By George S. Bower
We are a couple days away from Chevrolet’s production Bolt reveal at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 6.
HybridCars.com will have a correspondent at the show and while all specifications may not be revealed we should at least be able to answer one first question: Will the interior room in the production Bolt live up to the concept?
SEE ALSO: What We Know About The Chevy Bolt
The new Chevy Bolt with 200-mile range will be the first EV offered with such a long traveling distance on a single battery charge at this price point. First-generation EVs “mass market” oriented including the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, and Chevy Spark and others all have less than 100-mile range.
With 200 miles range the vehicle will meet the needs of many more buyers. It’s not as much range as the top-shelf Tesla Model S trim levels, but close, and it’s not bad for a promised price of slightly less than $30,000 after federal tax credit – one-third the price of the up-line Model S. Chevrolet will beat Tesla to market with the Bolt as the Tesla Model 3 could still be years in the future. Although talk has been of pushing Model 3 to production in 2017, Tesla has never revealed a car one year and produced it the next. On the contrary, it has a history of delayed production.
How much interior room will it have?
Not a subcompact like the Chevy Spark EV, the Bolt is believed nonetheless to be a compact with the same wheelbase as the Chevy Sonic conventional car and BMW i3. Its wheelbase is shorter than the Nissan Leaf which is classified as mid-sized.
Comparison of wheelbases of the Chevy Sonic, BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf.
The Bolt concept that was shown one year ago in Detroit had exemplary interior room for a compact. The production Bolt as was true of the concept will see interior space maximized by placing the battery pack in the floor a la Tesla Models S and X, and the BMW i3. Also in the concept, the body shape is somewhat ballooned out like the i3 to maximize room inside the cabin-very important in such a small wheelbase vehicle.
Will the production Bolt be as roomy as the concept?
What 0-60 acceleration time will it have?
The BMW i3 and Chevy Spark EV are fun to drive, zippy little cars. Both sport 0-60 times in the low 7-second range. With powertrain based on the Chevy Spark, it is a safe bet that the Bolt will be a spirited ride also with acceleration times equivalent to or slightly higher than the Spark EV.
How fast will it charge?
DC quick charging
Some prior statements by GM hinted at 45 minutes to 80-percent charge, This equates to 160 miles range in 45 minutes. If one needed to pick up a few extra miles in a pinch, a 15 minute stop would net 53 miles of range- pretty decent. That implies charging powers higher than the typical Chademo DC charger of 50- 60 kw. More like 80 kw- easily achievable on the vehicle side. The problem will be to find an SAE combination charger that will put out 80 kw as most USA DC fast chargers are closer to 50 kw and most have Chademo plugs and not SAE combination plugs.
SAE combination charging plug.
Expect the Bolt to accept DC charging powers of around 80-90 kw.
GM got a lot of criticism for limiting the gen-two Chevy Volt to 3.3 kw charging on the AC side. The Nissan Leaf has a 6.6 kw AC onboard charger.
SEE ALSO: GM Says Li-ion Battery Cells Down To $145/kWh and Still Falling
While level 2 AC charging per the spec will allow powers as high as 19.2 kw, we expect GM to offer only 6.6 kw. Why? Cost is the answer. GM’s approximately $37,500 price target is a challenge and bigger on board chargers cost more.
What gearbox configuration will it have?
Spark EV coaxial gearbox.
The Chevy Spark EV has a very unique and compact gear reduction set called a coaxial gearbox. Like most EVs it is a single-speed reduction set. However the Spark uses a planetary reduction set breaking tradition with most other manufacturers. The coaxial gearbox set up results in a very compact power system.
On the other hand, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, BMW i3 all use simple helical-parallel gear reducer sets. Also the EV1 used parallel gear set reductions. Parallel gears are lower cost.
We are inclined to think that GM will stick with the Spark coaxial gear box configuration.
What cabin heating scheme will the Bolt have?
The Chevy Volt uses resistive heating. Resistive heating is the most inefficient way to heat the cabin. Newer Nissan Leafs use a heat pump to heat the cabin which reduces the deleterious effect that resistive cabin heating has on EV range.
Tesla uses a very practical approach to cabin heating not used by any other manufacturer. Its system uses the waste heat from the electronics and the drive motor to supplement battery power reducing the hit on EV range for cabin heating.
Will the Bolt have purely resistive heating, a heat pump, or perhaps some version of Tesla’s approach?
Will the Bolt’s battery cooling use liquid cooling or will it use refrigerant directly in the pack?
Of all the EV manufacturers, BMW is the only one that uses refrigerant directly in the pack. As discussed in this article direct cooling-DX- offers many advantages: the first being that liquid is completely eliminated in the pack and instead refrigerant from the car’s air conditioning system is used directly in the pack. Other potential advantages of direct cooling-DX- are lower weight and lower cost.
We think there is a very good chance that the Chevy Bolt will adopt DX. Why? Because LG Chem also makes refrigeration systems, LG Chem has a patent on just such a system and LG makes the battery pack and many other components in the Bolt.
An oft-used phrase EV fans use with hope to see is “game changer,” and while clichéd, the phrase persists because more is perceived as needed to change the present paradigm. First-generation EVs have had more than five years in the U.S. to catch on and for 2015 constitute just 0.41 percent market share – an OK start, but otherwise there’s plenty of room to grow.
SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?
On paper, the Bolt does offer twice the all-important range of competitive, and this – using another oft-repeated phrase – has been a deal breaker for many fence sitting would-be EV buyers.
As it is, the “200-mile” benchmark for a high-20s price factoring credits, eventual discounting, and potential state incentives is what Tesla is aiming for with Model 3, as has said Nissan for its next-gen Leaf, but Chevrolet will be first.
Indicators are it may be in production before the end of this year. We’ll have more when we know more. Stay tuned.
This article appears also at HybridCars.com,