GM CEO Mary Barra hints at Ultium Chevy Bolt in near future

In an NPR interview before the news of the big GM move to NACS charging, CEO Mary Barra hinted at something we here at Electrek have been jonesin’ for – a Chevy Bolt with an Ultium battery. A Bolt?! Let’s discuss…

The little nugget of info happened about 10 minutes into a Marketplace podcast released yesterday right before the announcement on GM’s choice to follow Ford into Tesla’s NACS charging. The whole thing is worth a listen, but our ears perked up at the following:

Barra: So I’ve been driving a Bolt EUV for several months before that. Absolutely love it.

Ryssdal: So why are you stopping making it?

Barra: Because it’s our second-generation technology. The difference between our second generation and third generation, which is Ultium, is a 40% reduction in battery costs. And we’re leveraging the names of our vehicles that are well understood and known in industry. People, you know, who drive an Equinox today will understand what an Equinox EV, what that delivers to them. But, you know, Bolt is something that has built up a lot of loyalty and equity. So I can’t say more because I don’t discuss future product programs. But, you know, it was primarily a move from second generation to third generation. But that’s [an] important vehicle in our portfolio.

Ryssdal: Nudge nudge, wink wink, I guess.

After attending Volvo’s launch of its EX30 this week, there is so much excitement for a small sized hatchback (micro SUV?) EV with options like fast charging, AWD, and insane acceleration.

Heck, Volvo accidentally created the fastest car they’ve ever built just by adding a moderately powerful motor to the front of the EX30. Chevy could have done this easily with the Bolt and created similar hype. Imagine a Bolt hot hatch that could match some of the acceleration specs of a Corvette? All GM would have to do is add a similar rear motor to the Bolt’s FWD motor, charge $50K, and voila – margins!

Of course, Ultium will afford the Bolt to have decent charging speeds and other benefits as well. Let’s imagine what we’d get in a basic $25,000 Ultium Bolt:

  • 51kWh battery – GM Ultium batteries tend to come in 50kWh increments Lyriq (102kWh, Hummer/Silverado 204kWh, etc). I imagine the base, $30K Equinox will have a ~51kWh battery and around 215 miles of range. With the Bolt’s smaller size, you might be able to get closer to 240 miles of range out of 51kWh.
  • AWD option – GM showed us a small 30kW motor at the 2020 Battery Day that it said it could use to make any of its vehicles AWD. This wouldn’t necessarily be for performance so much as getting out of snow and mud and maybe adding some efficiency to offset the additional weight and electronics of the second motor. Of course GM could just add 2x150kW Bolt motors and get a 0-60 time in the low 3-second area and sell this for $50k and… just take my money.
  • Charging speed will have to obviously be better than the current Bolt’s 54kW but with such a small battery, it will be hard to get it to 150kWh. Still, though if we’re talking about a $25K car, and I think anything over 100kW is acceptable.
  • Efficiency – The Bolt is already one of the most efficient vehicles on the road but with an added Ultium heat pump, improved electronics, and motors, we could be looking at one of the most efficient EVs ever made.
  • $25,000 without subsidizing? Interestingly, Barra in the interview said that the company could save 40% on the cost of batteries using Ultium vs the Bolts 2nd generation EV system. That means they could likely get to the Bolt’s current price point without having to subsidize anything. Of course Barra also said that GM wouldn’t be able to make a profit on sub $40,000 vehicles until 2030 so the ‘it is coming soon’ piece might be wishful thinking.

Electrek’s Take

Rejoice, fellow Bolt EV owners! Our favorite car isn’t dead, just going on hiatus. Of course, GM has disappointed us in the past, and things like ditching CarPlay doesn’t sound like they’re totally in tune with its customer base at the moment. On that note, please, Mary, make the EV, not just the EUV.

I don’t expect GM to announce an Ultium Bolt (“Bolt“? sorry!) anytime soon because it wants to shift their small car buyers to its soon-to-be available, bigger $30K Equinox. But given the love and hype behind the Bolt, we’ll be watching this one closely.

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