The Day an Electric Chevy Stole Tesla’s Thunder

Chevrolet Bolt EV
Chevrolet Bolt EV’s EPA-estimated 238 miles of range exceeded expectations | General Motors

We compared the preliminary specs of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 earlier in 2016 and noted a few advantages in Chevy’s corner. Among them were the release date (late 2016) and access to the $7,500 federal tax credit for early adopters. Nonetheless, we couldn’t help but remark on Model 3’s looks, lower MSRP, its rear-wheel drive system, and superior range projection. In short, Model 3 was at the advantage. Then Chevy stole Tesla’s thunder in the run-up to the Bolt’s release.

By announcing the Bolt EV would feature 238 miles of electric range, GM threw down the gauntlet in the affordable electric car segment and took a page out of Tesla’s playbook in the process. Originally advertised as “over 200 miles of range,” Bolt was behind Model 3’s stated 215 miles while coming in at a quoted price of $37,500. Somewhere along the line, Chevy squeezed about 20% more out of the battery and got the EPA’s blessing as the icing on the cake.

Chevrolet Bolt EV
The EPA-estimated 238 miles of range held up in road tests | General Motors

By underselling its range and delivering far more, GM snatched headlines across the auto industry and in the general media as well. After all, only a Tesla EV can travel 238 miles on a single charge. But get this: Tesla Model S 60 (210 miles) and Model S 60D (218 miles) can’t get there on a full charge. At a starting price of $66,000 and $71,000, respectively, they are between $28,500 and $33,500 more expensive than Bolt.

In a segment where range is half the battle, this development can only be described as a triumph for GM. Early test drives by journalists prove the range is real and works in road tests where high-speed driving is involved.

Chevrolet Bolt EV
Bolt EV tests proved Chevy’s electric car can travel more than 240 miles without charging | General Motors

John Voelcker of Green Car Reports was one of four journalists who took the Bolt EV 240 miles on California roads, and another driver reportedly had 32 miles remaining after covering a similar trip (235 miles) down the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Santa Barbara. There were steep hills and speeds above 70 miles per hour involved — typical battery killers — as well as air-conditioned comfort. Yet the range still held — and then some.

If you were to fast-charge a Bolt and get the usual 80% in 30 minutes, it would be possible to travel over 400 miles after taking a single half-hour break. In other words, anyone who lost sleep due to range anxiety can get behind this concept. As for the typical driving habits of Americans, 90% of which do not exceed 73 miles on any given day, Bolt EV would be a safe bet.

So is the Model 3 knocked down and struggling to get up before the ref calls the fight? Considering the Tesla still has the edge in styling, preliminary pricing, and quickness, that would be unfair. However, in a pitched battle that had the Model 3 dominating the news for weeks at a time in 2016, Chevy made up a lot of ground with this news. We expect a response from Fremont sooner rather than later. We never guessed Chevy would be the one forcing the issue.

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