Bolt EV electric car sales after 6 months: how do they compare?

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

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Last month, 1,642 Chevrolet Bolt EV 238-mile battery-electric hatchbacks found buyers, enough to take the Bolt's six-month aggregate to 7,592 deliveries all told.

It was the latest and highest in a string of rising monthly delivery totals for the 238-mile battery electric hatchback, and it marked half a year (plus a couple of weeks) that the Bolt EV has been on sale.

The car went on sale on December 13 last year, with a total of 573 sales recorded for 2016, all of them in California and Oregon.

DON'T MISS: U.S. plug-in electric car sales for June: Volt passes Prius Prime, Bolt EV rises again

Next month will finally see the Bolt EV rolled out to all 50 states, one month earlier than the original schedule, at which point its sales potential may become clearer.

Another 869 Bolt EVs have been delivered in Canada, all but 3 of them this year.

Sales of the Opel Ampera-e thus far total fewer than 80 cars through May; its initial markets are Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, and France.

First 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV buyers, Fremont, California: Bobby Edmonds, Bill Mattos, Steve Henry

First 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV buyers, Fremont, California: Bobby Edmonds, Bill Mattos, Steve Henry

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So, all told, in the first six (and a half) months, Chevy has moved about 9,100 Bolt EVs. How does that stack up, both to expectations and to the pace of other battery-electric cars in the market?

Not too badly, actually, and relatively well against the launches of earlier electric cars.

Consider the first six-and-a-half months of the Nissan Leaf (almost 3,900) and the Chevrolet Volt (just over 3,000) back in 2011, the Tesla Model S (about 7,650) in the second half of 2012, and the BMW i3 (not quite 5,100) during 2014.

READ THIS: Plug-in electric car sales in Canada, June 2017: Prime time

If the sales of the Bolt EV were extrapolated on a straight-line basis, they would total 18,200 units or so globally—and a bit more than 15,000 in the U.S.

That's just half the best year-to-date reported total for any electric car in the U.S., which was 30,200 for the Nissan Leaf in 2014.

Estimates of last year's U.S. Tesla Model S sales are just shy of that, at about 29,400, but because Tesla refuses to break down even its quarterly sales totals by country, we don't know how accurate that is.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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With some optimistic analysts suggesting that the Bolt EV could ultimately sell 70,000 or more units a year, those first-half numbers may seem disappointing.

But we'd suggest that the following points may help put the numbers into perspective.

(1) Chevy will likely sell more Bolt EVs in the second half of this year than it did in the first half, with its national rollout completed by the end of next month and dealerships getting up to speed on the car.

CHECK OUT: Yes, ads for the Chevy Bolt EV electric car do actually exist; here's one

(2) Chevy is likely still "tweaking the channel," which is to say learning where to allocate cars and which options and trim levels sell best in different regions.

(3) Dealer salespeople will be more familiar with the car, and know better how to sell it, as the months pass.

(4) More and more CCS fast-charging stations will go live each month, even if the Bolt EV's 50-kilowatt CCS fast charging limits the practicality of long-distance road trips when compared to the 135-kw Tesla Supercharging network.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

Enlarge Photo

Whether there's a U.S. market (or even a global one) for 70,000 Bolt EVs a year remains to be determined, but the car's first year on sale may not resolve the question.

And while Tesla CEO Elon Musk notoriously called the Bolt EV a "compliance car," if it sells at levels of 20,000 to 30,000 a year in its first or second year, that insult will long be forgotten amidst Tesla Model 3 mania.

In a future article, we'll look at the long-term challenges the Bolt EV faces against other cars of its range and in its rough price category.

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