AUTOS

Chevy confirms production of 200-mile-range Bolt EV

The $30,000 Bolt could be available as soon as 2017.

Coming soon to a charging station near you: a 200-mile-range electric vehicle that isn't a Tesla.

Chevrolet has confirmed it will begin production on its Bolt EV, a concept car revealed only weeks ago in Detroit. It's now headed into production at a GM plant that currently makes Chevy Sonics.

The battery-electric Bolt will sell for $30,000 after government incentives.

Only Tesla's Model S, which typically sells for $100,000, has a longer range between charges.

Making the announcement at the Chicago Auto Show, GM North America President Alan Batey said reaction to the Detroit reveal at last month's Detroit Auto Show encouraged Chevy to charge ahead with the Bolt.

"The message from consumers ... was clear and unequivocal: Build it," Batey said. "We are moving quickly because of its potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles."

GM said in making the announcement that the company has set aside $200 million in financial support for the next-generation EV -- $160 million for retooling and equiping its Orion, Mich., assembly plant, and $40 million for new hardware for its Pontiac, Mich., plant, where currently metal parts for Volts and other vehicles are made.

GM has not announced a production start date for the Bolt, nor said when Bolts will be available in showrooms. But company executives have hinted that factories could be building the EVs next year and Bolts could be rolling to dealers in 2017.

Price and range have been identified by industry experts as the two key barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Electric cars still represent a tiny niche of the auto market.

"The No. 1 thing is price," said Kevin Kelly, manager of GM's electrification technology communications. "The other thing is range anxiety. But when you start talking about a 200-mile electric vehicle, you take that topic off the table for a lot of people."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his Fremont, Calif., factory will soon begin building a car with a similar range and price. But the promised Model 3 is at least two years away from becoming a reality. And industry analysts say it probably will cost more than $30,000, even after government rebates.

GM aims to beat Tesla into the affordable electric car market.

"It's critical," Kelly said. "To be first is very important for us."

Chevy, as the manufacturer of the Volt plug-in hybrid and Spark EV, has considerable experience with electric-powered vehicles.

The Volt can travel nearly 40 miles on battery power alone before a gas engine kicks in. The Spark EV is a battery-powered all-electric car with a stated range of about 80 miles. The Spark EV starts at about $26,000, the Volt at about $34,000 -- before government rebates.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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