Chevy Bolt Not A Compliance Car Says GM


Following the official reveal of the Chevy Bolt last week at CES in Las Vegas, rumors began to spread that the Chevy Bolt was strictly a compliance car intended to please regulators in California and give General Motors some much needed emissions credits so it could continue selling its highly profitable SUVs and pickup trucks.

Chevy Bolt

Not so, insists Kevin Kelly, manager of electrification and fuel cell technology communications for General Motors. At the Detroit auto show, he was asked by Jeff Cobb of Hybrid if Chevrolet could build as many as 50,000 Bolts a year if the demand is there. “There is nothing constraining us from doing that,” Kelly said.

Some industry observers think having so much of the car sourced from LG Electronics in Korea could be a problem. LG is responsible for the electric motor, power inverter, on-board charger, electric climate control compressor, battery cells and pack, high power distribution module, battery heater, accessory power module, power line communication module, instrument cluster and infotainment system. It has invested $250,000,000 in its factory in Inchon, Korea so it can produce all of those components Chevrolet requires. The cars themselves will be assembled at Chevy’s Orion assembly plant in Michigan.

Others note that Chevrolet does not have a dedicated charging network like Tesla does. The Bolt will use the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) system. It is not compatible with the CHAdeMO standard Nissan uses, although many DC fast chargers offer cables for both. Nor is it compatible with the Tesla SuperCharger network. The Tesla system uses higher power equipment that can boost a depleted battery up to 80% in about 30 minutes. The CCS protocol requires an hour or more to do the same thing.

GM says there are about a dozen car makers who use the CCS system now. It thinks that consumer demand will drive the installation of more charging stations as more electric cars take to the road. Futurists wonder if Tesla’s comprehensive network will one day become the industry standard, handing Tesla a huge advantage in the marketplace. Don’t think for a minute that Elon Musk hasn’t thought of that.

“Chevrolet needs to be disruptive in order to maintain our leadership position in electrification,” say Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product development. “By taking the best of our in-house engineering prowess established with the Chevrolet Volt and Spark EV, and combining the experience of the LG Group, we’re able to transform the concept of the industry’s first long range, affordable EV into reality.”

Chevy Bolt

Much of the Bolt’s success will depend on how soon Tesla can get its Model 3 to market. It is projected to cost about the same as the Bolt and have similar range. Tesla has been late getting its other models to customers. Both the Model S and Model X were two years behind schedule when production finally began. If that same pattern holds, Chevrolet could have as much as a three year head start and be well on its way to establishing its own brand loyalty before the Model 3 becomes avaiiable.

Chevrolet is facing some headwinds of its own, though. Many people still think of it as the company that killed the electric car more than 20 years ago. And Chevy’s overall quality and customer satisfaction ratings are well behind those of Tesla. Still, Chevy Volt customers love their cars, which have proven extremely reliable in real world service.

Interesting times ahead for both Chevrolet and Tesla. It will be a few years before we know who winds up disrupting who.



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  • Carl Raymond S

    If GM genuinely wish to see a transition from ICEV to EV, we can assume they are working on ‘supercharging’ the Bolt – in terms of batteries, charger, and charging stations. If this is the case GM, please announce it. Otherwise, it’s a compliance car (i.e. a car designed not to compete head to head with ICEVs).

    • Raphael Sturm

      GM has announced that they won’t build chargers for the Bolt, not even 50kW intercity charging. So the Bolt will be limited the same way as a BMW i3, or a VW eGolf, but with a higher initial range.

    • I agree and I think that makes it a compliance car because they now GM get ZEV credits. The bolt is basically an i3 or leaf with a bit more range and not something I can live with without superchargers.

  • Another_cynic

    If it’s rolled out to all 50 states, it’s not a “compliance car”.

    • Raphael Sturm

      Maybe we need another term, the “investor satisfaction car”, they built it, because the investors wanted to see that GM didn’t fall into old habits of being super dependent on oil price and the US economy, so they built an “investor satisfaction car”

  • BlackTalon53 .

    Dirt-cheap gas couldn’t have come at a worse time … and Chevy will have no end of trouble with most of their dealerships unlikely to be willing to put a lot of effort into selling a car that will require much less maintenance and spare parts than a gas car. They need something special, like a test-drive program to get “butts in seats” (which many consider the most convincing selling point of an EV) or a referral program like Tesla.

    • zn

      I think dirt cheap gas couldn’t have come at a *better* time! Yes it causes some headwinds for automakers in the next year or so, but that just gives them more time to roll out charging stations, improve battery density, and speed up charging times. Once oil prices start to rise again (has to happen at some point, right…), EVs will be ready and waiting to hit the big time.

      Fuel prices are inherently volatile, and my guess is people remember the spikes more than they do the falls. When the next spike comes, EVs will finally leave ICE vehicles behind.

    • Steve Hanley

      “butts in the seats”

      Couldn’t agree more!

  • zn

    TL;DR, but when is the Model 3 actually slated for release? I know they are due to reveal the design in a few short months, but what is the actual year/quarter they are aiming for?

    I can understand the Model S being delayed as it was the first big showcase car for Tesla. I can also understand the Model X being held up due to those pesky falcon wing doors etc. But assuming Tesla can eek out enough mileage from a smaller battery pack (if GM can do it, Tesla can), I don’t really see any reason the 3 should be significantly delayed.

    • Raphael Sturm

      Like with the X, the main reason is ramping up production at your own factory and at the supplier side. So if the X and S will sell in the 200,000s in 2017 the 3 will definitely be delayed, if not it might be on time, especially since this will be a big job for any supplier, so Tesla will gain some priority, over other projects.

      • zn

        Fair point, but if Tesla can sell 200k cars at $100k+ a pop through 2017, I think Elon Musk will be a very happy chap.

        The 3 may indeed be delayed, but it probably won’t be from lack of customer demand. In the end, this isn’t the worst case scenario for Tesla.

        • Raphael Sturm

          Of course not, I guess Tesla will only bring the 3, when they need to. Back when the X was first introduced, it was because they thought the market for the S was much smaller, but they eventually managed to sell 50k S in one year, so bringing it in 2014 would have made no sense, since Tesla would not have been able to produce that many Xes and S. So they took their time to further improve the X, wich is nice. I think it will be the same with the 3. If they sell enough high priced cars, and they see growing demand, they will spend their money on the production lines of those cars first.

          • zn

            It’s an ingenius plan by Musk really. Tell your competitors exaxtly what your product road map is for the next 3-5 years, then sit back and offer a better version of what they produce, after they produce it.

          • Raphael Sturm

            Do you think that is really the plan? If it was, it would be kind of risky, but it could be… I guess besting the Bolt might not be really hard, especially since building the same car with access to Teslas superchargers would boost the every day usability more than just a lot. But I think, in the long run, the main competitors for Tesla are the German premium brands and I would not wait for them. To be honest, I don’t think someone would ever choose between a Bolt and a Model 3, or a Leaf and a Model 3. I think the next Leaf and the Bolt are more or less direct competitors, but for that to work, they will have to reduce the price by a lot. Who would take a Chevy over a Tesla?

          • zn

            No, you’re exactly right. Tesla is already well positioned to be a BMW/Mercedes/Audi competitor. One might even say they are already pushing those companies to fight on their own turf. Not a bad result for such a relatively minor player.

            However, I do believe Tesla knew that broadcasting their mid-term strategy would stoke interest from other manufacturers. They can’t push the entire auto industry towards an EV future all by themselves. They need GM and Nissan to release mid-range electric models so that they can capitalise on the upper/luxury market. It’s shrew business backed by frontier technological engineering.

    • bioburner

      Tesla is going to need their gigafactory to support the production of the model 3. That factory is no where near ready to support full scale production. I am guessing that GM will have the Bolt out in significant numbers long before the model 3 starts production and GMs next BEV will be well underway before the model 3 starts serious production.

  • Kathleen Van Der Woude

    This is another main stream electric vehicle. Better price longer range. A good choice for the inner city driver and medium range commute. The future is the electric car this is one more step in the right direction.

  • Michel

    Good work from GM . Now we’ll see if their dealer will try to kill it.

    • Steve Hanley

      Or if GM will try to bypass its dealers. Take a peek at the story about GM’s new online portal for used cars. It seems to be cutting the dealers out of a lucrative part of the used car market. Off lease cars are precious commodities.