Tesla model what? Chevy walks the walk.
Chevy has taken a big lead over Tesla Motors in the 200-mile, affordable battery electric (BEV) race.
The news this week is that Chevy’s new 2017 Bolt has earned a 238-mile range estimate from the EPA. That range is well above the 200 miles that GM promised and will make the Chevy Bolt the first affordable battery electric vehicle to surpass the 200-mile range goal that Tesla Motors and other EV makers have set as the end-all of range anxiety.
Other EV makers have offered longer-range EVs for years. But there was always a catch. With the Tesla Models S and X, price is a big issue. At about $70K in their most basic form, they are well outside the average cost of a new car, never mind the low $20K cost that the largest selling compacts like the Corolla, Civic, and Sentra sell for.
Another drawback for some EV buyers is the gasoline range extender. A pretty substantial faction of EV fans consider oil the devil’s work and think cars like the Plug-in Prius, Ford Fusion Energi, and Volt are no better for America than an F-150.
EVangelists have been telling us since the start of modern EVs that all we really needed was a 40-mile range. They invented that idea by averaging the commute distance most of us take and then point out we should be charging at home each night. However, this ignores the fact that millions of Americans live in apartments where charging is not an option, and the fact that almost all vehicle owners use their rides for a radius of more than 20 miles pretty much constantly. Had the EV champions been right, the Chevy Volt, with its 53 mile EV-only range would have been the breakthrough we all needed. Heck, using its range extender it can travel a whopping 420 miles in a straight line. Yet, its sales are well below its peak when early adopters bought theirs. So is the EV range problem really the issue?
One reason electric cars may not be selling is that they are, well cars. Cars are declining rapidly in popularity. Buyers want huge trucks and compact crossovers. Those are the number one and two segments in the automotive world. Pricey vehicles get a lot of press, but the fact is they are a tiny fraction of total vehicle sales. The Honda CR-V, for example, outsells the Cadillac and Buick brands.
So affordability, and offering the right type of green vehicle is key to any green car’s success. The $30K Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid proves this. It outsells every EV model and has in every month it has been available. Chevy may be on to something with the Bolt. Its design is more like a crossover than a conventional sedan like what Tesla’s Model 3 has been shown to be.
We will soon find out if range has been the issue all along. Chevy is planning to start selling the new, 2017 Bolt to real buyers in the next month or two. Tesla is years away from shipping a production version of its more-affordable fourth vehicle, which it calls the Model 3. Worse for Tesla, it has shipped less than 10,000 of its third model, the Model X, to customers in the first full year of its production. This despite having a huge backlog of pre-orders. With every new announcement Chevy grows closer and closer to what many have considered the holy grail of EVs: An affordable, mass-produced, battery-electric vehicle that with government incentives will be priced below $30,000.
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