GM Says Chevy Bolt Electric Car to Get 238-Mile Range


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General Motors Co. said its coming Chevrolet Bolt electric car will travel 238 miles on a single charge, giving GM a key marketing claim over Tesla Motors Inc. as the nation’s largest auto maker prepares to begin deliveries of the first long-range, affordable electric vehicle this year.

Ever since GM revealed a concept of the Bolt in early 2015, the nation’s largest auto maker has said only that its range would top 200 miles on a charge. The estimate of 238 miles disclosed on Tuesday leapfrogs the projected 215-mile range of Tesla’s similarly priced Model 3, which is expected to reach the market in late 2017, about a year after the Bolt.

The range advantage could be an important selling point for GM as it seeks an early mover advantage for the Bolt, which GM insiders for years have referred to as their Tesla fighter. GM is looking to reassert itself as an industry leader in electric cars following Tesla’s surging popularity in recent years.

Still, the Bolt and Model 3 herald big improvements over the roughly 100-mile range of today’s electric cars and could appeal to a broader swath of potential buyers, analysts say. So-called range anxiety—drivers’ fear of the battery running out of juice on longer trips—is one factor that has kept a lid on electric-car sales since auto makers began marketing them several years ago.

After years of competing against luxury rivals by selling high-price EVs, Tesla’s strategy is converging with GM and other volume producers as it takes aim at the mass market with its Model 3. Tesla’s larger Model S sedan has long topped 200 miles, although that car is priced two to four times higher than the Model 3 and Bolt, depending on the model. A new Model S version with a bigger, 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack is estimated to travel 315 miles on a single charge.

Chevy’s 2017 Bolt EV is expected to be the industry’s first mainstream, long-range electric car when it arrives in showrooms late this year. GM hasn’t announced the sticker price but has said it would go for around $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has pegged a $35,000 starting price for the Model 3 before any tax incentives, implying that it could be priced just below the Bolt.

The 238-mile figure was determined under the Environmental Protection Agency’s testing cycle for electric cars, which includes a combination of highway and city driving and replicates various road scenarios, a GM spokesman said. It will appear as the EPA-estimated range on the Bolt’s window sticker once it goes on sale.

So far, the Bolt hasn’t been able to generate the level of buzz around the Model 3, which garnered a crush of media coverage when Mr. Musk unveiled it earlier this year. Around 400,000 people put down $1,000 deposits each to preorder the car.

Both GM and Tesla face the challenge of selling electric cars amid a prolonged period of low gas prices, which has forced auto makers in recent years to offer profit-sapping discounts to lure buyers. Despite tepid demand for electric vehicles and hybrids, car companies continue to develop them in part to comply with toughening federal fuel-economy standards

GM North America President Alan Batey in a statement called the 238-mile range “a game changer for the electric car segment” and confirmed the car would arrive at dealerships “later this year.”

Chevy also sells the Volt, a plug-in hybrid that can travel 53 miles on electric power before a gasoline-powered generator takes over to power the battery.

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