GM Commits to 200-Mile Chevy Bolt EV, Around 2017

By · February 17, 2015

Chevrolet Bolt electric concept car

General Motors is fully committed to building a 200-mile all-electric vehicle. The company introduced the Chevrolet Bolt as a concept car at the Detroit auto show—and then, in a matter of about five weeks, took swift steps to “confirm production” of a car “based on” the concept. The Detroit unveiling took place on January 12. By early February, a Bolt web page on Chevrolet.com made the production plans official, with a sign-up form allowing potential buyers to receive ongoing updates.

“The message from consumers about the Bolt EV concept was clear and unequivocal: build it,” said Alan Batey, president, General Motors North America, in a prepared statement on February 12 from the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. “We are moving quickly because of its potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles as the first affordable long-range EV in the market.”

The media statement included this line: “Start of production and additional details will be announced later.” Automotive News, citing unidentified company sources, reported that the Bolt is expected to arrive “sometime in 2017.” It would be built in Michigan at GM’s Orion Assembly facility. GM facilities will receive a $200-million investment to support electric vehicle production.

Reuters reported that GM's production target for the Bolt is about 25,000 to 30,000 cars a year. Last year, GM sold 18,800 Chevrolet Volts.

Ambitious Goals

Two of the most important details about the Bolt are driving range and price. GM is currently claiming that the estimated driving range on a single charge will be 200 miles. This will require a battery pack that’s approximately 55 to 60 kilowatt hours.

The company’s official statement explained that it will “leverage” battery technology used in the Chevy Volt and Spark EV. The 2015 Volt carries a price tag of $35,000, and a 17 kWh battery pack. The Spark EV costs $27,500, with a 19 kWh pack.

GM is currently saying that the Bolt will be sold for approximately $30,000, after tax incentives (which are expected to be $7,500). That puts a starting price at the Bolt—if the company delivers on its goals—at $37,500. That represents an ambitious target for producing a vehicle with a much larger battery—probably around three times the size of GM’s existing plug-in cars—while keeping cost increases to a minimum.

The cost targets call into question some of the whiz-bang features shown in the concept version of the Bolt. Those include liberal use of glass—such as a full-length glass roof and wraparound rear window—as well as automatic park-and-retrieval technology allowing owners to exit the vehicle and tell Bolt EV to park itself.

Chevrolet Bolt electric concept car

The Bolt concept, a sleek and funky small crossover, features limited overhangs, a high beltline and narrow grille. The style bears some resemblance to the BMW i3—an all-electric car selling for $43,500, while delivering just 81 miles of driving range according to EPA estimates.

The other potential competition for the Bolt would be the Tesla Model 3, which around the same 2017 timeframe, promises a car with a similar price and range numbers. Car and Driver magazine, reporting at the January Detroit auto show, said that for Tesla to deliver such a car means “banking on both the Gigafactory battery plant and Model X production to run perfectly on schedule.” Depending on Tesla’s ability to execute, and plans from other car companies to produce a 200-mile EV, “the Bolt could be in a class by itself, at least for a while,” according to Car and Driver.

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