At long last, I have an EV

At long last, I have an EV

What we got, and why.

For years now, I’ve been dithering about getting an electric vehicle (EV). Much of that dithering has been done in public, on Twitter and for various sites I’ve worked for — just a few weeks ago I subjected you to my handwringing about an EV test drive — so I figured I might as well document how the journey finally ended.

Long story short, we bought a used 2017 Chevy Bolt. That is about the least sexy sentence one can write about EVs in the year of our lord 2022, but there you have it.

We thought about leasing or buying one of the fancy new EVs, the Kia EV6 or the Ford Mustang or a Tesla. But we’re pretty cheap and didn’t want to pay that much. And we felt slightly guilty about buying a new car. And those cars feel like statements. As Mrs. Volts put it, “I just don’t want to say that much with my car.”

The Bolt (along with the Nissan Leaf) is the closest thing to an econo-box option in the EV market, and that’s more our speed. We paid $25K — considerably more than we would have paid for the same car 12 months ago, thanks to lingering supply issues, but less than half of a tricked-out, new version of any of the fancier models.

My Bolt (Photo: me)

In terms of value, though, there’s a twist — the “cheat code” of the current EV market. As you probably know, there has been a massive recall of Bolt batteries. Every battery in every Bolt from 2017 to 2022 will be replaced, at no charge, by Chevrolet.

That means, at some point in the next year (my local Chevy dealer estimates seven months from now), they’ll call me, I’ll drop the car off at the dealership, they’ll put in a brand new, 260-mile-range battery, and I’ll get it back the next day. Given that the rest of the car is in good shape (~57K miles on the odometer), this will effectively be like getting a new EV for the cost of a used one. Score.

The econo-box of EVs

The car itself is somewhat spartan, if comfortable. It has the “premier” trim, so I got my beloved heated steering wheel, Mrs. Volts her beloved heated seats. It has one-pedal driving and lane assist and parking assist and all-around cameras and Android Auto. The only fancy-pants feature I notice missing is wireless phone charging (which I got used to real quick in the Mustang).

As for acceleration, even if it isn’t the insane road-rocket the Mustang was, it is considerably zippier than either of our aged current vehicles, more than zippy enough to make it fun getting around the city. (It has a “sport” mode, with higher torque and lower range, but I haven’t had occasion to use it yet.)

The 2017 Bolt interior. (Chevrolet)

The interface is lower end, which means it involves more physical buttons and knobs and less screen real estate than newer EVs, but to be honest I like that much better. There’s less occasion and temptation to look at the screen. I can find most stuff I really need with my fingers.

There’s not enough console space and the Bluetooth interface with phones is somewhat janky — listening to music on my phone involves a lot more button-poking than I’d like — but it’s tolerable.

As for accessories, I bought a back-seat cover (for the dogs) and a level-two charger (we had a 220-volt outlet already installed). I can’t think of much else we need. We are now driving (semi-)guilt-free.

Getting an EV is easier than ever

One final note: early in this process I was contacted by a company called Link that is devoted to making it easy for people to get EVs. You can use their site to shop for the EV you want — they offer an advisory service — and then they’ll arrange the lease or purchase for you.

Link’s EV store.

After wasting way too much time shopping around, I told Link I wanted a used Bolt. For a few weeks, they sent me notices of Bolts (that had been inspected) as they came on the market. When we saw one we liked, they did all the purchasing and transferring of titles. They mailed me the paperwork (including detailed inspection reports), I signed and mailed it back, and then the car was dropped off in my driveway. I never had to haggle or talk to a salesperson. All I had to do is register it at the DMV and let the Chevy dealership know I had it. It could not have been easier.

Link is mostly operating on the West Coast for now, but if you have been dithering about an EV like I was, I can’t recommend it enough. (I know other services like this are springing up — it’s a big and eager market, I would think.)

Anyway, that’s the story of how I finally got an EV. You’ll hear no more dithering from me. Instead I’ll to go back to daydreaming about living somewhere where I don’t need a car at all.

Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)