My two recent essays about our electric car were intended to help people understand the real world trade-offs of owning electric cars. I believe that information should apply to most if not all electric cars on the market.
This essay is specifically about the Chevrolet Bolt EV. It is my rant about the brain dead engineers and designers at Chevrolet.
The Bolt EV is a small economy vehicle with an electric drive train. As an transportation tool it is adequate. The motors and batteries and charging systems work and get us from here to there.
But compared to other cars I have owned, the Bolt is a nightmare.
I have driven Saabs almost exclusively since the late 70's. I liked Saabs cause they were safe, reasonably sporty, reasonably efficient, and perhaps most of all, well thought out.
Here are my main complaints about the Bolt:
The Bolt has not just two pillars holding up the front of the roof; the Bolt has four. Two on each side. And, they're not thin. They're thick and bulky and positioned so they effectively block the view of oncoming traffic in side streets. Incredible!
The Bolt's windshield is raked at a very shallow angle. I'm sure this is to reduce drag, but there's no reason to have the top edge of the windshield so far back that it provides an unobstructed view of the sun and glare. And, the dashboard is composed of some surface that reflects sunlight into the windshield. So, on a bright sunny day, the reflection of the dashboard interferes severely with the view outside.
The seats are narrow, light weight, and clearly cheaply made. I felt one of the spars in the driver seat back break the very first time I drove the car. I'm just waiting for the seat to collapse and give out. Car seats should last for several hundred thousand miles; they should not break at 10,000 miles!
Both the inside and outside rear view mirrors have odd angular shapes. They're perhaps stylistically interesting, but they're too oddly shaped and small to be as useful as they should be.
The car has a backup camera system that works well except for one thing: the rear camera is mounted above the license plate where it collects dirt from the rear tire spray. The lens becomes so dirty within just a few minutes of driving in inclement weather or on dirty roads, that the rear camera is unusable.
The dashboard gauges are incredibly hard to read. There is no analog speedometer, only a digital numeric one. But even worse than that, the speed is drawn in a color and size that is completely overwhelmed by bright green and yellow battery energy and energy flow arcs and circles. Never mind that the energy data is presented in ways that are hard to understand, they are so garish and bright, it makes it hard for the driver's eye to find critical information like the speed.
And then there's the radio. It's unbelievable.
When you first get in the car, a little movie of stars is displayed on the dashboard screens and a musical fanfare is played. It's useless and annoying. There is no way to turn off the movie. And although you can turn off the fanfare by diving deep into the settings app, it occasionally, without warning, reverts to some sort of default and plays at maximum volume when you open the door and enter the car.
There is no off switch for the radio. You can turn the volume all the way down or mute it. But not to worry, the car will automatically raise the volume the next time you start the car. You can set the volume it uses initially, but you can not set it to zero. So, whether you want it or not, the radio turns on each and every time you get in the car. Oh Boy!
Oh, and if you get sick of the radio shenanigans, you can plug in your phone using a USB cable and the CarPlay app and play the songs on your phone. But, be forewarned, you won't be able to play just any song from your phone. No matter how many songs or albums or artists you have on your phone, while you are driving, CarPlay will only show you the last half dozen or so that you've listened to. If you want to select from your entire music library, you have to stop the car and put it in Park before CarPlay will let you see the complete list. I'm sure this is a safety feature. It's not unsafe to spend five minutes punching different buttons and screaming at the dash board trying to figure out how to select songs you know you have while you're driving. It's also not unsafe to stop on the interstate just to change the song you're listening to.
And let's talk about the navigation system. You can use your phone's map apps through the CarPlay system to have GPS navigation in your Bolt. Cool! But, there's no way to control the volume of the navigation system's driving commands voice. And the preset volume of the voice is too low to be heard over normal radio listening levels. Useful! Not!
And by the way, that business about the radio turning on when you start the car? It's worse than that. When you turn off the car, the radio doesn't turn off. But if it is off and you have your phone plugged in, when you unplug your phone to take it with you, the radio turns on. Crazy!
My guess is that when Chevrolet wanted to hire people to design and implement their dashboard and electronics, they found some doper kids right out of engineering school.
Don't get me wrong. I like the Bolt. I really do. But, I spend far too much mental energy deliberately avoiding noticing the badly designed user interfaces. I bought a used low mileage Bolt cause I got a great deal on it. If I could afford a Tesla (or if Teslas were more affordable), I would buy one of those in a heartbeat before I would buy another brain dead Chevrolet vehicle.