For many people, the idea of an electric vehicle that is not also a connected vehicle full of information technology is unimaginable. This goes back a decade to the Tesla Model S, a vehicle that pioneered bringing a giant touchscreen into a vehicle with a Linux-powered computer as the background. Some of the touchscreens didn’t fare well in hot car interiors, but the idea stuck. As better automotive-grade touchscreens became available for automotive supply chains, most manufacturers have now adopted them to varying degrees (and varying quality, ease of use).
But the in-vehicle infotainment and car configuration options are only half the story. Most of the action takes place at the other end of the car’s Internet connection. From the car’s point of view, this seems obvious as you connect to resources like map data, music, charge point providers (specifically to see if charge points are working and available) and many other things.
But sometimes it’s like an old Yakov Smirnoff joke. When you’re in your electric vehicle, your car connects to things. If you are not, the car will be connected by YOU. Being able to use your phone or computer to check the car’s charge level, pre-condition the interior and make it comfortable before you get in, and seeing where your car is really makes things enjoyable .
The Bolt EUV I recently bought is not my first connected car, let alone my first connected Chevy. I previously had a 2013 Volt, the plug-in hybrid with around 40 miles of electric range. Like the Bolt, it had connected functions, although the interior was mostly buttons with just a small touchscreen. It was also nice to be able to get notifications for loading events, lock, unlock, precondition and some other basic stuff.
But things have come a long way in the last few years since I got rid of the Volt. Instead of just 40 miles of electric range, I have about 250 city/200 highway. Instead of a small touchscreen and enough buttons for a space shuttle cockpit, there’s a larger touchscreen and a few buttons for essential functions (even an iPhone has a few buttons for volume control, on/off, so the IMNSHO is a healthy balance) .
The app that lets you view and control the Bolt remotely, myChevrolet, has also come a long way. In this article, I’ll cover some of the ways it’s been greatly improved and offer some suggestions for improvement.
What I love about the myChevrolet app
While the app doesn’t give you much control over the car, the windscreen gives you the essentials in one place. The things you do most often with an electric vehicle are fine. The vehicle’s current charge level, estimated range and whether or not it’s charging are prominently displayed in the center of the screen. Underneath, you can remotely start the car (to turn on the heating or air conditioning to pre-condition the cabin), lock and unlock, and set the car’s alarm. Under “Show more” you can also flash the lights to find the car in a crowded parking lot.
The energy screen is pretty cool too. It gives you an estimate of how far you could get with your current charge, shown as lighter parts of the map. There’s also a dotted line that gives you an estimated “point of no return” distance you could reach without charging anywhere. The map also shows charging stations and it appears that at least some of the data comes from Plugshare, a comprehensive source of charging station data.
It also has the ability to create travel plans using this charging station and range data. If you click on the magnifying glass icon you can search for a destination and the app can then schedule a series of charging stops at DC fast charging stations to get there.
Finally, there are a few useful things in the “More” section of the app. You can get roadside assistance, locate your car, access a “Smart Driver” score similar to the Tesla Safety Score, and change some basic settings on the vehicle’s infotainment display. But most people will probably use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so the latter isn’t that useful.
What I think could be better
The biggest problem with the app is what happens when you open it. Every time I open the app it asks for my GM account password. Initially, I had saved the password for this in my browser so that I had a very strong password that no one could really remember. But when I tried to use Android’s password autofill feature, the app screen would reload and go blank again, basically giving me the Dennis Nedry “Ah ah ah! You didn’t use the magic word!” Routine.
So I changed my password to something simpler (and less secure) and now use it to log into the app. But it’s still a nuisance because every time I want to use the app I have to enter a password. I might be in the process of gathering up kids and belongings to head out the door and thinking about it when I turn on the AC is more of a hassle than just walking out and getting in the car so I’m skipping the preconditioning.
This problem could easily be fixed, although GM thinks that automatically saved passwords are not secure enough. Just leaving the app logged in for a few days would be a good option. It might also be good to enable a PIN number and/or fingerprint scanning instead of entering a password. Security is good, but being so secure that the user doesn’t want to bother logging in is not a good approach.
I would also like to see more control over the vehicle in the app. For example, it would be nice to be able to change vehicle settings. Sometimes you think of a setting you want to change when you’re at your house, and going to the car and sifting through the menu to find the setting isn’t as easy as going to an app from your couch to open. An example would be the loading limit setting. It’s usually better for the vehicle to cap it at 80%, but if you’re told you have a longer drive ahead, being able to change it to 100% from the inside while you’re getting ready would be very useful . That way the vehicle could load more while you shower and get ready.
It’s also worth noting that the range map and route planner don’t take into account things like terrain and road conditions (according to the app itself), and both things can make a big difference in the vehicle’s actual range. Also, although it is still the best app, Plugshare data is not always accurate. Both of these issues can easily leave a driver stranded, so GM needs to both integrate better trip planning software (I’d suggest going with ABRP) and better curate its charging station data.
Do we have any other bolt or bolt EUV drivers here? I would like to invite everyone with further suggestions to write them in the comments. If someone from GM is reading this, it can give the company a lot of useful customer input to keep improving their app.
All images are screenshots from the myChevrolet app.
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