2018 Buick Encore
The Chevrolet Bolt EV, initially intended to be adapted from the next-generation Chevy Sonic subcompact, ended up with unique underpinnings designed solely for use as a battery-electric vehicle.
Carmakers virtually never limit dedicated architectures to a single vehicle—they're simply too expensive to develop—so it's long been expected that the Chevy Bolt EV platform would spawn other vehicles.
Now InsideEVs has an exclusive report on what one such Bolt EV derivative may be: a small Buick crossover utility vehicle.
The site spoke to a person who had attended a focus group for the future electric SUV, which reportedly resembles a next-generation Buick Encore.
That's the subcompact crossover built on Sonic underpinnings, first launched in 2013 and now an aging but surprisingly popular model in Buick's lineup.
According to the focus-group attendee's report on InsideEVs, Buick's future Bolt-based electric crossover uses the Chevrolet's structure but with different sheetmetal, styling, and interior fixtures.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Among the differences are "a floating roof," and a larger tablet-style touchscreen in the middle of the dash.
The source article lists many of them, and is worth reading for the reported flavor of the focus group and the group of comparison vehicles.
Those included not only a Bolt EV (which many group participants saw as a very different vehicle to the proposed Buick), but also a BMW i3, a Hyundai Ioniq, a Photoshopped next-generation Nissan Leaf, and a Tesla Model 3.
Two key questions remain unanswered by the article: does the future Buick small electric SUV offer all-wheel drive, which would qualify it as a real utility vehicle?
And has GM done anything to boost its DC fast-charging capabilities beyond the Bolt's 50-kilowatt rate (with a slightly higher maximum under certain circumstances) to make long-distance journeys more practical using a future generation of CCS fast-charging sites?
As for timing, if the focus group follows the same schedule as Bolt EV groups did, the little electric Buick could still be more than two years from going on sale—perhaps as a 2020 model available during 2019.
2018 Buick Encore
We tend to think, however, that GM will want to take advantage of its underutilitzed Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan and launch the first electric Buick earlier than that.
It's worth noting that an electric Buick is likely targeted as much at China as North America—and probably more so. Buick is GM's strongest brand in that country by far, selling four or five times as many vehicles in a very different and much larger lineup than in the U.S. and Canada.
The country's aggressive, ambitious goals for zero-emission vehicles are making it the global focus of electric-car sales, and a small electric Buick crossover would fit right in.
The question that remains, of course, is whether the brand will resurrect the model name made famous by Buick land yachts of a previous century.
Could the new electric crossover be launched as the Buick Electra ... and could the famous "Electra 225" label return to indicate either range (in miles) or power (in horsepower)?
It could introduce ownership of a "Deuce and a Quarter" to a whole new generation of drivers.
[hat tip: Assaf Oron]