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GM killed the Chevy Bolt — and the dream of a small, affordable EV

The Chevy Bolt’s demise underscores a trend toward larger, heavier, more expensive EVs. But the Bolt was always more practical than dramatic. And that’s why it will be missed.

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Chevy Bolt tombstone illustration
Goodnight, sweet prince.
Image: Will Joel

It appears that Chevrolet’s lowly entry-level EV was too good for this world.

If you’ve shopped around for an EV in the past couple of years, you’ve probably encountered a bit of sticker shock. There’s no getting around it: the majority of EVs on the market today, the ones that people actually want to buy because they have a comfortable amount of space and long enough range, are expensive. Despite recent cuts by Tesla, whose cars were ballooning in price for months before declining demand forced the company to slash prices across its line, the average selling price for an EV was still $58,940 in March, according to data from Kelley Blue Book. That’s nearly $15,000 more than the average selling price for a new non-luxury gas-powered car.

That’s enough of a price difference to keep many prospective buyers from considering an EV, even before we get to the conversation of charging and range. But Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and Bolt EUV were evidence that the EV market didn’t have to be this way, at least until GM announced that it would be ending production of them later this year so that it can make a bunch of giant electric trucks.

There’s no getting around it: the majority of EVs on the market today are expensive

The Bolt was (and is, so long as you can still find it) the best value in EVs you can buy today. The smaller Bolt EV started at $27,495 (including destination); the slightly larger EUV model ran $28,795 (including destination). That got you a modern EV with over 200 miles of real-world usable range, enough space to seat five, and all of the modern creature comforts and safety features you’d expect with a new car in 2023. On top of that, the Bolts are among the few EVs you can buy today that qualify for the full $7,500 tax credit from the federal government, which among other requirements, has a price cap.

This was a brand-new EV for a total cost well under $30,000. There’s literally nothing quite like it on the road, and it’s a shame that GM has decided it no longer has a future. 

Chevy Bolt EUV
The Bolt wasn’t a design stunner, but it was affordable and practical.
Photo by Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge

I had the opportunity to test a Bolt EUV earlier this year to see what a more affordable and accessible EV is like to drive in 2023. My test unit was the fully loaded Premier Redline model that came with a sticker price of $39,480 with destination. But a lot of that cost is due to unnecessary trim and features, which most people shouldn’t pay extra for. A similar, more appealing option is a trim level down, which still provided niceties like ventilated and heated leather front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, surround view cameras, wireless CarPlay / Android Auto, wireless phone charging, and more for about $6,000 less. Factor in the federal tax credit, and you pay a net of just under $26,000 — less than half of the average EV selling price. Some states offer more incentives on top of that to bring the cost down even further.

It’s a shame that GM has decided the Bolt no longer has a future

At the risk of beating this point to death, there’s simply no other practical EV option at this price. The Nissan Leaf starts around $28,000, and the Hyundai Kona costs under $34,000, but because they aren’t built in the US, they don’t qualify for the tax credit, making the Bolt a better deal. (The Bolt has a longer rated range than the Leaf and about the same as the Kona as well.)

Volkswagen’s forthcoming ID. 2all is expected to be priced in the mid-$20s and come with nearly 300 miles of range in a Golf-like hatchback design, but it’s far from being here yet. Maybe Tesla will continue to slash prices on the Model 3 and bring it down to the $35,000 price that was promised so many years ago, but I wouldn’t hold my hopes for that to happen.

Look at all that plastic.
Look at all that plastic.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
Physical buttons abound.
Physical buttons abound.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Even at its bargain price, the Bolt EUV didn’t feel like a stripped-down bargain basement car. The car I drove had a 10.2-inch center screen, an eight-inch digital gauge cluster with some customizability, ambient lighting, and remote start and control from a phone or the key fob. The black leather-trimmed interior in my test unit was inoffensive, and there are still plenty of physical buttons and controls for things like climate, which is always a blessing to see in this, the two thousand and twenty third year of our touchscreen. Perhaps the only real complaint I had was with the shiny piano black finish in the center console, which, as usual, gets greasy-looking after just a few minutes in the car.

Like all electric cars, the Bolt is quiet and planted on the road, though it never provided an especially sporty experience. It’s just a car that takes you from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss. There is a Sport mode you can toggle on, but that basically just made the throttle pedal a little more aggressive — there was no apparent change to the steering or suspension when I hit the Sport button. GM’s EVs to follow it will certainly have more aggressive acceleration numbers and performance that looks great in commercials but isn’t really practical for daily use.

At the risk of beating this point to death, there’s simply no other practical EV option at this price

The Bolt EUV has room for five, but — and this was perhaps a big reason for its downfall — it’s certainly one of the smaller cars on the road today. (The difference between it and the Bolt EV is about six more inches in length, almost all of which goes toward more rear seat passenger room.) I fit my family of five, including a toddler car seat, and it was fine for short excursions or errands. The kids had plenty of room in the back seat, and it was easy to get the toddler in and out of her car seat. Plus, due to the hatchback-like shape, there was plenty of cargo space. 

Not spacious but not cramped, either. 
Not spacious but not cramped, either. 
Photo by Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge

But Americans don’t like to buy compact hatchbacks (RIP, BMW i3, another small EV that’s no longer available). Other parts of the world already or soon will have their choice of many compact and affordable EVs, including ones made by GM itself. Instead, we’ll get cars and trucks with obscene amounts of horsepower and oversize battery packs that cost more to produce and charge and aren’t practical for the kind of driving most Americans actually do.

Another thing I’ll miss from the Bolt? The ability to use my phone with the infotainment system. GM recently made the boneheaded announcement that it plans to eliminate CarPlay and Android Auto in its future EVs, but both were available in the Bolt. 

The Bolt EUV came with an EPA rating of 247 miles of range, which isn’t as much as you’ll get on a Tesla Model 3 or some of the other more expensive EVs on the market but is still plenty of range to stave off anxiety. In my week of driving (with outside temperatures in the mid-40s most of the time), the in-car range estimation topped out around 213 miles. 

Its maximum 55kW DC fast-charging speed isn’t nearly as fast as something like Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 or the Kia EV6, both of which can charge at rates up to 350kW (and cost about $20,000 more). The best the Bolt could do when hooked up to a DC fast charger is get about 100 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging. GM’s newer Ultium EV platform, which the Bolt was never migrated to, will provide faster charging options. 

The Bolt EUV has room for five, but — and this was perhaps a big reason for its downfall — it’s certainly one of the smaller cars on the road today

But here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on: for the vast majority of driving people do, neither the range nor the charging speed matter much. In my time with the Bolt, I used it for my typical driving needs: bringing the kids to school and other activities, running errands, visiting local friends, and going out. The most I drove in a single day was about 40 miles, well within the Bolt’s range. And I’m not particularly unique: according to data from the US Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives about 37 miles per day.

I don’t have a 240V charging plug in my garage, so I was stuck using a standard 120V wall outlet to charge the car, which provides about four miles of range per hour. Even then, I was able to top up or get near to fully charged every single night. I’d drive the Bolt around during the day, come home in the evening, plug it in, and then start the next day with 200 miles of range. I never even had to seek out a faster option at a public charger because there just wasn’t any need to.

Before I tested the Bolt and used it how I typically drive, I was convinced that you needed a 240V charging option for an EV; now, I’m of the opinion that it’s a nice luxury to have, but a lot of people can certainly get by with slower charging. (And anecdotally, many EV owners I’ve spoken to already do — Alex Dykes of the EV Buyers Guide YouTube channel has a good breakdown of EV charging here.)

Trickle charging was a workable option.
Trickle charging was a workable option.
Photo by Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge

Sadly, bigger EVs are not nearly as efficient as the Bolt, and they come with much larger batteries that take much longer to charge. The ability to rely on a standard wall outlet to charge your EV overnight might not be long for this world, instead being replaced by the ability for oversize electric trucks to be mobile power generators in the rare event of a blackout.

Chevrolet’s track record with the Bolt line over the past few years has been bumpy — it had to recall 150,000 vehicles in 2021 to replace faulty batteries that were responsible for over a dozen fires. It also was never able to compete with the buzzier, more attractive, and more fun to drive Tesla Model 3, despite beating it to market by two model years and undercutting it on price. 

But the Bolt remained an affordable and practical EV option. The fact that GM is killing it off in favor of larger, more expensive vehicles that are easier to market and show off in dealer lots is a grim preview of what’s to come. Yes, we should have EVs that cater to the wants of Americans that demand bigger, showier, faster cars. But we are also going to need a lot more cars like the Bolt if we want people to adopt EVs faster than they are now.