One of the unexpected stars of Detroit's show is the Chevy Bolt concept. An all-electric vehicle with a tall, spacious but not-too-goofy design it promises to deliver a 200-mile range – more than double what most EVs offer – when it (or something like it) goes on sale in 2017. An approximate price of $30,000, after deducting today’s tax credit of $7500, is projected, assuming they still exist after a Republican Congress has its way with the sizeable current federal incentive.
The Bolt’s name, which may no longer adorn the car when it arrives in 2017, was deemed “controversial,” “fine,” “annoying” and “stupid” in a random sampling of four automotive journalists I asked on the show stand, but it didn’t bother me, and of course no one had anything bad to say about the Bolt’s enhanced range, limited mileage between recharges being the electric car’s chief bugaboo. The improvement follows on from a new type of lithium-ion battery – developed by Korea’s LG Chem – and a new configuration wherein cells are arrayed in a flat, rectangular shape low down in the car as opposed to the T-shaped setup in a Chevy Volt, allowing for a fully flat floor and an unusually spacious interior feeling. Though GM didn’t dwell on it, another advantage of the car’s flat floor is that it appears to provide the basis for a hydrogen fuel cell powered derivative.
The announcement at the show, along with the introduction of a revised version of the Chevy Volt hybrid, with its all-electric range expanded from 40 to 102 miles and due next year, bespeaks a greater commitment to electric propulsion from GM than some had feared. Marketing for the current Volt has been tepid of late, sales have fallen, and with gasoline prices cheap, many electric car boosters had feared the worst. But with a range promising security not anxiety and a relatively moderate price tag, the Bolt led many reporters desperately looking for ledes to their stories to conclude that GM was finally ready to do battle in earnest with Tesla, whose upcoming Tesla 3 – also due in 2017, with a similarly substantial range and nearly as low a pricetag -- has yet to break cover.