First drive: 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV in the UAE
Chevrolet has entered the electric car market in the Middle East with the introduction of the Bolt EV. This model has already been on sale in the United States since late 2016, and then reached European shores as an Opel Ampera-e the following year. We were given a glimpse of the Bolt at last year’s Dubai Motor Show and it’s now available in UAE showrooms.
The electric sub-compact hatchback sits on a battery pack mounted below the interior floor. The high roof design almost gives it a small crossover look. The exterior styling is kept clean with a massive front windshield and the rear windshield extending all the way down to the license plate, merging with the LED taillights on the liftgate. Clever design hides the tallness of the vehicle, with short overhangs and body creases.
Getting in, it is still a strange feeling when switching on the car but hearing absolutely nothing. The benefit of the tall design is that it has ample room. The interior is tastefully done and it is where you feel you are in an EV, with an 8.0-inch screen for the instrument cluster panel and the bigger one 10.2-inch screen in the centre, both revealing real-time data and letting the driver know information such as how much range you can manage with the current driving style, as well as graphs to show if you are consistent with the way you are driving. However, we would have liked more soft-touch materials around the doors and dashboard, given the price is upwards of Dhs 150,000.
A short drive from Chevrolet’s training facility to Bab Al Shams Resort revealed a very comfortable ride thanks to its well-tuned suspension setup. Having a big battery at the bottom gives it a low centre of gravity which kept body-roll to a minimum during some spirited driving in the few corners we took. The instant torque — equivalent to about 361 Nm — is available from idle and certainly helps matters off the line or through traffic. The Bolt EV produces about 200 hp and 0-100 kph is dispatched in 7.3 seconds. Those may not be Tesla numbers, but definitely enough to outrun local taxis.
We were also encouraged to use less of the brakes, as by just leaving the accelerator pedal, it starts slowing down quite quickly as well. There is a paddle on the left of the steering, which applies brake regeneration for the battery, and slows down the car even faster and to a complete standstill, so making use of the brake pedal was basically the last option when driving around normally through city roads.
Chevrolet claims the Bolt EV achieves a very respectable 520 km range. While range anxiety is the first concern for most consumers, the growing infrastructure for electric vehicles in the region will certainly reduce those fears over time. It does require a bit of rethink about driving, such as leaving your car plugged in overnight instead of driving to the nearest petrol station. It will be like when smartphones took over — we all have one today but how often are we out of charge? Buyers will also get a free charger installed at their residence. Charging for 30 minutes will give you a 150 km range.
The price, which is about Dhs 162,000, will probably limit consumers to early adopters and villa residents as the respective governments in the region continue to improve the infrastructure for electric charging vehicles. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is currently the best EV available in terms of practicality and technology, and it costs a lot cheaper than any Tesla currently on sale.