PALO ALTO, Calif.—After what has felt like an interminable wait since our brief taster at CES last year, we finally landed some proper seat time with the new Chevrolet Bolt. It’s the most convincing battery electric vehicle (BEV) to emerge thus far from one of the traditional automakers, a ground-up design with clever packaging and a 60kWh battery that gives it a range of 238 miles (383km). And until Tesla’s Model 3 goes into production later this year, it’s the only reasonably affordable long-range BEV on the market.
It’s not entirely surprising that Chevrolet was the first of the traditional OEMs to respond to Tesla. Parent General Motors tried to make EVs viable in the early 1990s with the EV1, perhaps a little too soon before battery technology made the leaps it has. More recently, it has sold more than 110,000 plug-in hybrid EVs in the form of the first– and second-generation Volt. While the Bolt obviously benefits from this institutional know-how, the new car is a ground-up design, not an evolution of its PHEV platform.