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Confessions of an Electric Car Driver in Vermont

Larry Plesent and his Chevy Bolt. (Courtesy photo)

Larry Plesent

It’s been 18 months since I drove my all electric 2020 Chevy Bolt off the lot two icy January’s ago. Here at last, a “seasoned” electric car driver punctures the myths and reveals the downsides of affordable electric commuting cars.

I consider the Chevy Bolt to be the best buy of the smaller electric cars available today. Safe, practical and with up to 250 miles of git-go, its only major downside is the ongoing and profound lack of fast chargers when traveling afar. If your range is more than this can guarantee, the Tesla fast chargers are still much more common, so a Tesla might be the best option for you. The Bolt is basically a great front-wheel drive commuting car that even does well on gravel roads as long as you don’t mind the damage to the paint job on some of the plastic parts. With good tires, it is very capable in snow up to three or four inches. As with most small cars, if there is more than five inches of snow, I start looking for my four-wheel-drive truck.

You can get by with the little 110v charger that comes with the car. But unless you only use the car 50 miles or less each day, have a real electrician set up a 220-volt charger at home; preferably in your enclosed and heated garage. Now do what you can to persuade your employer to install a few 220-volt chargers at work. It’s a terrific employee retention bonus.

My neighbor tells me that he “will never drive one of those.” He discusses further that he is a connoisseur of high-performance vehicles and considers himself a “different type of driver than most.”

The truth is that electric vehicles are pocket rockets. How about zero to sixty in 6.4 seconds? Very handy when passing safely and legally between town and even considered on the slow side for today’s electric vehicles.

By every measure, including the quietness of the driving experience, acceleration, handling (comfortable up to about 90 mph for this vehicle), four door comfort and reasonable cargo space in the boot; I would rate the Bolt superior to any comparably sized car or gas-powered mini SUV out there.

If European styling and comfort are what you are after, there is a man named Elon with a high-performance Tesla made just for you.

But if you are on a more conservative budget the Bolt might just be right for you. Buy with an eye for deals, discounts, offers and credits from your federal and state tax departments, electric power company, and whatever and whomever is promoting a more sustainable future by helping to ease the transition off of internal combustion propulsion systems. If your household income hits a certain sweet spot in Vermont for example, several special rebate and tax credit options are still available. Read G.E.T. to stay tuned to the changing landscape of offers.

Consider buying your all-electric car in January if not today. That’s when electric car sales in New England are at their lowest, and there may be a discount to be found then. Get on the dealers mailing list, so you are the first to catch a manufacturer’s sale when it comes around.

And you don’t have to sell your old reliable four-wheel-drive truck or SUV yet if you don’t want to. Take the pressure off your gas vehicle with the all-electric and save old Betsy for Nor’easters and plowing and other such tasks. The two types of transport complement each other nicely.

Maintenance headaches to expect are basically none. They include tires, washer fluid, and wash the car once in a while. I will also add protect the batteries.

Lithium batteries do not like below zero temperatures, and it is your job to keep that in mind during the deep winters of the North Country. At a minimum, keep the car plugged into your 110v charger overnight when 17ºF or colder. Try not to leave it outside during below-zero days and nights. Best case scenario for your batteries is the aforementioned heated garage.

I don’t mind driving my old beat-up Toyota truck around town. I know that I am driving a bit of history, a museum piece that technology has already rendered obsolete. It gets me wondering when those new electric four-wheel-drive trucks will be available here in the North Country!

Larry Plesent is a writer and soap maker living in the hollows of central Vermont.

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