Chevrolet is building up to the rollout of the facelifted Chevy Bolt EV in parallel to the slightly larger Chevy Bolt EUV in the back half of this year and gave us an early look at the vehicles at an exclusive event in Los Angeles, California last week.
The vehicles are noteworthy as they not only build on Chevrolet’s learnings from the original Bolt. Progress has been made to enable lower, more competitive price points for both vehicles and modern looks that keep them in contention with the wide range of electric vehicles available from manufacturers around the world. Importantly, both vehicles also include new tech in the form of GM’s Super Cruise assisted driving solutions suite.
We arrived at the event in Los Angeles early to find a fleet of 5 Chevy Bolt EUVs parked in a row, eager to face whatever challenges the day had in store. COVID-19 has reshaped our interactions with automotive companies, with most events having been moved into the digital realm or, like this event in Los Angeles, having been significantly overhauled to prioritize everyone’s safety.
The Chevy Bolt EUV
We were to have roughly two hours with the new Chevy Bolt EUV to drive a predefined route across Los Angeles to give the cars a run through the paces with a focus on the new Super Cruise solution. The new Bolt EUV packs a bit more interior space than the compact Bolt EV, with external aesthetics much more in line with the popular crossover class. An elongated hood, slightly higher stance and a longer frame, the EUV is positioned beautifully to suit the needs of middle class American families with their 2.1 kids in tow.
My partner and I have two young boys and the Bolt EUV would easily meet our needs from a space standpoint, whether the trip was down to grandma’s house or across the country to visit my brother and his family in New York. The inclusion of DC fast charging as a standard option in the vehicle makes road trips that much easier, especially when bundled with GM’s new preferred charging network, EVgo.
Driving the EUV quickly recalled my experience driving the original Chevy Bolt back nearly four years ago. The electric motor enables rapid acceleration from a stand still, with a stomp of the accelerator pedal unleashing untamed power to the wheels. It’s not hard making the tires squeal off of the line and we had no qualms about enjoying the experience again in the EUV.
The rapid acceleration transforms the otherwise docile compact crossover into an experience much more akin to a Mario Kart race through Los Angeles’ infamous traffic. We were fortunate traffic was not completely gridlocked, and used the occasion to liberally engage Super Cruise to take the edge off of the old stop and go routine.
GM’s Super Cruise In Action
As a Level 2 autonomous driving system, General Motors’ Super Cruise is not intended to eliminate the need for the driver to pay attention while under way, but it does allow for “hands free driving” on select routes. In the United States, the solution has been enabled on roughly 200,000 miles of geofenced routes comprised of roads with physical separation between directions of traffic, mostly consisting of freeways and highways.
To engage Super Cruise, it’s a simple matter of setting a speed limit for the adaptive cruise control system and waiting for the vehicle to detect lane lines. Once the vehicle has a sense of position on the road, Super Cruise can be enabled by tapping the Super Cruise button on the steering wheel. When the system activates, a front and center LED strip embedded in the steering wheel turns green to provide reassurance that the system is on.
This LED strip is more than just a passive indicator and serves as the primary communication tool between the Super Cruise system and the driver. When the system detects steering input from the driver, it turns blue to indicate it is no longer in charge of the steering function. If the system needs to disengage for any reason, the LED strip will flash red with an audible prompt to re-engage the driver in the task of driving.
Super Cruise makes the task of driving through traffic a much more pleasant experience, taking the bulk of the load of driving off of the driver. Taking control of the front to back position in the lane has been mastered by adaptive cruise control systems for years now and the addition of taking over steering makes the solution far more capable.
In our roughly two hours of driving the vehicle in Los Angeles, the system made traffic far more bearable. Sure, we still had to pay attention to the road and vehicles around us, but not having to worry about the car in front slamming on the brakes or a vehicle changing lanes is a huge relief.
Our route include a handful of freeway interchanges and Super Cruise is not currently capable of handling either the requisite lane changes or the freeway interchanges. As such, we had to disengage the system every so often to switch lanes. Not being familiar with the vehicle or the system, these transitions did not happen fluidly though I imagine these would become more innate after a few days commuting with the vehicle.
GM Super Cruise vs Tesla Full Self Driving
I drove my Tesla Model 3 with Full Self Driving the roughly hour and change to and from the event, providing a healthy face to face comparison of the two systems. Super Cruise is a fantastic system today and GM is clearly pouring significant resources into its development in coordination with the development of its fully autonomous system through Cruise.
Super Cruise is already adept at navigating within the confines of its predefined capabilities, but falls short on those routes due to its inability to change lanes and navigate freeway interchanges. Tesla’s FSD, on the other hand, can navigate complex routes from freeway on ramp to offramp with few interventions required, if any.
On the pricing front, Tesla currently only offers Full Self Driving as a $10,000 add on at the time of purchase or any point thereafter. That’s a sharp premium for those looking to take the edge off their commute and includes any and all future upgrades. That fact alone has many buyers investing in FSD in the hopes of a fully autonomous solution sometime in the near future. If and when that happens is anyone’s guess, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to be bullish about the solution.
Super Cruise, on the other hand, is included for free for three years with an appropriately optioned new vehicle purchase. After the initial three years, the system will set owners back $25/month. That’s a much more affordable option for buyers and while it does include future software upgrades, GM can also jack the monthly price up when new functionality is delivered. Overall, GM’s solution is far more affordable no matter how you slice it.
As the two systems stand today, Tesla’s system is the more capable of the two as it will attempt to drive on just about anything that looks remotely like a road. It does not offer “hands free” driving, with a focus on delivering as much functionality to owners as possible on as many routes as possible in the production version of the software.
Tesla’s system has improved over time and we expect the same from Super Cruise. In roughly two hours behind the wheel, the system required interventions twice. The steering wheel flashed red, the display behind the wheel informed me that the system was disengaging, and because my hands were already on the wheel, I simply resumed driving. There was no imminent threat or danger and I was able to re-engage the system after a few seconds.
The new, lower price 2022 Chevy Bolt EV and EUV are exciting vehicles geared towards mainstream consumers familiar with the Chevrolet brand. They provide a consistent look and feel that make it easier for the average consumer to get into an electric vehicle at a reasonable price.
They both walk the edge of the blade when it comes to bringing new technology and features to customers without compromising the brand they are built upon. Super Cruise, specifically, does a fantastic job of building transformative new functionality into the vehicle without upending the experience.
Super Cruise delivers incremental functionality to buyers, but the reality is that all automakers are in the same race and it’s not about Level 2. The race to fully autonomous driving started many years ago and from the look of solutions across the board, many of those solutions from Waymo, Tesla, Nio, GM, Nissan, and more are starting to round the corner into the final stretch.
We’re closer than ever to a fully autonomous driving solution, but at the same time, we are farther than ever because that last 1% is the hardest, by far. GM has its work cut out for it and has done an admirable job of carving out a solution for production vehicles to meet the needs of its customers today.
The new Bolt EV and EUV are evidence that General Motors is kicking its electric vehicle game into gear this year, as parent company General Motors begins rolling out the carpet for a full conversion of all light duty vehicles to electrified variants by 2035. The Cadillac Lyriq and new Hummer EV will both likely be relegated to relatively low production volumes as a function of their higher price points.
Beyond the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV, we are looking to the future of General Motors expectantly. GM committed to a bold goal of bring electrification to the ranks en masse and that is a tall order. We are eager to see more CUVs, SUVs, trucks, and cars of all sizes emblazoned with badges from the full range of GM brands to customers across the country. Electric vehicles aren’t just cars for those on the coasts, they are for the masses and GM needs to get to building if it is going to have a shot at hitting its own ambitious targets.
The future is electric. The future is now.