2017 Chevrolet Bolt details are finally unveiled by the vehicle’s Chief Engineer

Chevy Bolt’s Chief Engineer Josh Tavel shared with us his success story and revealed everything he knew about the all-new EV.

2/7/16 4:00 am chumakdenis 1

Even though electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular around the world, the number of EV drivers all over the globe is miserable – gasoline-powered automobiles remain predominant form of transportation.

The thing is that most of the drivers simply don’t want to give up driving their gasoline-powered vehicles for different reasons: price, range etc.

However, if EV will cost around $40,000(taxes included) and will have a range of around 200 miles (320 kilometers), then 98% of drivers are ready to start using electric cars on a regular basis.

Jees, just try to imagine sales numbers.

They’re huge as hell.

No wonder that all the automobile manufacturers are ready to fight to the death for their slice of the pie.

Anyway, that's not something new for you - Elon Musk was talking about it a long time ago.

The thing is that market of really cheap electric vehicles is finally not empty.

Moreover, there are more powerful players than you know who on the market -- kudos for that, GM -- and this year's winner is 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.

Vehicle costs much less than Tesla Model S and has kind of the same specs -- ok, not the same at all, but where else can you get EV that can go 200 miles on a single and  cost at the same time $30K?

It's our new favorite.

A vehicle that can turn automotive market upside down.

Anyway, enough talk.

Let's hear from the man that stands behind all that stuff.

Success story by Josh Tavel, Chevy Bolt’s Chief Engineer

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"Chevrolet Bolt is a very different car."

"You might expect me to answer this by saying one of the major components like the battery or electric motor, but that really wasn’t the case. We’ve been doing batteries and electric motors for a long time at Chevrolet so they’re known entity for us."

"The biggest challenges were really because the vehicle architecture of the Bolt is different. It’s the unique packaging of the Bolt which was probably the biggest challenge. It affects everything. Some of the predictive models, the CAE (computer aided engineering) work really well with conventionally powered vehicles, but when you take yourself out of that architecture and apply it to this new type of vehicle, they don’t work that well, so we really had  to think differently. There were a couple of areas where we had to take a different approach, because this architecture is so different than anything we’ve ever done."

Crash testing

5657.jpg"In crash testing, cars have unique crash test signatures, but the results of the Bolt are unlike any other car.

That said we’re feeling really good about us being at the top of the segment from a safety perspective.”

Regenerative braking

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The Chevy Bolt has two driving modes: 'Drive' and 'Low.'

The regen level in normal mode is minimal and basically simulates how a conventional car without regenerative braking feels.

Here are a few words from Travel about  “Drive” mode:

“It’s still in the same field as a normal car. There are normal cars that have as much natural decel as the Bolt in Drive; it’s not out of the norm. Originally it was tuned such that if you were to take 100 people and monitor them coming to a stop light, and monitor that decel, and let’s say it would be about .2g’s. The Bolt was designed for .2g’s – to basically act like a conventional car.

But the problem was, sometimes you need a little bit more, and it didn’t give it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "So actually just this past December we were all out in LA and I said ‘You know guys, this is stupid. It feels like were making the one pedal driving be kinda acceptable for the people that don’t like it, and kinda acceptable for the people that do. Why are we doing this halfway? If they don’t like it, they have drive (mode), the i3 for instance, doesn’t have a drive mode with light decel. So if they don’t like regen, go to drive. If they want it, give it to them (low mode with heavy regen).’ So now we’re at a spot where I can drive home and never touch the brake pedal.”

Regen on Demand paddle on the steering wheel

Additionally to the "Low drive" setting, the Bolt has a Regen on Demand paddle on the steering wheel.

So, there are actually four different levels of regen with the level of deceleration getting stronger at each level below:

* Drive mode (mildest regen <.2g’s)

* Drive mode using Regen on Demand paddle

* Low mode

* Low mode plus using Regen on Demand paddle (strongest regen ~.3g’s)

Artificial creep

In order to come to a complete stop while in Drive mode, the driver will need to use the friction brakes.

In these conditions, when they release the friction brakes, the car will creep forward. Artificial creep and whether or not it belongs on an electric vehicle has been a highly controversial topic and one debated amongst the plug-in community.

The Bolt has a unique way of dealing with it. If you don’t like strong regen and use drive mode, the engineers feel you probably like how a conventionally powered car performs and they give you artificial creep.

Nonetheless, if you like strong regen and use low mode, or stop with using the Regan on Demand paddle, the artificial creep is disengaged. In those circumstances, the car will hold its position there, even if on an incline. There is no need to depress the friction brake.

However, if the operator does press the friction brakes after coming to a stop using the regen, and then releases the brake pedal, the car will creep forward.

DC fast charging

5653.jpgWith Tesla currently charging at over 100kW, and Audi & BMW talking about the new 150kW system they are working on, Tavel was asked about the highest speed of DC Fast charging the Bolt would accept. It’s clear this topic is one that is still being internally discussed, but I also got the feeling it will most likely be limited to what the current hardware in the ground can deliver, that being 50kW.  

“We’re still figuring out how fast we want to go. We’ve over validated a lot of our components just in case, but were still figuring out if we want to limit it to say, 50kW’s or 60kW’s or possibly higher. That decision hasn’t been made yet but I can promise it won’t be lower than 50kW.”  

Torque steer

5651.jpgJohn drove a MINI-E for two and a half years ,so, he knows have a front wheel drive EV with lots of torque can feel. The MINI-E was a blast to drive, but under full acceleration he needed to hold the steering wheel tightly with both hands to keep it from jerking from side to side from the torque steer. Of course, he wanted to know how the Bolt would feel with 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque going to the front wheels. Here's his feedback on that:

"We’ve got some special controls in there for that. Our steering system and our EBCM (electronic brake control module) has some pretty slick calibrations in there to combat torque steer. You can feel a little bit of it but I think it feels fine. There’s a lot of power up there so if you were to remove the controls we put in place the torque steer would be pretty wicked.”  

Comparing Bolt and Volt

Josh was being asked Tavel to describe the performance of the Bolt, and possibly compare it to the plug-in hybrid competitor.  Here's what we heard on that:  

Josh was being asked Tavel to describe the performance of the Bolt, and possibly compare it to the plug-in hybrid competitor.  Here's what we heard on that:  

“The Gen 2 Volt I think is a great car. Amazingly, I’d like to say that I believe we’ve worked it out so that performance wise we’re equal to where the Volt is. To me, there is no competitor I wanted the Bolt to be like. I think the Volt, the Gen 2 Volt specifically, is a really well-done car. And that is a car we compare ourselves to a lot. "

Traditional gear shifter

Since electric cars don’t really require a gear shifter, and some manufacturers like BMW, Nissan and Tesla have ventured from the norm of the traditional gear shifter on their electric offerings, Josh Travel was asked why the Bolt has what looks like a gear shifter for a traditional automatic transmission. Tavel was quick to dismiss the need to change what works.  

Since electric cars don’t really require a gear shifter, and some manufacturers like BMW, Nissan and Tesla have ventured from the norm of the traditional gear shifter on their electric offerings, Josh Travel was asked why the Bolt has what looks like a gear shifter for a traditional automatic transmission. Tavel was quick to dismiss the need to change what works.  

"This isn’t some funky looking car that’s some whizzy statement. This is a mainstream car that happens to be propelled by electrification. It’s not some unique quirky little thing. (I couldn’t help but think he was referring to the BMW i3 here) It’s a real, no kidding, good car. It’s already an electric shifter, if you pull that away the car gets maybe a little more different than you might want, and quite honestly I think there are some questionable safety issues if your reaching up and moving things up there that I don’t think as a company we want to go to right now.”  

Without carbon fiber components

The Bolt’s press release from GM stated the Bolt incorporated advanced materials including aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber to help lightweight the vehicle. John was asked if he could explain where these materials were used, and how they helped save weight. Tavel was surprised there was a claim that carbon fiber was used on the Bolt, and in fact. told us he believed that it was incorrect. As for the use of advanced materials and light weighting, he said:

“We saved just shy of 50lbs by using all aluminum enclosures (all the exterior body panels are aluminum). The underbody is 95% high strength steel or advanced high strength steel, some of it is the first time it’s been used in production so far. The upper body, not counting the exterior panels is about 80% high strength steel, so there is a lot of advanced materials in there, but we didn’t use carbon fiber anywhere I can think of.”

Up-to-date-devices

With more and more advanced electronic features becoming available in today’s cars, Josh Tavel was asked if the Bolt would feature any of modern technologies(adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, self-parking, automatic braking or any autonomous driving features).

Here's the answer:

“No. Adaptive cruise control – no, you would need the blended brakes to do that and we didn’t want to do that with this car. However, all the standard side blind zones, rear cross traffic alert, ten airbags, all that’s there. What’s new is the optional Rear Camera Mirror. You normally have a 22-degree field of vision with a standard mirror, this takes you to 80. We also have optional Surround Vision, which you know is the 360-degree camera system. We’re still working hard to perfect it, but I’m told it’s the best one camera systems the guys have seen so far.”

Verdict

Overall, we really got the feeling  that Tavel was extremely proud of the Bolt. He took particular pride in talking about how different this car is from anything General Motors has ever produced, and that his team worked relentlessly on every small detail to try to achieve perfection.

While they are still actively improving things, they are actually pretty close to a finished product.

In fact, he said GM has executive test drives every week, and after some of the top brass drove the Bolt last week, they told Tavel he could release the car now, and as far as they are concerned it’s finished. He’s not satisfied yet though, and that’s what you’d expect from your chief engineer.

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