The Emerging EV Challenge

Incumbents will gain some share. But it is going to take a lot of work to get it

By Gary S. Vasilash

When GM announced its sales for the first half of 2021, the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the new variant the Bolt EUV did quite well. Comparatively speaking.

That is, sales were up 142.4% compared with the first half of 2020.

Of course, 2020 was the COVID year, so the sales of pretty much every vehicle has shown robust signs of sales, but few with such a high percentage rise.

That said, the total number of sales for the two models in the first half of 2021 was 20,288. To put that number into context, realize that the company sold 31,886 Malibus during the same period—and that represented a decline of 33.5% for the stalwart sedan.

And to put the Bolt EV/EUV sales into context, know that in the second quarter alone of 2021 Tesla delivered 199,360 Model 3 and Model Y units—or looked at another way, Tesla sold in three months 179,072 more vehicles than Chevrolet did in six months.

“IONIQ 5 introduces the Hyundai brand to a while new set of buyers, Jose Munoz ,president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America, said of the forthcoming EV. Buyers matter. Especially new ones. (Image: Hyundai)

General Motors has a lot of commitment to EVs going forward, In November 2020 it announced that it would have 30 new EVs on the global market by 2025, of which two-thirds would be available in North America. Then in June 2021 it announced it was adding commercial trucks to the North American mix, as well as additional EV production capacity.

In the GM boilerplate it describes itself as “a global company focused on advancing an all-electric future that is inclusive and accessible to all.”

Last week Mercedes announced its all-EV approach by 2030.

But presumably this is not a plan that is “inclusive and accessible to all.”

Also last week GM announced a recall of 2017-2019 Bolt EVs. A problem with the vehicles potentially bursting into flames.

This is the second time these models have been subject to a recall, with the first being in November 2020.

The new GM EVs that are on the way will not have the same battery system used by the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. It is an all-new design.

However, GM is not exactly in a position to make that as a benefit of the new vehicles because it would throw some serious shade on the Bolts.

Perhaps the limited sales of the Bolts works in GM’s favor because if the number of recalled vehicles was larger, if there were more people aware of the problem, then it would have even more work ahead of it trying to convince people that it, too, can make EVs with the best of them.

It is widely known that Tesla owners give Tesla a pass in a way that traditional OEMs have never gotten, nor will they. If there are manufacturing defects, shrug. If there are performance problems, shrug. If owners learn of those who are using the so-called “Autopilot” system and run into the side of a semi, a moment of silence followed by a shrug.

If any of these things are related to a traditional OEM: Wailing and gnashing of teeth by the customer base—and that’s just the start.

To be sure there will be more people buying EVs from the traditional brands. While in some cases it may be because the vehicles look damn good—Audi is certainly staking a claim in the design space—in more cases it will probably be predicated on the availability that can come from volume: not only availability in terms of the vehicles being on lots, but availability in terms of economies of scale helping reduce prices.

But given the delta between Model 3/Y sales and Chevy Bolt EV/EUV sales, I can’t help but think that the traditional OEMs may have a bigger problem on their hands than they might expect.

Although Hyundai has certainly been in the U.S. market since 1986, arguably it is still a challenger brand in the market compared to those that have been around for 100 years or more.

While its sales numbers are still modest in the U.S. vis-à-vis the established players, in the first half it sold 407,135 vehicles, or 49% more than it did in the first half of 2020.

Hyundai has been offering hybrids, EVs and even fuel cell vehicles in a way that many traditional OEMs don’t match.

So let’s say for the sake of argument that the same people who buy Samsung phones rather than iPhones would be more likely to go with a Hyundai than a Chevy. (If we go back to the aforementioned design advantage, Hyundai is certainly proved that point.)

So a chunk of the traditional goes there.

Then there are the new entrants. Lucid. Fisker. Lucid is staring at a high price point (think of it as a Cadillac competitor) and Fisker is more in the middle. Both of those companies have announced that they are working on what could be described as vehicles that are more inclusive and accessible.

While it might seem that the incumbents have the advantage simply because of their name recognition and availability, IBM doesn’t make PCs; when’s the last time you bought an image-related product from Kodak; and although a Pan Am shuttle took people to a space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pan Am went out of business in 1991.

GM to Spend More Billions on EVs (and AVs)

Why spend $20 billion when you can spend $35 billion?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Yesterday General Motors announced that spending $20 billion between 2020 and 2025 on electric and autonomous vehicular tech, as it said it had intended to in March 2020, isn’t enough.

It announced that spending $27 billion during the same period, as it said it had intended to in November 2020, just doesn’t cut it.

So now GM says that it will spend $35 billion by 2025.

In other word, a 75% increase in spend from what it originally intended just 15 months ago.

Why?

Said Mary Barra, GM chair and CEO: “We are investing aggressively in a comprehensive and highly integrated plan to make sure that GM leads in all aspects of the transformation to a more sustainable future.

“GM is targeting annual global EV sales of more than 1 million by 2025, and we are increasing our investment to scale faster because we see momentum building in the United States for electrification, along with customer demand for our product portfolio.”

The Bolt EV is presently the GM electric vehicle. In the first quarter GM sold 9,025 of the compact electric vehicles.

Yes, that is a 53.7% increase over Q1 2020, but that was Q1 2020.

The increase in Corvette sales Q1 to Q1 was 73.1%. While only 6,611 of those vehicles were delivered, odds are GM makes more on each Corvette than Bolt.

GM does have more EVs coming, like the HUMMER EV pickup and the Cadillac LYRIQ crossover. And there will be an electric Silverado and other vehicles to boot.

GM will be building two EVs for Honda, one for Honda brand and one for Acura. And it is supplying Navistar with its HYDROTEC hydrogen power fuel cells for heavy trucks that are to be launched in 2024.

And while it doesn’t get a whole lot of attention compared to EVs, Cruise is continuing its efforts to achieve higher levels of autonomy. It has been given the go-ahead to provide a public service sans driver in California. It has been named the exclusive autonomous rideshare provider in the city of Dubai. It will be receiving Cruise Origin vehicles—jointly developed by GM and Honda, and scheduled for production in GM’s Factory ZERO Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in 2023.

No question that GM is making a huge commitment.

A thought

Here’s something that needs to be taken into account. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, as of approximately right now there are 42,664 charging stations in the U.S. and 103,654 charging outlets available to the public.

People who live, say, in southeast Michigan tend to travel up I-75 to northwest Michigan every holiday in numbers that make a chain out of the vehicles, trailers, boats, etc. Somehow, unless there is access to chargers that are going to allow recharges in minutes, not large fractions of an hour (or more), it is going to take one EV-intensive holiday weekend to have some exceedingly sour people.

When people are used to spending a quick time at a gas station, sitting in a long line waiting for access to a plug may have a big effect on the overall acceptance of EVs.

GM Gets Ahead of the Curve on EV Battery Recycling

“GM’s zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025,” said Ken Morris, GM vice president of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles. This is one effort toward that end.

By Gary S. Vasilash

No one can say that General Motors and its partner LG Energy Solution aren’t being proactive.

The two companies operate a joint venture, Ultium Cells LLC. Ultium Cells will build the Ultium batteries that GM will use in its forthcoming electric vehicles (EVs).

Ultium battery for the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup. Those white slats slot into that container. (Image: GM)

GM’s current EVs—the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV—have lithium-ion batteries, but not Ultium batteries. That’s because the vehicles were developed pre-Ultium.

However, vehicles like the forthcoming Cadillac LYRIQ, which is to become available the first half of 2022, will have Ultium batteries on board.

Ultium Cells announced that it will be working with L-Cycle, a battery recycling company, to, well, recycle the material scrap from battery cell manufacturing.

Cobalt. Nickel. Lithium. Graphite. Manganese. Aluminum.

According to GM, 95% of the reclaimed materials can go into things like new batteries.

Li-Cycle says that the hydrometallurgical process it uses to recycle the materials is more energy efficient than other methods, like high-temperature “smelting” processes.

Which is fitting to what Ultium Cells is up to, as Thomas Gallagher, the company’s COO, said, “We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended.”

And at the very least, it undoubtedly beats the heck out of mining those materials.

The recycling process is scheduled to go on line later this year.

After all, they need to develop batteries so they can develop scrap.

Developing the 2022 Bolt EUV

If you have any doubt that EVs have a future in an arena mainly populated by things with pistons, watch this show

Rob Mantinan was a self-described “gearhead” growing up in metro Detroit. He had a Camaro when he was in high school. His dad was a UAW worker at a GM facility in Warren. He went to Kettering University. And started right out of school at GM. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the school with a specialization in automotive powertrain. Which is arguably what a gearhead would get.

But then, while working at GM, he pursued a graduate degree and obtained a master’s in energy systems engineering. He was working on things like the Chevy Volt and his focus began to shift.

The Bolt is quick. But probably not faster than an X-Wing. (Image: Chevrolet)

Which makes a whole lot of sense for what he is doing now: Mantinan is the program engineering manager for the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Bolt EUV.

On the subject of going from one propulsion system to another, he admits, “I got converted pretty quickly,” adding, “I’ve turned from a piston guy to an EV guy. And I can’t see going back—other than as a toy.”

It is certainly good to be a strong believer in what you are doing. It makes doing it all the better and satisfying. And arguably results in a better outcome.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Mantinan talks about the development and characteristics of the Bolt EUV, which is based on the Bolt EV platform, but stretched in terms of overall length (it is 169.5 inches long vs. 163.2 inches) and wheelbase (105.3 inches vs. 102.4 inches), with most of the addition space being used for rear passenger legroom (39.1 inches vs. 36 inches).

From a styling point of view, Mantinan says that the Bolt EUV is moving the Bolt “to the mainstream”: it resembles more of a crossover than a five-door hatch.

And the Bolt EUV is being offered with tech that is only otherwise available on. . .Cadillacs.

That’s right. On a vehicle that starts under $40,000 Super Cruise Level 2+ tech can be obtained.

One of the topics—which seems to come up whenever EVs are discussed—is the range. The Bolt EUV range is an estimated 250 miles. When asked whether they considered providing enough battery to allow a greater range, Mantinan notes (1) for existing Bolt customers, the range has not been a problem and (2) they wanted to assure that the Bolt EUV was accessibly priced for the buyer who isn’t interested in making the hefty payments that are associated with some other brands: This is a Chevy. (In addition to which, GM will be bringing out an array of EVs—including some with the bowtie on the front—that will be using its Ultium battery technology, but that’s in the future and the Bolts are now.)

Mantinan talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Jeff Gilbert of WWJ-950, and me.

Then the three of us discuss a variety of subjects, including VW’s Power Day, Cruise Automation buying Voyage, Foxconn’s reported EV plant plans, and a whole lot more.

You can see it all here.

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Advanced tech in a car for today

Although General Motors is bullish on the whole notion of people driving around in electric vehicles (EVs), for the most part that’s something that is off into the future because there aren’t a whole lot of EVs out there for people to drive—vehicles from GM or any other OEM, for that matter.

GM has had the Bolt EV in dealerships since 2017, a compact car. Compact cars of any type aren’t exactly high on the lists of consumer gotta-haves, and let’s face it: GM’s offering in this space hasn’t been such that people are likely to think when they go out shopping, “Hmm. . . I think I’ll go check out GM compact models.”

Which is to say that the company needs to modify its approach, and with the Bolt EUV it has done that—a bit.

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV: Second EV in the Chevy lineup. (Image: Chevrolet)

According to program engineer Rob Manitian, the Bolt EUV shares no sheet metal with the Bolt EV. That said, the Bolt EV has undergone a midcycle refresh so in its new execution, it has a different look, as well.

The rationale for the Bolt EUV is to make the vehicle have more of a “utility” appearance, because if there is something that market wants—and that Chevy has on offer from small to medium to large—its something that seems “utile.”

Seems is pretty much the operative word for the Bolt EUV when it comes to utility vis-à-vis its stable mate.

That is, the Bolt EUV is bigger than the Bolt EV:

The EV has a wheelbase of 102.4 inches; the EUV 105.3.

The EV has an overall length of 163.2 inches; the EUV 169.5.

The height difference is just 0.2 inches.

The size difference is manifest in the rear legroom:

The EV offers 36 inches; the EUV 39.1.

But here is where the seems kicks in: Cargo volume.

The cargo volume behind the rear seat in the EV is 16.6 cubic feet and it is 57 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

The cargo volume behind the rear seat in the EUV is 16.3 cubic feet and it is 56.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

While those numbers are not significantly different—especially that 0.1 cubic foot difference—one might imagine that the EUV might offer a significant difference when it comes to accommodating stuff, which it clearly doesn’t. (OK. It has standard roof rails. But. . . .)

If you’re not putting someone in that rear seat, then one could say that the choice between the two is pretty much a wash, given that the vehicles have the same platform and propulsion system.

The vehicle is powered by a 150-kW permanent magnet motor. (A.k.a., 200 hp) There is a 65-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that provides an estimated range of 250 miles on a full charge. With a Level 2 charger (240 V) the battery goes to a full charge in 7 hours; with a DC fast charge system, up to 95 miles in 30 minutes.

Because of the increase in the wheelbase, there is a different driving dynamic, one that is appreciated when using. . . Super Cruise.

That’s right: the hands-free driver assistance technology that has been heretofore available only in Cadillac models has moved to the Bolt EUV.

The Super Cruise system makes use of sensors—radar, cameras, on-board—and a LiDAR map. (No, it doesn’t have LiDAR but the mapping of some 200,000 miles of roads—like freeways—that has been done with a LiDAR system. What does that mean? Simply that it is really accurate. In addition to which, GM has a contract with a company that is out there right now, scanning more roadways and updating existing ones, information that goes to Super Cruise via over-the-air updates.)

You activate the system, set speed for adaptive cruise, and assuming you’re on roadway that is good to go, you center the car in the lane, it then gives you a lightbar on the steering wheel indication that it is ready, so you push the button a second time. . .and remove your hands from the steering wheel.

The Bolt EUV then maintains speed—adjusted based on the set spacing via the adaptive cruise—and maintains the lane. The road curves; the steering wheel makes the adjustment.

You are not permitted to take a nap or read a newspaper because there is an unobtrusive “Driver Attention System” that uses infrared lighting and a small camera on top of the steering column that keeps an eye on your eyes (even through sunglasses) so that if you’re paying insufficient attention to what’s going on, the system let’s you know that’s not acceptable behavior.

But to return to the wheelbase for a moment. When driving at freeway speeds in the adjacency to big rigs, unless you’re in a full-size SUV or pickup truck, you’re going to feel buffeting. The addition six inches of wheelbase undoubtedly helps keep things from feeling too unsettling when the Bolt EUV is, essentially, driving itself (I suppose that this point I ought to have in big red letters something that says YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR BEING IN CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE because as modern as it is, you’re still in charge).

The interior of the vehicle is fresh and contemporary without being too overtly “futuristic” in execution. I actually wish it did seem to be a bit more advanced because let’s face it: this is still leading-edge technology compared to about 95% of everything else on the road, so those who are adopting it ought to get a nod that they’re participating in the creation of the future. (It is worth noting that the front end of a white Bolt EUV does resemble a Star Wars stormtrooper, however.)

But perhaps the biggest takeaway of the Bolt EUV is that while it is a technologically sophisticated vehicle, it is a normal vehicle. It is a vehicle that anyone can drive without feeling as though they’re in something that is uncomfortably different (“Uh, how do I ________________”).

Which is what will really matter in order to get more people behind the wheels of EVs.–gsv

Chevy Adds a Bolt

Another electric vehicle from the mainstream brand, one that resembles a compact SUV. . .

Chevrolet is launching a new variant of its Bolt EV* electric vehicle—the Bolt EUV—as well as a refresh of the Bolt EV itself for model year 2022. The Bolt EUV, says Bolt chief engineer Jesse Ortega, combines an EV with design cues of an SUV.

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV with Spaceship Earth in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Image: Chevrolet)

While the take rate of EVs is on the order of approximately 2%, Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing, notes that the Bolt EV is the number-two best-selling EV in the market (in 2020 Chevy delivered 20,754 Bolt EVs, a 26.5% increase compared with 2019; the number-one selling EV in the U.S. in 2020 was the Tesla Model 3, with an estimated 158,000 deliveries), and that it attracts more people to General Motors than any other vehicle in the company’s lineup.

While both vehicles share the same underlying architecture, the Bolt EUV is six inches longer than the Bolt EV.

Both vehicles share the same propulsion system and lithium-ion battery. Ortega says the Bolt EV has 259 miles of range on a full charge and that the Bolt EUV will have an estimated 250 miles of range. Ortega notes that the Bolt EUV is taller, longer and a bit heavier than the Bolt EV, which explains the difference in range.**

Charged Up

GM is working with EVgo for a build out of public charging stations, with plans to add more than 2,700 chargers by the end of 2025.

What’s more, Chevy will cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for customers of the 2022 models (either of the two), working with Qmerit, a company that specializes in finding EV equipment installers.

“’Range anxiety’ is a term we have to get rid of,” Oretga says.

According to Rob Mantinan, program engineer, the Bolts can achieve about 25 miles per hour of charge.

Inside Softer

As they had to develop the interior for the Bolt EUV, the Bolt EV is getting an interior upgrade, as well. Phil Zak, executive design director, Chevrolet, says there are “tech-focused interiors, with more premium materials, which are key to our growing EV portfolio.”

There is a new instrument panel, a flat-bottom steering wheel, a gear shift that uses toggles and buttons, a 10.2-inch-diagnoal infotainment color touchscreen, and more soft-touch materials. The EUV is available with an optional sunroof.

A notable offering for the EUV is Super Cruise, the hands-free driver assistance technology that has migrated from Cadillac. It allows the driver to her to remove her hands from the steering wheel on some 200,000 miles of mapped roadways in the U.S. and Canada.

Outside Edgier

On the exterior, the EUV features a crease line that runs from the front fascia through the center of the hood, horizontal body lines and standard roof rails, which are said to signify more of an SUV approach. LED headlamps are standard.

The EV has a more upright front fasica and new front and rear lighting.

One thing that can be said about the exterior designs of both vehicles is that they look far more like 21st century EVs than the current Bolt EV or the now-out-of-production Volt (a.k.a., the “extended range electric vehicle”).

Cost Down

The base price of the 2022 Bolt EV, including destination, is $31,995. That’s $5,000 less expensive than the base 2021 model.

Majoros says that the price decrease is predicated on the build-out of a supply chain, process improvements through the past few years and economies of scale. There is an emphasis that this is not an approach of decontenting.

The Bolt EUV starts at $33,995.

A Launch Edition for the EUV is being offered. It includes Super Cruise, sunroof, unique wheels, special badging and an illuminated charge port. Its price is $43,495.

Disney Magic

To launch the Bolt EUV Chevy put the reveal at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom with a presentation by Nick Cho, who is known for his @YourKoreanDad on TikTok, and a special video that GM and Disney collaborated on.

Unlike the MY 2000-2003 Chevy Venture, which offered the Warner Bros. edition, which included a Bugs Bunny badge, this apparently will not include a Tinker Bell.–gsv

*The “EV” is part of the name of the “Bolt EV.” So in contexts where the type of vehicle is appended to the name, it is the “Bolt EV EV.” (The EUV avoids that with the addition of the vowel.

**Bolt EV dimensions (inches): 102.4 wheelbase; 163.2 length; 69.5 width; 63.4 height

 Bolt EUV dimensions (inches): 105.3 wheelbase; 169.5 length; 69.7 width; 63.6 height