Chevy beats Tesla to the 200-mile affordable electric

The Bolt concept, unveiled at the 2015 Detroit auto show, promises a compact and affordable all-electric vehicle from Chevrolet.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Josh Miller/CNET

Chevrolet Bolt concept
The Chevy Bolt concept promises 200 miles of electric driving and a price tag around $30,000. Josh Miller/CNET

DETROIT -- Tesla's game plan includes the Model 3, a compact and affordable electric car with a 200-mile range. At the 2015 North American International Auto Show here, Chevrolet looks set to beat Tesla to the punch, unveiling its Bolt concept, a hatchback using lightweight body materials and a pure electric drivetrain.

The Bolt is similar in size and shape to the Nissan Versa , although the seating looks limited to four passengers. A small cargo area behind the rear seats allows for luggage. The structure seems to be a test bed for lightweight materials, as Chevrolet notes that it uses "aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and even woven mesh" in the body.

Details on the drivetrain were slim, although Chevrolet says this pure electric cars should go 200 miles on a charge. It also allows Level 3 fast charging, although the charging port only shows a J1772 connector. Chevrolet is leveraging the electric drivetrain development it has already done for the Volt and Spark EV production cars.

Helping out the driving range, Chevrolet says the Bolt will adjust its ride height for differing driving conditions, also suggesting it has an adaptive suspension.

Chevy shows affordable 200-mile electric car (pictures)

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Cabin design employs a flat floor, taking advantage of the elimination of the transmission tunnel, made unnecessary by the electric drivetrain. That flat floor and the dashboard, sporting two LCDs, look similar to those in the BMW i3 electric car.

Chevrolet places an LCD in front of the driver, presumably for a virtual instrument cluster, and a 10-inch LCD on the center dash. This capacitive touchscreen shows infotainment functions.

Surprisingly for a concept car, Chevrolet suggested it was designed for a price point of around $30,000 (roughly £20,000 or AU$37,000 converted) and could be sold in all 50 US states, along with countries around the world.

Read all CNET's coverage of the Detroit auto show here.