Photo by Paul Clinton.

Photo by Paul Clinton.

General Motors may just have a game-changer on its hands with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a lithium-ion-powered hatchback that's fun to drive and provides enough charge to meet most commutes.

It's the most capable EV on the market that's not named Tesla with a much more affordable price — $37,495 before the $7,500 federal credit. In California, where it went in sale in December, buyers can knock another $2,500 off the price tag with a state rebate. The entry price is for the LT trim; buyers can also choose the Premium trim.

The Bolt EV is aiming for mass-market appeal, as initial marketing seeks to education potential buyers and emphasize that it's a car first, and a green car second.

When driven under ideal conditions, the Bolt EV could reach the U.S. EPA's range of 238 miles. Automotive journalists were given a chance to drive the vehicle in Northern California on a route that started in the Palo Alto area, headed north to Maverick's Beach in Half Moon Bay, and then on to Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge. It ended near AT&T Park.

The route showed off the Bolt EV's strengths — its smooth, easy power delivery from a stop up to freeway speeds and stable handling around curves on woodsy back roads.

Photo by Paul Clinton.

Photo by Paul Clinton.

The Bolt EV brings plenty of design and engineering innovations to the table, including the design of its LG-supplied battery pack. The pack, which weighs more than 900 pounds, lays flat on the chassis like a carpet and seems to steady the vehicle to reduce body sway. The liquid-cooled pack stores 60 kilowatt-hours of energy.

DC fast-charging is enabled by a Combined Charting System (CCS) port that uses the SAE standard for electric vehicle charging. A public CCS charger can deliver about 90 miles of range in 30 minutes. Achieving a full charge on a 110-volt circuit could take up to 50 hours.

Chevrolet has partnered with Aerovironment, a defense contractor that's providing a $699 fast charger to Bolt EV buyers.

The Bolt EV's comfortable, roomy cabin includes two digital displays — an 8-inch instrument panel and 10.3-inch center screen — that provide an array of driving data, including a battery-life indicator; power output; maximum, minimum, and average range; energy usage; media data; and Bluetooth devices.

General Motors is making the Bolt EV available to commercial and government fleets, but not rental fleets. New York City has already ordered 50 for its car sharing fleet.

Related Photos: Chevrolet's 2017 Bolt EV

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