Announced in Las Vegas this week was Chevrolet’s latest electric vehicle, dubbed the Bolt. Boasting a range of 200 miles, and expected to cost roughly $38,000 ($30,000 after the federal $7,500 income-tax rebate for electric car purchases), the new electric vehicle – about the size of a small SUV – is being positioned as a mainstream electric proposition for families.
“The Chevrolet Bolt represents the first serious electric vehicle available to mainstream consumers,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book told WSJ. “It will be an interesting test to see how the market embraces the Bolt in this era of cheap gas; But from a value and function standpoint, it sets a new benchmark in alternative-fuel options.”
Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday, GM CEO Mary Barra said the Bolt’s combination of technology and affordability would help push electric vehicles into the mainstream. She said GM’s scale, dealer network and manufacturing experience gives it a leg up over newer entrants to the car business, undoubtedly a veiled reference to the Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors.
It’s not GM’s first stab at an electric vehicle, of course. The Chevrolet Volt electric-car model, introduced several years ago with a much shorter range, hasn’t been a big seller and it’s hope that the Bolt with its longer range and much quicker recharging (up to 80 per cent in one hour) will prove much more popular with consumers. It’s also surprisingly spacious.
Due to the positioning of the battery pack, the Bolt EV interior offers seating for five passengers and 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. “The flat-pack orientation offered the flexibility to make the most of the proportions while creating a clean, sculpted design,” says Stuart Norris, managing director of Design.
“This really opened up the interior and created a fantastic view from every seating position. All of this additional space gave us a lot of opportunities to play with creative design and storage solutions.”
Included is a “floating” instrument panel, featuring a 10.2-inch-diagonal capacitive-touch control screen. Additionally, a multipurpose, connected centre console features side-by-side cupholders, a wireless charging location and a sliding armrest covering a storage compartment large enough to store a tablet device.
“The Bolt EV’s design elements are designed for everyday life and the space inside accommodates it all, whether you and your friends go shopping for the day or take off for the weekend,” said Norris. “Inside and out, this game-changing vehicle makes a dramatic statement with a distinctive identity that can only be a Chevy and challenges expectations for what an affordable EV can offer.”
Alan Batey, GM’s North American executive vice president, said looming uncertainty over the direction of fuel prices and stringent US regulations calling for auto makers to sell vehicles averaging nearly 55 miles a gallon underpin the company’s bet on the Bolt. In addition, California requires auto makers to sell zero-emissions vehicles.
“There are certain states in the US where you need to sell electric vehicles if you’re going to be able to sell your total portfolio. As part of that, we have a need to have a range of electric vehicles,” Mr Batey told The Wall Street Journal.
“People think that the only reason people buy these is because of high fuel prices, but if you actually talk to the consumers, they buy it because they want the greatest and latest technology, and it just happens to be an electric vehicle,” he added.
Mr. Batey said the Bolt is crucial to overhauling Chevrolet’s image in California and other large urban markets, where it has performed poorly in recent years. He said the Volt has done more to reposition the Chevy brand in California over the past five years than any other vehicle.
“For Chevrolet, California is a massive opportunity because our performance there has been poor for so long,” Mr. Batey admitted. “Bolt will play a really important role in helping build the Chevy brand in California.”
The Bolt also fits into GM’s larger strategy to embrace new transportation technologies like ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles and includes features like one-pedal driving mode and saved settings for multiple drivers controlled through their smartphones.
This week GM also unveiled a $500 million investment in Lyft Inc. with the eventual goal of developing a driverless-car hailing service. Mr. Batey said Lyft officials were impressed when GM showed them the Bolt.