GM starts pro­duc­ing 200-mile elec­tric Chevro­let Bolt

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - – AP

IT CAN go more than 200 miles on bat­tery power and it costs less than the av­er­age new ve­hi­cle in the United States.

But in an era of US$2 per gal­lon gaso­lene, the Chevro­let Bolt prob­a­bly won’t do a whole lot to shift Amer­ica from gaso­lene to elec­tric­ity.

Gen­eral Mo­tors has started mak­ing Bolt hatch­backs on a slow assem­bly line at a fac­tory in Orion Town­ship, Michi­gan, north of Detroit.

The cars, start­ing at US$37,495 be­fore a US$7,500 fed­eral tax credit, will go on sale in Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon be­fore the end of the year and will spread to the rest of the coun­try next year. The av­er­age sales price of a new ve­hi­cle in the US is about US$34,000, ac­cord­ing to Kel­ley Blue Book.

An­a­lysts say the Bolt’s 238mile range on a sin­gle charge, plus a net price of around US$30,000, should make it an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive to cars with in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion en­gines. While they ex­pect the Bolt to in­cre­men­tally add to the num­ber of elec­tric cars now on the road, they don’t ex­pect a seis­mic shift to elec­tric­ity yet. A Chevro­let Bolt EV is on dis­play at the Gen­eral Mo­tors Orion Assem­bly plant Fri­day, Novem­ber 4, 2016, in Orion Town­ship, Michi­gan.

The Bolt’s range more than cov­ers the av­er­age daily roundtrip com­mute of about 40 miles

in the US, and that should give com­fort to those who fear run­ning out of power, said

Stephanie Brin­ley, an auto in­dus­try an­a­lyst for IHS Markit. But there’s al­ways the late night at work and the early meet­ing the next morn­ing with­out enough charg­ing time, or the night you for­get to plug the car in. Those are tough ad­just­ments for Amer­i­cans, she said.

“We’re trained to be­lieve that wher­ever we go, we get can get the fuel that we need. With elec­tric­ity, you need to plan that out a lit­tle bit more,” Brin­ley said.

IHS pre­dicts that GM will sell just un­der 30,000 Bolts in the first year, which won’t add much to the roughly 235,000 electrics now on US roads. Brin­ley says there will be small growth as more com­pa­nies such as Tesla Mo­tors roll out af­ford­able elec­tric ve­hi­cles with range over 200 miles. Last year, about 100,000 EVs were sold in the US, and IHS pre­dicts 300,000 an­nual sales by 2020 and 400,000 by 2025.

Still, Chevro­let be­lieves the Bolt is a game-changer. “It be­comes just a main­stream ve­hi­cle choice,” said Darin Gesse, the Bolt’s prod­uct man­ager.

GM, he said, set out to make the range about equal to a half­tank of fuel in a gas-pow­ered car. With a half-tank of gas, most peo­ple don’t worry that they have to re­fuel for a while and are com­fort­able driv­ing, he said.

In a quick drive last Fri­day on roads near GM’s tech­ni­cal cen­tre north of Detroit, the car ac­cel­er­ated quickly when com­pared to a gas car. GM says it goes from zero to 60mph in about 6.5 se­conds, which is faster than many mus­cle cars from the ’70s and ’80s. The han­dling was tight, with very lit­tle body roll, yet the ride was smooth and quiet.

GM beat ri­val Tesla to mar­ket with a long-range af­ford­able elec­tric car by at least a year. Tesla plans to start de­liv­er­ing its 200-mile, US$35,000 (be­fore tax cred­its) Model 3 in the sec­ond half of next year, and it had 373,000 de­posits as of May.

The car maker hasn’t re­vealed ex­actly when the first cus­tomer will get a Bolt. Chevro­let didn’t take ad­vance reser­va­tions but says there has been strong in­ter­est at its deal­er­ships.

Not all of GM’s 3,000 deal­ers na­tion­wide will be cer­ti­fied to sell and ser­vice the Bolt, although the com­pany isn’t sure how many yet. Around 2,000 can ser­vice the Bolt’s plug-in cousin, the Volt.

GM says that should be a big ad­van­tage over Tesla, which doesn’t have ser­vice cen­tres in ev­ery state.

A GAME-CHANGER

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