Blazing a New Trail in the EV Segment
AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – A symphonic and somewhat ethereal sound emerges from a new Chevrolet Blazer EV RS as Kevin Lawson slowly pulls the vehicle out of a parking space at the Greenwood Chevrolet dealership in Austintown.
Bystanders and pedestrians often know when a vehicle is within earshot – alerted by the sound of an exhaust pipe or a combustion engine chugging along. It’s a noise that’s baked into the rhythm of daily life.
In the era of electric vehicles, engine noise is a thing of the past, particularly for this Blazer. These space-age sounds serve as a modern alert system to those nearby that the vehicle is on the move.
“There’s no engine noise. There’s no exhaust noise,” says Lawson, Greenwood sales and leasing consultant and EV specialist. “It’s a safety feature that’s broadcast between 0 and 20 miles per hour. It let’s people know there’s a car coming.”
It’s among the many features of the electric-vehicle age as dealerships in the region begin to receive some of their long-awaited EV models.
“We love this Blazer EV,” Lawson says. “Before, the previous models of those electric vehicles were concept-looking, not as sharp and sporty. Now, we’ve achieved that at Chevrolet with this EV Blazer.”
The Greenwood dealership has one of the first EV Blazers for sale in the Mahoning Valley, Lawson says. The black RS model arrived in mid-October. A second Blazer EV RS, this one white, arrived at the dealership more recently and both are for sale. Another customer is scheduled to preorder a Blazer EV SS, which is one trim higher than the RS, Lawson says.
General Motors began rolling out its 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EVs in mid-2023 to high acclaim. In late October, the vehicle was named the 2024 MotorTrend SUV of the Year.
Among the big changes with the Blazer EV is that it’s the first the Greenwood dealership has that’s based on the Ultium battery platform. “That means you can charge quicker and you have more range,” Lawson says. “It eases some of that range anxiety for some of our first-time EV buyers.” This particular model is an electric all-wheel drive, or eAWD, version and has a battery range of approximately 279 miles.
“One of my favorite features is the light show that it gives you,” Lawson says. “At night, it’s something to see. The whole front will be illuminated.”
An owner can gauge battery power just by looking at the vehicle, Lawson says, since exterior front and rear lighting on the Blazer also act as a visual barometer for charging levels. “The lights will indicate how much charge you have,” he says.
The new Blazer EV comes equipped with an option for one-pedal driving and regenerative braking. Once this feature is engaged, the motorist simply eases off the accelerator to activate the braking system.
“It helps you drive more efficiently,” Lawson says. “If you use these features, you can get more range than you would otherwise.”
The Blazer EV also introduces safety features that are new to Chevrolet. “One of them is reverse automatic braking,” he says. “If the vehicle senses an object and you’re going in reverse but not hitting the brake, it will stop for you.” Another new feature is intersection emergency braking, which would automatically apply the brakes at an intersection should another vehicle run a red light.
Lawson says interest in the vehicle is strong and the staff at Greenwood has undergone additional training so they understand the details of the new Blazer and the EV market.
“Folks are seeing, driving, touching this one,” Lawson says, noting this version starts at about $60,000. Another version – the LT – starts at $56,000.
Much of the interest, however, is gravitating to the Blazer SS model, which debuts next spring. Still, the introduction of the EV Blazer takes adoption to the next level.
“This is the first Chevrolet EV that we’ve had since the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV,” Lawson says. “It’s exciting because it’s an electric sport SUV.”
Lawson owns a gas-powered Blazer. So he was eager to test-drive the new EV model. “I love the instant torque,” he says.
According to specs provided by GM, the vehicle packs a powerful punch, able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The SS model is able to achieve that mark in four seconds.
The interior of the vehicle comes with seats that mirror those of a Corvette, providing a sense of comfort that hugs the driver, Lawson notes. Plus, there are additional technical innovations throughout the Blazer EV.
“The first thing that’s unique about this vehicle is that there’s no ignition,” Lawson says. “There’s no on/off button.”
Instead, the vehicle can read the electronic key fob and the driver activates the motor by pressing the brake.
“When you exit the vehicle, you take your key fob, you open the door and the vehicle knows you’re leaving,” he says, triggering the motor, lights and all other functions to shut down.
The vehicle does come with an extend mode option, which allows the Blazer to run after the driver has left with the key fob in case another party remains inside the vehicle.
While some dashboard controls still have knobs to manually turn – volume for the sound system, for example – other functions are integrated directly into the screen.
“Things such as heated seats, ventilated seats as well. Through the screen, we can select what vents we want,“ Lawson says.
Readouts such as tire pressure, battery range, trip mileage, as well as a digital image of the vehicle can be easily called up through the Blazer’s screen.
The Blazer EV is equipped with a “heads up” display, in which the vehicular speed as well as the speed limit of the road driven on is projected onto the lower end of the front windscreen. This way, the driver can see the data without glancing down to a dashboard speedometer.
“The vehicle also has different drive modes,” Lawson says.
The sport mode is used for more aggressive driving, while a snow and ice mode is engaged to provide advanced traction, he says.
A third option is “my mode.” It customizes the functions such as steering, braking and the driver’s choice of an electronic motor sound as the vehicle accelerates.
For those looking to plan a longer trip, the owner can log on to Google Maps or the My Chevrolet app inside the vehicle, type in a destination, and the route will appear on the screen that displays critical locations of charging stations.
“It will tell us how long we’ll need to charge and when we get there, it tells us how much charge we’ll have left,” he says. “It’s impressive and it takes away some of that range anxiety that a new electric-vehicle customer will have.”
Should you leave the fob in the Blazer, it will not lock the driver out, Lawson says.
Roger Thurman, sales associate at Greenwood, says customers who have inspected the new Blazer are impressed.
“Those that have seen it are excited,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for about 32 years – and that vehicle is one of the most beautiful vehicles I’ve ever seen.”
Thurman says that the entire industry has embarked on an “evolution,” toward a clean, carbon-neutral future.
“I think it’s going to take some time,” he says, citing challenges such as infrastructure and the demand for EV adoption, especially in the Mahoning Valley.
Thurman says he’s dealt with customers interested in EVs but unsure whether it’s the appropriate vehicle for them.
Some people are skeptical because they’re unprepared for change across the industry, which he understands.
“We just try to bring them in very slowly and methodically,” Thurman says. “Because it is an evolution and it’s going to be the future.”
He’s also witnessed an increase among potential customers in the EV market this year. As more manufacturers introduce new EV models, the public is bound to take notice.
“We have four or five models coming out within the next year,” Thurman says. “There’s more and more interest.”
Lawson says next on deck for Chevrolet is the new Equinox EV, expected to go on sale sometime next year, and the Silverado EV pickup.
The Silverado EV work truck version should be open to fleet customers this year but versions for the consumer market won’t be available until late next year.
“We did get to drive one of those,” Lawson says of the Silverado. “We were so impressed with the standard features in the work truck, the base model. But it was decked out with several safety features that we loved.”
Pictured at top: Kevin Lawson, sales and leasing consultant and EV specialist at Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown.
Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.