Chevrolet Bolt Starts the Clock on Mainstream Electric Vehicles in U.S.

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Source: General Motors

General Motors made a huge statement when it introduced the Chevy Bolt EV concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. With a projected range of 200 miles, a post-rebate price of $30,000, and the looks of a BMW i3, Chevrolet has done some great work in the lab. If it indeed arrives (as rumored) in 2017, GM may be the first automaker with a long-range, affordable solution on the market. However, other automakers are preparing their own answers. Let the clock start ticking on mainstream electric vehicle adoption in the U.S.

Chevrolet Bolt EV concept

To get started with the Bolt, we’ll just list the specs as GM explained them and what we see in the prototype itself. Chevy’s Bolt EV will have:

  • 200 miles of electric range, with no gas engine backup
  • A sticker price near $37,500, which post-rebate would cost consumers near $30,000 (provided the credits are available in 2017)
  • 4 seats
  • A mystery powertrain that will be based on the mini Chevy Spark EV (140 horsepower, 327 pound-feet of torque)
  • Tech-heavy interior features like a 10-inch touchscreen

Since GM is still a ways from delivering a production version of this mass-market electric vehicle, everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. In its press release, Chevy said the Bolt is “designed to offer more than 200 miles of range starting around $30,000″ with a target of reaching “all 50 states and many global markets.” Dates and timelines are conspicuously absent. Nonetheless, one could say GM has fired the first shot in the battle for the mainstream EV market.

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – glass roof
Source: General Motors

…And electric vehicles for all

To look at the Bolt EV concept in profile, you might mistake it for the BMW i3. Chevy’s concept shares the same snub-nosed design as the i3 and not so subtly borrows similar wheels and color that BMW trotted out with its first electric car. To hear about the Bolt’s range and price point, you might mistake it for the Model 3 Tesla has been developing.

Source: General Motors

You would be right on both counts, and we give credit to GM for its approach. The BMW i3 is selling well and there has been incredible enthusiasm for the Tesla Model 3 (shooting for around $35,000 pre-incentives), so why not show the world the General is in the game? Autoblog quotes one GM executive saying that very thing at the Bolt reveal in Detroit.

“This is us [GM] bragging that we can do this kind of car.”

Of course, the Bolt will have to hit these markers and provide competition on the performance front to win the day. As everyone has seen, wimpy EVs do not sell, and people will gladly invest more in a BMW or Tesla to get a more captivating car. The other big question is whether this holy grail of an EV will make it to market by 2017, and how the playing field will look by that date.

Bolt, Model 3, and other future EVs

So it’s GM versus Tesla in a head-to-head battle for the mainstream EV market, right? Well, not really. By the time the Bolt EV makes it to market (or the Model 3 before it), other electric vehicles will be fast approaching, if not already available. Nissan has already claimed it will have the goods to take electric range off the table in the coming years, and Volkswagen agreed, adding that an affordable 300-mile EV should be possible by 2020.

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – rear exterior
Source: General Motors

We’ll happily cross that bridge (i.e., to 300 miles of electric range) when we come to it. For now, the clock has officially started on 200-mile EVs that would end range anxiety for most Americans and penetrate the U.S. auto market on a significant level, provided they cost about as much as a small premium sedan.

(Electric vehicle credits have an expiration of 200,000 vehicles per automaker, so it may need legislation or luck to expand that in the future. With a Republican-led Congress, such things are far from guaranteed.)

Despite the fact you might see preposterous “R.I.P Tesla” headlines at some of the investing websites, you might say the Bolt’s introduction was a stroke of good fortune for Elon Musk’s team in Fremont. Just like Toyota wants other automakers to join the hydrogen fuel cell movement, the rising EV tide will raise all battery-powered (land) ships, especially the most hyped electric car company on the planet.

A great day for Tesla?

GM has been studying Tesla since the late reign of Dan Akerson, and Tesla’s decision to open up its vehicle patents for free use was aimed at growing the electric vehicle industry as a whole. Tesla and Nissan have been investing heavily to get the charging infrastructure in place for their top-selling EVs. Getting the No. 2 automaker on board while No. 1 Toyota heads in the direction of fuel cell vehicles? Priceless for Tesla, Nissan, and any other automaker with an EV in the works.

For any U.S. citizen who considers current gas prices a brief stop on the way back to $3.75 per gallon, the release of the Bolt EV concept is also great news. In fact, General Motors’s decision to lay down the gauntlet with its 200-mile, $30,000 electric vehicle is a win for everyone concerned about toxic emissions.

Range will need to come off the table in the form of an affordable car to make electric vehicles truly viable in the U.S. and around the world. Of all car companies, GM is the one that can say it fired the first shots way back in 2015, out in old Motor City, U.S.A.