After a year of discussion, debate, and great expectations for the concept Chevy Bolt EV debut, GM delivered the production version at CES 2016 with hardly a hint of letdown. Chevrolet nailed the essential elements of its affordable, long-range electric vehicle and doubled down on its promise to deliver the first models in 2016. We’ll soon see if 200 miles of range and plenty of tech at $30,000 is the game-changing formula for the plug-in segment.
We’ve heard the Bolt body described several ways, but snub-nosed hatchback is the closest we can get to summing up the design. There is hardly any space between the wheels and the vehicle’s front and back ends, which makes it ideal for parallel-parking and otherwise navigating through tight spaces. If you’ve heard an EV described a “city car” in the past, the Bolt is certainly in that tradition. This model is GM’s first EV built from the ground up, so we may see hints of the automaker’s future here as well.
Most importantly, there has been no alteration in GM’s claim it would “deliver a long-range electric vehicle attainable by the masses,” as CEO Mary Barra told the crowd at CES. With 200 miles of range, drivers would get more than enough leeway to handle trips long and short. GM reps confirmed that DC Fast Charging (SAE Combo) will be on the table. Level 2 home charging, for its part, will be part of the options packages, which Chevy is already listing on a dedicated Bolt page. Juicing the battery from zero on this system will take about nine hours.
Among the notable things on the Chevrolet website, the $37,500 MSRP and “late 2016″ production date are reassuring for EV enthusiasts everywhere. Available and standard tech options make the Bolt seem like an attractive value in the plug-in segment.
Most EV consumers rate tech near the top of their wish list, and the Bolt checks off many of the boxes, starting with an interactive 10.2-inch display touchscreen (see below, in night view) in the “floating” instrument panel. A rear-camera mirror and other advanced safety features, including forward pedestrian alert, will be available as extras. Chevy is also promising a gamification element in which drivers will be able to test their fuel economy against other Bolt EV owners.
Many of the quick-drive reports have emphasized the considerable interior space of the Bolt, which is built to seat five but more practically would seat four adults comfortably. Engineers placed the flat battery pack underneath the car, so the usual lack of trunk space for EVs does not apply here. In fact, the Bolt packs nearly two cubic feet of cargo space more (16.9 cubic feet) than the BMW i3 (15.1 cubic feet).
In sum, there is little to pick on for critics expecting GM to drop the ball in some aspect of the production Bolt EV. The styling may not appeal to every consumer, but millennials have expressed a preference for better tech and mobility, which this car certainly delivers. (The brand-new MyChevrolet mobile app will make charging station mapping, trip planning, and preparing for battery-draining conditions easier.)
From a value standpoint, it will come close to doubling the range of the 107-mile Nissan Leaf and upcoming 100-mile Ford Focus Electric but will be priced in the same ballpark. Chevy is saying customers will get the Bolt EV for “around $30,000″ after federal tax incentives, and generous state incentives available around the country will bring the price down further. Will the federal credit last forever? It won’t, and this car may be the one to max it out, but we have to see a production model roll off the line first. So far, so promising.