The Chevrolet Bolt EV is every bit the competitor to Tesla’s Model 3. Both will drive for more than 200 miles on a single charge at its base level package. Both can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. And both will start at around the $30,000 level, once American tax credits apply.
However, when you figure in media and consumer enthusiasm over the last 30 days, Tesla appears to be the winner by a landslide. Should Chevy Bolt panic? Will consumers prefer the Bolt, which has a considerable head-start, or the Tesla, which has cool-kids cred?
On the specs alone, the two cars are nearly equal.
- The Bolt is a subcompact, whereas the Model 3 is a compact sedan. Although the Model 3 is longer and boasts the ability (not demonstrated) to carry a bicycle within, the Bolt is actually taller and roomier.
- Photos of the back end show the Bolt carrying an upright chair with room to spare.
- The Bolt’s instrument cluster is behind the steering wheel and includes a huge 10+ inch display. Tesla replaced the instruments with a purely LCD display.
- A full charge on a garage-ready charger will take about 9 hours for both cars. Tesla is developing a nationwide network of superchargers. The Bolt is capable of supercharging but consumers will have to buy their own charger and station, since Chevy is not planning a network.
Tesla’s 2 Year Wait List
The Chevy Bolt is already getting prepared to hit the US market and consumers are becoming more familiar with the car. It will be available in the late fourth quarter 2016, at least a year before Tesla is prepared to deliver its first Model 3s. Chevy America’s vice president, Brian Sweeney, believes the Bolt’s ability to rollout to consumers early provides it with an advantage. Chevy has a vast retail network of dealers who can showcase and preview the car.
“We’ve got 3,100 dealers that we’re going to be able to turn on right away to sell the Bolt EV,” he said. Of course Tesla has 276,000 preorders, which Tesla believes proves they do not need to sell using the traditional dealer model. The preorders may wind up being a bit of a red herring. Tesla is aiming for a late 2017 delivery date, but experts already believe that delays in mass producing the Model 3 are certain to occur. If so, consumers who placed their order in 2016 may wind up being less enthusiastic.
The Cool Kid Factor
Tesla prides itself on being the Facebook or Apple of the auto world, but one significant difference remains: an Apple aficionado can purchase Apple’s latest and greatest device about a month after it is showcased in an Apple media event. Tesla is brand new and has not yet demonstrated an ability to produce cars for the masses.
Chevy tweaked Tesla a day before Tesla’s big event. “Long range, short wait. From concept to pre-production, the all-electric 2017 Bolt EV is staying ahead of the curve,” said Chevy.
Still, those who want to be cool kids are all about Tesla. Writer Aaron Gold even made the comparison directly. “Comparing Tesla and Chevy is like comparing Apple and Microsoft. Brand matters.” Musk claimed that the Bolt wasn’t even a competitor to Model 3.
What remains to be seen is whether the cool factor can induce consumers to wait two more years to delivery. But perhaps the bigger question is whether enthusiasm for electric cars will grow or wither on the vine. Tax credits are a huge inducement to EVs, but once the models reach 200,000 produced, the tax credits will phase out. Will young consumers still be enthusiastic about saving the planet? Or is getting a hold on the next new tech gadget their primary motivation in buying in to the Tesla?