Five Things We Know About the Chevrolet Bolt Concept Car

On Monday this week, General Motors unveiled the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, as well as the all-new Chevrolet Bolt concept car.

The Chevy Bolt concept car has taken the world by storm. But what IS it?

The Chevy Bolt concept car has taken the world by storm. But what is it really?

Since then, the Internet has been awash with excited articles proclaiming the Bolt to be GM’s first truly practical plug-in car, dreaming praising its bolt stylings, calling it a ‘competitor’ to Tesla’s upcoming Model ≡, and even suggesting it could one day spawn a hydrogen fuel cell variant.

But while ruminating on conjecture and hearsay is great fun, it does nothing to cover the basic facts about this important plug-in concept car. So to help you understand the Bolt’s place int he world, here are five things we know for sure about the Chevrolet Bolt.

Right now, it’s a concept car

As General Motors CEO Mary Barra said when unveiling the Bolt in Detroit on Monday, the Chevrolet Bolt concept car is a concept car which represents what a future, affordable 200-mile all-electric crossover could look like.

As with all concept cars, the Chevrolet Bolt makes extensive use of next-generation materials, bright colours and futuristic control surfaces to give it an extra wow factor on the show floor.

With seating for four and futuristic lines, this is certainly a concept car first and foremost.

With seating for four and futuristic lines, this is certainly a concept car first and foremost.

There’s another clue too: read the official press release for the Chevrolet Bolt, and you’ll note that while GM mentions the kind of situations the Bolt has been designed for, it doesn’t mention an intended production date but does go to great lengths to cast the Bolt as an expression of GM’s future intent to build an affordable, long-distance plug-in.

It only has four seats

Because of its diminutive size, the Chevrolet Bolt concept car follows the design language used in the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, with four individual full-sized seats rather than the more conventional rear three-seat bench found in most compact cars.

As a consequence, the Chevrolet Bolt immediately cuts itself out of the traditional nuclear ‘2.4 kid’ family setup that many five-seat hatchbacks target. And while more U.S. buyers opt for larger, three-row cars with seven or more seats as their ‘family mover,’ we think the Bolt is a car designed more for young, affluent urbanites than it is for suburbanites with kids.

The Tesla Model ≡ isn’t its competitor: the next-generation BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF are

While many news outlets have used the claimed 200-mile target range of the Bolt as a cue to start comparing the Chevrolet Bolt to the upcoming 2018 Tesla Model ≡ all-electric sedan, we think the two cars won’t cross shop against each other.

No matter what other outlets tell you, this car isn't a competitor to a Tesla.

No matter what other outlets tell you, this car won’t cross-shop with the Tesla Model ≡

For a start, there’s design language. The Chevrolet Bolt is a four-seat, five door urban hatchback. The Tesla Model ≡ is expected to be a luxury four-door, five seat sedan.

Then there’s branding. While Chevrolet is undeniably a proud American brand, it rarely gets cast as a luxury brand. Tesla meanwhile, is a luxury brand, and has said multiple times that it aims for the Model ≡ to cross-shop against other luxury cars, like the BMW 3-Series sedan and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

If we had to pick a true competitor for the Bolt, we’d place it more squarely against a BMW i3 and the next-generation Nissan LEAF. While the BMW i3 doesn’t yet have the range promised by the Chevrolet Bolt concept, it has a very similar design language and target market. It’s entirely coneivable however, that BMW will have a longer-range BMW i3 option available by the time the Bolt makes it to market.

The next-generation LEAF — also due around 2017 — will likely match the Bolt in terms of range and features as well as sticker price.

The Chevrolet Bolt previews GM’s plans for autonomous driving

Unlike Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Tesla and Audi, General Motors has remained reliavtely quiet on its plans for autonomous vehicle technology, save for its strange EN-V concept pod cars.

But in addition to the headlining 200-mile range, the Chevrolet Bolt concept car gives us a glimpse into what GM thinks the future of autonomous driving will be.

In addition to the heavily-connected services GM promises, like smartphone key fob integration, ride-sharing applications and digital payment processing, GM hopes the Bolt EV will feature autonomous valet parking capabilities, allowing the car to leave its driver and find a parking space without human interaction.

The Bolt isn’t a road trip car

While the Bolt Concept car offers a claimed range of 200 miles per charge and the ability to recharge at DC fast charging stations — presumably CCS charging stations — its interior layout and styling lend itself more to life in busy megacities more than it does to road trips.

The Bolt isn't a road-trip car.

The Bolt isn’t a road-trip car.

First of all, there’s the design language. More of an urban crossover than a sleek sedan, the Chevrolet Bolt Concept offers great visibility all round and a commanding view of the road ahead. Meanwhile, its four-seat interior layout and moderately-sized cargo area feels more suited to shopping trips than camping trips, while its short, angular nose feels too small to house much in the way of cargo space.

Second, there’s the matter of charging. While GM is generally expected to include DC CCS quick charging standard on the Bolt, that’s far slower than the Supercharger standard used by Tesla on its Model S sedan. Unless GM plans a similarly powerful recharging technology or buys into Tesla’s Supercharger network, we’re struggling to see how the Bolt could travel as easily across the U.S. as a Tesla.

Like other concept cars however, the finished version of often very different to the auto-show car — and that means Chevrolet could change any of the things we’ve picked out before a future model hits the market in a few years time.

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • My lease on my 2014 Volt is up in October 2017. By then the generation 2.0 Volt will have had a couple of model years to shake out bugs. I really hope that the Bolt will also hit showroom floors by then. I am very impressed with what I’ve seen out of the v2.0 Volt but it would be fun to be able to compare the Volt to Bolt when pondering my next vehicle. Of course the Tesla Model 3 should also be available, so there will be plenty of pondering to do.nnnnI hope that GM follows through with its promise to market these vehicles nationwide in the US and worldwide as well. I’ve read a few articles that suggested GM would target “progressive” (political) markets. I guess that implies people with more conservative leanings (like me) are only supposed to have gas guzzlers to choose from? I love my 2014 Volt, so I’m very much looking forward to the EV landscape come 2017!

    • lad76

      I am impressed with how loyal Volt owners seem to the product; I’m thinking GM has two BEV chassis’ available to them. By retrofitting the Volt to all battery operation sans the IC stuff, you would have a pretty good road car in addition to the city car, Bolt.

  • My money will be saving up for Tesla Model 3. I am encouraged by GM having a more bold(t) marketing thrust on electric vehicles. At some point, my hope is that all car makers compete and try to one-up each other in the EV space, and then I double hope they do something.nnnThe new Volt is a good improvement to be sure, but I firmly believe pure electric vehicles are the future.

  • Agree on all counts.

  • johnvoelcker

    Sources tell me that while the overall shape of the Bolt Concept is fairly similar to the planned production vehicle, the interior is not. So I’m not sure the interior layout piece of your last point holds.nnI’m betting on a variation of whatever interior appears in the next-generation Sonic B-segment cars, cutting costs–just as the 2016 Volt has an interior that uses many existing GM components for the same purpose.

  • Rob Whittier

    It’s a very positive direction from GM and the new Volt is, and I rarely say this about a Chevy vehicle, downright attractive to look at and with improved range and interior should attract a lot more buyers. Did GM abandon all of their Hybrid SUVs? I still think there is a solid market for hybrid AWD vehicles, and the Q7 and new GTE CrossCoupe could do well in addition to the Volvo XC90 and V60 plug-in if it comes. I thought the A3 e-ton was going to be AWD as it appears to have electric motors at the rear wheels to compliment the FWD system but the website says no?

  • MEroller

    By the way, Elon Musk very recently confirmed your hunch that the Model 3 will actually be written like this u2261 (“like the E in Tesla”) and not like this III, in the newest video of KmanAuto:n

    • vdiv

      “You just said the same thing I did, only you did this.”

  • Domenick Yoney

    Six: They aren’t planing on making many of them.nnIf they were serious about it, they’d be securing a significant amount battery capacity right about now. And would price it lower than the Tesla u2261 u2013 Elon has said his car would cost $35,000 before rebates (since there probably won’t be any), and GM is saying $30,000 after incentives.nnI could go on and on. :)nnI think the Bolt concept is better than a half-assed attempt at an electric car, but it’s not the full moon that the Tesla is likely to be.

  • Ad van der Meer

    Something we don’t know: Didn’t anybody think to bring a measuring tape to the NAIAS? I haven’t seen the dimensions of the car yet.