I’ve now got enough winter driving experience with my Bolt EV that I thought I would post a review and share my experiences.
A bit about me. I live in a mountain resort town. I’ve put around 6000 miles on my Bolt in the first 5 months of ownership. My primary mission is to drive to and from work, and to and from the ski resort. I drive about 20-30 miles most days. At least once/week I do a 70+ mile round trip over a mountain pass. My longest road trip was about 200 miles without charging. I haven’t hit 300 miles on a charge yet but I’ve been close. I have a heated garage with a 220V charging station. The closest Chevy Bolt service center is around 250 miles away, a trip I haven’t had to make yet.
SUMMER: I was averaging around 250 miles/charge in the summer months with ambient temps around 70 degrees F. This is a mix of town, rural highway and mountain driving. I don’t use AC much in the summer, preferring to use just the fan or roll down the windows. I “drive it like you own it” and don’t hyper-mile, but I do use one pedal driving in “low” mode at all times. During the summer, I was charging at home every 4-5 days and rarely used public charging stations, although I do have access to them.
WINTER: I live in a mountain resort town and I now have about 1000 miles in winter conditions which include mix of dry and snowy/icy roads, including driving a mountain pass in icy conditions. The ambient temps so far this winter have been between 20-30 degrees F. I’ve only had one day below 20 degrees. It appears that “battery conditioning” kicks on right around 20 degrees. I have only seen a couple of days with battery conditioning so far.
I made three big changes within the first week or two of winter that have impacted my driving range. 1) I put on good winter tires. I chose Toyo Celsius. This is a 4-season tire that is “snow” rated. They are not quite as good on snow as a dedicated snow tire like the Blizzaks, but I think they are about 90% as good on snow and better on dry or wet roads. I’m planning to run them year-round even if they don’t last as long as a 3-season tire would. They are significantly better than the factory tires on dry or wet roads, and DRAMATICALLY better than the factory tires on snow or ice. I would NOT recommend driving on snowy or icy roads with the factory tires. 2) I put on roof crossbars and a ski rack. I went with the Yakima aero bars and am very happy with them. 3) I started using heat. I like to set the cabin heat around 75 degrees and just let it do its thing. No reason to be cold in winter! I also use preconditioning any time the car has been sitting outside in the cold to get the cabin warm and melt the ice on the windshield.
So what is the cumulative impact of these changes and colder temps on my mileage? I’m now seeing a range estimate on the GOM of 160-170 miles per charge, which is around 2.8 miles/kWh. Am I disappointed by this range? In a word... NO. I knew that there would be a significant impact on range during the winter. I like to be comfortable when I’m driving, so I use the heat liberally and precondition the car to warm it up before I get in. I use about 25% of each charge on heating, and the rest on driving. 170 miles of range is fine with me in the winter for 99% of my driving. Basically I just charge every 3-4 days instead of every 4-5. No big deal as far as I’m concerned.
How does the Bolt handle on snowy roads? Quite well actually. The CG is low and centered between the wheels. With good snow tires, acceleration is similar to most other front wheel drive cars. Would I prefer an all wheel drive model of the Bolt or a similar car? Sure, and most likely that will be my next car in a few years. But for now, I’m very happy with the Bolt. The clearance is adequate and quite a bit better than my prior car, a Volt. One pleasant surprise is how well the regenerative braking works on snowy and icy roads. Regenerative braking seems to be similar to gentle braking. Traction control seems to function quite well with regenerative braking and prevents the wheels from locking up. And I think the driving style of using primarily regenerative braking is good training for the driver for snowy and icy conditions. Brakes and ABS work well if you need to stop faster.
Oh... and 6000 miles and I just did my first preventative maintenance. I added windshield washer fluid! Nice to NEVER stop at the gas station anymore.
Overall, I’m delighted with my Bolt and pleased with the winter performance so far.