2019-2-25 | Chevy New Roads Magazine
Electrics Mean Business
The Bolt EV has an appeal that goes beyond personal use, with small businesses of many types realizing its versatility.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV remains an exciting option for individual owners, but it can also be used across many different lines of work—from taxicabs to beverage delivery.
Not that long ago, the appeal of electric vehicles was limited to tech true believers and novelty seekers. That’s all changing, in part because of forward-thinking folks at Chevrolet who recognize just how impressive, robust, and adaptable the electric drivetrain of the Bolt EV can be. In the first half of 2018, more than 600 Bolt EVs were sold to small businesses and local governments across the United States.
Chevrolet’s Mike Batchik, the commercial product manager for cars, recognized the expanded potential of the all-electric Bolt EV when it launched in 2016. At that point, the company didn’t have an offering in the compact commercial vehicle segment. Batchik suspected that the Bolt EV could provide an opportunity in the work vehicle lineup. What’s more, a commercial vehicle with a small footprint and an all-electric powertrain would be unique in the segment.
“Our former compact commercial vehicle was very successful,” Batchik says. “It was popular as a delivery car because it was the right size.”
In the first half of 2018, more than 600
Bolt EVs were sold to small businesses and local
governments across the United States.
Convinced that the Bolt EV could be a success for small business customers, Batchik worked on a concept car closely based on the production vehicle. The result was the first Bolt EV Cargo Concept, shown at the General Motors Fleet Solutions Summit in Las Vegas in May 2017.
“We took a regular Bolt EV, took out the rear seat and the seatbelts, and had a floor put in it,” Batchik says. “We did it as a ‘what if?’ We drew quite a bit of interest, and that’s where this started.” In fact, it was the enthusiastic response to the concept that convinced the company to offer a production version.
Once Batchik received feedback from some of the key fleet customers, he was able to get the program in motion quickly. The decision to build the car was made in August 2017, the first production trial was in April 2018, and the first units were delivered in September 2018.
A success with drivers, and with a new variant like the Cargo, the Bolt EV is quickly finding use in commercial, marketing, and civic applications around the country.
The Bolt EV makes for an ideal hired car for a number of reasons. The placement of the battery allows for increased spaciousness and easy entrance and exit for passengers, and the quiet operation makes those long cab rides pleasant.
Yellow Cab of Columbus
In Ohio, Yellow Cab of Columbus has been around for a long time. Frank Kauffman started the company with a relative back in 1928, with startup money raised by selling produce at a local public market that’s also still in business today. Morgan Kauffman, the current CEO of Yellow Cab, is Frank’s grandson and the third generation of the Kauffman family to run Yellow Cab of Columbus.
Although the company is nearly 100 years old, Kauffman has a keen eye toward the future, and recently added 10 Bolt EVs to their fleet. The vehicles are robust enough to serve in the rough-and-tumble taxicab world, and with a range of up to 238 miles† on a full charge, the drivers can feel confident about the battery charge as they transport customers around the city.
“We really needed around 200 miles [in range], but the 238-mile range was our sweet spot,” says Kauffman. “The interior also works perfectly in a vehicle-for-hire scenario. It’s extremely comfortable for our drivers, and it’s versatile with the rear seats that go down and being able to have more storage space in the back versus having a normal trunk.”
The company isn’t shy about promoting the Bolt EV taxis ferrying passengers around Columbus—they applied yellow heart icons to the exterior to let riders know that they’re about to be transported in an electric vehicle. And they even posted a message on social media to extol the benefits of using fuel-efficient vehicles and announce that they had added the Chevy Bolt EV to their fleet.
The electricity used to charge the Bolt EVs comes from eight chargers, which in turn receive their power from solar energy. The whole package has the 91-year-old company showing the way forward in terms of sustainability.
Yellow Cab isn’t stopping with just 10 electric vehicles. “We are definitely going to be converting our entire fleet of about 170 vehicles over to electric,” Kauffman says. “Next year, we are going to make that happen.”
Capable Drink Hauler
The Cargo version of the Bolt EV was built with hauling things like cases of beverages in mind. The Yerba Mate Co. is able to stow a remarkable number of 12-can cases of its beverages in the cargo area of the vehicle.
REFRESHING THE MESSAGE
There are Bolt EVs being used commercially all over the streets of America, too. The Yerba Mate Co., for instance, has a fleet of Bolt EVs used as delivery vehicles. The beverage company uses the cars in several metropolitan areas around the country, including near its headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.
Originally purchased to bolster The Yerba Mate Co.’s commitment to environmental sustainability while also eliminating the gasoline fuel cost and reducing the maintenance items, the Bolt EVs have turned into mechanical celebrities. The newly developed utility version of the vehicle—the Bolt EV Cargo—has joined the fleet as well, and seems like a perfect fit.
The vehicle is built to order by way of an upfitting process. Based on the LT trim, the Bolt EV Cargo has the rear seats and some of the rear carpet and trim removed, and a flat, secure load floor installed in their place. The Yerba Mate Co.’s John Wilds says these Bolt EVs are better for how the company uses them: to move lots and lots of drinks.
“We were really pushing the limits of our previous Bolt EV,” Wilds says about the available cargo space. “We know the Bolt EV Cargo is going to allow us to continue to work.”
The Yerba Mate Co. bought the first Bolt EV Cargo models that Chevrolet sold throughout the country. In fact, after the small initial order, the company has followed up with an order for 35 more. Together with their standard Bolt EVs, that will push their total North American all-electric fleet to more than 100 Chevrolet vehicles.
Wilds says his company is committed to electrifying its entire distribution fleet, but it’s clear their first examples are making a splash as they travel their delivery routes.
“When you have young people driving these vehicles in the communities, they’re extremely excited about the product they’re delivering, and that they get to drive an electric car for their job,” Wilds says. “They’re sharing these stories throughout the demographic that’s really interested in these. When they park them near universities or in urban areas, it is amazing how many random people will come up next to the car and take selfies.”
When you have young people driving these
vehicles in the communities, they’re extremely excited
about the product they’re delivering, and that they
get to drive an electric car for their job.
The Yerba Mate Co. is using the Bolt EV Cargo across the country, but in big cities there is yet another intrinsic benefit: parking. As delivery vehicles, the Bolt EV Cargos can park in the commercial parking zones, Wilds says, which will get their products into stores even quicker. With the Bolt EV already being used in major metro areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver as delivery vehicles, the benefit isn’t trivial.
The company believes its embrace of electric driving could have a material effect on sales, too. “We actually think that when people see that their products are being delivered by an electric fleet, they’re going to say, ‘That company is doing it the right way,’” Wilds says.
For all those reasons, Wilds says the company is eager to add more Bolt EV Cargos to their fleet. “We’re just getting started,” he says.
STORY: SEBASTIAN BLANCO / PHOTOGRAPHY: CRAIG CAMERON OLSON