That’s me on January 16, 2017, with my brand new Chevy Bolt EV Premier edition in my garage at home. I paid $47,000 in cash for that car as a #YearOfJoe gift to myself after a decade of environmental work and achievement.
Last week, as part of the little known and unadvertised “Bolt Buyback” program GM quietly created in response to the recall of all their 2017- 2019 Bolts, Chevy paid $37,900 to buy this car back from us. They then sold us a brand new 2021 Bolt EV Premier for $28,500.
Yeah. They did. Let me tell you about it.
It’s rare when consumer karma actually works out for any buyer of any product made today, but then again, your friendly neighborhood Greenius is not your usual consumer.
I started learning about, writing about, and promoting electric cars in 2007. As a former top corporate subject matter expert, I took a very deep dive and made myself a environmental resource for others in my reincarnation as The Creative Greenius and author of this blog.
In my role as founding organizer of climate action group, 350 South Bay Los Angeles, starting in 2009, I was able to bring my skills and experience to a wider community and make the case for our need to switch to 100% fossil free transportation to stave off the impending climate crisis.
For a few years I was also writing the environmental column for the Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach editions of Patch, and getting paid as a journalist. I covered the local thriving EV scene here in the South Bay of Los Angeles connecting with the superstar pioneers like Kitty Adams, Dency Nelson, Jim Montgomery, Paul Scott, Linda Nichols, Zan Dubin Scott and so many others.
When I joined the CBS EcoMedia team in 2010 and later became their Director of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, I was able to help fund and promote renewable energy environmental projects around the country…
One of my favorites was with General Motors and our nonprofit partner, Adopt-A-Charger when I got to host GM’s celebration of its new EV, the Chevy Spark, back in 2013 at Malibu Creek State Park where they sponsored the free EV chargers installed by Adopt A Charger.
Debra and I finally got our first electric car, A 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, a joint production with Tesla, in January of 2013. It was a great machine, and we loved it, but it was quickly an orphan as Toyota took no responsibility for knowing the car and Tesla ignored it.
Toyota clearly had no love or expertise for pure Battery Electric Vehicles and was only interested in getting credit for a compliance car. But I was still stoked to exhibit the car at every LA area EV Expo, Earth Day Event and Plug-In spectacular.
After taking solar installation classes and volunteering with GRID Alternatives for several years and learning to install racking systems, PV modules and inverters, and how to wire them up – including bending conduit – in 2015 I installed a solar PV system on my own roof with a crew of GRID experts.
We’ve been driving our electric cars on sunshine ever since.
Our RAV4 EV had a range of only 103 miles per charge and had no fast charging mode, so when Tesla announced their 310 mile range Model 3 in 2016 and its $35,000 price. I signed up to reserve one. But then it quickly became evident that the price would be much higher and the car wasn’t going to be available on time. The standard version with only 220 miles of range was a long way off for someone who wanted his own electric car to start 2017.
At the same time Chevrolet announced their new Bolt EV with a 238 mile range and even though GM was the one who killed the EV1 electric car and General Motors was one of the worst run corporations on the planet, I decided to give the new government-rescued GM a chance. But I needed to see and feel the car for myself.
So I sought the Bolt out at the EV events I attended and saw it for the first time in person at Exposition Park, but the car was locked and there were no Chevy people around to present the car.
For the first time in my life I went to the Auto Show at the LA Convention Center so I could actually sit in the car and check out the inside. The word on the street was the driver’s seat was a nonstarter. But it was good enough for me and I loved everything else about the car. It was the utilitarian hatchback my wife and I could really use.
Before the car was even available at dealerships I joined the Bolt EV users groups on-line and became a subject matter expert on the vehicle. So much so that when I went to test drive and buy our car in January 2017, I taught the salesperson about several of the key features, including the one pedal driving mode.
Now we were an all EV family charging our cars on the free solar energy falling like money from the sky.
The new Bolt acceded all our expectations, including range as our expert one-pedal driving and Southern California beach weather got us 270-300 miles of range with each full charge. Fueling the car with the Level 2 charger in our garage happened while we slept.
By July, we were ready for a second Bolt to replace the Rav4 EV and we went back to Martin Chevrolet to lease one. We liked the Burnt Metallic Orange color so much we got another one. Silly people asked us how we kept from getting confused.
Thanks to other Bolt users sharing info, I learned that the “tap-tap-tap-tap-tap” sound we heard as soon as we opened the drivers door was the failed Bosch iBooster which Chevy replaced under warranty in our leased Bolt.
And in May of 2020 when the propulsion battery in the Bolt we purchased would only charge to 50%, we knew that section 3 had probably failed – as it had with several other 2017 Bolts. The service guys at Martin Chevy confirmed it, and because section 3 replacements were on backorder they replaced the entire propulsion battery with a brand new one, again under warranty.
I sang the praises of the car and how GM stood behind it. I pushed my friends to get one.
Little did I know when I got my car back that I’d hardly be using it at all due to the Covid pandemic and our lockdowns. Working exclusively from home with only one of us going out to do shopping and errands it quickly became apparent we only needed one car and we returned our 2017 leased Bolt after 36 months in July 2020.
Just a few months later GM announced the recall on the 2017-2019 Bolt propulsion batteries due to a handful of vehicles spontaneously combusting. My brand new battery, made by LG in South Korea, was included in the recall.
But I did not like the proposed fix – a software update to restrict my battery to charge to only 90% – since I could easily restrict charging to 90% with the settings on the car. I wasn’t happy about how the recall tanked the value of my 2017 either, especially since it was making the iBooster noise, and an alarming noise from the rear axle, that had caused other owners to have the axle replaced.
By comparison, Hyundai/Kia electric cars, powered by the same kind of LG lithium ion batteries made in South Korea, and suffering from the same spontaneous combustion issue, were found to have a defect and all of them were replaced with new batteries for all owners.
GM said their batteries did not have the same problem, but after three months went by and GM still had no fix, I began reading posts in the Bolt Reddit group, the Facebook group and the other Bolt user forums about a Secret Chevy Miracle.
GM had set up a special Bolt hotline for unhappy Bolt owners where you could request a replacement or a repurchase of your Bolt. Your results would be completely dependent on your state’s lemon laws, what you paid for the car, how many miles you had put on your Bolt, and how well informed you were. But some owners were detailing their successful exchanges for new 2021s and the amounts they were being offered and paid to sell their Bolts back.
Your results would also be completely dependent on if you were a self-informed consumer, who did their due diligence daily, reading through threads of posts. GM did not reach out to owners to make them any offers, and your first inquiry always resulted in GM offering to give you a gas-powered loaner until their just-around-the-corner battery fix was ready. (As of the date of publishing this piece no fix has yet been announced.)
But if you knew better, you rejected that offer and explained why you were so unsatisfied and directly asked to be part of the Bolt Buyback program and get yourself assigned a case number and agent.
And that’s exactly what I did on February 15 and three days later my case worker, Faris, called and I headed down the track to swap our 2017 equivalent model. I even went down to the dealership and picked one out.
But the swap would have cost us $9,800 and I knew from doing the math a repurchase would bring us close to $38,000 from GM for the car and that’s exactly what happened last week.
The team at Martin Chevrolet, led by General Manager Lewis Cook, gave us the VIP treatment as they handled both the buy back transaction and the purchase of our new 2021 improved Bolt with $20,200 discounted off the sticker price
We could have taken the money and bought a Tesla or VW’s new ID4, but we love the Bolt, and we love the way GM rewarded our early adoption of the first year model, and our patience as issues arose by basically giving us a free new and improved replacement electric car and about $10,000 in cash.
So thanks Mary, Faris, Cynthia, Lewis, Aldo, and Chris! We’re looking forward to buying our next Chevy when your 400 miles per charge Ultium battery platform is ready.
We named our new Bolt, “FreeBo” cause we’re big Bonnie Raitt fans and because well, you know…