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GM doubles down on electrics with new Chevy Volt, Bolt

autos Updated: Jan 13, 2015 13:19 IST


General Motors doubled down on its position in the electric car market Monday, unveiling a new 200-mile (320 km) Chevrolet Bolt to challenge Tesla, and a snazzy updated Volt.

The Bolt, still in concept form but reportedly not far from heading into serious development, is a hatchback-looking "small crossover" that lowers the price of entry to a full-range electric to $30,000.

GM chief executive Mary Barra, unveiling the long-held secret at the Detroit auto show, called the Bolt "a real game-changer" in the electric vehicle market.

"This is truly an EV for everyone," she said, implicitly contrasting the Bolt with Tesla's best-selling 265 mile (425 km) -range Model S, a luxury electric with a base price of $70,000.

The Bolt, much smaller than the Model S, would clearly focus on a different market, but it registers a challenge to Tesla's hopes of coming up with a cheaper all-electric, as well as to BMW's i3 electric, with its 80 mile (130 km) range.

At the same time, Barra introduced an all-new model of the Chevy Volt, GM's four-year-old plug-in hybrid that, while remaining the best-selling US electric, has still not captured a mass audience.

The new Volt boosts the range on the electric engine alone to 50 miles (80 km) from the previous 38, and, with both electric and gas engines engaged, has a much faster acceleration than before.

"Owners wanted to see a greater range on the new model, and we have delivered," said Barra.

Both new Chevrolet electrics though face a potent challenge: the plunge in gasoline prices that has made energy-saving cars less attractive, with American consumers content to buy less efficient SUVs and trucks.