on the market by 2025. The industry is providing record-breaking choices in energy-efficient models, while also providing even safer, more environmentally friendly, affordable vehicles.
It’s too bad that – despite more electric vehicle models being available - sales are still modest. Although they’re rising, nationwide new vehicle sales of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric autos were about 2 percent in 2019. That is less than 332,000 vehicles out of nearly 17 million sold. It would be great to see more infrastructure, as well as consumer incentives. Those elements are key to increasing consumer adoption.
I’m glad the industry continues bringing cutting-edge EV technology to the market, and I know that automakers are united in wanting EV sales to grow.