On Monday, General Motors will unveil a concept version of a $30,000 battery-electric vehicle with 200 miles of electric range that will arrive on the market before the planned Tesla Model 3, according to reports.
Called the Chevrolet Bolt, the concept is a compact five-door hatchback that uses lithium-ion cells from LG Chem, GM's established battery partner.
Late last night, reports appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Detroit News giving leaked details of the car, attributed only to "sources" within the auto industry said to be familiar with the Bolt.
GM spokesperson Terry Rhadigan would not confirm the reports, according to the News, but he also didn't deny or contradict them.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt
To be launched by GM CEO Mary Barra on Monday morning at the Detroit Auto Show, the Chevy Bolt would go on sale for the 2017 model year, meaning it could arrive as soon as the second half of 2016.
The Bolt is known internally as the "BEV2," according to the reports. The concept is said to be a hatchback designed to look like a crossover utility vehicle, though no details were available on whether all-wheel drive would be offered.
UPDATE: A source who saw the GM display being set up at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday told Green Car Reports that the centerpiece of the display was "one car in a dramatic reveal position (in a round shroud that gets lifted up) that didn't fit with anything currently in the lineup."
This car, the source said, was "shaped like a BMW i3"--which is to say tall and blunt-tailed. That would seem to confirm the suggestion that the Bolt is a crossover, or at least has a mini-SUV shape.
The new battery-electric vehicle could be built either in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where the Volt is built or at the assembly plant where the Buick Verano and Chevy Sonic small cars are built in Orion, Michigan.
Its battery would likely be built in LG Chem's plant in Holland, Michigan, which now builds the 17.1-kilowatt-hour battery packs for the 2015 Chevrolet Volt.
An all-new 2016 Chevy Volt will also be launched at the Detroit Auto Show.
Reuters reported last July that LG Chem CFO Cho Suk-jeh said it will supply batteries in 2016 for an electric car with a range of 200 miles or more.
But the Chevy Bolt would be sold globally, including in China, where local, state, and national government bodies are working aggressively to promote electric cars to help fight the dangerous levels of air pollution found in most of its big cities.
The target price for the Bolt is around $30,000, which would put it squarely into competition with the 2017 Nissan Leaf, the second generation of the world's highest-volume battery-electric car.
The updated Leaf is expected to offer a choice of battery pack sizes, with ranges from today's 80 or so up to 120 and perhaps even 150 miles. If it can achieve a 200-mile rating, the Bolt would handily trump that selling point.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV - First Drive, Portland, July 2013
But according to the reports, the real target is not Nissan but California electric-car maker Tesla Motors--which plans to offer a sedan called the Model 3, smaller than its current Model S, with 200 miles of range and a target price of $35,000.
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Tesla has said that it hopes to be producing 500,000 electric cars a year by the end of 2020, the bulk of them several different versions of the Model 3, including the sedan and also a crossover utility vehicle, among others.
AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson projected that plug-in electric cars would be at most 2 percent of the U.S. new-vehicle market by 2020, meaning total volume of perhaps 320,000 vehicles.
But, Jackson said, a concept like the Bolt shows "signs that [GM] is willing to take the long view."
The car would be sold in all 50 states, according to the News, signifying that GM plans the Bolt to be part of its mainstream lineup, as the Volt range-extended electric car is today.
GM presently sells the Chevrolet Spark EV electric minicar with 82 miles of range, but only in California and Oregon.
That vehicle is widely acknowledged to be a compliance car built solely to satisfy California rules requiring sales of a certain number of zero-emission vehicles, and GM sells only about 200 Spark EVs a month.
While the Bolt name had long been rumored for a future GM plug-in product, the company applied for a trademark on "Bolt" this past August.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.