GM may have underestimated Tesla

This week, there was big news in the EV (electric vehicle) world.  General Motors announced the soon to be released 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.  The Bolt is not really new.  It was first introduced in 2015 and was first available for delivery this year.  What is new is the rated range of the Bolt on a single charge.  Chevrolet now reports that the Bolt will be able to travel an estimated 238 miles on a single charge.  All of a sudden, the media is going nuts.  For some reason, the fact that the Chevrolet Bolt will be rated by its manufacturer as having 38 more miles of range than the 2016 Bolt has caused many to declare Chevrolet the winner in the EV category.  Not so fast, I say.

While the Bolt seems like a respectable EV, it has not convinced me to abandon my place in line for the Tesla Model 3.  If you’re the type of person who is impatient, by all means, buy a Bolt.  The more ICE’s (internal combustion engines) we can get off the road, the better for the environment.  My problem is that a $35,000 to $40,000 car is not a casual purchase.  I can’t just go out and sign a contract to buy that kind of car without some financial preparation.  If I were going to buy another Toyota Prius, that might be a different story.  For a car that costs $25,000, it would be in a range where I could buy one today.  I am not in the market for any type of vehicle that uses gasoline.  This means I must pay an additional $10,000 or more to get an EV and that takes some planning.

There are a few other factors to be considered when deciding whether to wait for a Model 3 or buy a Bolt now.  Both cars have nearly the same rated range.  The Model 3’s range is listed as at least 215 miles.  Elon Musk has said that figure will likely be higher when the Model 3 is actually released.  The Bolt’s range is said to be 238 miles, which is 23 miles more than the projected range of the Model 3.  Sorry, but a difference of 23 miles of range is not going to get me excited.  For me, the benchmark is 200 miles.  As long as an EV gets at least 200 miles of rated range, I consider that vehicle to be a useful, everyday vehicle, which could be used for short or long trips.  Both the Model 3 and the Bolt satisfy this benchmark.

I must admit that how a car looks is important to me.  If I don’t like how the car looks, it doesn’t matter how good of a car it is, I’m probably not going to be interested.  If the Bolt were to be the only EV to ever offer more than 200 miles of single-charge range, I might ignore the fact that the Bolt is not an attractive car, at least not to me.  What I’m comparing the Bolt to might have something to do with my feeling about the looks of the Bolt.  The Model 3 is stunning.  It doesn’t look like an EV, whereas the Bolt does.  The Bolt has a look of a glorified golf cart.  I don’t see the Model 3 that way.  I think one of Tesla’s strengths is the design of its cars.  They look sleek and futuristic.

The last factor to consider, when going on a long trip, is where to charge?  This is a category where Tesla has beaten GM, hands down.  Tesla has created a world-wide supercharger network that is currently only available for use by Tesla vehicles.  Where I live in Central California, there is a Tesla Supercharger station 8 miles from my house.  GM is thinking like a gasoline car company, while making an EV.  They are making a car and relying on someone else to help you power it.  Tesla is an EV maker.  They make the car and provide access to a superior charging network.

The Bolt may indeed have the capability to travel 23 more miles on a single charge than my Model 3.  However, if I have to search around for an independent charging station, my trip is not going to be as enjoyable.  The current DC fast charging stations are not as fast as a Tesla Supercharger.  So, while I might be able to take the Bolt on the same trip on which I’d take a Model 3, the Model 3 will be a quicker trip.

The bottom line is that a car is an individual choice.  There will probably be owners of the Chevrolet Bolt, who might read this post and completely disagree with me.  I have no problem with that.  I do think, though, that GM has underestimated how easily those of us waiting for a Model 3 can be convinced to defect to General Motors.  Thankfully, Tesla is no General Motors.  What Tesla stands for is almost as important to me as the production of an EV that I can afford and will get me away from using gasoline for my personal transportation.  Tesla doesn’t build ICE’s and never will.  That means a lot to me.

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