I was sitting in brutal stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper, bang-your-forehead-on-the-steering wheel-and-curse-your-wretched-city-life kind of traffic when I realized the new Chevy Bolt might just be the perfect city car. I’d traveled only seven frustrating miles, surging from zero to 15 mph, back to zero, again and again, one in an endless line of cars accelerating then immediately braking. It was the sort of traffic that seems to have been invented in New York but successfully replicated in Miami, perfected in San Francisco, and commonly found wherever there are too many cars and too little asphalt.
I digress. As unsatisfying as this Friday afternoon drive was, there was an upside: While I was crawling down the West Side Highway, the Bolt was actually charging itself. In the 45 minutes it took me to drive ten miles, the battery range never dipped below the 238 miles of range I started with. In Low mode, the Bolt’s regenerative braking system charged the battery every time I took my foot off the accelerator, so stopping and starting in traffic, while still deeply frustrating, was paying dividends. And, it was alleviating, if only a little, the big fear of going electric: running out of power, particularly on the West Side Highway. The new Bolt makes some significant strides in slaying those fears, especially for city drivers, where rides are short (if not always quick) and charging stations are beginning to outnumber gas stations. (These days, due to soaring real estate prices, finding a working gas station in Manhattan is like finding a decent vegan scone at a biker rally.)
In a lot of ways, the city is perfect for EVs, and none more than the Bolt, which has a range of 238 miles on a full charge, and it’s compatible with DC Fast Charging system, which adds 90 miles in under 30 minutes, weather depending. But the battery and the planet-saving features aside, the Bolt has every key aspect of urban driving dialed in. I’ve been threading through, and sitting in, New York traffic for 25 years, and let me tell you what any thinking New York driver values, even more than a normally functioning F train:
Acceleration. The Bolt’s motor produces 266 lb.-ft. of torque and 200 horsepower, more than enough to zip out of gnarly tangles and close calls that spirited city driving requires. And it handles nimbly enough to dodge double-parked Ubers, clueless hipsters staring at their GPS in search of that place with the awesome vegan scones they read about on Eater, or carriages whose horses have stopped to take a dump in the middle of midtown. And when you’ve got a Paulie Walnuts baring down on you in an Escalade in the “don’t fuck with me” lane of the BQE, (that’s the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Cleetus) you’ll be glad you’re not in a Prius.
Vision. Sitting in the Bolt is what I’m guessing John Paul II felt like when he waved to the adoring crowds from the safety of his Pope Mobile. It’s airy and light with sight lines that offer a full and unobstructed view of the wondrous street life all around you. Because when you’re stuck in traffic, it’s not trees and pastures you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of.
Parkability. So, I’m coining a new word, big deal. It’s a thing, and in the city, it’s real. The Bolt is significantly shorter than most cars — somewhere between a Subaru Forester and a Smart Car — suddenly making you eligible for parking spots others have to pass by. It has nothing to do with the fact that you are a superior parallel parker (because of course you are) and one who’d never need the assistance of the big, wide rearview camera that the Bolt’s rear view mirror transforms into with a flip of the wrist.
Quiet. No rumbling combustible engine means more silence. After all, when a driver you’ve just cut off while merging on the Manhattan Bridge tells you to shove it up your ass, you want to hear him enunciate every word.
Moral Superiority. You didn’t move to the city to live a quiet, unassuming, unnoticed life, so let’s not pretend that we aren’t aware of what our choice of vehicles says about us and what we believe in. The Bolt emits no carbon, requires no fossil fuel, and it’s made in America. And they say we city folks are morally bankrupt.