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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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