Today General Motors introduced its much-anticipated 2017 Chevrolet Bolt at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
There, in a keynote address by Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, the 200-plus-mile range EV was presented as the first in a new era of cheaper longer-range electric cars.
“Lots of companies are talking about building electric vehicles,” said Barra, “but the Chevrolet Bolt EV actually delivers on the promise of long range at an affordable price.”
GM has said the production will begin before the end of this year at a suggested price of about $37,500 before available federal tax credits and other incentives as applicable.
Barra did not specify how much more than 200 miles the driving range would be, and this is expected to be revealed later.
The car’s in-floor battery, she said, can be charged to 80-percent capacity within as quick as 60 minutes.
Also not specified are battery capacity or the Bolt’s estimated EPA electrical efficiency rating. Additional specifications may be disclosed later this month at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The sales strategy for the Bolt is likely to target local commuting or regional driving.
The Bolt was first introduced as a surprise concept car just a year ago at NAIAS. When hints emerged that it might be approved for production many observers initially assumed it would be a 2018 model year that would not arrive for at least two years. Others doubted it could achieve its price target or thought that the targeted 200-mile range would be under perfect conditions rather than a more conservative EPA window sticker estimate.
Cars are usually developed with parts from a broad array of suppliers but GM struck an unusual deal to source many of the Bolt’s primary components from subsidiaries of the car’s battery pack supplier, the LG conglomerate of South Korea. This it did in return for an agreement to drive down battery cell costs.
GM disclosed last year that it is paying LG only $145 per kilowatt-hour with prices expected to drop to $100 by 2022. This cost savings is critical, and is substantially less than several hundred dollars per kwh such cells would have cost just a few years ago.
With the Bolt’s likely 50-60 kWh pack, the cost of the cells alone is probably close to $8,000 which should help the car toward being profitable at a price close to half of a 70-kwh Tesla Model S large luxury performance car with similar range.
The Bolt’s battery pack is hidden under the floor of the car so it does not intrude on interior space, unlike the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
Recharging an empty battery can be done overnight at 240 volts (likely at 6.6 kw AC) at home, work, or local shopping areas. It can also charge faster at a DC charger. Existing DC chargers support a peak rate of anywhere from 25 to 50 kw. GM did not disclose the Bolt’s peak DC charging rate. It can presumably also be charged slowly using an ordinary 120-volt outlet for customers who usually drive shorter distances. A overnight 120-volt charge could add up to 40-50 miles of range, for example.
The partnership with LG also brings that company’s expertise with state-of-the-art consumer electronics. LCD displays are used for both the driver and a 10.2 inch center infotainment console. The center display supports phone integration using either ApplePlay or Android Auto. Previously paired Bluetooth phones are detected when they are near the car so that phone calls can be quickly transferred to the car’s speaker system after entering the vehicle.
The Bolt’s rear camera can feed live video to a display built into the rear view mirror allowing the driver to see a wider viewing angle behind the car than with a conventional mirror. Another camera system provides a “surround vision” providing a “bird’s eye view” during low speed driving and parking. The navigation system has been modified to suggest driving routes that improve EV range and known charging stations can be listed on the screen. In addition, various configuration settings are tied to the driver identity rather than having to be reset manually if the car is shared with other members of a family.
The Bolt body underpinnings are believed to be uniquely modified for its flat battery pack based on a version of a common suspension platform shared with the similarly sized Chevrolet Trax, which the EPA classifies as a small SUV. The higher ceiling height and relatively ample rear leg room in common between the Trax and Bolt may appeal to some customers who find the Volt too cramped. The rear storage is tall but relatively shallow and provides 16.9 square feet of space.
It isn’t clear how many Bolts can be manufactured during the first full year of sales. Car makers have to estimate parts orders in advance and there may be a limited initial supply of the new high energy density battery cells, for example.
The Bolt will be built at GM’s Orion Assembly plant in Michigan.