To Bolt or not to Bolt

Over the past 10 days, we've had a dozen or so conversations about Chevrolet's soon-to-be-released, all-electric Bolt. Concurrently, my wife is pondering a new car that's efficient, economical and suitable for a Davis-to-UCDMC commute. To wit, to Bolt or not to Bolt?

After all, what's not to like? Significant -- 238 miles -- all-electric range, a decently sporty design, and a good price tag (less than $40k before $7,500 in federal and $2,500 in state incentives). Pundits have proclaimed General Motors (with the Bolt) has beat Tesla (with its Model 3) to the dance.

General take through our lens: Electric vehicles powered by solar-generated electricity make great economic and environmental sense. Quick math:

Electricity costs

We have had the fortune of helping several hundred Yolo County homeowners evaluate solar. What we’ve learned: Their average cost of PG&E electricity is $0.25 per kWh, and their median monthly electricity bill is $185. Conversely, their cost to generate solar electricity averages $0.08 per kilowatt hour (kWh), amortized over the warrantied life of their solar panels. 

Transportation costs

For comparison, let’s assume an average car is driven 12,000 miles each year. If the car averages 25 miles per gallon, powered by petroleum, it will guzzle 480 gallons of gas annually. At $2.50 per gallon, annual fuel costs are $1,200, or $0.10/mile.

Electric vehicles yield, on average, four miles of range per kWh. Hence, you will consume 3,000 kWh to drive 12,000 miles. If you are purchasing electricity from PG&E, your annual “fuel” cost is $750 (or, $0.06/mile). If your electric car is powered by solar, your annual cost is $240 ($0.02/mile). (And, of course, if you charge at your workplace or one of a half-dozen free sites downtown, your cost is lower.)

Back to the Bolt. A few takes floated over the past week:

- Business Insider: The Chevy Bolt still doesn't compare to Tesla's Model 3

- Electrek: The very good Chevy Bolt reviews are in ... everyone forgot to ask the most important question

The latter from Electrek hits -- aside from design/style/brand cache/Elon-halo-effect virtues -- Tesla's sustainable competitive advantage. General Motors (and other automakers) need to get off their collective rears and solve the charging challenge. Their networks are established: Dealerships are sensible locations for super-charger stations.

Until then, the Bolt will be a bit better than my Leaf: Great for local transport and perhaps a trip to the Bay Area or Tahoe, but nonsensical to take to Oregon or Southern California. Here's hoping General Motors and others will tackle the simple (technology) but complex (logistical) challenge of building a charging network.


Postscript: Great comparison of the Bolt and Model 3 in today's Clean Technica, echoing and amplifying many of our thoughts.