With maybe four months to go before the 2017 Chevy Bolt begins rolling off the Orion, Mich. assembly line, important questions remain.
The actual start of production is officially a mystery, but a document General Motors released online, then pulled so it could scrub disclosure of an October production start date, has added to insiders’ predictions for that month.
Chevrolet has otherwise been reluctant to announce more details saying only that its 200-plus- mile range, $37,500 electric car would be in series production by the end of this year.
The vehicle will be the first to meet these general 200–mile, sub-$40,000 criteria for which Tesla’s sleek Model 3 has more-recently captured the fascination of the public. The Model 3, and its over 400,000 intenders who’ve each deposited $1,000 to reserve one will first get to see General Motors launch its ostensible alternative for 2017.
While numerous questions could be asked, a few key ones that Chevy media rep Fred Ligouri told us to “stay tuned” about could be considered most relevant.
All that is known about the Bolt EV’s electric range is that it will be north of 200 miles, says Chevrolet. The car with reported coefficient of drag of 0.312 has a 60-kWh battery, and Tesla has said its Model 3’s pack will be smaller while delivering 215 miles range thanks in part to superior aerodynamics estimated around 0.21.
The final arbiter of this range estimate for advertising purposes is – no, not Twitter – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose tests measure range and other things like “mile per gallon equivalent” (MPGe) – or alternately, kWh/100 miles.
It’s likely Chevrolet has performed the work toward EPA certifications, but either is not able or willing to announce these yet, but eyes will be on how good the Bolt will be.
General Motors’ engineers have said they’ve applied lessons from the Spark EV and Volt, and with a motor that can be as high as 97-percent efficient at points in the drive, the Bolt promises a concerted effort toward these all-important metrics.
If Chevrolet manages over 200-miles EV range for combined city/highway driving, it will have met its promise. Unclear is whether highway ratings might be below the 200 mark. If the Bolt manages over 215 combined, it will have raised the bar over what Tesla is promising – though Tesla too may have more in store as well.
Further, Tesla is promising multiple battery options, a move also being touted by Nissan for its Leaf, and BMW for its i3. So far, GM seems commited to a mono-spec car, but it likely has options open for the future.
People contemplating the Great American Road Trip in what others have said is more of a city/suburban commuter may have noticed General Motors does not have a national high-amperage charging network like Tesla’s Superchargers.
Using the SAE Combo CCS plug standard, GM says the Bolt can replenish up to 90 miles range in 30 minutes. Another statement by GM about CCS charging is that the Bolt EV will charge to 80 percent in 60 minutes. And, it can fully charge its pack in nine hours on 240-volt level 2.
While that spec is out in the open, GM has said the Bolt EV will charge at up to around 50 kW, and its engineers have indicated they were still considering what the final DC charging peak rate should be.
Will it really be lower than the Kia Soul EV which has been recorded charging at a peak rate of 68-69 kW on an experimental 200A CHAdeMO station even though it has less than half the Bolt’s battery size?
Another question is whether Chevrolet will provide a CHAdeMO to CCS Combo DC adapter accessory much like Tesla sells one for $450 for CHAdeMO to Tesla’s connector?
Crash Test Ratings
General Motors is touting 10 airbags, advanced radar- and camera-based safety tech, but its crash federal test ratings have not been announced.
Of course also, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has not announced it has had opportunity to test a Bolt either.
The vehicle does have a relatively short front crumple zone. Unlike a Tesla, it also has a large lump of EV powertrain hardware where Tesla puts the frunk. It is not an internal combustion engine, but looks like one to the casual observer.
Another somewhat related question is whether the cameras can be given the ability to double as a dashcam and security cam and record the video on an SD memory card. This functionality was recently announced for the Cadillac CT6 which like the Bolt has a bird’s eye surround view feature, but added this extra trick that would make Russians proud.
Also to be revealed is 0-60 time, which so far is only being advertised as under 7 seconds. To anyone spoiled by insanely, ludicrously quick Teslas, this is still a peppy car considering a Prius or Leaf walks to that distance in 10 seconds, but inquiring minds want to know.
Chevrolet has also positioned this “compact crossover” (AKA hatchback) as fun to drive with low center of gravity helped by its in-floor mounted battery.
While not a sports car, and with no all-wheel-drive promised, the front-wheel driver may be a spritely and enjoyable ride in qualified terms.
That was the initial takeaway from its pre-production reveal at CCS in Las Vegas this January where the car was free to zip around a cone course.
Actual braking and lateral acceleration and top speed numbers have yet to be revealed, but like the EV range, the performance may actually be above previous expectations.
Even with low-rolling resistance tires – which are getting better all the time – the Bolt’s on-road manners may slot in somewhere between a sporty Model 3 when it arrives, and a fill-in-the-blank eco car of yesteryear.
On Sale Date
Chevrolet does have a web presence for the Bolt, but don’t bother clicking through to finding your local dealer.
It’s a little early to put your money down, even if you want to, and this contrasts how General Motors operates versus Tesla that even though the Bolt is all but ready to go, the Detroit automaker has accepted zero pre-orders, and Tesla has 400,000-plus.
As it is, the Bolt by all appearances will be a very well engineered EV, and will meet its general specifications.
General Motors fast-tracked the car into being after developing a concept version secretly in Australia, and it will surely leapfrog the first generation Nissan Leaf – and Nissan has been even more officially mum about that than GM.
So while would-be buyers might get antsy waiting, the Bolt will be here sooner than any other EV with its credentials with eligibility for $7,500 federal tax credit and incentives in states that could let it net for mid-high 20s.
As Chevrolet says, “stay tuned.”