No one confuses the Chevrolet and Tesla brands. Whereas consumers were willing to bet on a Model 3 sight unseen, the same hyped launch would never have worked for a GM electric vehicle. Then again, timing is crucial in this segment, and GM got the jump on Tesla by delivering its affordable, long-range Bolt EV in concept form more than a year ahead of the Model 3.
As the end of 2016 looms, Chevy is preparing for the first round of production in Michigan and consumers will have a shot at owning a truly pioneering vehicle in a burgeoning segment. It may not have the curb appeal or hype of a Tesla, but the Bolt EV will have several unique things to offer early adopters who cannot wait for a Model 3.
Maximum interior space
In an interview with Automotive News, Bolt designer Stuart Norris said the concept was to deliver a midsize-hatchback interior on a compact electric car frame. To get there, Norris’s team had to stretch the vehicle in every way possible, with the windshield moved forward, the midsection pushed downward, and a center console not rooted in the ground but floating above the leg area. Air conditioning and heating units also stretched forward, out of the way of the front seats.
Thinner seats that did not compromise on support were yet another detail GM’s design crew in South Korea executed on the Bolt EV to squeeze room into the cabin. The specs say the project worked: Its 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space tops the impressive capacity of Honda Fit (16.6 cubic feet) and blows away Camry (15.4 cubic feet), while its 56 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats down approaches larger sedans like Model S (58.1 cubic feet).
What good is a great deal of cargo capacity without easy access? Not much, and Chevy’s Korea-based design team emphasized the hatch angle in the Bolt EV. Early adopters will be able to pop open the back, throw down the seats, and quickly add luggage or other large objects you are transporting. We’ll see how this plays with the first consumers kicking the Bolt’s tires, but the trend toward utility vehicles makes it look like a big positive.
Though many electric car consumers may take this aspect for granted in 2016, the modernized battery placement (i.e., away from the trunk) was a crucial element in guaranteeing the Bolt its spaciousness and utility. Concentrated cells in the flat battery pack made the hatchback concept work like the design team hoped.
When reminded of an empty guarantee of future payment for his services in The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart has a great line: “Oh yes. Later you’ll give me millions,” he tells Sidney Greenstreet. This same concept applies to a number of manufacturers and their future EVs. Later, they’ll give you fantastic range and power. But what can they give you now?
Upon entering the market in 2016, no competitor in the price point will be able to come near the Bolt EV in range or power. On the latter point, the case is clear: 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque dominates the field. Nissan Leaf (107 horses) and BMW i3 (170 horses) aren’t very close in horsepower or torque. You’ll be able to hit 60 miles per hour in seven seconds in Chevy’s first ground-up electric model, too. Tesla and others may do better later; Bolt EV will give you that in 2016.