It’s going to be an uphill climb for Bolt electric car sales. Here’s why – The San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2017

Let’s talk inventions, early adopters, stonewalling and the old phrase that drives creative gurus like your Steve Jobs or Elon Musk types crazy: “But we never did it that way before.”

In homage to Don Rickles: “Hey dummy! This is progress, you hockey puck.”

Or we can rely on a more subtle comedian to make the same point:

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza,” said humor columnist Dave Barry.

Lots of people are trying to improve on the wheel. However, better wheels don’t taste as good or are as easily consumed as beer or pizza.

Therefore, buying an electric car, or moving from your comfy, heated automobile seat to a train or bus bench seat is much less attractive to the average person. Going to the gas station is not fun but it has this going for it: It’s familiar.

So, it follows that using these kinds of inventions — plugging in your car for power or taking electric mass transit — is more about behavioral changes than new technology.

They will take longer to be adopted by the general population than say, a cell phone.

I’m looking at the new data released Tuesday on the number of battery electric (EVs) and plug-in electric hybrid cars sold in the United States in March. They are a blip on the landscape of gas-guzzling sports cars and gigantic pickup trucks that ride the rugged terrain … of the 210 Freeway or Huntington Drive.

Specifically, I want to talk about the Chevy Bolt EV 2017, touted as a game-changer. The car received a boatload of awards, including being named 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year. The Bolt is the first affordable, battery-electric five-passenger car to travel 238 miles on a single charge — three times the distance of most EVs in its class and at a sticker price of about $37,000, one third the price of a Tesla.

But before I roll out these numbers, remember that EV and plug-in electric hybrid cars in 2016 were less than 1 percent (0.90 percent) of all cars on the road in the United States. And that is a high.

If you like electric cars (I own a Chevy Volt and a Kia Soul EV) you know they outperform most gas-powered cars. They are better made. They have the most advanced technology. They’re way easier to maintain and fuel costs alone are 25 percent to 50 percent lower than gasoline cars, according to the engineers at the Pasadena Water and Power, which offers $600 off a home electric charging station.

That’s free fuel for a year.

I’ve been driving a C-Class Mercedes-Benz as a loaner while my Volt is in the body shop (I was rear-ended) and the car is awful. Hesitation. No real power. And I miss my Apple Play music system (all standard in the Volt). You should’ve seen me at the gas station: I forgot how cumbersome that whole process can be!

Oh, the numbers. Here ya go:

In March, the Chevy Bolt placed seventh in EV and plug-in hybrid sales in the United States, behind (with sales in parenthesis): Tesla Model S (3,450), Tesla Model X (2,750), Chevy Volt (2,132), Toyota Prius Prime (1,618), Nissan Leaf (1,478) and Ford Fusion Energi (1,002).

The best car in its class, with the most mileage per charge took seventh, selling 978 cars. In February, Chevy sold 952 Bolt EVs.

The take-aways from all this? Driving an electric car — even as much as 238 miles without stopping — may not satisfy most car buyers. You have to stop for charging on a long trip. And those charging stations are still hard to find.

It’s why I’m driving my wife’s Kia Soul EV (96 miles per charge) while she drove my Volt to Palm Springs. She agrees the Volt, which gets 53 miles per charge, can go almost 400 miles when you figure in the gasoline-powered generator that charges up the electric drive train when battery power runs out.

No matter how good a car is, getting people to change to electric cars still has a long way to go.

Steve Scauzillo covers transportation and the environment for the Southern California News Group. He’s the recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz or email him at


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