Chevrolet Bolt Design Analyzed


Chevrolet Bolt EV

Chevrolet Bolt EV

One of a handful of websites out there focused on automobile design is Car Design News. To the best of our knowledge, Car Design News is the first such site to take aim at the Chevrolet Bolt.

Chevrolet Bolt EV At LA Auto Show - Image Credit: InsideEVs / Tom Moloughney

Chevrolet Bolt EV At LA Auto Show – Image Credit: InsideEVs / Tom Moloughney

From a design perspective, Car Design News appluads the Bolt for “its essential character” that’s almost immediately apparent from first glance. What’s that “essential character?” Umm…Japanese MPV. The site states that the Bolt isn’t easy to size up at a glance, but notes that it’s basically the same size, dimensionally, as the Kia Soul. Probably bigger than you thought it was then.

Turning attention to the inside, Car Design News states:

“In the interior, four persons can sit in relative comfort. There is plenty of headroom for all on board. The cockpit feels narrow, the seats especially so. As for the décor and ambience, Wired magazine perhaps best summed up the situation: “Being inside the Bolt feels a bit like flying economy class on a brand-new, state-of-the-art plane.”

The website says “platiscky” is what comes to  mind when inside the Bolt, even if you opt for leather seating.

Inside the Chevrolet Bolt EV

Inside the Chevrolet Bolt EV

So, Car Design News isn’t enamored with the Bolt on the design front. The website goes on to explain that General Motors could’ve had a game-changer here, but instead it dropped the ball by basically designing an appliance on wheels, when the right path would’ve been to design an icon. Something along the lines of the BMW 2002, Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Corvair. Something with flair…y’know.

The article concludes with this:

“The Bolt could have been the Mustang or Corvair Monza of our era. It had the potential to be an affordable, sporty car that spoke of the future and the fun of driving, or an autonomous car that could be a cool ride, not just a transportation appliance.”

“Make no mistake, GM deserves high praise for the effort to bring electric car mobility to the everyday driver.”

“But we’re left with the feeling that an opportunity for Chevrolet to put yet another icon on the American road – another Corvette or Camaro or Bel Air – has been missed. What a shame.”

Source: Car Design News

Categories: Chevrolet


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71 Comments on "Chevrolet Bolt Design Analyzed"

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And yet the Bolt still hauled in two of the biggest awards in the industry (Mototrend and Green CotY). And will more than likely score the trifecta (NA CotY).

Can only cream so much stuff into a $37.5k price tag.

Er, cram. Whoops.

Gm Deserves HIGH praise ?? For what ?? For making a compliance car to earn carbon credits so they can build More Gas Hogs without Penalty and fulfill their agenda??? Well then Praise GM !!

Can’t blame gym for selling what people want to buy, at least they are offering green alternatives to the profitable suvs and truck, and who knows w some people might convert like me who was owned gas guzzling v8’s for years and now drive a bolt.

Volt sorry

Yeah it’s an achievement, but for one thing, they could have aimed higher. More importantly, their biggest competitor is telling them to make many times more than they’re planning to. That’s an astounding thing. Seriously, astounding. Given GMs history, this car is a cynical legislative exercise until it isn’t. Cheers from someone who wants to see 500,000 of these on the road, stat.

The notion by analysts and design critics that the Bolt could’ve been iconic if it were sporty is bizarre. Why would GM aim an electric car at a niche instead of mass marketing the thing? They beat everyone to market with an affordable car with timely styling (utility) and potential for huge mass market appeal. The design allows long range, interior space and utility. It’s what’s selling right noe, while iconic Mustangs and Camaros sit for months on dealer lots

Exactly! It seems perplexing that so many can’t understand that a grocery getter is what sells (looking at Civic, Corolla). You can’t expect much, and many of those people will want to get in and know exactly where to find all the essential car stuff, not have to navigate a huge centre screen….

While I generally agree, there are two reasons why GM could have given us more.

1) They could have gone for hot hatch. The Bolt is a plenty powerful hatch already, but it doesn’t show. I don’t mean they should have gone full Focus RS, maybe only sas an option, but Golf GTI would have been appropriate, inside and outside.

2) The Bolt ins’t some retrofitted gasoline vehicle, like so many, but sits on its own EV platform. Why not use this platform to build the Bolt and something iconic? Maybe the iconic car will follow some day, but it would have given the Bolt quite the push, if it was “like the [iconic car], but more practical”

Interestingly, I share their conclusion. Bolt is decent, but it could’ve been so much more. But in a way I’m glad it’s not, because “too good” could’ve taken market away from Tesla.

Still holding out hope GM has a surprise for CES/NAIAS…

That would be great! But I wouldn’t count on it, Because GM thinks they’ve out done themselves already with Bolt thingy .

LOL! Remind me to thank GM then! Listen, the Bolt will have its share of purchasers, among those desiring a long range BEV, particularly among GM fans, those wanting a car sooner and even anti-Tesla types. The more BEVs the better. But I’m of the opinion that the Model 3 and the Bolt are addressing two entirely different things!

So, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Bolt pulling away too many Model 3 sales.
As I’ve iterated times on these threads, the more ICE cars replaced, the better!

Imagine if Bolt had RWD and AWD options, 0-60 MPH around 5 seconds, drag coefficient under 0.2, seats 5 comfortably, tow 1500 lb or 3500 lb with trailer brakes, 350 kW charging at strategically placed Chevy dealers (NOT FREE!) to allow nationwide travel, volume sales all over the world, etc. etc. That will certainly take sales away from Tesla. Fortunately for Tesla, that didn’t happen.

Well, now that we’re in the fantasy department, it’s pretty easy to outdo you.

Imagine if it had 500 kWh, 1500 kW, all wheel drive, four wheel steering, full autonomy, was amphibian, did 0-60 mph in 1.6 seconds, could fly, came with free for life charging at 1 MW at a hundred thousand locations in the US, and cost $15,000 before incentives? Wouldn’t that be great!?

You’re usually more intelligent than this Sparky.

Why is what I describe a fantasy? Bolt has 3X bigger battery than SparkEV (140 HP), so if you extrapolate power, it’d be capable of 420 HP. Indeed, there are guys using two Volt batteries (2/3 of Bolt) to pump out as much power. Then 0-60 in 5 seconds is well within reach. SparkEV is capable of 50 kW charging to 80%, or 150kW for 3X bigger battery. If you allow for taper, Bolt battery could be capable of much more. I guesstimate based on Tesla taper: 120kW at low % to 50kW at 80%, factor of 2.4. 150*2.4 = 360 kW peak power. Given that older model Hyundai Elantra was capable of about 3000 lb towing with trailer brakes and 1500 lb without, towing capacity for much more powerful Bolt is definitely possible. EV1 had Cd well under 0.2, and they had 4 seater in the works. If GM really wanted, they could’ve made Bolt just as well and with 5 seats. As for cost, given that $30K cars of similar form perform like it (ie, Subaru WRX, VW GTI), above spec is roughly what’s expected of $30K car. Indeed, what I describe is roughly what Tesla 3 will… Read more »


Yeah, they complain that the Bolt isn’t luxurious enough or doesn’t have their favorite features. No appreciation for the fact that GM was first and foremost trying to bring out an economy BEV with decent range. OK most people think as economy as under $25k but not there yet.

But at what price? Remember, GM said the top 3 things customers wanted was 1. EV range, 2. Affordable. 3. EV range.

SparkEV said:

“Bolt is decent, but it could’ve been so much more. But in a way I’m glad it’s not, because ‘too good’ could’ve taken market away from Tesla.”

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but I confess I can’t understand it, unless it’s coming from someone who is invested in Tesla stock and is worried about competition reducing the value of that stock.

Personally, I’m a fan of Tesla precisely because they are doing so much more for the EV market; making and selling all the compelling PEVs they reasonably can, while also increasing their production as fast as they reasonably can. If some other auto maker starts doing the same, then shout Hallelujah! for more compelling choices. I’ll be a fan of that other company, too, if and when that happens.

I don’t understand what you’re objecting to. Look at Bolt and Tesla 3, and you’re going to tell me Bolt is great? No, GM could’ve done so much more, and I saw it the day they introduced Bolt early this year.

Unlike some who claim they don’t bash other EV, I bash them when they suck (or not to their potential), even if it’s from the same company that brought us SparkEV. iMiev and Prius Prime (along with FCEV) are some other examples that should go away (or improved), and well deserving of bashing.

I agree with you on giving honest feedback. While we are at it though, it seems to me that Tesla’s plans to charge for Supercharger use hasn’t gotten nearly enough criticism. Elon Musk stated many times, both in writing and verbally, (I have copies and recordings) that Supercharging would be “Free Forever”. A briliant strategy that was obviously meant to boost reservations and sales. I’m sure that many purchases and reservations were made with free long distance travel being a consideration. I know it was a key differentiator for me. To me, charging for Supercharger use is a major problem, in that it seriously impacts Elon Musk’s credibility, and Tesla owners/reservation holders bottom line. I’m not talking about charging for Supercharger misuse, I believe that’s perfectly reasonable. Anyone reserving, buying or leasing any Tesla model equipped with the infrastructure that enables Supercharger use should never have to pay for long distance travel. It’s that simple. Promises were made, repeatedly, an those promises should be kept. It would be very easy to write code to manage the system to effectively eliminate misuse. I’m suggesting that anyone owning, leasing, or holding a reservation for any Tesla model should join in a massive… Read more »

“Free forever” never meant your Tesla could occupy a Supercharger spot forever.

“…While we are at it though, it seems to me that Tesla’s plans to charge for Supercharger use hasn’t gotten nearly enough criticism.

Elon Musk stated many times, both in writing and verbally, (I have copies and recordings) that Supercharging would be “Free Forever”…”

Frank, your point is very valid, and I wouldn’t have handled the issue this way, but, it is Musk’s Party.

Half a loaf is better than outright denial, and he is grandfathering those who listened to Musk at the time, so in this sense he’s being perfectly honest.

How many people expect perfection from your typical car dealer anyway? and no, I don’t have any interest in their equity so I’m not trying to make a brief for Tesla. If people in a timely fashion move out of the way, there is no charge. And if they’re a bit late its not a huge fine anyways.

Frank, another thing in Musk’s favor is that he’s not springing this change in policy on people who have already put money down – other than possibly NOW is the time to get your refundable deposit back (sans interest – but then we’re being cheated out of that by the FED,in general anyway), if you feel jilted. Time to look at a competitor’s product if you are upset about it.

I couldn’t agree more!

I agree completely I think they absolutely should have given the bolt a little more Swagger and not so much compact Appliance by and large it doesn’t cost any more to make a pleasing shape than it does an ugly one the Tooling & Stamping must be done anyway doesn’t really cost more to form the body into a pleasing shape as opposed to making a fugly Appliance box

Well, that may have affected other considerations, like costs to GM. As LG is supplying the battery and the bulk of the electronics, how much more would added features have affected the price GM is paying LG and would that have pushed the base price too high for GM’s purposes, particularly with regard to marketing the car against the Model 3.

Time to market. Part of GM’s sales strategy is ‘look at us, we’re first!’. Adding poshness to the car, may have affected how quickly the car could have been pushed out. Which in turn could have affected this year’s available CARB credits.

General caution on GM’s part may also be playing a role. Tesla’s all about replacing hydrocarbon burning cars, so they’re “all in”, GM is not. So GM is likely to ‘feel out’ the market for the Bolt, before committing to very large numbers.

I, for one, am very happy with the design decisions all in all.

As an owner of a 2012 Volt, I am really looking forward to trading looking cool in my Volt to the much improved visibility from inside the Bolt!

I’m sure it’ll be just as fun to drive!

As an owner of a Taurus, I very much look forward to purchasing a used Volt from previous owners like yourself. It may not be the latest and greatest, but it’s an electric car at heart, and I sick of being at the mercy of oil companies.

They nailed it: there is no wow factor, it’s just a boring Fit knockoff. It does what it does well, and it’s not an offensive design, but just like the current Volt it’s a yawnfest. Is it so hard to find a good designer these days? Just steal a better design. Put that same drivetrain in a more interesting car. Hire the designer of the old Solstice and let her go wild.

I think a lot of people would buy the bolt for its range , and its tech, but a lot would say the design is pretty ordinary.
I would certainly not buy it just for its looks. I wonder if car designers just do the design in house, and then do not “test ” the reaction with the public, prior to settling on the final design. Or do they just agree in Head Office, for the design, without any public testing for the “best of three” for example.. I wonder what 1000 people would have thought of the design, if GM tested reaction of the actual design.

Is there any reason why GM can’t stuff the Bolt propulsion system into a more sporty package derived from the same platform? I wouldn’t think it would be too difficult.

After all the buzz about the Model 3 I would be amazed if GM isn’t developing something to go up against it. Perhaps they could even beat Tesla to market with it.

This is the car that GM designed for Uber/Lyft in the world of autonomous cars and rides-on-demand. If you aren’t buying the car (just renting it) then the Wired quote is incredibly apt – you’re just renting this seat from Uber/Lyft for the next 30 minutes like you rent the seat from Southwest Airlines for 2 or 3 hours.

Yes, I think that was the impetus for the design and style, right down to the high roofline and big rear seat for passengers. Very utilitarian. It is not a drivers car, nor a luxury car, nor a fashion statement. It’s an efficient and effective transportation appliance for shuttling people around. Should appeal to Uber/Lyft drivers as much as a Crown Victoria appeals to taxi drivers….

This critique solidifies my position that the GM Bolt was intentionally designed to undersell. The prototype was gorgeous. The production version is a messy malibu-ized copy of the Honda Fit.

I think so, too, there is many a slip twixt cup and lip.

GM designed the Bolt in an attempt to show that Tesla isn’t doing anything particularly special – “Hell, any regular Detroit manufacturer can run up a long range EV in a matter of months if they really wanted to.”

It’s deliberately boring because the last thing they want is to have too many people wanting the damn things! The point of the exercise is to prove that people generally DON’T want EVs, something they’ve always told us.

“people generally DON’T want EVs, something they’ve always told us.”

That’s Toyota’s line.

Toyota is right. Ask 1000 random drivers if they want an EV and the vast majority will say no.

Ask them if they want a faster, roomier, quieter, cleaner, more reliable car they can refuel for pennies in their garage and most will say yes. Answer the “500 mile” question and price it the same as a similar gascar and that “yes” will turn into a purchase.

Unfortunately Bolt does not answer the 500 mile question and it’s priced almost twice as much as a similar gascar (e.g. Kia Soul). As such it’s market is restricted to the EV enthusiast niche. Plus Uber/Lyft and fleet buyers, who care more about TCO.

I mostly agree with Philip here but I would add that GM probably saw the Bolt also as a way to hedge their bets in case Governments start to really aggressively mandate no carbon transportation.

There is of course no chance of that happening in the US now under a big Oil dominated administration.

In any case, I wish GM had stayed true to the original Aussie-designed body as it was really a cool little CUV IMHO compared to the Fit-derived mishmash it ended up being.

The drivetrain is excellent in a non-sexy way, just wished it had the looks to go with it.

I strongly prefer the belt line and side sculpting of the original Chevy Bolt Concept.

On the other hand, everything else about the production version really fits my needs.

What? You are shopping based on your “needs” and not your boy-racer ego? Gasp! That would make you….An ordinary driver!

An ordinary driver with far better aesthetic sense than a GM Exec. 😉

I workedont withave a team that included a GM-University trained engineer. He described the battles with the design team, sometime over a quarter inch.
I read a review that suggested that the engineers won all of those battles.
Personally I like the fat they one, and not end up with a compromised car.

GM designed the posh and beautiful ELR and it was priced out of the stratosphere then didnt sell.

The 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance was also a Motor Trend Car of the Year winner. I had a 1983 Alliance that came from the factory sporting a nice brass plaque on the dash reminding the occupants it was an MT COTY winner. Since then I have not taken the MT COTY award too seriously.

They totally should not have made the Bolt into an appliance on wheels…
How stupid of them…
No one buys appliances on wheels…
Toyota never became the largest automaker in the world selling appliances on wheels…
Didnt happen nope never no one buys appliances…
I mean the Mustang totaly out sells the Corolla totally…
They obviously made an appliance so they would not sell any Bolts…

The Corolla sells because it’s cheap. The Bolt costs twice as much, and more if the $9k loss for ZEV credits is true. The Bolt is priced high for its class and that fact will limit its appeal to enthusiasts and the curious with $30k to blow.

As with any EV, you need to take the premium and subtract gas savings.

A Corolla only gets more expensive, and EV only gets cheaper.

I drive a Volt, and my 8 year cost will be net $15k (I drive a lot).

If GM is really losing money on every Bolt (as much as $9K), then they really don’t want you to buy it.

Well, the dealers certainly don’t want you to buy one, though if they get you in the door that’s good, from their point of view, so they can sell you something else.

If the $9,000 figure is at all accurate it will have included R and D cost and many other costs that will go down the more they sell.

GM deserves ZERO praise for designing an ugly EV.

It is up to Cadillac to goose up this platform to what they want. They can slap another $12.5k and for $50k make a more emotional design with higher quality material. Obviously Chevy designed the car for a price point and with that huge battery all the money went to drivetrain.

Man I disagree with everyone here – “Nothing noteworthy” – Naw a 300 mile rating (in Europe – but closer to the way I drive), for $30,000. Something my first ev almost 4 TIMES as expensive couldn’t do. By the way, I, and most others, easily exceed GM’s ratings in moderate weather. The roadster i had to REALLY try to beat its estimated range, something I only did twice in four years – most of the time I didn’t come close. I don’t care that much about raw horsepower, but the car has almost double what a leaf has. “Noteworthy Car like a Corvair Monza” (!!) Ok the CM was a decent car, but it was frankly 6 years before you got 4 engine choices, several transmission choices, and any real performance. The ‘swing axle’ of the first 3 years was downright dangerous, as my dad said the car feels like it wants to flip over every time you go around a corner. Ralph Nader made plenty of hay with the dangers of the early Corvairs, and GM stupidly tried to entice him with Women, and then, figuring he was probably gay, tried to set him up with handsome men,… Read more »

“to a private individual” I meant to say. RE: the VW beetle: its car heater had basically 2 sources – a truly elegant design by Ferdinand Porsche: The very tiny fan belt turned only a 140 watt (later 210 watt) Bosch generator which, had a shaft extension to run the SOLE prop fan in the car: Preheated cooling air (from the engine fins) then went through a muffler-heat exchanger to extract the last bit of heat from the exhaust – and it also pushed the air against the windshield (windscreen) and passenger seats with a driver controlled manual damper. The reason such a diminutive generator was possible is that there was no power-robbing heating blower motor, as the engine cooling and cabin heating were accomplished in one smooth operation. Brilliant!

I hope it’s just the efficiency of the classic VW Beetle’s cabin heater which you intended to praise here, in doing as much as possible with a little bit of heat. I hope you’re not actually praising the functionality of the car’s heater, which was widely acknowledged as being wholly inadequate for anything worse than a mildly cold day.

In all fairness, I think the criticisms leveled at the Bolt for being boring or “Plain Jane” are largely irrelevant to the question of how well it will sell.

Look at any list of the best-selling cars in America. (Cars, not light trucks.) Did the Toyota Corolla win any style awards? How about the Honda Accord?

I don’t think so! Lack of style ain’t gonna prevent the Bolt from selling well. I rather suspect the only thing which will prevent the Bolt from being one of the very best-selling BEVs in the world, is GM making choices (such as being dependent on a third party supplier for batteries) which will limit production.

What is magic about making your batteries in house?

There’s not a big difference between you making more cells or telling a supplier to make you more cells. And besides, Tesla doesn’t even make their own cells, Panasonic makes them! Just as if you told a person at your own company to make the actions to ramp up 2 years from now, you just tell the supplier. And the supplier, given proper guarantees that you actually will buy them will then do so. They like to make money, why wouldn’t they ramp up if there is money in it for them?

Increasing production doesn’t require you do it in house. The biggest determining factor by far isn’t who does it but whether you commit to it. If GM was willing to bet the farm like Tesla then there would be no problem with the suppliers ramping up like Tesla’s suppliers do. GM isn’t willing to bet the farm on this car because they have a lot of other cars to sell. For Tesla the Model 3 is nearly a make-or-break car already, so yeah, they committed more.

The Bolt is pricey enough already. It’s going to be hard to get people to pay $50K for a tiny Chevrolet.

If GM wants to go the extra distance with EVs they should honestly make Buick or Cadillac cute ute EV. That’s a car they could charge more for and then they can add on the geegaws people are asking for like AWD, etc. For an extra fee, of course.

This car is meant to be the Corolla or Prius of EVs. I think GM made a lot of right choices on it. But of course we’ll have to see.

Where in the heck are getting 50k from?

GM has explained why they made the choices they did and it all makes perfect sense. People wanted two properties far and above all else: range and low price. That’s why it’s a bit plasticky. Lots of people don’t mind much, if the plastics aren’t too bad. Anyone who thinks the shape of the car can be much different without impacting usability or cabin space or the view is frankly silly. You may prefer a different trade-off, but that doesn’t make this design wrong. A car design magazine isn’t representative of what most people like, and the sales charts prove it every month. I too wish there was a car on the market with the range, power, price combination of the Bolt and a more passionate, less appliance-like (or is that utility-focused?) feel to it. But it doesn’t follow that every car then should be like that. I’m hardly the only type of buyer out there. And besides, since nobody else is in fact offering such a car I would buy an Ampera-e if they could deliver it – it’s only because I’d have to wait at least a year for it that I still have my Model 3 reservation!… Read more »

They have already sold many more Bolts than they need to comply with CARB. So far, this is looking like a real deal car, not a compliance tool.

With this drag coefficient this car is the worst. The M3 will need less than half the battery size of the Bolt to go farther.

Not less than half. Bolt has Cd of 0.32, and Tesla 3 to have 0.2. Power scale linearly with Cd, so the ratio is 1.6. If everything’s the same except for Cd, highway only could asymptotically approach 1.6, which means Tesla 3 could have 37.5 kWh battery for same range.

But Cd is only part of the picture when it comes to real world range since we can’t drive anywhere close to the speed limit (186,000 miles per second). At more sedate speeds (62 MPH), Tesla 3 would need close to 50 kWh to equal Bolt.

Yep, and the CoD means less and less the slower you go. Most people drive in town, below 80kph most of the time. The difference here will be negligible.

Tesla’s low drag coefficients don’t seem to translate into range all that well. The Model S has a much lower Cd than the Bolt with similar frontal area. So why does it have less highway range? The extra weight only explains part of the difference.

IMHO the Model 3 will need almost 55 kWh to match the Bolt’s range.

I see we have now reached the point of Samsung vs. Apple when it comes to the comment section. It no longer matters what one side does, it is automatically wrong and criticized by the other side. That might actually be a good thing. You usually don’t see this level of bickering until a product class starts to become mainstream.


Don’t we already we have plenty of Earth trashing gas and now electron guzzlers on the road or in vapor dreams, with numerous startups competing to make even fancier electric ones, wasting even more resources making them, just for few d… trying to outbid everybody else?

How about getting back to real world and trying to make real difference and stopping that non-sensic competition who trashes the Earth more?

I just read the article and found it too shallow to take seriously. The Bolt was never meant to be a niche vehicle like the Mustang, Camaro, and Corvette. As for the Corvair Monza, the Monza came out late in the first, rather disappointing year of the Corvair — if this comparison were to have any validity, it would be AFTER the Bolt were to introduce a sporty version of the car.

The Bolt hits all the marks it aimed at. As one of the auto publications remarked, the Bolt is not just a great electric vehicle, it is a great car, period.