That's how Michael Simcoe, GM's executive director for NA exteriors, described the Chevy Bolt EV concept, which made a surprise appearance at the Detroit Auto Show today. While there was talk of a 2017 production debut, this is for sure a concept vehicle. But that means the ideas behind the vehicle are perhaps more important than the details. For example, no one is talking about what size battery might appear in a production Bolt, but Simcoe would talk about how rapid progress in battery improvements made it possible for GM to make the bold Bolt declaration that promises 200 miles and a price tag of around $30,000 (after incentives).
But if the Bolt makes it to market, it won't be until 2017 (as rumored) or later, is it really fair to promote the car as being available with a federal tax credit? For one thing, credits for plug-in vehicles may change in the next few years, but if the laws stay the same, each manufacturer is limited to 200,000 vehicles before the credits start to decline. GM is justifiably proud that it's sold over 70,000 Volts thus far, but with a new model coming out later this year and a few years to go until the Bolt potentially arrives, GM could be pushing right up against that 200,000 limit when the Bolt goes on sale. But Volt executive chief engineer Pam Fletcher told AutoblogGreen that, "We're just trying to take some of the confusion out."
"Think about talking to the average consumer," she said. "First, going through the explanation of how the federal tax credit was set up, how it's being used and so on. [In the industry, we] have the luxury of understanding the nuances of that regulation, but right now people who aren't in the marketplace, they don't have the luxury of all that. It's already hard to communicate the details so we gave them data in a way that is what they're used to seeing."
There was one question that drove the two-year Bolt gestation and design period, Simcoe said: What does a better battery offer a vehicle designer? "We've got a number of spaces we play in for powertrain technology and obviously electrification is one of them," he said. "With Volt 1 and then the Spark EV, with that development and batteries getting better for us, we started doing some practical packaging to deliver a vehicle which was not the traditional aero form which you see around electric vehicles. So, how do you use the flat-pack battery under the floor to give you a vehicle which can deliver the practicality of a 200 mile range." The idea then is, "Can you take that and put it into a vehicle that is practical for most people's lives. A real car for real people."
The Bolt concept looks real enough, but there are fancy concept touches, like the glass roof. We've seen GM take a concept from the stage and turn it into a drastically different production vehicle, and wondered if the Bolt might change on the way to production. "We would like to deliver a vehicle that's noticably not different than this, and we can," Simcoe said. "This is a concept, but it's a statement that we know how to deliver a vehicle like this and will deliver 200 miles and it will be 30-ish thousand dollars after incentives.
Those kinds of numbers from a GM EV could certainly appeal to a number of people, as we saw with the Spark EV nationwide availability tease last year. Simcoe said that the Bolt could have a nationwide future. "If we were to do a vehicle like this, there would be no point in doing it unless we made it available in all 50 states," he said. "And we won't talk about it, but we could offer it in other countries as well."