1. 2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT
Market segment: Subcompact electric car
Body style: Four-door hatchback
Base price: $37,495
Price as tested: $29,995, after $7,500 federal tax credit to EV buyers
Key options: None
For: Longest range per charge, next to Tesla; low operating costs; fun to drive; available in all 50 states
Against: Range limited by charging-station availability; still pricey for a small car, even after rebate
Next big change: Freshening in model year 2019 or 2020
Introduced for model-year 2017, the Chevrolet Bolt is a full-electric subcompact four-door hatchback that could well help usher in a new era of EV popularity. The EPA lists its range on a full charge at 238 miles — more than twice that of most electric cars, including rival compacts like the Nissan Leaf (107 miles) and the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric (124 miles). It also gives the Tesla Model S – range, 210-335 miles, depending the version — a run for far less money; the Model S starts at $69,200 and tops out at $135,700.
Chevy says the battery can be fully charged after a typical 50-mile commute in less than two hours using a dedicated 240-volt circuit. A full 240-volt charge would take all night – and way longer on a standard 110-volt line. An optional DC Fast Charging system can infuse the pack with 90 miles’ range in a half-hour. Best of all, the Bolt drives like a “regular” car, and a good-handling one, at that, thanks to its purpose-built design that places the heavy battery low for a reduced center of gravity. It’s quick off the line and around town, and the absence of engine noise makes it feel stealthy at lower speeds. It’s roomy for its tidy exterior dimensions, and its hatchback design helps maximize cargo space.
To snare a Bolt for under $30k, go for the base-trim LT model. It starts at $37,495, including the $875 destination charge. Applying the $7,500 federal tax credit available to most EV buyers cuts the net price to $29,995, which can further be whittled by applicable state incentives. California, for example offers EV buyers up to $2,500, while Colorado offers a $5,000 incentive. Fortunately, the LT comes nicely equipped, although you’ll have to pass on options like an LED video rearview mirror and a navigation system that creates routes to help maximize range and can find nearby charging stations if battery power is running low.