Originally published on EV Obsession.
Some of the biggest EV news of the year is the unveiling of the Chevy Bolt and the launch of Chevy Volt 2.0. We got out some leaked news about the Bolt a few days ago that was apparently spot on. But below are the key official details about the Bolt and the cool new Volt, followed by my thoughts on the vehicles.
- Concept 100%-electric vehicle that is supposed to be released in 2017
- 200 miles of range
- Includes two large LCD screens, 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, and allows a smartphone to be used as a key fob
- The body includes aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber (lighter materials than the norm, which improves range and efficiency)
- 4 seats
Chevy Volt 2.0
- 50 miles of all-electric range (by far, the best among plug-in hybrids)
- 41 MPG when on gas (12% more efficient than Chevy Volt 1.0)
- Over 400 miles of combined electric and gas range
- 19% stronger 0–30 mph acceleration
- 5 seats
- Regen on demand
Starting with the Bolt, the first thing to highlight is that it is a concept vehicle. Among major manufacturers, concept vehicles are often a lot different from the production versions. Some people have speculated that GM won’t build it at all. I wouldn’t bet on that for a second. GM has released an approximate price and range, and Mary Barra herself said this is no science experiment. GM is pushing itself as an EV leader (which it is), and I’m sure it really wants to be the first one out with an all-electric, affordable, long-range vehicle. (Watch the video at the top if you haven’t yet.)
The first comparison that comes to mind is with the Tesla Model 3. Announced much earlier, but with no design released as of yet, the Model 3 is supposed to be the all-electric, affordable, long-range vehicle Tesla has been targeting since Day 1. It is also supposed to come out in 2017. However, let’s not kid ourselves, the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 are going to be very different animals. Tesla has built a brand that is very different from the GM brand, and it is likely the hottest car manufacturer on the planet at the moment. From its stellar vehicle quality (unmatched by many standards) and continual software updates, it’s going to be hard to compete with Model 3. With planned pricing between $35,000 and $45,000, I think GM would be wise to really keep the Bolt at $30,000 or lower, in order to nab more buyers who are willing to take a step down from a Tesla for a savings of $5,000 or so.
I love that “the Bolt” is the name, as it immediately brings to mind “quick.” The instant torque and excellent acceleration of electric vehicles is one of their two biggest selling points for the masses, imho. (The other is convenience.)
The Bolt’s biggest competitors are likely to come from other mainstream manufacturers. By 2017, BMW could have an updated i3 (which the Bolt looks eerily similar to… with the Bolt even being unveiled in almost the same odd orange that the i3 often has). The i3 could have similar specs as the Bolt, or it could add a bit of extra luxury and performance for a bit of a price hike. Nissan has said it will “soon take range off the table,” which hints that it is planning a similarly long-range and affordable electric vehicle… maybe much sooner than 2017. Volkswagen has mentioned that an electric vehicle with over 300 miles of range is around the corner. One would expect that Ford is working on something or can quickly take advantage of better and cheaper batteries by then as well, but it certainly hasn’t done much to excite in the pure-EV category.
So, what does all of this really mean? It means the time when electric cars will very clearly pass up gasmobiles as the best car options on the market (by a landslide, if you look at all of the benefits of electric cars) is likely to be in 2017 or so. (That’s actually what our readers have been saying for the past couple of years.)
The updated Chevy Volt looks like it will be quite competitive. When it comes to all-electric range, it blows other plug-in hybrids out of the water. The Toyota Prius Plug-in just has 11 miles of electric range, the Ford Energi models have 21 miles of electric range, and the Audi A3 e-tron and Volkswagen Golf GTE each have 31 miles of electric range.
Furthermore, the Volt now has 5 seats — one simple but key reason many buyers were going for the Ford Energi models or Toyota Prius Plug-in instead of the 4-seat Volt was that they have 5 seats.
Very importantly, I actually think the new Volt looks really good. I wasn’t a fan of the first Volt, but the new Volt is a big step up in the looks category. I encourage you to watch the video at the top, as it captures the real-world look much better than static pictures. I just asked my wife what she thought of the new Volt, and she mentioned that it looked “sporty” — which was a key aim of GM.
Demonstrating how far battery tech has come in the past few years, the new Volt has increased battery capacity (up to 18.4 kWh) via the use of 192 cells — which is 96 fewer battery cells than in the first-generation Volt. This also brings down the weight of the car by more than 20 pounds, which further helps to increase range. (The new Volt as a whole is about 100 pounds lighter than the original Volt.) Further improvements to EV batteries is what will get us to the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, and other long-range yet affordable electric cars hinted at above.
I think the Volt is going to do very well with the upgrades. With a significantly lower price and the many advantages of being a pure-electric vehicle, I think the Nissan LEAF will still do very well. However, I could see the Volt becoming the top-selling EV in the US again. I think the biggest EV questions for 2015 are now: Will Nissan roll out an updated and massively improved LEAF? Will GM bring the new Volt or a sister vehicle to Europe (and other markets)? Will the Model X arrive? This is already shaping up to be a huge year for electric vehicles, especially if you throw in the other models hitting the market this year, but if Nissan unveils a hugely improved LEAF, this will really turn into a blockbuster year.