I finally bought an electric vehicle

David Roberts explains why — after years of contemplating his options — he chose a Chevy Bolt.
By David Roberts

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A red four-door electric vehicle in a parking lot
My Bolt (David Roberts)

For years now, I’ve been dithering about getting an electric vehicle. Much of that dithering has been done in public, on Twitter and for various sites I’ve worked for — just recently, 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: My family and I 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, such as 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 econobox option in the EV market, and that’s more our speed. We paid $25,000 — 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.

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 the 20172022 model years will be replaced by Chevrolet at no charge.

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 (~57,000 miles on the odometer), this will effectively be like getting a new EV for the cost of a used one. Score.

The econobox 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, lane and parking assist, 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 that I test-drove).

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.)

An view of the front seat, dashboard and steering wheel of a Chevy Bolt EV
Interior view of the Bolt EV (Chevrolet)

The interface is lower-end, which means it involves more physical buttons and knobs and less screen real estate than in many 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 that I really need with my fingers.

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

As for accessories, I bought a backseat cover (for the dogs) and a Level 2 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.

a screenshot of an online EV store showing various models of EVs and their prices
Screenshot of Link's online EV store (Link)

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 my family and I saw one we liked, Link took care of 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 was register it at the DMV and let the Chevy dealership know I had purchased 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 go back to daydreaming about living somewhere where I don’t need a car at all.


This piece was originally published on Volts.

David Roberts is editor-at-large at Canary Media. He writes about clean energy and politics at his newsletter, Volts.