Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are two of the most popular all-electric vehicles on the road today. We compared battery performance, market stats and driver feedback to help people chose between them. While some qualities are similar, like vehicle range, these two electric cars are quite different.
We’re basing our analysis on daily data from thousands of real-world EV drivers across models, years and climates. This unique cross-manufacturer data set feeds into machine learning models that power monthly reports for owners, our used EV shopping reports, and now these public resources. Our goal with this information is to give consumers the confidence to purchase a pre-owned electric vehicle by understanding battery degradation and range implications.
For instance, the plots below show rated range vs. odometer for the Tesla Model 3 (left) and Chevy Bolt (right). The initial drop-off in range is typical for all electric vehicles and indicates that the battery is settling into its steady state. This is one of the first public, data-driven resources to illustrate this known battery phenomenon. Over time, these plots will show a more robust picture of long-term battery trends.
Max EV Range Estimate Over Time
The plot above seems simple because it’s a statistically smoothed picture that averages the range predictions over 1000 miles. To see the full variability and complexity, the images below show all data points for our community of drivers. In the Bolt, you can see there is a lot of variability in terms of on-board range predictions between cars of similar age. Meanwhile, the Model 3 has less spread across range predictions for cars with similar odometers. This leads us to an important point for shoppers and potential owners of these models to understand: the way range is calculated and displayed on board your EV can vary a lot by car make, even if the same factors affect all lithium ion batteries.
Short Term Range Variance
One of the big things we’d like to point out, especially to potential shoppers, is that the way that Bolts and Model 3s calculate on-board range estimates is very different. While many EV owners notice that their day-to-day range will vary based on seasonal changes and driving behavior, the range estimate that you see on-board will depend on which car you’re driving. Although the underlying battery chemistry is similar - they are both lithium ion batteries - the way the cars report range can give a very different picture.
All electric vehicles have something called a battery management system, or BMS. This is a computer that monitors the battery’s charge, temperature, and calculates how much farther you can drive before recharging. Most battery management systems do on-the-fly calculations to get efficiency and range estimates. For example, they may use the last hour of driving or the last trip since charge to estimate metrics for future trips. However, the data that you see on board varies make by make.
Tesla uses its software and battery management system to achieve a near constant range estimate on the dashboard. The range that drivers see by default is a “rated range,” calculated from the energy currently stored in the battery and a fixed efficiency value. This means that the onboard estimates for Teslas vary little with external temperatures, driving style, or terrain. Most Model 3 drivers won’t know how much real-world battery is available at any given time, and Tesla suggests using the onboard energy app to get a more personalized view of your actual energy use and range.
In comparison, the range estimates in the Chevy Bolt vary a lot trip by trip or by hour. The on-board range estimates are updated as you drive and reflect recent efficiency based on driving style, terrain, and temperature. Since the Bolt’s battery management system is using recent driving to predict future range, things like driving up or down hill, rapid acceleration, or frequent stops will have a big impact on the prediction.
Range vs Temperature
This chart shows the reported range at full charge (y axis) by daytime temperature (x axis) in degrees Fahrenheit. This is data that Recurrent has collected from its community and it demonstrates how these vehicle’s range estimates change with outside temperature.
The range estimates displayed on the dashboard of a Tesla Model 3 are very consistent regardless of temperatures, whereas the onboard range estimates in the Chevrolet Bolt are very sensitive to outside conditions.
These plots illustrate the key difference between the on-board range reporting of Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. While the Tesla battery is actually sensitive to outside temperature -- all lithium ion batteries are -- the car uses a combination of calculations and hidden battery capacity to provide a consistent estimate. The on-board range estimate from Chevy does not jump through as many hoops: it shows the estimated range based on the full amount of accessible battery capacity and nicely tracks the sensitivity to temperature. You’ll notice that on the hot end of the spectrum, the range estimates trend downwards quickly, but stop at just above 100 degrees. This is because we do not have robust data for vehicle performance in temperatures above this.
Both Bolt and Model 3 drivers report very high satisfaction with their vehicles. There may be less chatter about the Bolt on social media, but it ranks almost as high as the Model 3 in terms of owner satisfaction and planned repeat purchases.
Despite the on-board range estimate differences discussed above, Bolt drivers are more satisfied with vehicle range and range estimates than Model 3 drivers. Since Bolt range estimates are more sensitive to external conditions and drive style, Bolt owners may feel that the on-board estimate is more representative of the range they can actually achieve.
The Model 3 is a clear winner in terms of charging infrastructure and time to charge. This is largely due to the accessibility of Tesla superchargers, which provide faster charging. The Bolt comes with an add-on for DC fast charging, but it is not standard and reportedly tops out at around 55 kW, as opposed to the 72 kW that Tesla superchargers promise. Both models have very high satisfaction in the cost to charge and maintain, but the Model 3 is the clear winner on driver comfort. However, Chevrolet did upgrade its cabin for the 2021 year.
Tesla drivers have a few more options when it comes to software bells and whistles. Drivers with premium connectivity, which is Tesla’s full infotainment package, rate the monthly subscription at 4.91. Of the drivers we polled, 49% of them have full self driving packages, which allow for advanced safety and driver assistance. This feature is rated at 4.94 out of 5, while the standard autopilot software is rated at 4.51.
About our data
For more details about our research on these two cars, click through to our Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 pages.
Recurrent’s research fleet is found across the country. The map below shows the locations of vehicles, highlighting their prevalence on the coasts, in Florida, and Texas.
While warm and temperate climates are disproportionately represented in our raw data, we use data sampling techniques that ensure an accurate representation of local temperatures and conditions for all drivers. That being said, we would love to sign up more cold-weather drivers or hear how your range is affected by cold weather.