Last week, General Motors confirmed that its upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV — a car that has taken just eighteen months to go from auto show concept car to fully fledged production vehicle — had been awarded an official 238-mile EPA range per charge of its 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, placing it well above the target range for Tesla’s upcoming 2018 Model 3.
At the time, we called the official range rating for the Chevrolet Bolt EV — substantially higher than the “200+” mile range originally promised by GM — something of a “warning short” fired towards Tesla and Model 3 by GM. While the Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 are technically in different market segments, we argued that the two cars’ target prices (below $37,500 and $35,000 respectively before incentives and excluding dealer and licensing fees) made them direct competitors.
Yesterday, that competition went up a notch when GM finally announced the Bolt EV would retail from $37,495 before incentives when it goes on sale this fall. Add in Federal tax incentives of $7,500 for those buying a full-electric car and the effective price in any U.S. state (assuming you have a tax liability greater than $7,500) falls to $29,995.
That’s still more expensive than the Tesla Model 3, assuming Tesla manages to keep its promise that the entry-level Model 3 will come with an MSRP of $35,000 before incentives. But while Model 3 is cheaper at least on paper, the cost per mile of range is closer than you might think.
Of course, we should note here that Tesla hasn’t yet released full specifications or prices for Model 3. But if we assume its $35,000 price and 215 miles of range estimate is correct (and it’s likely range will increase before it reaches production as battery cell chemistries improve) the Model 3 represents a purchase price of around $163 per mile of capacity in its battery pack. The Chevy Bolt EV meanwhile, works out to $158 for every mile of range. Both figures are before incentives or any associated fees.
Sadly, that math is sufficiently fuzzy to not be worthwhile benchmark for all but the most casual of comparisons. Additionally, while Model 3 will come with Supercharger hardware built into the car (and activation only a few clicks and a nominal activation fee away) GM will charge Bolt EV owners an additional $750 to include CCS DC quick charging as a build-to-order option.
That price, added to the entry-level Bolt EV LT makes for an effective price of $161 per mile of range offered. For the higher-level Bolt EV Premiere — which adds front and rear heated leather seats, surround camera and rear camera mirror on top of the rear-vision camera, 10.2-inch touch-screen center console and self-sealing tires found on the Bolt EV LT at an MSRP of $41,780 before incentives — the $750 optional DC quick charging yields a $179 per mile range price.
What does this all mean? On paper, the Bolt EV and Model 3 should be pretty evenly matched in terms of price per mile of range offered and everyday practicality. But while the Bolt EV does boast a hatchback form factor and (says GM) the same kind of over-the-air software update functionality as the Tesla Model 3, Tesla may still have the edge when it comes to its Autopilot functionality.
That’s because, for now, the Bolt EV isn’t launching with any autonomous capabilities. Given GM’s very public experimentation with autonomous Bolt EVs in California, we’ll admit we’re expecting that feature to be added in the not-too-distant future, either as a premium feature for a mildly refreshed model a few years into the future, or some kind of over-the-air update activating hidden hardware already present in production vehicles.
For now however, Tesla has that particular point won for itself.
If you happen to be in any number of well-supported areas in the U.S. where electric cars are already popular and charging infrastructure exists for cars with CCS quick charging, then the Bolt EV is a car that really will cross shop against the Model 3 and potentially even win thanks to its more everyday appearance and practical form factor. For those who are curious, that means California and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the Northeast, at least for now.
Elsewhere? With GM showing no interest in setting up or even funding an expansion of CCS quick charging networks (instead delegating that responsibility to third-party companies), charging provision for the Chevrolet Bolt EV is and will remain patchy for some time. Tesla meanwhile, already has a rapid charging network willing and waiting. Sure, supercharging will cost customers extra, but the Bolt EV’s only way to counteract Tesla’s charging dominance is to put its money where its mouth is.
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