Chevrolet Bolt’s top engineer touts its performance, price

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Chevrolet Bolt’s top engineer touts its performance, price

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Michael Lelli, chief engineer of the Chevrolet Bolt, during an interview at Kintex in Goyang, Gyeonggi, on Thursday. [GM KOREA]

In the eyes of Michael Lelli, chief engineer of General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt EV, there are four things that a good electric car should have: performance, space, range and affordability.

“If you balance space, functionality and range, the Bolt EV becomes the most affordable car,” Lelli said Thursday during his visit to Korea to plug the model at the Seoul Motor Show, which kicks off today. “I don’t think [rival Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq] delivers all four.”

The Chevrolet Bolt currently offers the longest range among electric vehicles available in Korea, able to run 383 kilometers (238 miles) on a single charge. When actually driven, it can easily exceed 400 kilometers.

There’s a common misconception that cars running on batteries tend to have low driving performance, but the Chevrolet Bolt in fact has 204 horsepower with a maximum torque of 36.7 kilogram-meters, which is comparable to an average sedan. It takes a mere 6.4 seconds to accelerate to a speed of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour.

Its competitor, Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq, is currently the most popular electric car in Korea, but it only has half the range of the Bolt, at 191 kilometers per charge, and just over half the horsepower, at 120, with torque of 30 kilogram-meters.

Lelli said the location of the Bolt’s battery pack in the lower-center part of the vehicle, helps enhance the driving experience. “The low center of gravity allows the car to be more connected to the road and enhances the handling of the car,” he said.

GM Korea began taking preorders for the Chevrolet Bolt on March 17 and sold out its initial inventory of 400 within two hours. The company said it will gradually expand the supply for domestic consumers.

The car’s price is modest. From the initial tag of 47.7 million won ($42,700), customers can expect to pay between 20 and 30 million won after receiving government subsidies meant to boost the electric car market.

“The Bolt EV is a car that started from the customer’s needs,” Lelli said. “We just didn’t develop a car and let the customers resolve into what we made but let customers decide. That is what drove to all-new EV architecture.”

Lelli said the company was able to maintain affordability because the Detroit-based auto giant already has auto components needed for electric vehicles and was able to reduce costs by leveraging the supply in mass production.

“The fact that Koreans are technically advanced and early adopters who are willing to go out there and experience electric cars will help the Bolt EV to do well here,” he said.

Lelli hinted at the possibility of expanding GM’s electric vehicle lineup to sedans, SUVs and even high-performing EVs, but refused to comment further.

The Bolt is currently manufactured at GM’s dedicated production line for the model in Michigan.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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