In Part 1, I’ve covered some general issues and jokes we encountered along the way. Access to charging stations at the dealership can be problematic if you’re running late, adaptive cruise shouldn’t be used on steep sections of road, and the vehicle is surprisingly efficient considering its larger size by compared to the regular Bolt EV.
Now I will cover some specific segments of the trip through which I learned about the vehicle.
The title “EUV” seems won
The Bolt EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle) is not an SUV. A true SUV is usually based on a truck chassis, like the Chevrolet Suburban. They are also almost always built with a longitudinal RWD drivetrain setup, with a transfer case for 4WD models. Another popular vehicle category, the crossover SUV, is visually similar, but with more car-like monocoque transverse drive (front-wheel-drive or AWD) underpinnings for cheaper construction and often lighter weight (this which results in better fuel consumption).
The Bolt EUV is definitely one of the latter, but it still looks much more like a car than many crossovers. It doesn’t have much ground clearance and isn’t available with all-wheel drive at all. But, it’s visually very much in the crossover camp, and the seating position in the vehicle definitely makes you look down on all the non-American peasants in their sedans and hatchbacks, who don’t know you’re supposed to be driving something big and big in 2022 like a real patriotic badass.
(I’m obviously kidding about that last part, but it’s true that we Americans love our crossovers)
Given the in-between space the EUV lives in, I decided to give it a little challenge: drive to the Belvedere of Pic Monjeau. Unfortunately this happened after dark so I can’t give you any pictures but you can find some of them on the Google Maps page for the place.
The road up there is unpaved, and much of it is a fairly good gravel road that any vehicle can drive on unless it has been lowered. But, there are rough patches where the rocks cut through the gravel and in some places thunderstorms have caused deep ruts in the road. These sections are quite similar to the smoother, more tame “Jeep” trails, making them a reasonable and appropriate challenge for the Bolt EUV.
While you can take a normal car on this road, it’s usually not that much fun because road-oriented suspension will beat you pretty badly. But, the EUV was pleasant enough, even on bumpy sections. I still had to pick my lines pretty carefully to avoid putting the biggest rocks under the battery and falling over them, I wasn’t as careful as I should be in something like my Jetta, and I didn’t backed off every time the thing hit a bump.
On the toughest wash sections, I used a single pedal to get into small crevices created by thunderstorms, then applied a tiny amount of controllable electric torque to get the tires up on the other side without slamming. To do this on a gas-powered car would require slamming the brake all the way in and needing two feet to prevent an idling engine from knocking you out of the hole.
More importantly, there was very little wheel spin on any of the rough sections, and I never had to turn off the traction control. GM seems to have configured the traction control to be able to handle these small challenges without digging in. Disabling “sport mode” is also useful here, as it gives you more power control at low speeds.
So, I’d say the EUV earned the “utility vehicle” badge on the rear. It’s more than just a big car and makes driving on not-so-big dirt roads a pleasure.
But, it comes at the cost of twisty road handling (which is fine with me)
The more SUV-like suspension on the EUV comes at a cost: there’s a noticeable increase in body roll over the regular Bolt EV in corners. The less stiff suspension means you can’t comfortably corner as fast as you could in lower road-oriented EVs. The extra body roll also seems to amplify the disadvantages of front-wheel drive a bit. So if you are buying the EUV for digging canyons, I would cancel that order.
But, nobody buys a crossover to carve canyons. If you have a budget like me, you would buy a Bolt or LEAF and upgrade the suspension. If you have a better income and fewer kids, you’ll probably get a Model 3 or a Model S for that, or a Taycan. The only reason I’m sharing this is because I know some readers will think the EUV is a big car, when it’s less optimized for cornering on pavement than its smaller Bolt EV sibling.
One thing I found that improved the road feel a bit was putting a little more air in the tires. Not only does this help your range a bit, but it stiffens up the overall suspension a bit. I carry a portable air compressor, and there’s no reason you can’t aerate a little for bumpy roads and aerate for the highway to get a little more vehicle versatility.
The charge is the obvious downside (but it’s the one you can expect)
On this trip, I did two charging stops, and really noticed the 55kW max charging speed and aggressive taper. But, coming from a #Rapidgate LEAF which would go down to 14 kW during the second and subsequent charging sessions when traveling, charging at around 50kW consistently is downright awesome.
At the Alamogordo charging station (at the Chevy dealership), I got 45kW, which seems like all that station can produce. At the Carrizozo Francis Energy plant, I got the full 55 kW of power up to the cone.
However, 45-60 minute charging stops still suck compared to driving a gas-powered car. So I can definitely see how the 55kW max charge speed can be a deal breaker for many buyers, but it’s one you can bypass if you like everything else EUV, but want a faster charging.
The next Equinox EV will be built on the Ultium platform (meaning much faster DC fast charging), start at $30,000, and have an additional 50 miles of range. So if that’s you, I’d be waiting for this vehicle to come out next year.
For me, I went ahead and bought it because most of my driving is local and regional, and for those long, long trips, I usually grab a 40 MPG gas car if it’s not. there’s no time to stop and reload. As usual, YMMV (your mileage may vary). You have to do what works for you.
Featured Image: My Bolt EUV on Transmountain Road in El Paso. I did the trip described in this article mostly after dark, so I had to use a photo from somewhere else this time around.
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