The all-new 2017 Chevy Bolt has double the range of existing affordable EVs at the same price. What will this mean for competitors?
When the 2017 Chevy Bolt goes on sale next month in November, it will have a price tag of $37,495, not including incentives, federal tax deductions, and state rebates. This price point was carefully chosen by Chevrolet because with those incentives added in, the Bolt will fall below the $30,665 price point that J.D. Power & Associates calls the average transaction price for a vehicle in America.
Electric vehicles sell poorly compared to gasoline-powered green vehicles like the Toyota Prius, RAV4 Hybrid, and 40-mpg compact sedans. In a good month, Chevy sells about 1,500 Volts and Nissan sells about the same number of Leafs. The entire rest of the affordable car field sell at significantly lower average numbers, some at less than 500 per month.
Just for perspective, the Corolla and Civic each top 30,000 units in a good month. The truth is that EVs have been a marketplace disaster except in California, and even there it is only in limited parts of that huge market where they sell well.
The upcoming Bolt could change all that.
The problem, as many EV-advocates have seen it, lies in the public’s discomfort with an EV range limited to about 100 miles in the Leaf and other cars like the Kia Soul EV and BMW i3. The Bolt’s 238-mile range should finally answer the question of whether it was range all along that held these vehicles back, or if it more than that.
However, there may be an important side-effect of the Bolt to watch for. It could kill off every other affordable EV in the market, or force their makers to discount them heavily.
Who would buy an affordable EV like the 100-mile range Kia Soul, priced at $38,025 when they could take home a Bolt that offers similar size, safety, and performance, but double the range – for less money? The likely answer is nobody.
Not all of the other affordable EVs line up perfectly in size and price to the Bolt, but the slightly less expensive Nissan Leaf will have less than half the range the Bolt does. So who buys a Leaf after this November? The more expensive BMW i3, even with its larger battery for 2017 still offers less than half the range of the Bolt and costs significantly more. The BMW name does carry some weight, but range is a huge factor in battery electric vehicles.
Another aspect of the EV marketplace that may be affected is the used market. Used EVs are already an amazing bargain. Because new ones come with up to $10,000 in federal and state dollars to offset their cost, and since used ones have zero consumer price supports, they have the worst resale value in the automotive world. Imagine how much less value those used 100-mile range EVs are going to have when Chevy starts banging out 238-mile range Bolts and flooding dealer lots with them.
Up until this point we have made it seem as if Chevy will advance and other automakers won’t. Of course, they will adapt. The problem is nobody is even close to launching a new 238-mile range EV. Tesla has its upcoming fourth model it calls the Model 3, but nobody has ever driven or seen a production version, and there is no set purchase date. That is pretty much it as far as we know for affordable battery-only EVs that have a range anyplace close to the Bolt.
Other types of EVs will continue to rival the Bolt. The new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid starts about $8K lower than the Bolt will, and the Prius Prime will have an EV range of about 25 miles. After which, it will become a normal Prius and continue on for about another 615 miles before needing to stop for energy. Chevy’s Volt competes with the Prius Prime and is also a bit less expensive than the Bolt will be.
It will be interesting to see what the effects of the Bolt will be on the extended range plug-ins. It will be much more interesting to see what the Bolt does to the short-range, medium-price battery electrics already struggling to find buyers.