GM Says It Will Begin Building Long-Range Bolt Electric Vehicle

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/ Source: The Detroit Bureau

General Motors confirmed Thursday it will launch production of the Bolt battery-electric vehicle that it says will deliver around 200 miles per charge, double the performance of most other battery-electric autos.

First shown during the Detroit Auto Show last month, the hatchback was designed to overcome what industry planners see as two of the biggest obstacles to wider acceptance of battery technology: limited range and a high price tag. After factoring in federal tax incentives, the Chevrolet Bolt should cost around $30,000, Alan Batey, president of North American operations at General Motors, said during a speech at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday.

Battery-based vehicles – including hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric models like Bolt – have seen sales slide in recent months as gas prices tumbled. Batey remained upbeat about the opportunities for selling Bolt even if gas stays well below its $4 peak, noting that saving money on gas “isn’t the only reason people buy (battery-based) vehicles.”

Batey said the Bolt will go into production at an underutilized small car plant in the Detroit suburbs. He wouldn’t give a precise target date but has reported that manufacturing is likely to start in autumn 2016, and that Chevy hopes to reach sales of somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 of the battery-cars annually.

The launch of the Bolt will put General Motors directly up against Silicon Valley battery-car maker Tesla Motors, which recently announced plans for a $35,000 electric vehicle delivering similar range. But already two years behind on the launch of its Model X SUV, Tesla has not set a hard date for the launch of its more mainstream battery-car.

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-- Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau