I bought my mom a Chevy Bolt EV – Here’s how it went

I bought my mom a Chevy Bolt EV – Here’s how it went

When Chevy announced it was dropping the price of the Chevy Bolt EV by $6,000 earlier this year to $25,600, it went from a good EV option to a great one. This is a 5-star-safety-rated sporty hatchback EV with 259 miles of real range, lots of space inside, and a great interior.

So good, in fact, I decided to do the unthinkable: buy one for my 70-something mom. Here’s how it went.

As a background, I’ve owned mostly Teslas (S, X, 3, Y) since 2013, and one of the things I like most about that experience is not having to deal with car dealers. I leased a 2017 Chevy Bolt from 2017 to 2020 and loved the car, but again, didn’t love the dealership experience on either end of the Bolt ownership. I went over this in my Bolt ownership retrospective.

With Chevy’s help, we identified a Bolt that was being sold for MSRP on its way to Serpentini Chevrolet in NE Ohio. I remember their ads from growing up – “American, and prooooouuuud of it!” – and even though the name sounds like “snake” in Italian, they’ve been around for a long time.

I spoke with a salesperson there about my requirements. “Just the car, please. No upgrades. No maintenance plan. No nothing.” We were very quickly on the same page. One nice thing about not being nearby was that I didn’t have to go into the dealership and deal with waiting, paperwork, and of course, the upselling and haggling.

After some minor delays, the car arrived on the lot. After taxes, destination, and other typical miscellaneous charges, the $26,500 Bolt EV price had grown to over $28,692.04. Backward Ohio doesn’t have any EV incentives and, in fact, charges an extra $200/year on registration for disincentivizing EVs. This kind of thinking is indicative of the governance that sends forward-thinking people packing for the coasts – I digress.

I wired the money to the dealership’s bank account and told my mom and brother that it was plated and ready to be picked up the next day. After calling the insurance company and having it added to their plan, they went to the dealership the next day.

Dealerships suck

Did I mention dealerships suck? They almost universally do. I had almost forgotten how bad my experience was in New York when I picked up mine in 2017. The salespeople there in Ohio decided to hit my 70-year-old mom, who doesn’t know much about cars, let alone EVs, with a bullshit maintenance plan upsell. (Free oil changes!) According to her, it wasn’t an option – it was just a choice between that one and a more expensive one. She wrote a check for almost $2000 even though I had already paid for the car and told them I didn’t want any of their BS maintenance plans. My brother called me and told me what was happening.

I picked up the phone and started screaming at those $%#* cockroaches because, apparently, a customer who wanted to buy a car sight unseen with cash wasn’t enough of a gift – they had to try to steal a few weeks of retirement money from a widow. I’m not still mad, I swear.

To their credit (?). they did quickly tear up my mom’s check and apologize, and I guess they have a system in place that incentivizes this behavior. Also, Serpentini did originally offer the car at MSRP, which was decent in those times. Shoutout to Chris there for the help.

After the remote scene I caused, they gave my mom and brother a quick rundown of the car. My mom drove the car home timidly but figured out the car pretty quickly. She’s coming from a 2010 Prius, so it wasn’t night and day different.

Qmerit charger install

One genuinely genius move that Chevy made was offering either $500 of EVgo fast charging credit or $1,000 toward a Qmerit home EV charging unit install as part of buying a Bolt. That’s going to get new EV owners off on the right foot, and I was excited to get a Level 2 charger installed in my childhood home.

Unfortunately, Qmerit never responded to the order request, and again, almost a month after the car purchase, I had to intervene. I called Qmerit, and they said the dealer never approved the work order. I called the dealer again, and they said they sent the order to Qmerit. I rang up the Chevrolet concierge to hopefully mediate, but everyone just kept pointing fingers at each other. Finally, I did a three-way conference call and told them all that the call wasn’t going to end until someone took responsibility for this.

Finally, I got a guy at Qmerit to take responsibility and project manage the operation. He got approval from the dealership manually and found an installer near the dealership but 30 miles from my mom’s house. The first estimate was $2,500 (so we’d pay $1,500). That included a device necessitated because the 80A breaker box was nearly full. We had a decommissioned breaker for a hot tub that made this unnecessary.

I had specced out the install with a local electrician who said it would cost $500, which broke down to about $250 in parts and $250 in labor. Inspection was separate.

I got a second installer from Qmerit to offer it for $1600, which would have still cost us more than just having our local guy do it. I showed the $500 estimate to the Qmerit project manager and finally got an under-$1,000 estimate that would be reimbursed with Chevy’s generous offer. Days later, the 240V plug was installed.

The post-mortem on Qmerit that I sent to Chevy:

  • Qmerit says that hundreds of new Chevy Bolt owners go through this same problem.
  • It sounds like the system that communicates between dealers and Qmerit often breaks down, and it is up to the customer to get everyone on the same page. Bad experience.
  • Qmerit needs a dedicated project manager to keep everyone in line. They obfuscated the situation and solution until they knew I was going to keep calling them. I imagine many give up.
  • The installers told me that plugs were dumb and wanted to do straight wire. I think this option is best for some but not all – should be some literature about that to help customers decide.  
  • Two installers told me that Qmerit takes a 20-30% cut, so they pass on the extra cost to the customer. So a real $750 install will use the full $1000 credit.

240V Level 2 charger standard on EUV, but only 120V in EV

So the dealer and Qmerit both dropped the ball earlier so it was my turn to fail. I was under the impression that the Bolt EV and EUV both came with 240V Level 2 charge cables (Webasto Go OEM). Turns out that the Bolt EUV comes with it standard while it is a $295 option on the EV. The Bolt EV comes with an old 120V Level 1 charger, so my mom didn’t have anything to plug into the 240V outlet like I had assumed. I should have remembered this from my 2017 Bolt EV, but I guess I just assumed it was a holdover from the Chevy Volt era and would have been remediated by now.

She doesn’t drive much and was doing fine with the 110V charger, which puts on about 4 miles/hour of charge. That equates to about 60 miles in the 15 hours she’s not using it, more than she almost ever drives in a day.

However, for about $25 I could double the speed of charge using an adapter (outlined here).

I sent one of these adapters which allows the Level 1 charger that comes with the Bolt EV to accept 240V (x12A) and charge at almost 3kW, which means a full charge from dead (65kWh) can happen in 24 hours. I plan to have a proper 240V Level 2 charging option there by the end of the month. I have to wonder how much GM is saving by putting a Level 1 charger in the car vs. a $295 Level 2 charger option. I’m pretty sure people would rather pay extra for a more useful charger, especially with Qmerit installs.

Mom loves the Bolt EV

Initial hesitation gave way to outright love of the little vehicle within weeks. Things she didn’t know she would love:

  • Always warm when starting. Can start heat in the garage.
  • Easy to get in and out. Hatchback easy to open and close.
  • Wireless CarPlay great for music and maps. Easy to make and take calls.
  • Headlights are brighter than the Prius. Easier to drive at night.
  • Loves rear view monitor when backing up. Small size makes parking/garage easy.
  • No more range anxiety after first few weeks.
  • Loves talking about it with strangers who ask about EVs.
  • “Smooth!”

Doesn’t like:

  • Wipers. They aren’t in sync, and they come from both angles, which is distracting.
  • Has left it on a few times because it is so quiet.

Electrek’s take

It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was worth it. The dealer experience is still broken in my opinion compared to EV players like Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian. I’m not even sure it is fixable. Ford and Volvo/Polestar are trying to spin off their EV groups so they can escape dealer headaches. Chevy and Ford have told me they are trying to eliminate and threaten dealers who do markups. But they still proliferate. My best advice to consumers is just hold your nose and get the dealer experience over with. Try to do as much over the phone or on email as possible and stick to your guns when picking up the vehicle.

But the final Bolt EV product is fantastic, even for someone like my mom who isn’t terribly interested in learning new technology or changing how she does things. Yes, the Bolt EV has slow 54kw DC fast charging, slippery FWD, not luxury and other minor shortcomings. But there are so many positives for every negative. And for my mom, who will rarely (if ever) go on a 250+ mile trip, fast charging is moot.

So my mom loves it, and yours probably will too.

I had a chance to drive her Bolt EV when I drove through town (with the absurdly big in comparison Ford F-150). It was an absolute pleasure, especially for city driving and parking. So much so, I think I might get one of my own.

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