Electric vehicles have begun their slow ascent into mainstream markets. With cars such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf kicking off the revolution, big players such as Volkswagen and Chevy too have decided to enter the arena. While some car makers have opted to create electric vehicles from scratch, others have retro-fitted existing models with electric drivetrains. Although Tesla was expected to launch the world’s first truly accessible long range electric car, Chevrolet managed to steal the crown by launching its Bolt hatchback.
The Chevy Bolt competes in a segment heavily populated by other major car makers such as Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford and Kia. However, the low range, high cost and lack of infrastructure still does not allow electric vehicles to be explored as a viable alternative to their fossil powered counterparts. However, with its 200 mile range and affordable price tag, the Chevrolet Bolt may just be the car that acts as a catalyst for the EV revolution. We pit the recently unveiled Chevrolet Bolt against another one of its rivals: the VW e-Golf, a popular hatch in its conventional avatar and see if the American car maker’s latest can take on German engineering.
Chevrolet’s Bolt hatchback is a surprisingly conventional machine that closely resembles the most recent Spark (recognized as the Beat here in India). The front fascia presents itself with an all black plastic grille with distinct design elements that add a bit of character to the otherwise inconspicuous road presence of the Bolt. Further aiding in the Bolt’s visual appeal is its swept back headlamps, LED DRLs and contrasting black ORVMs. Unlike the wildly zany design philosophies of current generation Toyota Prius or Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 concept, the Bolt has been designed specifically to remain as contemporary and modern with a bit of flavor that ensures the electric vehicle is pleasing to the eye without running the risk of being offensive.
Volkswagen’s Golf hatchback remains one of the most striking cars in its segment despite its old age. The subtle curves and no-nonsense design philosophy lends the e-Golf a bit of sporty elegance. In keeping with the theme of the e-Golf’s new tech under the bonnet, the Golf’s signature red strip that runs along the front grille has been replaced with that of a blue one.
Winner: VW e-Golf
The interiors of the Chevy Bolt is an impressive mixture of tech and style. The dashboard features a fully digitized instrument cluster and a large touchscreen display unit for its navigation and infotainment system while the controls and display unit for the climate control are located just below the screen. Unlike the hatch’s exterior, the rest of Bolt’s cabin is far from dramatic. Chevy has fitted the Bolt with a standard white/gray upholstery with silver finishes all around.
Similar to the exterior, the interior of the e-Golf features a functional approach to design. As such, the cabin of the VW e-Golf features plain beige upholstery and a neatly organized dashboard. The flat bottomed steering wheel and chrome embellishments add a bit of sportiness to the otherwise somber nature of the e-Golf’s cabin. Unlike the Chevy Bolt, VW has fitted the e-Golf with the conventional instrument cluster that features analogue dials for the speedometer, tachometer and digital readouts for the fuel gauge, odometer and tripmeter. While the e-Golf’s restrained design methodology creates a sense of class, the cabin succumbs to the very same problem that plagues most current generation Volkswagen cars: the design feels far too clinical with no sense of passion ingrained into its development.
Winner: Chevy Bolt
Under the Hood
Powering the Chevy Bolt is an electric motor that churns out 200 hp and a peak torque of 266 lb-ft. The 60 kWh battery powering the Bolt’s motor allows the new American hatch to achieve a whopping 200 miles of range; the best in its class. With fast charging capability, the Chevy Bolt can manage upto 50 miles of range with a mere 2 hours of charge.
Powering the e-Golf hatch is a front mounted electric motor that churns out 115 hp and a max torque figure of 199 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed gearbox. Power is supplied to the motor through the 24.2 kWh battery Li-Ion battery pack. While these numbers may have been impressive during the time of launch, the Bolt’s immense range and greater power proves to be the makings of a better EV.
Winner: Chevy Bolt
Although the VW e-Golf is a fairly upmarket hatchback, the car’s few shortcomings (range, power) are also its biggest weaknesses. For an electric car to serve as a replacement for petrol or diesel powered vehicles, the question of range must be answered. As such, the e-Golf fails in this aspect. While the Chevy Bolt may not arrive until 2017, the American hatch has the makings of becoming the catalyst for the electric car revolution.