For many people, the idea of an EV that’s 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 putting a huge touchscreen, with a Linux-powered computer to back it, in a vehicle. 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 this to varying degrees (and varying quality, usability).
But, the car’s in-vehicle infotainment and configuration options is only half of the story. What’s on the other end of the car’s internet connection is where most of the action is. From an in-car perspective, this seems obvious, as you connect to resources like mapping data, music, charging station providers (especially to see if stalls are working and available), and many other things.
But, sometimes it’s like an old Yakov Smirnoff joke. When you’re in your EV, your car connects to things. When you’re not, car gets connected from YOU. Being able to use your phone or computer to check the car’s charge status, precondition the interior and make it comfortable before getting in, and see where your car is makes things really nice.
The Bolt EUV I bought recently isn’t my first connected car, or even my first connected Chevy. I previously owned a 2013 Volt, the plug-in hybrid with around 40 miles of electric range. Like the Bolt, it had connected features, even if the interior was mostly buttons with only a small touch screen. Getting notifications for charging events, being able to lock, unlock, precondition, and do some other basic things was also nice.
But, things have come a long way in the last few years since I got rid of the Volt. Instead of only 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 bigger touchscreen and a few buttons for critical functions (even an iPhone has a few buttons for volume control, on/off, so this is a healthy balance IMNSHO).
The app you use to remotely check on and control the Bolt, myChevrolet, has also come a long way. In this article, I’m going to cover some of the ways that it’s greatly improved and offer some suggestions for improvement.
What I Love About The myChevrolet App
While the app doesn’t give you a ton of control over the car, the front screen gives you the essentials all in once place. The things you do most often with an EV are all right there. The vehicle’s current state of charge, estimated range, and whether it’s charging or not is prominently displayed in the middle of the screen. Underneath that, you can remote start the car (to turn on the heater or AC to precondition the cabin), lock and unlock, and set off the car’s alarm. Under “View More,” you can also flash the lights to help you find the car in a crowded parking lot.
The energy screen is also pretty cool. It gives you an estimate of how far you could go on your current charge, displayed as lighter parts of the map. There’s also a dotted line that gives you an estimated “point of no return” distance that you could reach without charging somewhere. The map also displays 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 some ability to make trip plans using this charging station and range data. If you hit the magnifying glass icon, you can search for a destination and the app can then plot a series of charging stops at DC fast charging stations to get there.
Finally, there are a few useful things under the “More” section of the app. You can get roadside assistance, locate your car, access a “Smart Driver” score that’s similar to the Tesla Safety Score, and change a few basic settings on the vehicle’s infotainment display. But, most people are probably going to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so that last one isn’t that useful.
What I Think Could Be Better
The biggest problem with the app is what happens when you open it. Any time I open the app, it asks for my GM account password. Initially, I had the password for that saved in my browser so I could have a very secure password that no human could really remember. But, when I tried to use the Android password autofill feature, the app screen reloaded and went 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 I log into the app with that. But, it’s still a pain in the butt because any time I want to use the app, I have to type a password in. I could be in the middle of collecting up kids and belongings to head out the door, and when I think of turning the AC on, it’s more of a hassle than it is to just walk out and get into the car, so I find myself skipping the preconditioning.
This issue could be fixed easily, even if GM thinks auto-saved passwords aren’t secure enough. Simply letting the app remain logged in for a number of days would be one good option. It could 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 with logging in isn’t a good approach.
I’d also like to see more control over the vehicle in the app. Being able to change vehicle settings would be nice, for example. Sometimes, you think of some setting you’d like to change when you’re in your house, and having to go out to the car and menu dive to find the setting isn’t as easy as opening an app from your couch. One example would be the charge limit setting. Normally, it’s better for the vehicle to limit it to 80%, but when you learn that you’ve got a longer trip coming up, being able to change it to 100% from inside while you’re getting ready to go would be highly useful. That way, the vehicle could start charging more while you shower and get ready.
It’s also worth noting that the range map and trip planner don’t factor in things like terrain and road conditions (per the app itself), and both of those things can make a huge difference in the vehicle’s actual range. Also, Plugshare data isn’t always accurate, even if it’s still the best app around. These two problems can easily strand a driver, so GM needs to both incorporate better trip planning software (I’d suggest working with ABRP) and better curate their charging station data.
Do we have any other Bolt or Bolt EUV drivers on here? I’d like to invite everyone with more suggestions to put them in the comments. That way, if anyone from GM reads this, the company can get a lot of useful customer input to further improve its app.
All images are screenshots from the myChevrolet app.
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