First 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV buyers, Fremont, California: Bobby Edmonds, Bill Mattos, Steve Henry
And now it's real.
Just 23 months after GM CEO Mary Barra unveiled the Chevrolet Bolt concept at the Detroit Auto Show, the very first production versions of Chevy's 238-mile electric car to be sold were delivered this morning to eager San Francisco Bay Area buyers.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will be sold first in California and Oregon, and then roll out to selected dealers throughout the rest of the U.S. over the next six months.
The first sales took place 20 years and a few days after the first 40 GM EV1s were delivered to California lessees in 1996, though Chevrolet chose not to acknowledge the anniversary.
But the Bolt EV buyers are every bit as avid as their counterparts two decades earlier.
Green Car Reports spoke briefly with one of three initial buyers identified by Chevrolet before the announcement.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Software developer Bobby Edmonds, of Castro Valley, is replacing his current BMW i3 battery-electric car with a new leased Bolt EV.
Growing up in Georgia, he recalled, green cars were the furthest thing from his mind: "It was mostly trucks and SUVs," he said, noting that he'd actually owned an original Hummer H1 in the past.
Moving to California got him interested in more advanced-technology cars, Edmonds said. After a lot of research, the BMW i3 was the first one he was willing to buy and be seen in that felt like a finished, completed, usable vehicle. "It wasn't in beta," he said.
He admitted the Nissan Leaf had been his second choice, and was "a good runner-up"—but he just couldn't get past the way it looked. It was "just too ugly" for him, he said.
Of course, he added, "everyone wants a Tesla," but with a family of four, that just wasn't in the budget.
He likes his i3, but he expects the Bolt EV will solve the two major drawbacks he's run into while using the i3 as his daily driver.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
First is the battery range. At 81 miles, he said, a round-trip from his home to the San Francisco Airport is right at the limit. "I like to put my foot in it," he acknowledged.
At speed, he said, the i3 only delivers 55 to 60 miles of range—and the trip is 30 miles one way. He's not fond of having to stick to speeds of 55 or 60 mph and using the car's maximum-economy setting, which slows acceleration.
Second is the limit of four seats. With four in his family, Edmonds occasionally needs to take a fifth person along on a trip—his father or a friend—and that's just not possible in the i3, while it will be in his Bolt EV.
Edmonds said that while he'd bought the i3 because of its advanced technology, leasing the electric BMW had several unexpected major benefits.
First, he changed his electricity plan to a nighttime EV-charging rate, and moved a major portion of electric usage to the wee hours, including washing machines and other appliances.
To his surprise, he said, that is saving him hundreds of dollars a month.
First 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV buyer Bobby Edmonds, at Fremont Chevrolet in Fremont, CA, Dec 2016
The second benefit is no surprise; it's the ability to travel solo in the carpool lanes on California's notoriously crowded freeways, especially Highway 101 to the airport.
Finally, he loves no longer having to visit gas stations on a regular basis just to keep a gasoline car running.
"I plug in the car when I come home" at the 240-Volt Level 2 charging station he installed in his garage, he said, "and I always have a 'full tank' whenever I want to leave."
Chevy also identified two additional Bolt EV buyers in this morning's group.
Steve Henry is a commercial real-estate broker living in Portola Valley. His family of five is replacing a Toyota Prius with their new Chevy.
And retired law-enforcement officer William "Bill" Mattos, in Fremont, is a long-term Chevy electric-car driver. He previously owned both a Spark EV minicar and a second-generation Volt plug-in hybrid.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Global Chevy brand chief Alan Batey lauded "all of the hard work that the Chevrolet team have put into designing, engineering and building the Bolt EV."
His words came in an otherwise largely pro-forma marketing statement that underscored the car's on-time delivery (take that, Tesla) as well as its "fun-to-drive" character and "affordable price."
EPA-rated at 238 miles of range, the all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV starts at a base price of $37,495 including delivery. A DC quick-charging port is a $750 option.
To celebrate today's first deliveries, the Chevrolet publicity department also released an atmospheric 2-minute video showing steps in the production of the Bolt EV at GM's Orion assembly plant in Michigan.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article said the Bolt EV was produced at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. We thank readers Rich K and MHOmpg for pointing out that it's actually the Orion plant. We regret the error.]