Electric vehicle fans should applaud the new Bolt, but there’s still some question as to whether it will expand the EV market.
If you guessed a gas-guzzler was the trade-in car previously owned by the first few Bolt owners, guess again. General Motors shipped the first Bolts and today highlighted three of the first owners. The backstories of the owners is interesting given what these early adopters drove prior to the all-new battery-electric Bolt: each one of the new owners was already driving a green car.
The new Chevy Bolt is unique in that it has a 238-mile range, yet is to be sold after incentives at less than the average new car transaction price. Buyers who are able to take advantage of the $7,500 tax deduction, and who qualify for state incentives will pay less than $30K for the Bolt – and that is before Chevy’s discounting of the model.
This past year Chevy was discounting trucks at $10K off the MSRP at various points in the sales year for various reasons. Should Chevy choose to, it could be putting Bolts into the hands of owners at someplace in the low $20K range.
About 18 months ago at an EV symposium at the Massachusetts Institue of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., an EV advocate made the case that EVs were dramatically cleaner than petroleum-driven vehicles. He used the discontinued Hummer as the comparison vehicle. The room turned on a dime at that point. The automotive experts in attendance knew that the comparison was simply ludicrous.
Many EV buyers have already owned a green car. Steve Henry, a commercial real estate broker with five family members is one of the first three Bolt buyers. He is moving to the Bolt from the world’s only successful green car based on sales, the Toyota Prius. Incredibly, Mr. Henry was currently driving the “least green” vehicle of the first three owners.
The other two both already drive EVs. Bill Matos, a retired cop is buying the Bolt having driven a Chevy Spark EV, which was his second EV. The last of the three is trading in a BMW i3. Former BMW owner, Bobby Edmonds, explained why he switched, saying, “The range and technology attracted me to the Bolt EV. It’s also a great-looking, roomy vehicle, and I love the fact it’s from an American brand. I look forward to the longer drives I can make compared to the i3 that I owned.” The range of the new Bolt EV is more than double that of the BMW i3 electric vehicle.
It is still too soon to tell how many of the 90,000 vehicles the Bolt’s production plant can build, will be Bolts and how many gasoline powered cars. The plant can build either type of Chevy.
General Motors has beaten its rivals to the punch with the Bolt and nobody is really close to delivering any sort of volume of affordable EV model. The closest might be Tesla, who will likely begin a slow trickle of its Model 3 at some point in 2017. Most Model 3 owners won’t take delivery sooner than 2018.
Automakers and EV advocates counting on EVs to save gas, save customers money, or save the planet may have a problem if those buying new models turn out to be existing EV owners. Battery-electric cars have never come close to achieving even 1% of new vehicle sales. If the newest models are being bought primarily by those who have already been driving EVs, then that won’t change.
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