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  • Writer's pictureMarvin the Paranoid Biological Android

EV One - Chevrolet Bolt Premier

I worked with Auto manufacturing folks in South Africa, Detroit, South Korea and Europe (Hyundai, FIAT, BMW, Mercedes) in the 1990's and built up quite a global network of Auto Gurus in my crowd of technology bleeding edge geeks while deploying various IT technology systems for these various Auto manufacturers.

In around 2015 I came to get some useful chatter and cool inside engineering forthcoming attraction tips on the Auto EV front from new projects these guys were fixing their beady eyeballs on!

In 2016 a bunch of folks I knew from LG were sharing some issues and challenges with GM on a new all electric design concept project to potentially replace the Chevrolet Volt Hybrid with and GM was looking to partner with someone that had some experience of all electric vehicle goodies.

The Volt was an interesting hybrid concept that used both electric and a smallish 4 cylinder gasoline motor in a very unique way.

My pals in Torino at Gruppo FIAT had purchased a couple of Tesla S and 3 series cars, cut them in half (they actually do this with normal cars - not sure how they did this with EV batteries inside).. and given the two halves to two different teams for analysis and such as they usually do and the data from that was pretty interesting.

Given the price Tesla were asking for their fare and the manufacturing "issues" FIAT found on their 3 and Y series I was not much keen on getting one, based on the poor quality issues FIAT picked up on while doing this competitor analysis stuff.

When the LG guys told me the new BOLT all electric EV would be based on LG electric motors and LG Chem Battery technology from these well established electrical buses and elevators folks I started getting very interested in EV indeed from that moment onward.

I used to think Siemens were the go to electrical motor folks until I went to South East Asia and saw for myself how long the South Koreans and been at it for and how utterly solid their electrical motor stuff was.

GM making the Bolt and LG doing the electric motors, battery and other EV tech therefore seemed pretty darn interesting to me!

It really made my boat float in fact because the life of such an EV beast should be a heck of a lot longer than your traditional vanilla gas guzzling mechanical ICE piece of crap.

If you look at the mechanical crap in your average ICE vehicle and the rate at which these mechanical bits wear out and fail its a wonder anybody buys that junk.

I can show you examples of electric motors in elevators 110 years old that are still going strong!

I had evaluated BYD and LG Electric buses Hyundai and LG had collaborated on in my past and was pretty impressed with the quality of this electric vehicle stuff that LG & Hyundai came up with.

It turns out a lot of cities and airports around the world prefer electric buses because the mechanical maintenance on them is pretty low compared with the usual diesel fare.

The overhead electricity rail schema obviously limits where these things can go and batteries in them at that time were not viable then but is nowadays a vastly more pragmatic and viable development care of the current Lithium cell battery technology we now have.

As an example of EV viability the electric trolley buses the City of Johannesburg and Pretoria deployed in the 1950's had an elaborate overhead line in the sky network that a ladder like thing on top of the bus dragged along overhead facing to the rear to supply power to the buses electric motor setup for the British Sunbeam series 1 and II and BUT series I & II buses the Brits had used in the 1930's.

The Sunbeam buses were from the UK and BUT was South African made in Port Elizabeth fare.

Sunbeam Made hundreds of these electric buses for South African cities for a 1940 delivery but some Austrian troublemaker started WWII and UK midlands cities bought them instead as they could not be shipped because of the thorny U-Boat problem.

Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and other cities in the UK all used these Electric Trolley buses that were supposed to be shipped to South Africa.

South Africa did get their first delivery of the better series I Sunbeam buses in 1948 and the order had been changed to series II buses which were delivered in 1956 but which were a mistake as they were not the same quality as the pre WWII Series I fare they took partial delivery of back in 1948.

The series I Sunbeams had awesome coach work that oozed quality and which stood the test of time, sadly the series II were a mirror of a war torn and war ravaged Brittain.

You can see this overhead line setup in Loveday street, Johannesburg in this photograph was pretty complicated for the series II BUT buses in service in the 1970's and 1980's.

I remember riding on no 600 to Zoo lake on the 79A Parktown North route a few times myself in 1975 or no 633 to Rosebank via Oxford Street.

These awesome trolley buses all but disappeared by 1986 and the buses themselves were pretty darn reliable.

The 600 Volt power lines they used were another story altogether. That crap broke regularly and were a general pox on the service.

The City of Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg used these things for a very long time indeed and I have all the service and reliability records of every bus they used.

Johannesburg trolley bus routes

  • 1 Rosebank (Parktown North via Oxford Road)

  • 2 Dunkeld

  • 10 Waverley

  • 13 Highlands North

  • 14 Sydenham

  • 18 Hillbrow (replaced Twist Street tram in 1960) (I used this one often)

  • 19 Yeoville (To the Rocky street scene)

  • 20 Bellevue East (replaced Observatory tram in 1960)

  • 44 South Hills

  • 44A Rewlatch

  • 46 Rosettenville

  • 47 Townsview

  • 49 Forest Hill

  • 60 Homestead Park

  • 60A Mayfair

  • 66 Westdene

  • 67 Melville

  • 77 Greenside (my most traveled route)

  • 79 Parkhurst

  • 79A Parktown North via Zoo Lake

Sadly South Africa nowadays can scarcely produce any electrical power for such antics and the new generation BYD electric buses they have now get their power from solar charging antics.

New Chinese made BYD Electric bus

At the same time this EV stuff was popping into my consciousness in 2015/16, I had sued VW USA as part of a class action suite for their sneaky Diesel debacle and was openly planning on taking the $ made from that adventure for my new Bolt EV Premier I had pre-ordered and was now eagerly waiting for.

I also got invited to the Fremont Chevrolet venue they used to Launch the Bolt EV to the world motoring press in mid December of 2016, which was mainly because the Tesla factory was literally down the road from Fremont Chevrolet (so as to literally poke Mr Musk in the Tesla eye) and I was pretty impressed by my first ride in the burnt orange specimen I got given to evaluate for 45 odd minutes up and down the 880 freeway.

I had decided to lease one of the first ones off of the production line based on that short intro and it arrived on January 17th of 2017.

After the lease was up I bought it because it literally cost me nothing to run the three years that I had it on lease and my company mileage claims actually paid for the lease and then some and all of my charging for the thang was totally free .

This is not to say I did not have any issues with it while I owned it but this was all due to the crap seats they all came shod with until 2022/23.

The seat situation is a lot better in the 2023 Bolt series by the way.

In any event, in 2020, some reports of Bolty's catching fire and burning out were the headline grabbers and in some cases even burning down the house they were garaged in, which caused a rather big dent in it's car of the year 2017 reputation.

It seems LG Chem had made some errors of judgement in working with GM and did not cover their ass in the proper way.

GM legal is a ruthless band of pirates and soon LG Chem was on the hook for replacing ALL Chevrolet Bolt battery packs (I suspect this was some evil GM scheme to own LG Chem).

Given the % that were burning I thought the reaction a tad extreme myself but hey ho, what do I know!?

So they took nearly 2 years to resolve this issue and I received an alert on my Chevrolet Bolt app to order my battery, which I did with Concord Chevrolet on December 29th 2021.

I was told it would take some 4 months to arrive from the date of order.

In March 2022 I go and visit Concord Chevrolet and get a story they have not actually ordered the battery yet and I start to lose my shit with Concord Chevrolet.

For the next four months I got more BS from Concord Chevrolet and they still failed to actually check to see and find out what the issue with my particular battery order was exactly.

The reason why is that these Chevy dealers simply hate Bolt owners and the car itself which is all down to money they make from the EV line in service and support terms.

I concluded GM wanted me to lose my shit and just throw it back at them and that Concord Chevrolet et al were complicit in this fuck around Modus Operandi as near everyone seemed to have a similar experience.

Re most EV's, there is no gearbox to break, no camshafts and cam chains or even any valves to bend and break, with literally no mechanical failures apart from wheel bearings etc. to contemplate these sorts of vehicles should be thousands of times more reliable than ICE vehicles.

The first time I took the Bolty for a service, some guy called Rodney had a near nervous breakdown with my answers to his questions re engine and gearbox oils I wanted with my service.

He obviously had not computed what an electric motor was in his tiny little ICE mind but I humored him as it was pretty funny (one time, at any rate).

It was my "it has no engine oil" being the statement that sent him to the mechanics in the workshop at a sprint to make sure I was not talking bollocks and pulling his leg.

He was expecting the Bolt to also have the same engine setup that the Volt came with and argued with me that it was just like the Volt.

It's funny how people look at one example and leap to conclusions for following series.

Hybrid may be the way forward but I suspect Electric is here to stay and we will see tremendous breakthroughs in EV Battery technology as well as power generation technology such as cold fusion reactors and electrical power generation plants.

Anyways once we established no ICE engine was in the vehicle he asked me what gearbox oil I preferred and the news there is no gearbox once again had him trotting off to the mechanics enclave to verify with the mechanics in a totally disbelieving manner.

He returned with a disgusted fix on his maw and I could see him thinking the obvious in terms of his thoughts on servicing an EV.

Eventually he asked me what work was to be done, suddenly accepting that the customer in front of him was intent on making him and his ilk a thing of the past and I confirmed his suspicions for him that it was just cabin air filters, wheel rotation and a tire pressure check and maybe some wheel alignment at 7500 miles and a dab of grease here and there.

I also used to get the wiper blades replaced often just to give them something to do.

Because most EV's are pretty heavy and they need special friction tires which do not last long vs normal ICE vehicle tires, I had winter Chevrolet fit some new tires at 32000 miles as they were almost sans treads.

EV tires are also pumped to between 38 and 44 PSI by the way....this is normal for an EV.

About the same time I was having the where is my battery order runaround with GM and Concord Chevrolet, I also went over some speed ripples down O'Hara Avenue in Brentwood which wrecked a $14.95 wheel sensor and Concord Chervrolet ripped me over $1500 to fix it and replaced one Wheel bearing that did not need replacing along with the $15 sensor to semi justify the flagrant rip-off they had just executed.

The rest was just made up labor charges.

They evidently needed to make up revenue to displace lack of sales of new vehicles and seemed to be making up shit left right and center to compensate for the supply chain shortfall that was impacting everybody.

As a natural consequence I am going to be doing all services myself from this point onward as a result of this type of behavior and have all the EV diagnostic tools I need to do it with as well.

I have already restored five Volvo 122S, two BMW 3.0S, one BMW 2800 and a few DKW and Citroen Pallas vehicles as well as converted five 1979 era Jaguar 4.2 Executives to V8 power so I am not unfamiliar with mechanical antics and restoration or upgrade projects.

I also used to keep a fleet of nine Renault 16TS vehicles running in Pretoria when I was in college which we rented to University students for cheap and them motorized prams were where I learnt most of my mechanical skills from.

As I am also a computer and electronics guy I do not think any EV will scare me off re maintenance and such and it is now much more in my wheelhouse with all the computer systems found in a modern car these days.

For me, changing an electrical motor or upgrading one is nothing new to me, the battery packs in cars on the other hand, they are fairly new to me.

I used to maintain power and battery systems for S.A Telkom though so managing high voltage battery systems is not new to me either.

In any event, I had my South African pal from the Chevrolet Bolt Manufacturing plant in Orion fly out and diagnose the readouts for me while taking in a 49er game before I took it to Concord Chevy as the Winter Chevy and Concord Chevy folks do in fact have a thing against EV's as there is literally no $ to be made from maintaining these EV things from the dealer perspective.

The 2017 Bolt was also drastically over engineered with what I am certain will prove to be a near immortal electric motor which in fact has too much power for the front drive wheels that drive the thing along with it's 200 HP 266 pound square feet of torque front wheel drive setup.

The rare earth materials they used in these first specimen were serious overkill and was probably why they sold them for $54K apiece.

I disassembled a Volt and a Bolt electric motor in 2019 with a team of Detroit and FIAT engineers and we were staggered at the rare earth materials and quality of the windings etc in these early EV electric motors.

In some of them (like the Bolt) the winding wires are square and not round which means these windings are in my opinion virtually immortal.

The few things that will fail in these are the bearings and the gear teeth that will eventually get worn and need replacement, but the Japanese bearings they used in the Bolt and iPace line should last a very, very long time before they do actually fail.

There is also near zero vibration in EV stuff compared with ICE engines which also makes a massive service life difference.

You have to be pretty careful when driving a Bolt EV in the wet and it is a suicide machine in the snow IMHO.

You also do not want to own an electric vehicle where sea water and surge swells threaten drowning them as salt water and these electric vehicles = total disastrums.

EV Batteries also do not do well in very cold weather so diesel will be hanging around a long time in colder climes.

We need to figure out how Nicola Tesla beamed electric power to his test vehicle back in 1908 as this is the breakthrough for Electric to make supreme sense.

Batteries on board an EV should only be for 2 hours emergency operation purposes and the power can be wirelessly transmitted to the vehicle in normal operation.

Most folks drive their Bolts in D when it snows and not L, which is regenerative braking mode and get Michelin Ice X Tires to go with winter driving mode as a best practice thang in most places where snow is common.

In any event, in my experience, the Chevy dealer folks invent things that are broken on these vehicles so I do not trust what they say as they have always been out to crook me any way they can.

As I was waiting for the free battery from the recall drama with LG Chem that had still not turned up I just went with it sans dramas about it but I will not forgive them for it nor forget it either.

A month after being ripped off, my Orion Chevy Pal told me that rip off was outrageously ridiculous and that this other battery hold up was unprecedented and I needed to investigate deeper as it seemed very unusual and suspicious to him.

So I went in personally to Concord Chevrolet and raised a general ruckus about it all.

This just resulted in them telling me what I wanted to hear but the next day my contacts at GM were telling me there was still no Battery order for my VIN number.

Anyhew, I went back to Concord Chevrolet yet again and by now a new service manager was on board and he was dealing with a lot of such similar veined shit from other irate Bolt customers.

A week later he still had no progress to report and by now all my pals who bought their Bolty's at the same time as I did had in fact had all of their batteries replaced by this stage of said proceedings.

And by now I was also pretty much steaming about the dealer network's pretty bad treatment of Bolt EV owners in general.

So I went in to see Concord Chevrolet "fuck-around-artistes" in person once again in a pretty irate state and this service manager chappie did this query work himself as he was by now realizing the usual ICE mechanic folks were doing lack of due diligence stupid shit with anything EV related.

The next day he tells me what had happened is Chevrolet had placed my car on a battery fix hold as I had asked them what my buyback refund $ would be but I had heartily laughed at their number when they told me what it was ($7495).

Fuck that, I told them, you can fix the battery and I will drive it into the ground - this being August(ish) of 2021.

For some reason they did not process what "fuck that pathetic offer" meant exactly and marked it for buy back on their various systems regardless, just to piss me off.

I had about 20 different people call me about it and I told them all I was not interested until their offer got better (as in new price refund a la Audi A3 Diesel).

They thought I was doing the Arab souk bargaining thang but it was my way of telling them to fuck off in no uncertain terms.

Anyways, the new service manager at Concord Chevrolet had a good lady at GM untangle it all from its buy back mode mess it had got itself into in the various GM systems and at the end of that week they told me the battery was now actually ordered and would be there in roughly 6 weeks.

6 Weeks later I still heard nuthin from Concord Chevrolet and started calling the service manager guy about it and the three weeks it took to get him on the line was a pretty ugly and frustrating experience.

I was now pissed off all over again in a big way but once I was speaking to him, he tells me it arrived 2 days ago and I should come in on October 4th for them to fit the allegedly new battery.

So I steamed in that day at 7 AM on the few electrons still left in the battery and left it there for the battery swap pleasure and on Friday 7th October in the early AM they called me to tell me it was ready.

I knew this already as when they removed the battery, the car reported it's sad state to my app on my iPhone as they progressed with the swap of the 60 kWh pack for the new 66 kWh pack.

I got updates from the car including their charging and testing stats while they were working on it as it was giving me the critical warnings.

Once sitting in it again, the GOM now claimed 271 miles range was now available and I was dead impressed at that stat so I drove it back at 93Mph and got the range down to 235 miles when I got home.

After charging it on my Clipper Creek Charger the range was 260 miles per the GOM.

Today with the AC on the range is 253 miles.

They also seem to have put new software on it and it is very slow to load is this new software shit.

It used to come on instantly but now it takes a good 5 minutes before the car management OS lights up the main screen.

Over the weekend 0ctober 8th and 9th it performed pretty good and I cannot fault it as of yet but the car feels very different somehow.

I suspect that new software is doing a lot more than battery management.

I also noted that the new 2023 Bolty's have a new OS that is slicker than my version and am scheming how to upgrade it.

My Orion pals are offering to train me to be an EV Tech and I might take them up on that offer...

I have minor scrapes on the rear bumper from driving it over the years and it is cheaper to buy new plastic bits to fix it all with a Bolty so I am contemplating that next...

I am also looking to replace the driver's seat with something better like the Volt series 2 driver seat.

Today I looked online at the 2023 2LT Bolt which is a lot less than the $54K I paid for mine.

They now have 2 trims like the first ones but the cloth seat vanilla version is the 1LT and the new Premier leather version is called the 2LT.

The 2LT's now cost $28K base plus extras. A well provisioned 2LT is $36K.

Sadly, their charging abilities are the worst of any EV currently available on the American market.

Making plans for a blog on that shit and comparing our i-Pace HSE charging to Bolt charging, as it is an eye opener you should be aware of before buying one of these beasties...


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