Will the new Chevy Bolt revolutionize electric vehicles?

General Motor's new electric car boasts an impressive 200-mile range at a price that's affordable to most people. If the car delivers, the Bolt could revolutionize electric cars, auto industry observers say.

Gregory Bull/AP
GM CEO Mary Barra stands next to the Chevrolet Bolt electric car at CES International in Las Vegas.

General Motors unveiled its new plug-in electric vehicle, one of the first on the market that’s affordable for its purported and impressive range – by far the highest of all other US models except Tesla’s electric cars.

The company introduced its Chevrolet Bolt on Wednesday at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The “first electric car for the masses,” as some media reports are calling it, will be available for sale later this year for about $30,000, a price that takes into account the maximum $7,500 of federal rebate money available to incentivize electric vehicle (EV) sales.

In contrast, Tesla’s models, the biggest sellers in the United States, start at about $70,000 without the rebate, with an electric charge that lasts for 240 to 286 miles.

The Bolt, a small crossover SUV, is big enough for five passengers and has enough power to drive about 200 miles on one charge, says GM, which would take nine hours to complete with a 240-volt charging unit.

If the Bolt proves reliable and popular, EV enthusiasts hope it will provide a much-needed boost to EV adoption and sales, which are sluggish for various reasons that include consumer anxiety about limited driving ranges, lackluster performance and design, and maybe most importantly: cheap gas.

“The Chevrolet Bolt represents the first serious electric vehicle available to mainstream consumers,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book told Wired. “It will be an interesting test to see how the market embraces the Bolt in this era of cheap gas; But from a value and function standpoint, it sets a new benchmark in alternative-fuel options.”

Car reviewers so far are giving the Bolt high marks for performance and for its roomy interior.

“It’s peppy and responsive as you’d expect an electric car to be, and handles corners like a little rally car,” describes Forbes’ Joann Muller.

Ms. Muller reports that the car has one-pedal driving, which means that when the foot lifts off the accelerator, the car automatically stops until the accelerator is activated again by the foot.

The Bolt also boasts sophisticated technology, which is not surprising given that smart-car features such as blind spot warnings, parallel parking and lane-keeping assistance will be critical in the advancement of car-sharing services and self-driving cars, areas that GM recently invested in with a $500 million stake in the car-sharing service Lyft.

GM’s new EV model has a 10.2-inch screen at the center of its dashboard, with a fast 4G LTE Internet connection and navigation mapping that notifies drivers about nearby charging stations when they need to power up, as Wired reports.

The car also can pair a phone with its Bluetooth system as the phone approaches the car, and it recognizes who is driving it, based on the keys used, tuning the radio accordingly.

Despite these innovative technology features that will make the car fun to drive, EV enthusiasts say the car’s commercial success hinges on whether it can deliver the promised electric range at a price that is affordable to most people.

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