Newsletter: Want an affordable EV? General Motors has an answer for you: Too bad

A Chevrolet Bolt EV in Colma, Calif., on April 25.
General Motors announced it is winding down production of its compact Chevrolet Bolt electric car.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 6, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

I’m not a car enthusiast, so starting with a discussion of General Motors’ decision to phase out production of the Chevrolet Bolt may seem a little off-brand for this newsletter. But the Bolt is no ordinary vehicle — as far as cars go, the thing’s a unicorn, and anyone concerned about de-carbonizing vehicle transportation should be deeply troubled by its disappearance.

The Bolt is a lot of desirable things in a single vehicle: It’s electric, it’s compact, it has a lot of range (about 250 miles), and it’s affordable. It’s also pretty nice — I know, because I have one.


Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Late last year, I started car shopping as the lease end on my Nissan Leaf approached. In an EV market dominated by Elon Musk and larger, more expensive, oddly styled cars, the Bolt stood out as the obvious replacement: It had more range than my Leaf, had more room than my Leaf, and best of all, it was cheaper than the Leaf. A new one starts at $25,000, which left me enough financial room to add a few options that made my Bolt the most plush ride I’ve ever owned. The price before taxes and fees came in around $31,000 — expensive, yes, but still around $15,000 less that similarly appointed EVs. Under the warped standards of vehicle pricing, $31,000 counts as affordable.

But affordable for car buyers doesn’t mean profitable for the car seller, and GM knows what turns profits: really big cars, and the company wants to use the Bolt’s factory space to churn out electric pickup trucks and SUVs instead. So RIP to the Bolt, but long live (I sure hope) my Bolt.

This, The Times’ editorial board notes, will put EV ownership out of reach for the masses — and policymakers shouldn’t stand for it:

“Consumer groups are right to be worried that discontinuing lower-priced models like the Bolt will reduce options and shut out an entire segment of drivers who want to buy electric cars but won’t be able to afford them.

“So what can be done to push back against ballooning sizes and price tags?

“New auto emissions standards proposed last month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which would require about two-thirds of new passenger vehicles sold by 2032 to be electric, could be retooled to provide greater incentive for automakers to produce smaller, more efficient and affordable models.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could adopt standards to push automakers to produce smaller, lighter vehicles that would be less dangerous in crashes. California lawmakers are already considering legislation to study the costs and benefits of charging car owners more for registering heavier vehicles, in recognition of the link between bigger vehicles and pedestrian injuries and deaths.

“Rules adopted by California regulators last year to phase out sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035 include incentives to produce cars that sell for about $20,000 or less. But those provisions are optional....


“That makes it more important than ever that California continue to modernize and streamline its clean vehicle rebate programs, which have been hampered by long waiting lists, inconsistent and insufficient funding that have prevented people from buying electric cars. The state recently increased incentives for low and moderate-income Californians to buy zero-emission vehicles, allowing them to apply for rebates of up to $7,500. But more can be done to smooth out these programs, such as making them redeemable at the dealership or point of sale rather than forcing car buyers with limited incomes to wait months for reimbursement.

“The Bolt may be on its deathbed. But it doesn’t have to stall the EV revolution if we can find ways to push automakers to build more small, zero-emission cars that most people can afford to buy.”

Republicans really don’t care about Donald Trump’s numerous run-ins with the law. I know that might come across as a naive statement (after all, we were all around when Jan. 6 happened, when the “perfect call” with Ukraine happened, when “very fine people” happened, when “Access Hollywood” happened, and so forth), but anyone with good moral sense should worry when a man in a civil rape trial gets a bump in the polls. Writing about E. Jean Carroll’s rape accusation, columnist Nicholas Goldberg says: “Republicans, please. There’s got to be a line. If Trump had a consensual extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels, that’s not admirable, classy or exemplary behavior. But Americans might reasonably decide they don’t care. Rape, on the other hand, is something else. If he did it, that’s beyond the pale.” L.A. Times

E. Jean Carroll proves how far #MeToo has come. Also writing about Trump’s civil rape trial, actor Amber Tamblyn says: “Whether or not Carroll wins this case, it is her bravery, and the bravery of those who have come before her, including Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, that is a testament to how far we’ve come. Even if she loses the fight to hold Trump accountable for his actions in a court of law, Carroll has won the ability to take back her own story, publicly, and to be an example for others to consider doing the same.” L.A. Times

Florida is reviving an 1850s strategy to exclude Chinese immigrants. The state ostensibly wants to prevent the Chinese government from buying property, but the overly broad language (“any member of the People’s Republic of China”) of the bill passed by the Florida House this week could wreak havoc on ordinary people. Opponents of the bill compare it to laws from Nazi Germany, but as historian Beth Lew-Williams notes, you don’t have to look across the Atlantic to find past efforts to prevent immigrants from owning land. L.A. Times

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Christians who base their indifference to climate change on the Book of Revelation are misreading the Bible. Scholars agree that the New Testament’s most apocalyptic book was written for a first-century audience with first-century concerns. In other words, it isn’t about us, nor is it about the end of our civilization, and religion scholar Bart D. Ehrman says the refusal to believe otherwise has serious consequences: “If a significant portion of the voting public believes the end of our civilization is just 40 years off, why worry about the environment? Why support the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050? It’s no surprise that believers in the Second Coming are significantly more likely to oppose governmental attempts to fight climate change.” L.A. Times

She’ll be watching King Charles III’s coronation today, but don’t expect her to bow down. Editorial writer Carla Hall notes that Britain’s new king lived a whole messy life before finally wearing the crown, in contrast to his beloved mother who started ruling at age 25. And right at the outset he’s doing things a little differently: Today, he’s hosting about a fourth of the guests his mother entertained at her coronation, and all Brits will be asked to “pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law” — a ritual previously reserved for the nobility. Yikes! L.A. Times

Stay in touch.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to The Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at