What’s the Best Electric Car on the Market for Your Money?

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Fair warning: This will read like a Chevy ad. I do own a Volt, full disclosure, but my interest in this brand extends only to their electric offerings and with good reasons that I’ll explain below.

#1. WHY CHEVY?

GM, owners of the Chevrolet brand, are notoriously the ones who recalled all of the EV1 cars in the 1990s and had them crushed. They were the villains of the groundbreaking documentary “who killed the electric car?”

However they were also the hero of the follow-up documentary, “Who saved the electric car?” This is because they did a great deal to atone for their past mistakes in selling one of the first mass market electric cars, at great financial risk to themselves.

They canceled the EV1 in the first place because the technology was not ready. Initially the EV1 used heavy, dirty and inefficient lead acid batteries which last between 6 months and 2 years before needing to be replaced. On those batteries, when new, it managed a paltry range of 60 miles.

There’s a sound argument to be made that they were in the wrong more unambiguously when they bought up and shelved the Ovionic NiMH battery tech used in the later revisions of the EV1 as well as the electric Rav4.

However, they’ve done an amazing job with the Volt and Bolt. As they had to, in order to overcome the “bad guy” image that the documentary gave them. Consequently everything in their EVs is over-engineered to last.

The battery packs in particular, which are liquid cooled like Tesla’s, and have been shown to suffer negligible degradation even after 400,000 miles. The Bolt also has GM’s time tested liquid cooling system, so you know the battery will last the lifespan of the car itself.

#2. WHY NOT A LEAF?

The Nissan Leaf is the best selling electric car in the world, but only because it’s cheap. A used Leaf can be had for as little as $5,000. What they don’t tell you is that the Leaf has no liquid cooling for the battery. This is why Leafs notoriously have been suffering battery degradation much faster than expected.

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The first gen of Leafs are now reported to have as little as 40 miles of range per charge. That’s 50% degradation in about 7 years of use. Compare that to the Volt, which has suffered no detectable battery degradation whatsoever over that same period.

Liquid cooling makes all the difference for battery pack longevity. Leaf doesn’t have it. Steer clear of the Leaf, and don’t listen to Nissan’s rationalizations as to why it’s unnecessary. It’s a corner they chose to cut, and they’re paying for it. You don’t have to pay for it as well.

#3. WHY NOT TESLA?

I won’t sugar coat it. Both Leaf and Bolt are ugly on the outside. Many EVs are, for the sake of aerodynamics. This increases the range they can get on one charge. The Tesla Model 3 is a beautiful car, on the outside. But check out the interior:

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Yeah, that’s wood grain. Like driving an Atari 2600. If it looks a touch spartan it’s because it is. After you add in all the features you’d expect it to have standard, the price creeps from $30,000 up to $50,000 or more.

By contrast the Bolt comes with many of those same “premium” features, standard, at $30,000. Like heated seats (both front and back) a heated steering wheel, wireless charging alcoves for modern smartphones, a video screen integrated into the rear view mirror for backing up, and a variety of semi-autonomous features.

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Compare the Model 3 interior to the Bolt interior. The Bolt has the interior of an actual, comfortable car. More features you’d actually want on long electric road trips like the wireless phone charging slots in the middle console.

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The boot leaves a bit to be desired, though the rear seats do fold down in the event that you need to haul something sizable. It’s not a truck replacement but it does more than the light hauling duty you’d expect from a mid size electric car.

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But let’s get to the crux of the matter. The battery pack. Bolt has a huge 60kwh battery pack, same as the discontinued low end Model S, same as the Model 3. It’s liquid cooled and came from the same engineers as the famously invincible Volt battery pack, so you know it will last.

The EPA rated range of 238 miles is nonsense. EPA’s estimates are always way too generous. But the user reported average range of 200 miles, usually a little more, is exactly as much as needed for the Bolt to be your primary…or even only…automobile.

It’s that sweet spot of range, build quality, features and price that lead me to declare that the Bolt is the people’s electric car. It’s the one we’ve been waiting for. It isn’t the most beautiful, but it ticks all the boxes for practicality and value.

200 miles, a battery that will stand the test of time (unlike Leaf) and all the features you need in a family car, or pragmatic commuter that can also be used for long trips. Depending what crypto is doing in a couple of years, there may be a Bolt in my future. What about yours?

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