The Chevrolet Bolt LT

From the December 2020 print edition

The case is getting stronger for electric vehicles in fleet applications as the adoption barriers fall. Take range as an example. Earlier EVs could barely make it 200km without charging, which made them useful only in select applications. Today, many mainstream EVs get close to or exceed 400km on one charge, which means they can complete a full day’s work before the driver needs to seek out a plug.
And charging options have become significantly more plentiful over the past five years. Level 3 chargers are found on multiple networks through mobile apps, and these fast chargers usually bring an EV up to 80 per cent of its battery’s capacity over a lunch break.

The final major barrier to adoption is up-front price, and that’s falling in some ways, too. Consider for example that Uber recently entered an arrangement employee pricing on 2020 Bolt EVs and 20 per cent off associated accessories, including at-home charging equipment. Plus, electric cars save money over the life of the vehicle through lower maintenance costs since they have fewer fluids and components than internal combustion engines.

Add on government purchase incentives extended to corporate fleets in some markets – including the federal government’s iZEV rebate, which lets businesses claim $5,000 off up to 10 EVs per calendar year and to write off 100 percent of additional zero-emission vehicle purchases under $55,000 – and there’s a growing list of reasons to consider going electric.

That Uber and GM partnership came to fruition for good reason: the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt is an excellent and relatively affordable EV for many general-purpose fleet applications. With a starting MSRP below $45,000, the Bolt qualifies for the iZEV program and for provincial incentives where they exist. This entry-level LT model is $49,243 with freight and PDI and before incentive payouts, with most extra cost going to adding on safety features like blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, intelligent high beams and others.

For 2020, the Bolt benefits from adjusted battery chemistry to gain 34kms on its overall estimated range, which crosses that all-important 400km threshold for a total of 417km. It’s easy to track where that energy is going through the Bolt’s digital displays. While it takes some time to learn to read the data, the gauge cluster simul-taneously displays how much power is used or recovered at any given moment, a real-time range estimate with projected minimums and maximums in case of battery use changes, and a bar rating how efficiently the car is performing based on the driver’s habits and external environmental factors.

While the Bolt has a slightly smaller electric motor than some competitors at 150kW (200hp),
it posts a respectable torque rating of 266lbs-ft. Perhaps a more significant factor is that its 55kW charge rate, while accessible at all Level 3 charging stations, falls short of the faster rate other EVs achieve. For example, the Nissan Leaf Plus can charge at 100kW at capable Level 3 fast chargers, nearly double the Bolt’s rate.

The Bolt has been criticized for the quality of its interior, though using lighter materials is understandable in an EV where weight boosts efficiency, and the appearance is well-executed.
The comfort of the seats is another criticism, and this is fairer. Longer torsos may find the headrests push the spine into an unnatural alignment that gets uncomfortable. The upside is the infotainment is laid out on a 10.2-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and added features for power output and analysis displays.

The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt LT may not have some of comforts of similarly priced internal combustion engine alternatives, but it covers the important bases and its benefits largely outweigh drawbacks. If the small hatch suits the application, it could be a welcome addition to a fleet line-up.