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Bolt EV – road test of this brand new electric prototype [First look]

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Life’s a funny old thing. There you are, minding your own business, when all of a sudden fate plays you a hand. A wry hand. A hand that makes you wonder just who is laughing at us minions down on the ground. Take, for instance, our recent short road test run of a shiny new electric car somewhere in the middle of the UK’s lovely countryside. It was fun. It was illuminating. What it definitely wasn’t, was a car I was expecting to see on that day.

The Bolt EV is a very nice electric motor car. It’s a family four seater, with a comfortable interior, nicely appointed interior, space for luggage and all your shopping, even a set of golf clubs. And a peppy little motor that is brisk rather than Tesla scary. It is also not a car made by General Motors. See the video below for a test run first look.

First impressions
The Tata Bolt EV is a cute little runabout which is a prototype electric car made in the UK, and based around the Tata Bolt conventionally powered car which is on sale in India for a price starting at 4.58 lakh (around $6800). The EV, which sports an 80 kW motor, mated to a single speed gearbox, will currently offer a range of some 100 km, a 0 -60 mph in less than 10 secs and a top speed of 135 km/h.

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In use
The total surprise is how nice the car is in just about every department. You can see no change in the layout of the vehicle from the conversion to electric, no nasty boxes hiding in the rear, no strange knobs in the cockpit. It’s all perfectly standard and looks and drives just like a standard compact. Except it’s completely silent.

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The finish inside the car is, quite frankly, impeccable for a car of this type. Tata Motors owns Jaguar Land Rover, and it looks as though the company has learned a few things from the up market stablemate. Where once Tata cars were laughed at due to dull, rattly, insubstantial – ok let’s call it ratty – interiors, now you’ve got snug fitting fitments, a slick LCD centre console and dials that wouldn’t disgrace a Range Rover. Wow, what a difference a few months make.

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OK, so the outside styling is not going to win prizes for best of breed, but it’s definitely not horrible. In fact we can name at least half a dozen mainstream models which look worse at this class and size. There are no nasty edges, no weird light clusters, just a decent looking 4 door with everything neatly in the right place.

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Under the hood lies a discreet little electric motor that looks as though it was born to live in there. Once again, no bits are out of place, and it’s clear from the ride and handling that the company has learned a lot from it’s previous electric car attempts. The car feels solid on the road, no wayward swaying under acceleration or strange behavior under pressure into a bend.

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It has bags of room in the rear seat compartment, and comfortable seats. Can you tell that I’m a little shell-shocked? All in all, it’s the kind of vehicle which, with a bit better range and a good price, could really do well in the EV market in Europe. However the sadness is that this prototype will probably never see the light of day in a European showroom. For one thing Tata don’t sell any cars in Europe yet, and for another, we were reliably informed that there’s another electric car prototype waiting in the wings which is ‘even better’ in every way.

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[the above is not the Bolt EV we drove]

Conclusion
For now the question remains, how will the mighty GM and the mighty Tata reconcile their model name differences. Tata personnel we talked to seemed very sanguine about the whole affair. The Bolt name most definitely belongs to Tata in India, and unless and until GM decide to sell their upcoming EV in that country, we’re guessing the lawyers will be focusing on other more important stuff.

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We don’t really care about the name, we’re just happy to see the electric car market attract such impressive prototype engineering from a surprise contender with deep pockets. The more EVs we see being tested, the better the chance that the future will see low cost, comfortable transportation for all. Silently.

Price: Not known (actually not relevant either)

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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