Thursday, January 15, 2015


DETROIT Tesla's game plan includes the Model 3, a compact and affordable electric car with a 200-mile range. At the 2015 North American International Auto Show here, Chevrolet looks set to beat Tesla to the eletric and price power down $30.000 to $38,000, unveiling its Bolt concept, a hatchback using lightweight body materials and a pure electric drive train.

Chevy wants to be a main player in the electric vehicle game. The automaker just gave the innovative but slow-to-sell Volt a full makeover, and the all-electric Spark is hardly a main player. With the Bolt, Chevy wants to cater to buyers who want an all-electric family car, but don't want to (or simply can't) drop $90,000 on a Tesla Model S. 

Onstage, Barra called the Bolt concept an EV for everyone. "For most, this can be an everyday driver," the CEO proclaimed. And from where we stood, the Bolt could maybe deliver on that promise.

Cabin design employs a flat floor, taking advantage of the elimination of the transmission tunnel, made unnecessary by the electric drivetrain. That flat floor and the dashboard, sporting two LCDs, look similar to those in the BMW i3 electric car.

Chevrolet places an LCD in front of the driver, presumably for a virtual instrument cluster, and a 10-inch LCD on the center dash. This capacitive touchscreen shows infotainment functions. It's not big, but it's not impossible to imagine using it as a small but sensible family vehicle.

Can Chevy deliver on its promise of a lithium-ion powered four-door with 200 miles of range for a reasonable $30,000 $37,000 ? Can the company hit that price point on a car built with, as Barra promised, carbon fiber and active aero? Can it be successful not just in California, but across the U.S. and in markets worldwide?

Chevy's hoping the Bolt can hack it. With the Tesla Model 3 aiming for the same market, the electric runabout market may actually be verging on exciting.

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