The star-crossed Chevy Bolt may be no more. Production at the Orion Township factory halted last August while GM and LG put their heads together to figure out why the batteries in some Chevy Bolts were catching fire. That process went on until October, when it was announced that a manufacturing defect had been found that could lead to a short circuit in some cells.
The two companies said a new battery was coming soon and that GM would replace defective modules and battery packs in the cars already built. The recall campaign is expected to cost close to a billion dollars, with LG picking up most of the tab. It is GM’s battery partner and is building two new battery factories jointly with GM to manufacture the so-called Ultium batteries that will power future GM battery-electric models. Apparently the promise of future profits offsets the pain of fixing the Bolt battery problem today.
New Electric Car Platform
It is understood that the new batteries are slowly being retrofitted to existing Bolts and the few Bolt EUVs out there. In the meantime, Chevrolet has repeatedly delayed restarting the Bolt/EUV production line. Two factors seem to suggest production will never restart and that the Bolt and its EUV cousin will quietly disappear from GM’s model lineup.
First, GM CEO Mary Barra announced last week the company is about to introduce a battery-powered version of the Chevy Equinox compact SUV that will list for around $30,000 for the entry level model. It, like all future GM battery electric cars, will be built on an all new dedicated electric car chassis which also bears the Ultium moniker, according to Autoblog.
“The efficiencies created by the Ultium platform are a key reason why we will be able to deliver truly affordable EVs like the Equinox. Affordable EVs are part of the market that start-ups aren’t targeting, but they are key to driving mass adoption of EVs, which is a national and a global priority. That’s why we plan to follow the Equinox with an even more affordable EV,” Barra said.
Well, it just so happens that the least expensive Bolt when production was halted cost a few thousand more than that. The new car on a new chassis that presumably costs less to build with more room inside that sells for less money strongly suggests the Bolt is not destined to reappear in showrooms.
Second, GM says it is reconfiguring the Orion Township factory to build more electric trucks. Just as Ford has been astonished by the demand for its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, GM says it has booked well over 100,000 reservations for its all electric Silverado EV.
In America at least, manufacturers could sell vehicles powered by peanut butter or cow chips just so long as they look like a traditional pickup truck. Nobody wants to buy an electric car? Maybe, although the popularity of the Tesla Model 3 seems to belie that sentiment. But everybody wants to buy an electric pickup truck, apparently, and the Big Three are falling all over themselves to get them into production and into the hands of customers as soon as humanly possible.
Wave Goodbye To The Chevy Bolt
So, here are the clues. A new battery-electric Chevy SUV is coming that will sell for less than the Bolt, and the factory where the Bolt was made is being converted to manufacture electric pickup trucks. Are we seeing the shape of things to come here? Yes we are, and the Bolt/EUV twins are clearly not part of it.
In her remarks last week, Barra also emphasized that it is important to make EVs more affordable. “And that’s why you look at the Equinox and how significant that can be, the more affordable EV that we’re going to be doing that really gets into another very important part of the market. So you have to have the proper market coverage.”
Barra also suggested there are other EVs coming from the Bow Tie brand that will be priced less than the Equinox. Does that leave any room for the Bolt? No it does not. The folks at Motor Trend think that vehicle, whatever it is called, will replace not only the Bolt but also the Trax and Trailblazer.
The Chevy Bolt was a pretty good car. It offered decent range for the price — far more than a comparably priced Nissan LEAF, for instance. It was zippy and fun to drive, if a little light on interior refinement, and had enough room for passengers and stuff.
Recently, Elon Musk told the world the $25,000 Tesla is off the table, at least for now. Maybe GM is feeling the hot breath of the Chinese manufacturers who are setting their sights on the US market in a few years. Certainly there is a dearth of low priced electric cars available in America at present, and if GM can remedy that, the EV revolution could take a giant step forward.
At the present time, no other American manufacturers are talking about building affordable electric cars, so kudos to GM for thinking about the needs of drivers who want to drive clean, quiet electric cars without taking out a second mortgage to pay for them.
Update: According to Chevrolet Communications, “… our Chair and CEO, Mary Barra, said during our fourth quarter earnings call on February 1 that we plan to “resume both EV and EUV production as soon as possible.”” And, “Production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV will continue during the [Orion Township] plant’s conversion.” “We remain committed to the Bolt EV and EUV. We will continue to balance the needs of our customers affected by the recall, while looking to resume production as soon as possible.”