General Motors CEO Mary Barra (left) and North America President Alan Batey with the Chevrolet Bolt

General Motors CEO Mary Barra (left) and North America President Alan Batey with the Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

With the Chevrolet Bolt now confirmed for production, headlines like these are popping up everywhere:

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept Takes on Tesla and Nissan LEAF

Chevrolet Bolt - A BMW i3 Competitor?

Chevy To Produce $30,000 Tesla-Fighting Bolt EV

You get the idea, right?

Basically, the headlines put the Bolt in competition with the BMW i3, Tesla Model 3, next-generation Nissan LEAF and so on.

But which electric cars will the Bolt actually compete against?  The simple answer is...none.

If General Motors can stick to its claimed figures for the Bolt, it will be in a league of its own.  Those claimed figures are:

  • Offer more than a GM-estimated 200 miles of range
  • Target price of around $30,000 (after $7,500 federal tax credit)

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

Nissan LEAF

We suspect that the Chevrolet Bolt will go on sale in the U.S. in October 2016.  Meanwhile, Nissan is unofficially targeting a Q1 2017 launch for its next-generation LEAF.  We predict that the Bolt’s expected price of $37,500 (before federal tax credit) could be undercut by as much as $7,500 by the next-gen LEAF, which we assume will have a range of 170 – 200 miles.

But the next-gen LEAF will be later to market, meaning that the Bolt will gobble up all sorts of sales before the LEAF arrives.  That's fine, as the cheaper LEAF will still sell in volumes higher than the Bolt.  These 2 vehicles won't directly compete due to a substantial price advantage for the LEAF.  Those willing to pay more for the Bolt will likely get more range and stronger all-around performance.  Those seeking to save cash will go for the LEAF.  These two vehicles will compliment each other. Got the cash?  Maybe spring for the Bolt.  Cash-strapped? Can't go wrong with the LEAF.

BMW i3

At $5,000 to $10,000 more than the Bolt and with only 81 miles of range, the i3 is in no way a competitive vehicle to the Bolt.  Even if the i3 gets a light refresh prior to the launch of the Bolt, it won't get a range increase that takes it anywhere near 200 miles.  We do expect to see the i3 get updated slightly soon, perhaps for Model Year 2017, but any range increase will only be slight.

Tesla Model 3

Does it exist?  We don't know.  Elon Musk and Tesla says it does, or will...or something along those lines.

What we do know is that it won't arrive on the market until late 2017 (or perhaps much later if Tesla's past track record is any indication of what to expect moving forward).  Our guess is that the Model 3 will go on sale in 2018, with full production ramp up occurring in 2019 or 2020.  Range will certainly be in the 200-mile or more category.  Performance will easily outgun the Bolt, LEAF, i3, etc.  But pricing will be the issue.  A Model 3 with doors will likely be priced $10,000-plus more than the Bolt, making it a non-competitor.

Conclusion

If Chevrolet holds tight on its October 2016 timeline for start of production of the Chevrolet Bolt, it will be in a segment of 1 with no competition.  Question is, will Chevrolet produce enough to satisfy what will surely be a huge level of demand.  Currently, General Motors is putting annual production at 20,000 to 30,000 units after ramp up.  Honestly, we all know that won't be nearly enough to meet demand.  Time to find out if we can start forming a line now.