Mountain Wheels: Chevrolet Bolt suggests an electrified future for General Motors |

Mountain Wheels: Chevrolet Bolt suggests an electrified future for General Motors

With an EPA-issued range of at least 259 miles, the Chevy Bolt remains the only game in town for big-brand electric vehicles, though more are on the horizon.
Photo from Chevrolet

Among the many grandiose announcements made about automobiles during these disconnected days of the pandemic, I was interested to hear a tease of info regarding the rebirth of the Hummer brand — apocalyptic as that may be.

More importantly, the conjecture was that a variant of that beast, manufactured by GMC, rather than its earlier military version, would be an all-electric model that would produce something like 1,000 horsepower. Add to that the new all-electric Cadillac Lyriq, plus new vehicles from Chevrolet and Buick, and the plan is for up to 20 GM family electric vehicles by 2023.

That’s cool, but at present, literally all you have is the small but friendly Chevrolet Bolt. It is perhaps the antithesis of the Hummer, a diminutive crossover (the EPA calls it a small wagon) that generates a modest 200 horsepower and a total of 266 foot-pounds of entirely electric torque.

So as I continually ask of electrified vehicles, does the 3-year-old Bolt have what it takes to survive in Summit County, especially after the failure I found with the entirely city-only, 100-ish-mile range Mini Cooper EV?

I would say yes, somewhat tentatively. I had a 2020 Bolt Premier model for a week, priced at $43,735 before generous state and federal electric vehicle rebates and credits. Given the car’s mixture of reasonable range and moderate comfort and versatility, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Range is the absolutely most fluid but critical part of the electric vehicle experience, and in Bolt’s case, it’s dependent on weather, your driving style and your decision to use your air conditioner or heating system. At start-up on my final day with the vehicle, fully charged, it claimed a total range of 331 miles and also gave Vegas-styled over/under odds of up to 369 and as low as 256 miles.

Turn on the AC, as we’ve needed to do this week on the Front Range, and suddenly it was 262 miles of range, and up to 359 or as low as 214, depending on driving style.

I chose to ignore all of that while I drove 30- and 60-mile routes in Denver during the blazing weather, judiciously using the air conditioning to keep myself from melting. And using the wall plug charger supplied, I simply charged Bolt the minute I got back from travels and did not mess around with public charging stations.

The results were comfortably reliable power for local and highway travel and, in general, what looked like the EPA-estimated 259 mile range as a general benchmark, if you drive as I did.

That makes Bolt more plausible for real-world travel in Colorado, though of course you have to either get back home or to a destination with a fast charger, unless you want to have the car sit for a very long time in a friend’s garage plugged into the wall.

Winter would drastically cut that range, I would guess, as would using the heater, but the upside is that Bolt provides a happy medium of range to make it less precious and anxiety-producing than low-range electric vehicles. And you’d be able to use the little regenerative energy paddle on the back of the wheel your whole way down the passes, doing lots of recharging work.

As I spent a weekend hauling three entire carloads of goods on Interstate 76 and Interstate 25, I would have welcomed something more Hummer size; you can drop the reasonably comfortable rear seats and remove a light cargo screen to get 56.6 cubic feet of room, equivalent to a smaller SUV.

In the back, there’s also a double-layered storage area to store the charge cable and then cover some valuables, though that itself is a pretty flimsy board that’s loose and didn’t really seem like the kind of thing you’d find on a $44,000 vehicle.

Driving is certainly comfortable and steady and the power is quite impressive. You can click a sport switch to get even more direct torque.   

Andy Stonehouse, Summit Daily News
Andy Stonehouse

Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at

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