So what is scarier? Opening what you think is a door to the exit and being confronted by a solid wall? Or running out of gas? I’m going to guess, running out of gas. What if you were being chased by a ghost and went up some stairs only to find that the stairs don’t go anywhere? Yeah, that would be pretty frightening. What if you didn’t have to worry about gassing up your car? Let me bring the two of these stories together. I had the pleasure of driving the 2020 Chevy Bolt for a week. It’s an all-electric vehicle, so that scary thing of running out of gas? Not an issue. And, as one of the adventures we did with the Chevy Bolt was to drive to the other side of the San Francisco Bay Area to visit the Winchester Mystery House. We wanted to do this around Halloween to ensure the highest likelihood of getting some ghoulish chills!
I have to admit; I haven’t really driven too many all-electric vehicles in my time. Plenty of hybrids (my daughter drives an old one), but other than the Chevrolet Volt, the Bolt is truly the only one I can remember. So I was excited, but also a little bit nervous. We had planned to make some longer trips (actually not that long when you look at the estimated range of the Bolt of 259 miles on a full charge), but I truly didn’t know what to expect. How often would I need to charge it? How fast would it run out of juice? How fast would it charge? Would I really be tethered to a power cord or always in search of a power charging station?
The Chevrolet Bolt was, in fact, one of the EV vehicles on my shortlist if I were to be able to purchase a new EV car. (Before that, I would really like to be able to get solar panels and battery storage for my house to truly make driving – “off the grid” – once you pay off all of the capital investment, of course.) But yes, in an ideal world, I would have solar, the battery backup, and a 240-volt hookup already wired in my house. But I don’t, so for my charging of the Bolt, I was just plugging into a standard outlet of 120V. Hint: if you get an electric vehicle, get the 240V circuit and plug done well before you get your EV car – trust me, you will want to charge fast!)
Nothing Scary about the 2020 Chevy Bolt
So while I was a bit apprehensive about the charging capacity and frequency, I was much more excited about test driving this 5-seater. Can I first off say how fun it is to zip around? All-electric vehicles tend to have a ton of torque, meaning when you step on the “gas” (I should probably say “pedal” – no gas here obviously), the Bolt is literally like a street rocket. You can easily throw yourself back into the seat.
And, to make things even scarier for anyone wanting to drag race you (and no, I didn’t do any of that), there is a “Sport Mode” in the Chevy Bolt. Push that little button and you have a monstrously good time zipping down the road. Just a quick word of warning though, use the Sport Mode sparingly, it is a bit scary for your battery and will drain it much more quickly than if you are nice and conservative with your racing.
In fact, there are 200 electronically disguised horses hiding under the hood. Just taking a look under the hood, by the way, is like peering into an electronic masterpiece of a maze. You don’t really expect an engine to look like that. I thought perhaps it was just a Halloween mask that covering a combustion engine. An electronic engine looks nothing like a gas one.
It’s easy enough to find the windshield washer reservoir and some of the other DIY maintenance items. But you want to know something that is a treat about the Chevy Bolt? (Well, there are a lot of things, actually.) You don’t have the same scary maintenance as you do with those gas-guzzling other cars—no oil changes for starters or more horrifying things like other leaky engine liquids. By the way, Chevrolet covers the battery and certain engine drive components for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Definitely a treat!
Hurriedly Heading down a Highway to a Haunted House
So, as I mentioned, one of the road tests I wanted to do was somewhat lengthy (actually not bad) drive down the East Bay of San Francisco to the South Bay. This was actually a commute that used to have with several companies. On a busy day, one way on this commute home could take 2 or more hours! The traffic during rush hour is bone-chilling and crippling. Oh, but just think, if I had had a Chevy Bolt during that time, I could have been able to just zip down the HOV lane without even thinking. Instead, I sat with other exhaust-belching cars. Now that is terrifying!
The Winchester Mystery House is about 50 miles from my house (so, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking 100 miles round trip). A fully-charged Bolt, as I mentioned, can go about 250 miles (probably a bit less if I used sport mode the entire way). So, we could have made the round trip twice and still have charge to spare.
Another treat about the Chevrolet Bolt is how quiet it actually is. There is no rumble of an engine nor any revs of the gears. If you aren’t used to an EV vehicle, it is a bit odd at first. It’s easy to have a normal conversation without having to raise your voice. From the outside, as the Bolt drives, you can hear sort of an electric whine. I’m not sure if that is artificially enhanced to make a bit of noise so that you don’t actually sneak up and scare pedestrians around a neighborhood because you probably could quite easily. (I actually snuck a peek at the specs, and there is a feature called the “Pedestrian Safety Signal” which is an automated external sound at low speed to warn pedestrians – wonder if I could have customized that sound into some ghoulish howling!) The Bolt is really quiet.
Speaking of pedestrians, the Chevy Bolt has some really great safety features, one of which is Front Pedestrian Braking. When you are going slower than 50 MPH, the Bolt “looks forward” to detect pedestrians in front of you. If it detects someone, you will get a visual alert on the screen, and the Bolt can actually apply emergency braking.
Another feature that was particularly relevant to my youngest daughter since I am teaching her how to drive currently, is the Following Distance Indicator. I have been teaching her to stay several seconds behind the car in front of her. You set a marker and then count to find out when you pass it. Well, the Chevy Bolt does this automatically for you as it can automatically calculate the gap between you and the car in front of you. This was great to show her and reinforce as we drove down the highway.
One feature that I fell in love with actually a few years ago in the Chevrolet Traverse, which I drove in Michigan as part of a Chevy influencer program was the Rear Camera Mirror. This is another one of those creepy features that you really have to get used to. The rearview mirror actually uses a rear HD camera, which is then shown in the mirror. What does that mean? Well, if there are people in the rear seats, they suddenly turn into ghosts – you see right through them, actually. It’s as if they don’t exist. But I love how easy it is to see more of the rear view; in fact, I commented to my driver-in-training how this rear camera mirror actually eliminates blind spots!
Using the video rearview mirror takes a little bit of time to get used to, but once you do, trust me, you won’t want to go back. This, along with blind-spot indicators, which, by the way, the Chevy Bolt has, truly does help reduce the risk of accidentally turning into someone in your blind spot.
Lastly, speaking about cameras, there are four of them (that I could easily find) around the Bolt. This is particularly helpful when you are parking (I so wish that my daughter, who is learning to drive, had access to a Bolt with these cameras to help her understand the space requirements of parking). Not only do you have a rearview camera, but also cameras on the sides and front to really let you see where you are going, how close to the car in front or behind you are, and the curb.
Through the magic of some mysterious engineering, you can see the turning trajectory when you turn the wheel to see where you are backing up, but also, if you look at the photo above, you see a bird’s eye view from above, which gives you an incredible perspective. There are, as I mentioned, multiple views you can enable, provided you are going very slowly (e.g., parking).
Understanding the Power
So yes, there is always that anxiety of how far you can drive and how long it takes to charge the Chevy Bolt. It can be a bit scary. But if you plan your trip, know where public charging stations are, and have a good connection at home, you definitely can make longer road trips in the Bolt. For around town or commutes of shorter distance, I believe you are pretty safe. Many larger corporations in the Bay Area, for example, are starting to have EV charging stations in the prime parking spots. Some of these might even be subsidized by the company you work for. Be sure to check that out.
Chevy has a great site for those prospective Bolt owners that explains all of the advantages (many of which I have mentioned in this article). I highly recommend visiting Chevy’s “Living Electric” page as it walks through Charging, Energy Assist, Installation, Value, EV Perks, and more!
But, in the Chevy Bolt itself, you have an intelligent electronic array of information. From when you open the door, to checking the smart app for your current charge state, to drilling down on what in your last drive consumed the most energy, that “fear” or anxiety you may have about electric range should be quelled. It did with me.
Being able to remotely check your battery and other vehicle stats like air pressure is fantastic. Funny story here, actually. As I was prepping to receive my Chevy Bolt loaner, I decided to set up the app. I had been given a login specifically for media for the particular vehicle I was going to use. When I was poking around the different screens, I actually noticed that one of the tires had much lower pressure than the other wheels. So I sent a quick email to the fleet manager, mentioning this. He checked the tires for nails and filled up the one low tire. That is peace of mind!
For example, the screen above shows the energy history over the past 50 miles driven. You can see if you were good or bad (or using Sport Mode a lot – haha!)
This screen shows the Range Impacts of your driving. Things like Technique, Terrain, Climate Settings, and Outside Temperature come into play here like are you heavy on the accelerator, do you have the A/C running, is it hot or cold outside (that can affect battery performance), and are you driving up and down hills or just flat.
And the screen above shows yet another view of how different factors consumed energy. There are lots of things you can do to get better at driving efficiently in the Bolt. For one, around the digital speedometer, there is a subtle indicator if you are driving efficiently or not. A bar will either climb green or go down (orange, I think). Also, as a ring around the speedometer, the color changes when you aren’t driving as efficiently as you could be.
One thing that I learned about the Bolt is that behind the steering wheel are two paddles. In many gas-powered vehicles, these paddles are often used to allow you to manually shift through gears. In the Chevy Bolt, it is quite the opposite. When you apply pressure on the paddles, you actually trigger the regenerative braking system – in simple terms, it slows down the car while using the resistance to send a small charge back to the battery. You can, actually, use these paddles to completely stop the Bolt, but it is a bit harsher than using the pedal. But either way, when you brake the Chevy Bolt, it recharges the battery, slightly.
Much More Fun Getting from Point A to Point B
So my wife and I used the Chevy Bolt for about 10 days. And one of those trips was to the Winchester Mystery House (which is open for self-guided tours during the pandemic – see the section below for some pictures and a bit of history). But we also used the Bolt for where I think it truly excels as well, that of being a commuter and around town vehicle.
The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt (we test-drove the Premier trimline, which had all of the bells and whistles) seats five people — I would say 4 adults quite comfortably. The middle rear seat is fine, especially if you use the ghostly rear camera mirror so that nobody blocks your view. The seating is comfortable, but I do wish there was a bit more padding in the driver’s seat, and there are no automatic seat controls. But I believe there is a reason for both of these. To make a car more efficient, you have to eliminate weight. So, the motors for a motorized seat, as well as the cushy padding, are obvious things that add unnecessary weight. I would forgo that to get a bit of extra mileage!
There were no complaints from my kids who sat in the back seat. Plenty of room (and two USB chargers in front of them!).
Rear cargo space isn’t bad either—plenty of room to store a lot of luggage. The hatchback makes things easier too if you need to haul more as you can fold down the rear seats. And, there is a second storage section in the rear, which is perfect for hiding away the standard charging cord.
The 2020 Chevy Bolt Premier that we tested had a few other options like the Infotainment package, Bose premium sound, the Driver Confidence II package, and more. So that added about $1840 to the Standard Vehicle Price of $41,020, bringing the Total Vehicle Price to $43,735. There are clean vehicle incentives and other discounts available, I believe. Also, in the Bay Area, you can get your stickers to drive in the Carpool/HOV lanes which is a definite bonus!
Overall, I really enjoyed the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt Premier, especially because it is one of those vehicles that is on my short-list of EV’s to test. I loved the acceleration and how peppy and well it raced off the line (it has so much torque for its size that it was extremely easy to spin the wheels). The full-charged range was quite good, enough to take fairly long trips without worry. Nothing to be frightened about here in terms of range anxiety! If you are looking for a nicely equipped EV, the Chevy Bolt is one that you must test drive. It’s fun, won’t break your bank, and is zero-emission to ensure we move towards a cleaner planet.
Now what about that scary destination we drove the Bolt to? Read on!
The Winchester Mystery House
Located in San Jose, CA, the Winchester Mystery House was always something on our family’s list of places we wanted to visit. Unlike other destination points, which typically consist of nature, this place is entirely man-made, or better said, woman-made. It started as a smaller home (an 8-room farmhouse) for Saray Lockwood Pardee Winchester, who inherited a large portion of the Winchester weapons fortune. She lost both her infant daughter and her husband early on, which inspired her to move from Connecticut to California.
She started a renovation project which anyone of us would have nightmares about. It started, but it never ever ended. And that is the charm of the Winchester Mystery House. The rooms and staircases seem to go on endlessly, with doors sometimes opening to blank walls or stairs leading absolutely nowhere. Rumor has it that she built the ever-growing house to confuse spirits or ghosts.
Some quick facts about the house:
- 24,000 square feet
- 10,000 windows
- 2,000 doors
- 160 rooms
- 52 skylights
- 47 stairways and fireplaces
- 17 chimneys
- 13 bathrooms
- 6 kitchens
- In 1923, it cost $5 million dollars (to build/renovate) > about $71 million today
While we didn’t bump into any apparitions on our self-guided tour (some of the pictures you can see above), there were definitely some areas of the House that we felt were “different” than others. My daughters and I both commented that in one section of the house, in particular, the temperature dropped significantly. Hmmm, ghosts or just better insulation? I will leave that up to others to decide.
If you do make a journey to visit the Winchester Mystery House, one fun thing you can do prior to that is to watch the Winchester movie about it. While the movie didn’t do as well as expected, it is quite fun to later go to the House and see the same rooms or walk on the short-height staircases.
Disclosure: Apart from the loan of the 2020 Chevy Bolt, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics, and/or products that are mentioned herein. All opinions within this article are my own and are not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: Zipping around the city and highways, avoiding ghosts and monsters on a road trip to the Winchester Mystery House, and geeking out on the Electric Vehicle magic of the 2020 Chevy Bolt was truly enjoyable. The Bolt was fun to drive with lots of pep, comfortable for longer trips, and much better for the environment than many other cars on the road!