Tesla Motors’ position as the face of cutting-edge EVs may soon be coming to an end as General Motors unveiled their version of an electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt.
There’s clearly a play on words here, but the Bolt is no joke. In fact, it may just prove to be the commercial breakthrough that electric vehicles need to gain mainstream acceptance. That’s because the Bolt offers a combination that no other EV does: Long range and low cost.
GM is promoting a base price of $30,000 (after tax credits) and an estimated driving range of 200 miles. This price is in line with the market average for an EV, while the range is significantly lower than Tesla’s Model S sedan, which comes in at $80K.
In general, EVs have faced several major hurdles. Most models are limited to an estimate driving range between 70 and 90 miles on a single charge. This confines drivers to local commutes, especially since charging stations are few and far between and charging times are extraordinarily long–up to 20 hours on a home outlet. Top that off with a base MSRP between $35,000 and $40,000 and you have yourself a hard sell.
Demand, or rather the lack thereof, reveals lingering consumer ambivalence. Although the number of EV models has jumped in the past five years, the EV segment reaches just under 4% of the market, even with heavy discounts and manufacturer incentives. Two of the best-known EVs, the all-electric Tesla Model S and gas-electric Chevy Volt saw sales fall in 2014.
The negative factors that plague the EV market in general is what makes the Bolt a potential breakthrough, one that overshadowed even Chevy’s own remodeled and range-extended Volt at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. John Krafcik, president of TrueCar, considers the Bolt’s traits “a killer combination” and projects sales of 100,000 units per year. If these number come to fruition, then they would signal a huge jump in sales for electrics: Nissan sold over 22,000 Leafs in 2014–a record in EV terms, but still miniscule compared to gasoline-powered sedans.
The Bolt also signals a much more competitive field in the near horizon. Nissan’s next-gen Leaf will reportedly hit 240 miles in range, while Elon Musk indicated that Tesla’s entry-level Model 3 sedan will reach 200 miles and at a starting price of $35K.
Exactly how these vehicles, including the Bolt, achieve these numbers is a mystery. There have been scant details about the Bolt powertrain, and even less about the next-gen Leaf or Tesla (and we still don’t know what either will look like).
Could EVs finally be turning a corner?