Chevy Bolt vs. Toyota Tacoma
Making the Connection
Turning Soap into Transportation
It always bothered Vermont Soap’s founder Larry “the Soapman” that he drove an internal combustion engine to work every day. And so, one chilly morning in January 2020 he finally did something about it and ordered an electric car. By plugging his all-electric Chevy Bolt into Vermont Soap’s 20,000 sqft 150kw rooftop solar array he was able to metaphorically turn soap into transport (read more about Vermont Soap’s environmental mission here)!
Here in his own words is a comparison between his beloved Toyota Tacoma pick up truck and his newly found infatuation with the new Chevy Bolt and with the new generation of electric cars.
Chevy Bolt vs Toyota Tacoma, a User’s Guide
Let me start by saying that I am a small truck guy. When everyone was running around in their 8-cylinder gas hogs, I was scooting around town in my 23mpg Tacoma loving life. You might say it was slightly out of character when I showed up last February with a leased 2020 Chevy Bolt. It took a week of getting used to, and I did finally read the manual (highly recommended, please do this) but the long and the short of it is, I love this little car! It is the fastest, quietist, peppiest, smoothest, most comfortable vehicle I have ever had the pleasure to drive. This is not your cousin’s underpowered high school experimental electric car. This is a real vehicle that will outperform almost anything it will meet on the road except perhaps a Tesla.
I don’t want this article to be a gush fest about the Bolt so I promise to be brutal and give you some real insights into owning and driving this vehicle after putting 1,000 miles a month for three months on the thing.
I believe the Bolt is the first realistic e-car for working middle class folks, much as the Tacoma was one of the first of the hard working affordable 4wd little trucks. The Bolt is no SUV. It is however larger and safer (and in my opinion) more comfortable feeling and fun to drive than the Prius or Nissan Leaf offerings. Even though the Bolt sits lower to the ground and appears smaller than the Tacoma, I found it to be remarkably comparable in size. Take a few feet off the bed of the Tacoma and they are the same length. Width wise both vehicles are very close.
My Tacoma is nicknamed the Snowhog. I run oversized Cooper mud and snows tires which stay on all year and change out in November. I once drove it OVER a stone wall, much to my wife’s amazement as we were stuck on an old hiking trail and I was making her late for work. Let’s just say failure was not an option. I have driven the Snowhog over mountains in the face of raging blizzards, falling trees, microbursts and a hurricane. It has been known to go where other 4wd vehicle would not take the dare.
The Bolt is not a winter survival vehicle. If you have more than 3 inches of snow to drive through you should take your back up truck. That means that if you live off grid, on back roads and mountain hollows, don’t trade in your gas guzzler yet. Equipped with 4 winter tires, front wheel drive and a posi-traction differential that sends power to the other front tire if the main drive tire slips; the Bolt has what it takes to handle a few inches of ice and powder on paved roads. It is a Town get around car and not a blasting through the hollows in a blizzard snow machine.
And that is my main complaint. This vehicle, for no good reason I can figure other than price, is not 4wd. It should be, gosh-darn-it, and I am told that by the time my lease is up in three years the next one will be 4wd. Fair enough Chevy. Git on it!
The first thing people ask is how much did it cost? I like numbers and ran it as both a purchase and a lease. The lease option won by a mile. I put $395 down and the lease is $395 a month for three years. With a fewer miles per year plan (I took the extended miles flyer) and a trade in or down payment this figure will of course potentially become lower.
My 2012 Tacoma had 64,000 miles when I bought it for an old trade in and three years of $550/month payments. I am now slowly buying it a second time with replacement parts. The Bolt is an attempt to take the pressure off the truck so I can keep it alive for hauling.
In essence and in reality, a brand-new Bolt costs me fewer real dollars to lease than my used Tacoma was to buy. And in less than three years I can trade in the Bolt and use it as a down payment on my future 2023 4wd Bolt.
I use the Bolt primarily as a commuting and errands car and leave the (now paid for) truck for hauling wood and trash and compost. The hope is to greatly extend the life of the truck by no longer using it as the daily commuting vehicle!
When Sandy (my better half) first got into the Bolt she exclaimed, “This is not a car. It’s a smart phone with wheels!”
To which I added, “And with a really big battery”.
Like a smartphone you don’t have to read the manual and learn how to turn off and on the various features and options available to you. But if you do it will greatly enhance your driving experience. Here’s a few insider tricks:
- There is a button marked “Sport” next to another labeled “Trac off” underneath the main screen. Turning of the posi-traction differential and then putting it into Sport mode means that the energy saving programming is canceled, the gloves are off, and you are strapped to an electricity driven rocket. Be prepared and don’t hurt yourself. This thing is like a racecar and there is no delay when you “gas it”. Instant power on demand.
- Be sure to buy two 220V chargers for your car. Install one at work and another at home. Keep the 12amp 110V little charger that comes with the car with you in case of emergency. The Energy>charging options menu has a “button” that makes your little charger work 50% faster assuming your house wiring is modern and up to code. There is another “button” that makes that one stick on, but I haven’t found it yet.
- The new car comes with the ability to access a ton of quick charge sites across the country. I stay close to home and have never used one, but it’s good to have the option.
- This is a real safety car, sometimes annoyingly so. You may choose to turn off some of the warnings, beeps and messages. You don’t have to be a coder to figure it out. Just follow the steps outlined in the manual so you don’t get a safety migraine from all the @$!#7& safety warnings.
And finally, here are the things that I like about the Bolt and electric cars in general because of what they lack:
- No exhaust makes it asthma safe (new car smell aside).
- Almost zero car noise. I chased a turkey down my driveway in the Bolt and it never turned around and saw me. A new Vermont outdoor sport?
- No engine means no radiator, no exhaust system or muffler, no oil changes, no gasoline fumes to breathe while filling up.
- No ebrake to leave on by mistake (the emergency brake is automatic with the Bolt).
- No warming up required other than what is needed to melt the ice off your windshield and for your own comfort. You are driving literally 5 seconds after pushing the Start button.
Driving electric cars may or may not save the planet from its human inhabitants. But it is absolutely a step in the right direction, especially when combined with solar panel systems at your work and home. Factoring in all the advantages of owning (or better yet leasing) a Bolt, why not do yourself and your family a favor and test drive one today. It makes “regular” cars seem like museum pieces.