Are elec­tric ve­hi­cles out of gas?

GM starts pro­duc­ing 200-mile Chevro­let Bolt — but with low prices at the pump, will it sell?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Tom Kr­isher AP Auto Writer

It can go more than 200 miles on bat­tery power and it costs less than the average new ve­hi­cle in the U.S. But in an era of $2 per gal­lon gaso­line, the Chevro­let Bolt prob­a­bly won’t do a whole lot to shift Amer­ica from gaso­line 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 $37,495 be­fore a $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 U.S. is about $34,000, ac­cord­ing to Kel­ley Blue Book.

An­a­lysts say the Bolt’s 238-mile range on a sin­gle charge, plus a net price of around $30,000, should make it an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive to cars with in­ter­nal­com­bus­tion 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.

The Bolt’s range more than cov­ers the average daily roundtrip com­mute of about 40 miles in the U.S., and that should give com­fort to those who fear run­ning out of power, said Stepha-

nie 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 U.S. 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 U.S., 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 half-tank 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 Fri­day on roads near GM’s tech­ni­cal cen­ter north of Detroit, the car ac­cel­er­ated quickly when com­pared to a gas car. GM says it goes from zero to 60 mph 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 200mile, $35,000 (be­fore tax cred­its) Model 3 in the sec­ond half of next year, and it had 373,000 de­posits as of May.

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

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A bat­tery is lifted into place for in­stal­la­tion in the Chevro­let Bolt EV at the Gen­eral Mo­tors Orion Assem­bly plant Fri­day in Orion Town­ship, Mich.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yves Don­tigny, plant launch man­ager at the Gen­eral Mo­tors Orion Assem­bly plant, points out a fea­ture on the drive train be­fore its in­stal­la­tion into the Chevro­let Bolt EV on Fri­day in Orion Town­ship, Mich.

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