The Chevrolet Bolt, the world's first long-range, mainstream-priced battery-electric vehicle, has been named Green Car of the Year during a ceremony at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Organizers of the award called the Bolt a "game-changer," suggesting that its launch will transform the public's perception of green powertrain technology from a quirky niche to something that can appeal to everyday drivers.
"This takes battery power into the mainstream," said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal and the organizer of the annual Green Car of the Year award. "This is the transition year. Green technology is no longer for early adopters."
The Chevy Bolt will reach market by the end of the year, according to parent General Motors. It joins a growing list of battery-electric vehicles, including the updated Volkswagen e-Golf and the next-generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive also making their debuts at the L.A. Auto Show.
The latest version of the e-Golf will get a 50 percent bump in range, but at an EPA-estimated 124 miles, it will only be able to travel about half as far as the Bolt, which can manage 238 miles range. There are several vehicles that can run even longer, including the Tesla Model S sedan and Model X SUV, but those battery cars start at more than double the price of the new Bolt. The Chevy electric vehicle will carry a base MSRP of $37,495 - dropping below the $30,000 mark after factoring in a $7,500 federal tax credit.
"Consumers want cars that are efficient," said Steve Majeros, the marketing executive in charge of Bolt. "But they don't want cars that scream they are different. They just want a great car."
Unlike many early electric vehicles, Bolt is also reasonably quick, capable of launching from 0 to 60 in just over seven seconds.
In fact, manufacturers from around the world are shifting the way they design and engineer electric vehicles. The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid that vied with Bolt for the Green Car trophy can hit 60 in less than six seconds. And the Tesla Model S, equipped with its optional Ludicrous Mode, is now the world's fastest production sedan, capable of hitting 60 in 2.8 seconds.
A wide range of automakers are planning to launch performance and longer-range battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, over the next several years, including Porsche, Audi and even Aston Martin.
But the real "game-changer," said Cogan, is getting prices down into the mainstream. A number of automakers are targeting 200-plus range and prices under $40,000, as well. That includes Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan and Tesla.