Honest congratulations to GM. But here's what they're doing wrong

Honest congratulations to GM. But here's what they're doing wrong

With the announcement that the Bolt has an EPA of 238 miles per charge, it looks like things are finally starting to heat up in the EV market. Congratulations!

Before I go on, I just want to argue on behalf of GM. At this point, the Bolt is, objectively, a good EV, if you ignore Tesla's cars (and you should, but more on that in a bit). It has a range of well over 200 miles per charge, starts under $40k, and is backed by a major car company (admittedly, one with a...less than stellar background). In the non-Tesla EV market, it's a goldmine. It is basically everything a major car company would want in an EV. I will admit that in the past, I doubted many Bolts would sell at all, and that GM's "30,000 in the first year" would leave a lot of them to rust in the dealership lots, but now I'm fairly confident I will eat my words.

There's one glaring issue with GM's -- and all the other major players' -- strategy. They're trying to make good EVs. Let's be honest here, if you ignore Tesla, the bar for a "good EV" is pretty low. If it weren't for Tesla, the original 200-mile range would have been enough in and of itself to sell over 30k cars a year. But sadly -- for the big boys -- Tesla exists. Why is Tesla such a game changer?

Because Tesla set out to make a good car that happened to be electric. This may sound pedantic, but it's an important distinction. By treating their cars as cars first, Tesla had to make a compelling car. After all, there's a LOT of car competition. It's the main reason that most car companies don't last (at least in the US, I honestly don't know about other countries). GM (and VW, and Mercedes, and all the others) aren't treating EVs as "V"s first and "E"s second. And that is their problem. It's simple to make a good EV. It isn't simple to make a good car that's electric.

Dramsey | September 13, 2016

The one thing I think the media keeps ignoring is how relatively useless a 238-mile range is for distance travel without the ability to charge on the go.

Well, the Bolt can charge on the go: Blink, Chargepoint, etc. are widely available, although typically not on highway corridors as are Superchargers. But a 60kWh battery pack will take many, many hours to charge at a Level 2 charging station, rendering long distance travel impractical.

Captain_Zap | September 13, 2016

I will not be offering any kudos until there is a decent charging network in the works. Dealership charging stations will not cut it. Existing independent networks or CHAdeMO won't do it either. Price will matter too.

Silver2K | September 13, 2016

the leaf didn't and doesn't have a charge network with only 110 mile range and did better than Tesla (I know it's cheaper) in sales. the Bolt has a market and it will sell.

makobill | September 13, 2016

First and foremost, I don't own a Tesla...yet. I've got a reservation for a Model 3 that isn't getting cancelled and looking forward to owning my first of hopefully many...

I also think your post is pretty spot on for the most part, with one caveat.

Tesla making a good car that happened to be electric isn't up for debate. Model S reviews say it all and if I could afford one, I'd have it in the garage today. That said, I think they are making a great EV, and a good car. I love the design and modern twists - the out of the box thinking. I think its obvious when reading through the forums they are missing the mark on the creature comforts and practical additions to take them to being a 'great car'. (grab handles, cup holders, etc)

I'm not trying to start a battle as I'm a fan - but I think that Elon forced big auto to consider EV's seriously. That's a win for the consumer and the planet. Now we have the Bolt to consider - with many others to follow in the next two years. Now big auto is going to make Tesla consider mass production and polishing a great EV into a great car for the masses. Going to be fun and we all win....

RedShift | September 13, 2016


The Bolt isn't limiting to AC charging. It has available DC fast charging capability. Not Supercharger fast, but better than 25 miles per hour. They are claiming 90 miles in 30 minutes. The system shown is the CCS. Their numbers ARE limited right now, limiting long distance travel, currently. In that, you are right.

kevin | September 13, 2016

@ RedShift
Yes, we're probably talking about Bolt charging that's twice as as slow as Tesla, and on a road trip having to stop for an hour every three hours is a big deal.

SamO | September 13, 2016


That 90 miles in 30 minutes is intended to deceive. 1 hour not 180 miles. And beyond that, charging speed is reduced. Just like in a Supercharger. But in this case, the last 20% should take more than 1 hour. Not bad for short trips. Not appropriate for 300+ miles per day.

Also want to point out that GM has been giving distance test drives along CA 1 - Pacific Coast Highway with average travel speeds of 40 mph. Ideal when you have a poor coefficient of drag car.

You will not make 200 miles highway driving 70 mph in a Bolt. At even faster speeds, the results will be a disaster. Just a ticking timebomb for Chevy.

rgrant | September 13, 2016

@SamO - that's my question too. The 238 range is under what driving conditions? I've got to think low speed and slow acceleration..

jordanrichard | September 13, 2016

SamO, +1

Also and no one has mentioned this yet, the car's top speed is only 91 MPH. So when you are cruising along on the highway going 75 MPH, you are a mere 16 mph away from the max speed of the car. That's real comforting.....

I can just imagine how fast the Bolt will be burning through the electrons at typical highway speeds.

SamO | September 13, 2016

The Bolt has a drag coefficient of 0.32, Norris said. But the challenges were steep given the Bolt’s squat, wedge shape.

“It’s a disaster for aero,” said Norris, who worked for seven years on the svelte silhouettes of sports car maker Jaguar before joining GM in 2004.

dsvick | September 13, 2016

@rgrant - I believe this is the current test procedure used:

rgrant | September 13, 2016

@dsvick - thanks for the link!

makobill | September 13, 2016

I'm curious on the pure highway numbers as well. "The Verge" has a pretty good drive read and shows they kept it well within the advertised range of 238. No mention of how much highway driving was done though - and average speed would have been a good number for them to have shared. I can't link it as its triggering a spam filter unfortunately...

"But thanks to the hefty battery, you really don't have to worry. Driving style will matter most to what range you actually get, but using the heat or air conditioning, outside temperature, and the terrain all play a factor as well. On my drive, an admittedly controlled one thanks to the precise directions issued by Chevrolet's PR department, I managed to cover 236 miles and the car claimed I could go another 38 miles before I ran out of juice."

RedShift | September 13, 2016

@ SamO

I know it's not 180 mph. I have a Model S! I am saying it's not as bad as you are saying, especially when I look at how many CCS chargers are there in Silicon Valley and in California. Much more than there are Superchargers. I was wrong about CCS numbers being lower.

Curiously, not many at all on the SFO to LA I-5 corridor, but many on parallel highways like 101 and 99.

CCS seems to be clustered around towns and cities.

Dithermaster | September 13, 2016

ChargePoint is building out their fast DC charging infrastructure. The Bolt uses SAE Combo DC Fast Charge (CCS), and ChargePoint is offering that at all of their fast DC charging stations. Curiously, BMW and VW are partnering with ChargePoint for the build-out, but GM is not. The buildout mirrors what Tesla did back in 2012 (west and east coasts first). So one could say that non-Tesla DC fast charging is at least 4 years behind Tesla, and currently can't charge as fast. No wonder Tesla went proprietary (130kW) instead of standard (50kW or 24kW).


SamO | September 13, 2016


I'm just pointing out that 50kW charging may be technically "fast charging" but IMO is not. Supercharging speeds are 145kW in Europe, 120 in the U.S.

Chargepoint claims 80% charge in 30 minutes. That's impossible for anything made by Tesla and GM's Volt.

Since I've driven 1000 miles in a day, I'm interested to see how the Volt does on real world road trips.

RedShift | September 13, 2016


I am sure real world range will be ~210 miles at 65 mph. I also think that the car will have less margin to play with as speeds increase or temperature varies.

However, it's still a worthy entrant in a field occupied only by Tesla so far.

nadurse | September 13, 2016

I think the 2nd gen volts fit what you are describing as a good car first that happens to be an EV(R). Have you ever driven one? I have driven one of the new volts a few times and they are overall good cars . I expect the bolt will be the same way for type of people who would be in the marked for a car like that. I cant say for sure without having driven it, but if it stays in step with the Volt then it has a much better feel and creature comforts than the econoboxes out there.

Dramsey | September 13, 2016


the leaf didn't and doesn't have a charge network with only 110 mile range and did better than Tesla (I know it's cheaper) in sales. the Bolt has a market and it will sell.

Sure, but the Leaf wasn't hailed as a Tesla competitor, either. Virtually all of the press stories I've read on the Bolt compare it to the Mod 3, and while the car itself might be quite competitive, it's a much less compelling option (for me, at least) without the charging infrastructure to support it.

makobill | September 13, 2016

Anyone else notice on the site that Chargepoint was featured in nearly every video for the Bolt? Wonder if we are going to see a separate announcement from GM on a new partnership there? | September 13, 2016

Perhaps GM, VW, or BMW will buy Chargepoint. That would change the dynamics!

@SamO - While there are Supercharger modules that can go to 135 kW (never heard of 145 kW), no Tesla car can accept that power. The 85/90/100 are limited to 120 kW and the 60/70/75 are limited to 105 kW. It will be interesting to see how the Model 3 fits in. My guess is the base model 3 will charge at 105 kW - still more than double that of any other non-Tesla EV.

jordanrichard | September 13, 2016

It is interesting in that quote from Verge that on one hand the author praises the car's range but then admits he was under strict instructions on where and probably how to drive. So in other words he was impressed by a fictitious driving scenario. Well hell, my '83 Porsche 911 gets fantastic gas mileage, as long as I don't turn the engine on.....

ram1901 | September 13, 2016

Keep in mind that the 238 mile range number is based on a FULL Charge.
Chevy walks it back on their Bolt website with this paragraph...

"More Range. Less Thinking About Charging.
Bolt EV offers an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range per full charge† – which is five times the amount needed for the average daily commute of 40 miles. This means you could potentially go a couple of days without having to charge the battery, if you choose. Think of it as driving around on a half tank of gas – so the only thing you have to think about is where you’re going next. " (might as well buy a Volt.)

So like a Tesla, I suspect owners will be told to NOT fully charge the car that often to extend battery life.
Daily charge at 80% puts it at about 190 miles of one-way range which is still adequate as a daily driver but the lame charging system they employ really limits charging speed and availability in most parts of the USA.

Buyers will have to ask themselves whether it's worth paying $37k for a daily driver, around-town-car. The lack of a true fast-charging-convenient-infrastructure is a real deal breaker. I M O

carlk | September 13, 2016

Thank you for the great post. You hit it right on the head. Elon from the begining knew Tesla had to make the best car that happens to be an EV. That's how you make the other 99% to consider your car. GM should learn from the ELR mistake that you can't make a lousy $65K car and expect people to switch from a Mercedes or Lexus just because it's a (semi)EV. The same is happening now. No matter how you make the EV part good by the low EV stanadard you will only be able attract EV people to switch. No BMW or Audi guys would want to pay that price for basically a car that is no better than a Malibu.

Yes the 238 mile range addressed the major weak point of EV but you can't convince people to buy your car just because you have fixed a problem. You still have to sell car the old fashion way, to make a car that is better than what people could buy elsewhere.

Nexxus | September 14, 2016

So what happens when GM's battery management system isn't up to snuff and several Bolts burn up at charger locations? Will GM come back and say, we're sorry, but we told you before BEV's just aren't the way to go. (ie - Who killed the electric vehicle?) GM trying to do it again!

I'll reserve my opinion on whether the Bolt is reliable or not after they have produced their first 50k units and see how they do in real life driving and whether they can achieve the 238mile/charge. Not that I'll ever buy one, but if they are going to be a real player in the EV world then they are going to have to commit real resources and prove they are worthy. I just feel GM is going to deliver another piece of junk, as always, then say "Well the market just isn't there for BEV's."

makobill | September 14, 2016

Go_Peddle_4_me - I don't think they can afford to do that, as Tesla has already proven there is a market. The Volt has proven that EV's can be very reliable, even from GM. I'm not going to comment on their motive, as that could take hours on the evil's of big auto. What they have done is let the Genie out of the bottle. I don't think even they can control it - and that's all part of the master plan. We shall see...

Mike83 | September 14, 2016

@Go_Peddle_4_me +10
Like the EV1 crushing, and all the propaganda might be coming from short sellers like Chanos. Astroturfers help spread speculation and rumors affecting perceptions. Until they have actually sold cars all advertising is something to question.

asauberm | September 14, 2016

We've owned our S85 for two years. We love our car and both my wife and I agree that it is the best car we've ever owned; this includes Lexus and Porche. We are trading in our S85 for a 90D because the added benefits has value to us. Imagine being faced with a choice between a Cheverolet Bolt and a Tesla model 3 at approximately the same price; when "all" thingis are considered it seems to me that the option that gives the most value is pretty clear. I think that is the problem that GM will face.

brando | September 14, 2016

373,000 orders in about a month for Model 3.

GM claims to limit production to 30,000.
I wonder if they could get batteries to make more than 30,000.
I wonder if the dealers will order/sell 30,000 in a year.
All very strange. It will be interesting to watch how Bolt roll out goes.
How will Bolt impact the i3?

Nexxus | September 15, 2016

@makobill, @Mike83,

I just don't put it past them to try every trick in the book to kill BEV's. Look at the CEO of the firm that represents the oil industry. He emailed Tesla trying to get sensitive information. Why? So they could learn where Tesla is vulnerable and to take advantage of that. The shorts/oil industry knows no bounds when it comes to protecting their fiefdom. GM is still a part of that cabal.

dansplans | September 15, 2016


Zero orders for model 3. If half of the reservations turn into orders, then Tesla can start filling new orders around 2019 or 2020, giving the Bolt up to 3 years without any actual competition from Tesla.

By then there will be many other choices for the EV buyer.

johndoeeyed | September 15, 2016

Your post is disingenuous and contradictory.
Since you want to dismiss 'reservations' as not 'orders', then there are no 'orders' at all yet.
That means that any 'orders' will be 'new orders'.
Tesla is going to produce cars in 2017, and therefore will have 'orders' before then.
Even if they are late, there will be 'new orders' in 2018.
i.e. there will be 'new orders' before 2019.
You are deluded that your opinion on the subject is worth a jot.
Not only that, but you have proven yourself to be untrustworthy, so nothing you post can be trusted.

makobill | September 15, 2016

Go_Peddle_4_me - I don't doubt that GM is part of that cabal, and there are only a few categories of people I despise worse than Big Oil. Unfortunately, I think there is little hope of mass adoption to EV vehicles to the masses without dragging Big Auto into the fray. It has to happen frankly. Whether now, or in 2019, we need to be offsetting production of ICE vehicles in volume - and these players won't be left out. Approach with caution - but we have to start sometime as its part of the master plan. Earlier is better, as long as Tesla sticks with their production plan ramp up. If Tesla fails to launch, then we have something to worry about with another EV1 scenario. It really comes down to Tesla, than Big Auto on whether we have danger here frankly.

fgaliegue | September 15, 2016

Well, one thing where GM is definitely doing something wrong is that the Bolt won't be available in right hand drive markets!

SamO | December 1, 2019

Remember when the Bolt was going to destroy Tesla?

Lol. Me neither.

Tropopause | December 2, 2019

3 years later and Mary Barra is still running GM with dwindling Bolt sales.

3 years later and Model 3 is outselling the ICE & EV competition combined, releasing Model Y in a few months, Semi late next year, Cybertruck in 2 years, Gigafactory 3 production in China, G4 coming soon in Germany...

Some folks talk, some get things done.

Go Tesla!

Tesla-David | December 2, 2019

Yes, go Tesla! Unbelievable products with constant innovation. Tesla Rocks!