2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

GM May Be Bringing The Long-Range 2017 Chevy Bolt EV to Market, But It Won’t Be Funding CCS Infrastructure Development

When it comes to buying an electric car today, there’s a massive choice of different makes and models to choose from. Most now come complete with either DC quick charging capabilities as standard, or at least offer DC quick charging as an optional extra at the point of ordering.

Be it Nissan’s LEAF, the Tesla Model S, or the BMW i3, rapid charging (CHAdeMO, Supercharger and CCS respectively for each of the models just listed) can make longer-distance zero-emission trips practical and pleasant, recharging your car’s battery pack from empty to 80 percent full in well under an hour — or in the case of the Tesla Model S, adding enough range for you to travel more than 100 miles in the time it takes you to grab a coffee and nip to the restroom.

GM won't be investing in CCS infrastructure deployment.

GM won’t be investing in CCS infrastructure deployment.

So when we heard that the upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV would include CCS quick charging as an optional extra when it launches in October this year, we expected parent company General Motors to follow in the tire tracks of Tesla, Nissan, BMW and Volkswagen in announcing an investment in public quick charging infrastructure.

But as our friends over at GreenCarReports detailed earlier today, GM might be interested in bringing an affordable, 200-mile electric car to market in double quick time, but it won’t be spending a dime on improving the CCS quick charging infrastructure the Chevy Bolt EV will need to make trips longer than 200 miles a practical reality.

While it's got the range, the Chevy Bolt EV could be limited by a lack of CCS charging

While it’s got the range, the Chevy Bolt EV could be limited by a lack of CCS charging

“We are not actively working on providing infrastructure [for the Bolt EV],” said GM CEO Mary Barra at a press Q&A session at this week’s Detroit Auto Show, giving a swift (and some would say brutal) response to GCR’s question of how GM planned on supporting Bolt EV drivers who wanted to make trips beyond the 70- to 100-mile radius of their home.

While the Chevrolet Bolt EV has an impressive 60 kilowatt-hour advanced nickel-rich lithium-ion battery pack which GM says should be good for an EPA range in excess of 200-miles per charge, the Bolt EV comes with just a 7.2 kilowatt on-board charger as standard. Quick charging capability via an SAE CCS socket will likely be standard on higher-trim models and an optional extra for lower-trim models.

As we noted on Monday, the Chevrolet Bolt EV’s CCS quick charging port will only charge at 50 kilowatts, meaning 90 miles (just under half a charge) is possible in 30 minutes at a public CCS charger. While the CCS quick charging standard can technically offer faster charge rates of up to 150 kilowatts, it seems that GM has decided to stick with 50 kW since that’s what the majority of CCS charging stations in the wild use today.

But while we conceded on Monday that we understood the logic behind the limited 50 kW quick charging on the Bolt EV, we’ll admit we’re more than a little foxed by the decision by GM not to invest in public charging infrastructure. Because as other companies already know, the best way to increase public electric car charging infrastructure is to invest in it.

Of course, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] has been investing in its own Supercharger network since the day its Model S luxury electric sedan was launched back in 2012. Nissan meanwhile, has been working alongside infrastructure providers to increase the numbers of CHAdeMO DC quick charging stations available to its customers around the world, while BMW and VW have carried out similar investments (in smaller volumes, admittedly) into CCS quick charging.

GM's attitude to infrastructure investment has us perplexed.

GM’s attitude to infrastructure investment has us perplexed.

Thanks in part to Nissan’s investment in public charging infrastructure and the head-start its chosen CHAdeMO DC quick charge standard had on CCS in the public charging marketplace, there are now more than 1,500 CHAdeMO DC quick charging stations in North America. At current estimates, there are less than 200 CCS quick charging stations, most of which are located in key market areas like California, Colorado, and the Northeast coast of the U.S.

Even Detroit, the spiritual home of GM, has just one lowly CCS quick charger according to PlugShare.

And that poses a major problem, because without suitable CCS quick charging infrastructure across the U.S., the Chevrolet Bolt EV is just as crippled as any other electric car when it comes to long-distance trips: despite a nationwide launch plan, the Bolt EV will only make sense in markets where there’s plenty of CCS quick charging.

At the current time, despite the best efforts of BMW and to a lesser extend Volkswagen, deployment of CCS charging infrastructure is about two years behind CHADeMO charging infrastructure. While Nissan LEAF and Kia Soul EV drivers can travel between certain major cities on the U.S. West Coast, for example, those with CCS-compatible cars are still struggling to get out of the suburbs.

Without a suitable quick charging network to back its long-range Bolt EV up, GM risks losing the market advantage it will gain from being the first to bring a sub-$35,000 long-range, 200-mile electric car to market. And while it may have a year (or possibly two) to rectify this problem before the Tesla Model 3 launches, Nissan’s next-generation LEAF — which is also expected to have a 200+ mile range — will likely launch in late 2017.

And if that happens, GM’s electric car revolution could be very subdued indeed.

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  • vdiv

    GM is probably thinking “What a shameless bunch of ungrateful whinies! We finally bring to market an affordable and cute 200-mile EV, what they’ve been crying about for a quarter of a century, and they still find something to complain about!”

    The really scary possibility is that GM has no long term plan for plugin EVs (which includes investment in charging infrastructure, multiple EV platforms and models, scaling manufacturing, etc.) because they are still betting on a hydrogen fuel cell future. Making EVs is just a stop-gap measure for them.

  • Matt Beard

    It’s almost like they want it to fail so they can say “see – we told you electric cars were pointless”

  • The most likely explanation is that GM looks at 200 mile range as satisfying the “range anxiety” question for commuters. GM still views the gas engine as the long distance, full range solution. Given they sell millions of gas cars, who could fault that logic. GM can avoid spending on infrastructure and still sell every single Bolt they make, no problem.

    Meanwhile, my family has two EV’s and no gas, even our snow blower is electric.

    • bioburner

      Agreed. GM sells plenty of gas cars and does not fund gas stations. If there is profit to be made let a third party handle that. Sweet. Only one EV. Electric snow blower, lawn mower, blower, weed Wacker and chain saw. No gas cans in my garage either. Just need a few really nice extension cords and we are happy.

  • Stephen Noctor

    I don’t believe GM can compete with Tesla without existing infrastructure. To me this really suggests the real possibility that despite the hullabaloo at CES they view the car as a compliance vehicle. Or at best an experiment…. but not a well funded experiment.

  • Mary Barra at CES also said that in GM they believe in the dealer system unlike other automakers and that no Bolt EV driver will ever have to travel to another state to buy or service the car (hint for Tesla).
    But we all know how dealerships work and how they get their money and why they don’t promote or support electric vehicles.
    https://youtu.be/qy3JnNjv6uU

  • Pointswest

    Although I agree GM should put something toward building out the infrastructure, I don’t think CCS is really all that far behind CHAdeMO. Most new stations being installed are dual standard, so each new CCS station is a new CHAdeMO station as well (so theoretically, CCS can never catch up).

    There are enough CCS chargers now to travel regionally in large areas on both US coasts, and that’s really what EVs are for: regional travel. True long-distance travel in an EV is still a novelty. It’s far too slow to compete with the energy density and refueling time of gasoline.

    Again, I think GM should be supporting CCS.

  • Chris O

    The Bolt is the right car from the wrong company. Thanks to LG the Bolt is a remarkable car but thanks to GM it won’t go very far in this world, pun intended. Delivering the car is only half the job, there also needs to be a compelling vision on the sort of infrastructure needed to support it and that just isn’t there. It’s incredible that GM just sits on its hands while third parties haphazardly roll out infrastructure that doesn’t even have the output to fill up a Bolt in reasonable time. As a result the car just doesn’t deliver on its promise of long range practicality and sales will reflect that.

    Looks like GM’s vision for this car doesn’t stretch much beyond its compliance needs which is sad as the car looks like it has more potential than that. As things stand the Bolt is really vulnerable to future competition from Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 that does come with the right quickcharge support.

  • Chris O

    I wonder if the assumption is correct that Bolt is only capable of 50KW charging maximum or that GM just mentioned charging rates that go with the infrastructure that actually exists.

    If Bolt’s charging maxes out at 50KW the car is basically obsolete before it’s even available.

  • JH

    The bolt will likely take the existing market. But it won’t make converts outside of the eV friendly crowd. Lea, egolf and the like will have a hard time to compete. But I don’t see how the bolt could compete with the model 3. Even if tesla would sell the supercharger as a one time option it would still be a unique feature.

  • Informed

    I don’t understand the big deal about quick charging. First of all, Tesla’s charging system is, in part, paid for by owners. $2,000 from every Tesla sold goes towards building stations.

    Secondly, if you drive a normal commute every work day, you will absolutely be able to have a full charge in the morning using the 120 v charger. If you take a 150 mile trip on the week-end and you don’t plan another long trip during the work week, by Friday, you will have attained most of your full charge.

    If your 200 mile range EV has only 50 miles after the week-end, and you regain 45 miles per night charge, and you drive only 20 miles per day, By Saturday morning, you have 175 miles built up. If you don’t take a long trip that week-end, you will have 200 miles built up before the week-end is up.

    You don’t have to have a full charge all the time. It doesn’t hurt to unplug the car. Other than Tesla, these long range cars are for folks who don’t want any anxiety at all for normal driving. Witness the many pictures of Leaf’s on flatbeds. You don’t need the 240V charger.

    I have a Volt. I average 4 gallons of gas used per 1,000 miles. There are folks who don’t want that. That’s great. These cars will work fine for them. If you want to take a long trip, buy a Tesla.

    No big deal.

  • valakos

    does anyone know if there is a chademo to ccs adapter?

  • gcozette

    Wow. One would think that GM would have been more forward looking. What a huge mistake to create such a ground-breaking new vehicle while leaving it void of long range rapid-charge infrastructure support from clean source electricity. We would very much like to buy a Bolt, but will simply have to wait a few months for the 200 mile Tesla or Leaf later in 2017.

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