By Jeff N
With the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV now on the final home stretch and due in California and Oregon dealers within the next several weeks, a few final mysteries surrounding the car are now being resolved.
As the first electric car with over 200 miles range for under $30,000 after a federal subsidy, the Bolt – to be rolled out to the rest of the country next year – promises much, and following are some updates for the front-wheel-drive compact crossover.
Enhanced Navigation System
One question is in regards to the EV-enhanced navigation system that CEO Mary Barra promised at the Bolt’s introduction at CES in Las Vegas in Jan. 2016.
“Another way we are looking to save everyone’s time is by offering navigation with EV-specific routing. With EV Navigation mapping, Bolt EV gives options — like routes that maximize your range or provide access to charging stations,” said Barra.
Yet, dealer ordering documentation and pre-production cars used for testing did not include a navigation system. According to Chevrolet spokesman Fred Ligouri, the 2017 Bolt EV will not have traditional built-in navigation.
Last week during a media event prior to the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ligouri said the Bolt EV’s enhanced navigation will be provided by an updated version of the MyChevrolet smartphone application. He said GM expects to provide further information about these new capabilities before the first customer Bolt delivery later this year.
The current version of the app includes destination routing and EV charging locations but then transfers the final routing destination to either OnStar’s subscription-based turn-by-turn functionality or to the phone’s standard map-based navigation app. The phone’s navigation app can then be displayed on the car’s center screen by using the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto phone integration support. OnStar’s subscription-based navigation gives voice and on-screen text-based directions but without mapping.
Improved Brake Pedal
Another mystery involves the Bolt EV’s brake pedal system. Does it use the somewhat awkward-feeling blended system from the first generation of the brand’s Volt plug-in hybrid or Spark EV where brake pedal pressure slows the car by increasing electrical regeneration into the battery pack together with traditional friction braking? Or, does the pedal use a traditional friction-only brake pedal system as used on the original Tesla Roadster and Model S?
The answer, according to Ligouri, is that the Bolt EV uses a new and better-feeling brake pedal system that continues to include both enhanced regenerative and friction braking.
According to one usually reliable source, the Bolt EV and the second-generation 2016/17 Volt both use a new brake pedal actuator known as the iBooster from the automotive parts supplier Bosch. This new system provides better brake pedal feel while still allowing the car’s electric motors to capture up to 60 kilowatts of regenerative power into the battery during moderate braking.
Initial pressure on the pedal slows the car by enhancing regeneration levels while stronger pressure on the brake pedal seamlessly transitions to hydraulic friction braking.
Another question concerns the Bolt EV’s battery charging strategy. All EV batteries gradually lose their energy storage capacity over the years due to time, temperature, average state of charge, the number and depth of recharge cycles, and other factors. EVs driven in hot climate states like Arizona tend to lose their storage abilities faster.
Will the Bolt EV always give the battery a complete 100 percent charge? Knowledgeable observers have noted that lithium-ion batteries degrade or lose their long-term storage capacity faster if they sit at a very high state of charge for long periods, especially while at high temperatures.
While the Bolt EV does fully charge the battery by default, Chevrolet has answers to address this concern. First, while the car is plugged in it will use its liquid active thermal management system to keep the battery at a reasonable temperature even in very hot climates. In fact, it will even cool and protect the battery if necessary when the car is not plugged in if it is above a certain very high state of charge.
In addition, the Bolt EV has a “Hill Reserve” option that can be enabled to limit battery charging to the 90 percent level. As the name implies, this reserves some room in the battery when charging in the mountains or on hilltops so that regenerative braking can capture and store energy on the drive back down. In addition, Hill Reserve can also be used for regular daily charging for drivers wanting to avoid having the battery at a full charge for extended periods of time.