Official: Chevrolet Bolt EV Long Range Electric Car To Enter Production This October

Traditionally, the process of turning a concept car into a full production vehicle is an exhaustive one involving multiple stages of development, refinement and design tweaking. If the vehicle is being built on an existing platform or happens to be a variation of an existing model, that process can take anything from sixteen months to two years. If the vehicle is being built on a brand-new platform that has never been used before or debuts a new technology, that time frame can dramatically increase.

By the end of October, the Chevrolet Bolt EV will be in production.

By the end of October, the Chevrolet Bolt EV will be in production.

Even automakers like Tesla Motors — which shuns pretty much every traditional automotive practice in favor of more agile and responsive development cycles — struggles to bring a new model to market in a timely fashion, having been late to market by more than a year with its Model X electric SUV. So when an automaker brings a car to market in double-quick time, it usually means a significant investment has been made by its board of directors and that the car itself is considered intrinsic to the company’s future.

Which is just one of several reasons those in the electric car world are paying close attention to the upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a car which as Automotive News confirmed this week will be rolling off production lines in just three months time, less than twenty months after it debuted as a concept car in January 2015.

GM is already busy testing the Bolt EV in the wild.

GM is already busy testing the Bolt EV in the wild.

When the Bolt EV was unveiled as a concept car, General Motors was coy, declaring that it would consider bringing the compact car into production if it received enough positive feedback. Less than a month after showing the car for the first time, it had committed to making the Bolt EV a production car — and immediately began work on testing engineering pre-production prototypes at its various test facilities across the U.S.

The first GM car to offer 200+ miles of all-electric range, the Chevrolet Bolt EV has been designed from the ground up as an electric car, packing a next-generation 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack from partner LG Chem beneath the passenger compartment for an expected range in excess of 215 miles per charge. If that sounds familiar, that’s because 215 miles is the range predicted by Tesla of its entry-level upcoming Model 3 electric sedan. Indeed, when the Chevy Bolt EV was first unveiled, discussed a real-world range of 200 miles per charge (or thereabouts). When Tesla unveiled the Model 3 and discussed a range in excess of 215 miles per charge, GM upped its game, confidently noting the Bolt EV’s range could easily be tweaked to match that of the Model 3.

But while the five-seat hatchback is expected to go on sale for around $37,500 before incentives — putting it squarely in the same territory as the entry-level, no-frills Tesla Model 3 and its promised $35,000 pre-incentive price tag — GM is adamant that the Chevrolet Bolt EV is marketed at a completely different market segment. Unlike the Model 3, GM’s top brass hint, the Bolt EV is a car for everyday Americans to drive. Moreover, it hints, it’s a car that will prove far more cost-effective and far more practical in everyday use than Model 3. 

We think the jury is out on that statement — while Tesla’s Model 3 may lack a hatchback and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has admitted the average price of a Model 3 is likely to be closer to $44,000 than $35,000, the Model 3 has Supercharger capabilities and a ready-made charging network — GM certainly seems keen on getting the Bolt EV to market before the luxury automaker.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV has an impressive 60 kWh battery pack.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV has an impressive 60 kWh battery pack.

With all of its major engineering and development work completed months ago, GM began pre-production of the Bolt EV way back in March, and, say sources close to the automaker, are already putting fleets of Bolt EV electric cars through their paces in the real world. Last week in fact, a convoy of Bolt EV electric cars wearing manufacturer plates were spotted along the I-5 corridor travelling from San Francisco, California to Seattle, Washington. Having heard reports from several contacts in the region, it appears the convoy was not only testing vehicle range in the real world but also testing compatibility with the CCS DC quick charging stations already in the wild.

But perhaps the most promising piece of news comes from a contact of Transport Evolved who happened upon the cars charging at the well-known Electric Avenue series of DC quick charging stations situated in front of Portland’s World Trade Center on Salmon Street.

While they were unable to get a huge amount of details from those driving the car, we were told that one of the cars showed a range in excess of 200 miles remaining on its dashboard, despite its battery pack only being 85 percent full. If that translates to the production Bolt EV, we could be seeing real-world ranges in excess of 230 miles per charge.

Regardless of what the real-world or EPA rating for this exciting upcoming plug-in will be however, we think one thing is very clear: unlike past electric vehicles it has made, General Motors doesn’t seem to be messing around when it comes to making a long-range practical electric car. The only fly in the ointment? A lack of interest from the Detroit automaker on supporting the expansion of CCS DC quick charging networks, something it appears to be giving a low priority to.

Based on what we’ve heard about the Bolt EV thus far however, we’d suggest that strategy needs to change quickly — or GM could lose out to the Tesla Model 3 after all.


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  • Thanks for the info on the 85% range Nikki, that’s the first I’ve heard of this.
    Agree with your analysis completely.
    Have a Model 3 reservation, but do sincerely hope GM sells all the Bolt’s they can make!

  • dm33

    Agree with the point the GM needs to support the charging network.
    This isn’t a minor issue. It is the major determinant of what the Bolt is used for.

    Without a charging network, the Bolt can be nothing more than a 200 mile range commuter car. For that use, its not much better than an existing LEAF. It won’t sell well, it won’t be a game changer.

    If there is a charging network, the Bolt can be used for longer distance travel. It suddenly becomes possible to be the only car for a person or family assuming someone can charge at home. It could be used as the every day car for everything, short distance and long distance.

    The car overall sounds very appealing and promising. The major thorn is the charging network.

    Even I am surprised that GM can get 90% of it right and still manage to mess it up.

    • Jeff Laurence

      I’m not sure if a 200 mile range falls short of filling 95% of my needs. The other 5% is filled by Fiat’s free car rental of one day for every month you have your ev. Twelve days of ICE vehicle use per year is plenty.

  • Neil Livewire

    Hi Nikki
    This is good news.
    I keep checking the progress of all proposed electric cars almost daily, I desperately want to replace our 4×4 pickup with an electric car which can legally tow a trailer.
    Although, as like most “normal” people, I don’t have the funds to buy a TESLA.
    I posed a question to Opel France, I live in France, as to the capability of the “Ampera-e” to tow a trailer and received an unsatisfactory response.
    With todays news it’s obvious that GM are in an advanced position re Homologation, so should be able give details of whether the Bolt / Ampera-e will be homologated for the fitment of a tow bar and yes I understand it will reduce the range of the vehicle.
    If you get the opportunity to ask, please would you try to obtain this information.
    Nissan have lost a customer due to this lack of forethought.
    I would like to ask the same of Hyundai but their site contact links are existing customer based & I have little confidence in dealer networks especially where new technology is involved.
    You and your colleagues have an excellent site, keep up the good work!

  • Surya

    This looks like a great car, but Tesla’s lower price point and better charging options seem like a better deal. And on top of that, the ever improving software from Tesla is something no other manufacturer currently offers. So I think this is a case of a very good effort, but Tesla will probably outdo them.

  • KIMS

    So less than 20 months from the Concept was shown… soo Elon, the clock is ticking, but you look to have the chance to match or beat that number… 20 months from the unveil of Model 3 puts them to Nov 1st 2017 or so.. Which if their production schedule does not slip, they will beat.. We shall see what happens, exciting times regardless!

  • Electric Bill

    No one has commented yet on the possibility that GM is hoping to work a deal w/ Tesla allowing then to use the Supercharger network. That seems quite likely to me.

    Such a deal is far more likely than would otherwise be the case given that Tesla, and Musk, in particular, have gone far beyond what any other company, would be expected to do by opening up their thousands of patents to other car makers to use. That is not just lip service… that shows genuine caring. I believe it was Volvo some years ago that did something similar, offering their IP re: safety technology— seat belts, that kind of thing— which was admirable, but throwing the door open to the entire library is taking it to a whole new level.

    Iif Tesla did deny GM the use of its charging network, it would be for more than just market share, but rather something such as overloading its network before it was even saturated, which could deny existing Tesla customers ready access. Tesla may require GM to partner in expanding that network if they want to have its use.

    Musk’s stated goal is EV ubiquity; he has shown himself to be serious to that end; anything that would expand the charging network in an agnostic fashion would be a win-win-win-win: good for Tesla, good for GM, good for their customers, and good for the environment. Plus, one of the greatest of benefits is cutting ourselves off just a bit more from reliance on foreign oil that funds terrorism worldwide, but especially in the Middle East. If Bashir Assad could be brought to his knees in an efficient, bloodless and orderly way, Syrian refugees could return to their country. This would be a relief for everyone, including the overburdened European countries that have been granting millions of refugees safe haven.

    Yes… a robust, mature charging network would have dramatic results for everyone.

    • Martin Lacey


      1) GM hate Tesla and use every opportunity to criticise them (such as we don’t need to take reservations) – GM couldn’t humble themselves to ask for their clients to use the Supercharger network.
      2) GM won’t contribute to the charging infrastructure the bolt is equipped to use – why the heck would they contribute to Tesla?
      3) GM appear to see charging like gas – they don’t build gas stations or subsidise gas purchases for their current customer base and can’t understand why they should do so for BEV’s.

      • Electric Bill

        Martin Lacey: GM has changed its stance countless times on a range of issues, such as Bob Lutz foaming at the mouth at the “arrogance” of CARB to insist that all car companies produce 1% of their yearly output as EVs if they sought to sell cars, in CA.

        . Lutz was doing everything legal and illegal he could do to scuttle California’s plan to electrify our cars… very clever ploys to effect end runs around the mandate, such as making ads that were required, bit doing them in such a way that they would be considered artistic and likeable without actually helping to increase EV popularity.

        The polar shift occurred instantly, as soon as Lutz saw— and drove— the Roadster when it first came out. He was humiliated to see what was at the time was this little tiny company proving that EVs really DID have a place in our future. He said that in just such language. The day he saw the Roadster and its serious potential, Lutz set the wheels in motion to create the Chevy Volt.

        GM is no more the company it was 15 years sgo, any more than today’s Germany is the same Nazi atrocity of the early 1940’s.

        Neither you or I can prove our points on this issue; we can only wait to see how GM a deals with this problem.

        And it is a problem: Lutz and the GM execs to follow him have failed to see the road ahead quite as well as Musk; for instance, although the Roadster and Model S are fully electric, Lutz created something that was not quite what was needed: sort of like if someone told him he needed to buy a dog, and went out and bought a house cat. A pet, friendly and furry, and about the right size, but not a direct hit.

        Corporations are entities run by individuals with their own personal visions, whether flawed or as precisely perfect as that at Tesla. And just because Chevy has failed to get it right so far does not mean that they won’t get it right this time. .. I do hope so. It will make out path for the next few years ever so much easier.

        • Martin Lacey

          I agree that dinosaurs adapt or die and that GM have made some adaptations. I propose that “the light” GM saw was based on USA government bailout funding.

          Now they have paid back their loans and reached profitability they are buying back shares for short term gain – money that would have been better spent on product improvement. Instead LG have done most of the development work on the Bolt and will make the lions share of the profit.

          The sniping at Tesla by GM upper management is a recent and current practice which is why I believe GM are not about to co-operate with Tesla by partnering in the supercharger network.

          I hope I’m wrong, but from where I’m sitting GM are setting themselves up to fail, or at least hampering their chances of success!

          • Electric Bill

            Martin: we disagree in areas. But it is so refreshing not to be slinging mud, as I see so much of, especially in FB.

            I just now happened to look at your profile and am glad to see you have a Telsa. I have two EVs: the tiny thing you see in the attachment, and a fully electric Chevy pickup truck conversion. I will never go back to ICE

          • Martin Lacey

            I can see how my comments would lead you to believe I own a Tesla, however I don’t – YET!

            I am a day 1, pre-launch event model 3 reservation holder and obviously am closely watching developments, including supercharger and destination charger locations in my region.

            I have an aged ICE which is about due for recycling and am looking at sourcing a cheap EV until my Model 3 makes it to the UK sometime in 2018.

            Thanks for sharing the pic of your three wheeler…. did you make this yourself?

          • Electric Bill

            That is a 2001 Corbin Sparrow, with an upgraded lithium iron phosphate (LiiFe PO4) battery pack replacing the original lead/acid pack. The change in battery packs not only increased the range from 30 miles to 120 miles per charge, but reduced the vehicle weight by 260 lbs. Did you notice my nickname on the door— “Electric Bill”? The license plate reads “ELEQWIK” (Elec– QUICK!)

            There are very few of these Sparrows left– here is another one owned by a fellow not far from me.

            (Click on the images to enlarge)

          • Martin Lacey

            I did!

    • Jeff Laurence

      It seems unlikely that Musk would trade away a major advantage to a competitor. His charging network is a major seeking point. Why give Chevy any help?

  • Jeff Laurence

    The charging network is a big deal so they need to have a plan. I see BMW’s and Volts charging all over so presumably all it takes is an adapter to be able to use the CHADmo network. The shape and carrying capacity makes the Bolt more attractive than the Tesla but let’s see how this all shakes out. My KIA ev lease runs out next year so I’m excited to see the competition.