To Bolt, or Not To Bolt

With New York State’s reinstatement of the $2,000 rebate entitlement on the purchase of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, car dealerships in Albany, NY (and throughout the state) have an unspoken obligation to maintain sufficient inventory to appease the demand. Then again, do they? After all, what is the actual demand?

While some car buyers with an environmental mindset can appreciate these cars on the merit of reduced emissions and the possibility of contributing to reduced oil consumption, let’s be frank: such benefits become somewhat intangible outside the documented research. The real life benefits come in the form of savings at the pump, increased mileage and yes – the combination of (ever-decreasing) federal tax credits and approved rebates. (Plus, who knows? You might score some preferred parking and single-occupant HOV lane access…)

Now, maybe you’ve already made up your mind, and are fired up and ready to add your name to the waiting list for a Tesla Model 3. Congratulations! But what are your options if you are truly interested in an electric vehicle, and what should you take into consideration?

For starters: plan on paying more for your elite status (in much the same way that McDonald’s charges you more for a salad than they do for three cheeseburgers). Judging by your enthusiasm, we’ll assume that you’ve accepted this financial burden in exchange for your new status as an environmental superhero. But if you’re rationalizing the higher sticker price, based on the expectation of recouping the difference in fuel savings, you should expect it to be a few years before it is fully offset.

You should also be aware that the EPA estimates have never more aptly named as estimates than when used in regard to hybrid and electric vehicles. Expect your real world numbers to be significantly less, especially if your use consists primarily of highway driving.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s just assume that you’ve taken all of this into consideration and have determined that an electric vehicle is right for you. We applaud you for your dedication to the future of humanity. Let’s also assume that you’re no longer committed to waiting for the Tesla, and want to explore the alternatives. Well, now you can begin to save the world even faster, but…have you considered seasonality?

If not, you probably should. After all, this is Albany.

Perhaps you’ve already discarded memories of the oft-debated record snowfall of this winter past, but local weather conditions should be factored into any decision to buy a new car. Let’s be honest, Albany’s geography leaves us open for diversity in our seasonal weather conditions. And while we’d love to assist in creating a better world, we’d also like to make it home safely amidst a Nor’easter that’s dumping 24+ inches of snow on our streets. As a result, many of us are predisposed to purchase all-wheel drive vehicles. Whether you call it conditioning or Darwinism is beside the point, we drive what provides an assurance of safety and reliability. That said, do electric and hybrid cars really have what it takes to be your year-round daily driver?

Take the Chevy Bolt EV, for example. As a new offering in 2017, the Bolt is the fully electric successor to the hybrid Volt, and the only real challenger to Tesla’s current innovation. That’s not to say that they are equals (far from it, in fact). But unlike the Tesla, the Bolt is ready for you to drive off the lot, making it worthwhile for this conversation and discussion of whether or not an electric car is good for you.

Without a gas engine, the Bolt EV relies on a large battery to store a charge that will move the car in excess of 200 miles on a single charge. With a 200-horsepower electric motor, the Bolt displays better acceleration than you might expect. Factor in smooth handling, steering and braking, and the result is a surprisingly satisfying drive.

But does its performance make it a good fit for drivers in New York State?

Simply put, yes. The front-wheel drive Bolt benefits from the low-center of gravity achieved by placement of the oversized battery, combined with a relatively high ground clearance. Any driver prepared to throw on winter snow tires will be well prepared to face the seasonal challenges of roads in the Northeast.

That said, temperatures will play a role in both battery life and charging time. For this reason, proper planning becomes important so as not to find yourself stranded.

As one would expect from such an innovative car, several technology features are available within the Bolt. In addition to connectivity (via USB or Bluetooth), the Bolt comes compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And in terms of comfort, the Bolt is surprisingly roomy considering its diminutive dimensions. Designed to weigh less, there are some sacrifices made in terms of overall comfort but, then again, superheroes don’t need comfort.

So yes, if you have no objection to the cost or inherent concessions of an electric vehicle, the Bolt may be a perfectly suitable fit for Albany drivers.

Of course, a $40,000 MSRP is a big swallow, even with the $2,000 rebate. Considering how closely its pricing falls in regard to the high-end design of the Tesla, it is hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be some buyers’ remorse as a result of favoring the relatively low-frills Bolt over the more luxurious Tesla. At the end of the day, it comes down to how quickly you want to save the world, I guess. Score yourself a Bolt and you can start today, or wait up to three years for a Tesla and lose a $1,000 Reservation Fee in the meantime.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Rest assured that we find such a purchase a commendable endeavor, when done with the proper motivation. We can only hope that you’ve explored every facet of your lifestyle to determine that such a vehicle is truly right for you.

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