At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit at the start of the year, Chevrolet introduced Bolt — a concept hatchback for a new generation of its electric vehicle program.
The idea was in line with how the company saw the future of electric mobility — range extended beyond 300 km to allow owners of electric vehicles not just the ability to travel the usual 40-60 km for their daily routine but also to explore outside their city confines for weekend getaways or extended trips to visit family or friends; and, an affordable price tag closer to today’s average vehicle price (just under $30,000).
At the time of its debut, we commented that the vehicle looked ready to hit the streets, much in the same way that when the Volt compact sedan was first shown as a concept back in 2007, followers of the industry said the car was ready to go.
And sure enough, Chevrolet confirmed at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show that it would begin to market the Bolt in 2017, with production slated to begin at General Motors’ Orion (Michigan) assembly plant in 2016. The plant currently builds the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact and Buick Verano compact sedan, and will benefit from a $160 million (roughly $201 million) to retool for upcoming production.
Unlike the Volt compact sedan, the Bolt compact crossover will not have an onboard engine to extend its range, but will be a dedicated electric vehicle. It will work with a more efficient battery pack (which will also be used in the next generation Volt).
“Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra at the time of the concept’s introduction. “The Bolt EV concept demonstrates General Motors’ commitment to electrification and the capabilities of our advanced EV technology.”
“The message from consumers about the Bolt EV concept was clear and unequivocal: Build it,” said GM North America President Alan Batey a month later. “We are moving quickly because of its potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles.”
Not much is settled with the production vehicle but it will likely bear a close resemblance to the concept, with some of the features expected to carry through into production.
Among them, a driver-selectable operating system that allows the Bolt to efficiently adapt to different driving modes, such as daily routine driving or weekend cruising. The technology adjusts accelerator pedal mapping, ride height and suspension settings.
A parking assist program is also expected to make it to production, as is Smartphone linking that will allow the owner to control many vehicle functions remotely (such as seeing the status of battery life and charging rate, as well as some vehicle functions such as locking and unlocking doors, and remote starting).
Electric vehicle range is a hurdle the industry is slowly starting to overcome, with the ability to travel longer distances impaired by the size and weight of the batteries, and then the charge time required to attain the level of power to travel those distances. Bolt will reportedly be capable of travelling 200 miles (320 km), though battery size and charge times are not yet disclosed.
The use of lightweight materials such as aluminum and carbon fibre help increase driving range, as does aero optimization of the body design. The interior will also benefit from the slimming of components such as seat frames.
It will be interesting to see how GM addresses the airiness in the cabin, as the concept used glass extensively (including a full glass roof) but glass is the heaviest component in today’s vehicles.