Ever since it unveiled its Model 3 electric car back in March, California automaker Tesla Motors has been basking in the warm, fuzzy glow of knowing that it has more than 350,000 pre-order reservations secured for its mass-market, long-range electric sedan.
Combining its now legendary performance, high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack, advanced semi-autonomous safety features, supercharger compatibility and over-the-air software updates, Model 3 — which Tesla says will enter production in Q4 2017 and go on sale from $35,000 before incentives — looked to have sewn up the affordable long-range electric car market. Indeed, with a promised range of 215 miles per charge, Model 3 seemed to beat the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV on price, range, performance and charging capabilities. At least, it did when compared to the specifications and $37,500 target price GM CEO Mary Barra disclosed back in January at CES 2017.
But on Monday, the Detroit automaker fired a warning shot Tesla’s way, announcing its 2017 Bolt EV had received an official EPA range of 238 miles per charge, enough to leap-frog Model 3 in the range race and make the Chevrolet Bolt EV the cheapest long-range electric car to go on sale to date. What’s more, at a press briefing earlier this week GM North America President Alan Batey hinted that the Bolt EV could cost less than previously thought. And while GM stopped short of promising a particular sticker price, it is now stating the 2017 Bolt EV will have an “expected MSRP below $37,500 before available federal tax credit of up to $7,500”.
Naturally, that statement could indicate an MSRP of $37,499, but given Tesla’s plan to launch Model 3 with a starting price of $35,000 before incentives we think it’s likely that GM will slash $2,500 off the Bolt EV’s price to make it aggressively compete against Model 3.
GM is clearly going after Model 3 with the Chevy Bolt EV when it comes to range and price, but what about other features?
Those who have driven the Bolt already comment that it gives a very promising, spirited drive thanks to its 150 kilowatt electric motor. There’s also user-adjustable regenerative braking on accelerator liftoff thanks to the single regeneration-on-demand paddle on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. Road handling and body roll is minimal thanks to its 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack being mounted low down in the chassis, and our friends at GreenCarReports (who were lucky enough to have a drive last week) note that “it looks considerably smaller than it actually is.”
“Think of it as a tall wagon or (heaven forfend) a small minivan, and you’ll get a sense of its interior volume,” it notes.
In other words, it may have the Model 3 beat when it comes to practicality for everyday life thanks to its hatchback design and versatile load bay design. But as Tesla fans will note, the Model 3’s Supercharging capabilities may give it the edge over the Bolt EV when it comes to long-distance travel — even if the Model 3 requires users to pay for Supercharging access. That said, CCS — the quick charging standard preferred by GM for the Bolt EV — is quickly gaining popularity thanks to the completion of east and west-coast corridors for major routes.
As for over-the-air updates? GM says the Bolt EV will get those too, knocking one more thing off the list of Model 3 features that may have put it above the Bolt EV in some consumers’ minds.
Autopilot functionality may give the Model 3 an edge still in the mind of some consumers, along with the cachet of the Tesla brand. But with the Bolt EV due to launch in just a few weeks’ time and GM more than capable of making as many cars as are demanded of it, Tesla is going to find itself a long way behind when it launches Model 3 next year — unless of course it can come up with a killer feature that we don’t yet know about.
The biggest risk for Tesla right now? The fact that GM has an order of magnitude more cash on hand than Tesla — and should it choose, it could make things very difficult indeed for the California company.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.