The Chevrolet Bolt EV will match or exceed the Tesla Model 3 on key specs when it goes on sale late this year. Chevrolet just announced its EPA rating for range will be 238 miles from its 60-kilowatt hour battery. Chevrolet confirmed this week that the list price should be less than $37,500, meaning less than $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.
This sets up an interesting focus on mid-priced 200-mile EVs over the next year, with new or next-generation offerings expected from BMW, Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen, and others. The entry point for competitiveness will likely be at least 200 miles range and $30,000 base price after tax credit. EVs with ranges of 75-100 miles will have to sell for about $10,000 less to be competitive.
Tesla says it has 400,000 potential Model 3 customers on its waiting list. They’ve put down $1,000 to hold a place in line, but those at the end of the line might not get their cars until the end of the decade. For some who like the cachet of the Tesla name, they’ll stick with the waiting list. But others who want a serious compact runabout in 2017 without the range anxiety of today’s 75- to 100-mile EVs will be open to at least looking at the Bolt. Tesla is currently quoting a range of 200 miles for the Model 3.
One Chevrolet Bolt early adopter may be Apple c0-founder Steve Wozniak, who said in a Facebook post, “I expect to be switching cars soon!” Woz was pictured with a white Bolt, giving a thumbs-up. He has already owned a Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S.
Chevrolet recently ran a four-car test along the California coastline from Monterey down to Santa Barbara, a trip measuring 235 miles. The cars were piloted by journalists with Chevy engineers on board. The least economical driver got 240 miles of range (235 miles plus an indicated 5 miles remaining). The most economical driver’s Bolt showed 32 miles remaining, or an indicated range of 267 miles. With cool weather at the start of the trip, some set the climate control to fan-only in order to optimize mileage before switching to AC in the later portions.
In other words, these drivers gave consideration to maximizing efficiency on a route that didn’t allow as much chance for battery regeneration as you’d get from stop-and-go urban driving. This suggests the Chevrolet Bolt/Tesla Model 3 class should get 200 miles on a complete charge. The best-selling mid-price EV, the Nissan Leaf, is rated at 84 miles with the 24-kWh battery and 107 miles with the 30-kWh battery. If drivers keep a cushion of, say, 15 miles under most circumstances — never let the miles-remaining indicator fall below that floor — it knocks a bigger chunk out of the range of the Leaf-class EV.
The Bolt will use a 60-kWh flat lithium ion battery pack with liquid thermal conditioning. There are 288 individual LiIon cells. It weighs 960 pounds and is located under the cockpit floor, running the full width of the car and stretching from the firewall in front to the back of the rear seat. There’s a built-in 7.2-kW charger. Chevrolet says it can add 50 miles of range in less than two hours from a 240-volt Level 2 charger, or a full charge in about nine hours. There will be an optional DC Fast Charging system using an industry-standard SAE combo connector charging port that will add about 90 miles of range in 30 minutes.
The Bolt’s electric motor produces 200 hp (150 kW) of power with 266 pound-feet of torque, giving it 0-60 mph acceleration of less than 7 seconds. The Bolt measures 164 inches long, which puts it in the subcompact class. The Nissan Leaf, in comparison, is 175 inches long and the Honda Fit is 160 inches long.
First deliveries of the Bolt are slated “later this year,” Chevrolet says. That gives Chevrolet a one-year lead on Tesla’s announced late-2017 first deliveries. Chevrolet will also have the federal tax credit (up to $7,500) available longer than Tesla. The credit covers an automaker’s first 200,000 sales.
Tesla’s tax credit may be close to reaching the limit around the time the first Model 3s roll out. Tesla can tweak sales downward to legally extend the credit to several thousand more buyers. It works this way: The credit covers all cars sold in the quarter where the 200,000 cap is reached and it also covers the following quarter. That is followed by two quarters where the credit is halved (to $3,750) and two quarters where it’s halved again ($1,875). Then it’s gone. If Tesla is on track to reach the 200,000 cap late in the quarter, it could delay the 200,000th delivery until the start of the next quarter.
All of that is momentary relief for Tesla. Chevrolet (actually, GM, since the credit jointly covers the automaker’s brands) will have an advantage because its sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids (Chevrolet Bolt, Cadillac ELR) that are also covered are substantially less than Tesla’s.