Chevrolet Bolt 2017: GM’s new electric car could bring EVs to the masses

At CES yesterday, GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra unveiled the Chevrolet Bolt, and it’s the clearest sign yet that the electric-vehicle market is about to explode. Although it might look like just another hatchback from the outside, the Bolt brings some impressive numbers to the table. Featuring a range of 200 miles and a price tag of $30,000 (after incentives), the Bolt can charge 80% of its battery in just one hour.

Chevrolet Bolt 2017: GM's new electric car could bring EVs to the masses

GM says the EV will be available in the US in late 2016. And as for the UK? Sadly, Chevrolet hasn’t mentioned any plans to bring the EV here yet.  

The Bolt’s looks aren’t going to win any awards, but its stats might. Compared to the $29,010 entry-level Nissan Leaf’s range of 84 miles, the Bolt sounds awesome. When put alongside the cheapest Model S, the Bolt doesn’t do too badly either. Despite costing half the price of the Tesla, on range alone the Bolt is only 40 miles behind. Although the Tesla offers far more in the way of luxury, infrastructure and semi-autonomous capability, the small difference in range gives you some idea of how well GM has done.chevrolet_bolt_2017_interior

Electrification, connectivity and gamification

Just before the GM keynote yesterday, CEO Barra tweeted that electrification and connectivity will be the two areas of focus in 2016 – and the Bolt is big on both. As well as the usual mod cons such as a bird’s-eye view for parking and a rear camera mirror, the Bolt also uses its 10.2in MyLink touchscreen display for a few innovative ideas. EV navigation mapping can plan routes for efficiency over speed – and automatically include waypoints for charging stations.

The Bolt is also compatible with GM’s MyChevrolet mobile app, so owners can check their charge status, precondition the cabin, and even remote start – not that you’d need to warm up the Bolt’s “engine” in cold weather. As you’d expect, the Bolt also connects to Chevrolet’s OnStar 4G LTE network, so the EV is in effect a connected, Wi-Fi hotspot.

Even more interesting is GM’s decision to throw gamification into the mix. Efficient driving isn’t the most interesting activity, but GM says Bolt drivers will be able to compare their energy use to that of fellow Bolt owners, providing a social and competitive aspect. Although it may sound pretty boring at first, it’s surprising just how much of an effect gamification has on people’s performance – even to the most sceptical among us. I think it’s a fantastic move, and will provide an added incentive for people to change their driving style.

Should Tesla be worried, and is the Bolt viable?

Not yet. The Bolt isn’t in direct competition with any of Tesla’s current models, and probably won’t be in direct competition with the Model 3 either – the car Musk believes will bring EVs to the masses. If anything, GM’s decision to release the Bolt vindicates Tesla’s dedication to EVs.

So, will the Bolt be your next car? If you live in America, there’s a chance it could be. Although the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet, money talks – and the Bolt’s price tag places it under an infinitely more affordable category than most EVs. Even without its impressive specs, features such as the gamification of driving show that GM has put serious thought into the Bolt. Let’s hope it comes to the UK.

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