Will General Motors Company's Chevy Bolt Boast More Range Than Model 3?

By Markets Fool.com

General Motors (NYSE: GM) will announce the official driving range for its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt on Tuesday, the company said on Chevrolet's Facebook page on Monday morning. With a launch date slated one year before electric-car maker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model 3, a surprising range could give the Bolt an edge over Tesla's first lower-cost vehicle.

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Image source: Chevrolet.

Will the Bolt's range outdo Model 3?

Ever since GM unveiled its production Chevy Bolt earlier this year, the company has simply promised the all-electric vehicle will have a driving range of at least 200 miles. This reported range was based on its own internal testing, the company says on its website. But the official EPA estimate hasn't been released yet.

But GM is ready to finally unveil the vehicle's official range.

"The Bolt EV definitely has the range," Chevrolet said on Facebook Monday morning. "Can you guess what it is?"

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Based on the vehicle's compact size and the 60 kWh capacity of its battery pack, the Bolt should sport at least 215 miles of range. For some perspective, consider that the 60 kWh Model S Tesla produced in the past sported 208 miles of EPA-rated range; and Model S is a much larger sedan than the Bolt. Even more, Tesla promises its Model 3, which is priced at $2,500 less than Chevy Bolt's $37,500 price tag, will have a range of 215 miles.

Furthermore, GM only promises a zero-to-60 time of less than seven seconds for the Bolt -- a full second slower than Tesla's promised acceleration of less than six seconds for its Model 3. Given acceleration's toll on range, Bolt's more conservative acceleration should help with range.

Put simply, there's plenty of reason for the Bolt to sport 215 miles of range or more.

It's difficult to estimate how far beyond 215 miles of range the Bolt might be able to drive on a single charge. One particular area holding the vehicle back is its aerodynamics, which the Bolt's lead designer, Stuart Norris, said are a "disaster," according to Automotive News.

It's worth noting that Tesla, like GM, hasn't actually announced the official range for Model 3, either. So, an apples-to-apples comparison still won't be possible after tomorrow.

Model 3 prototype. Image source: Tesla Motors.

"I want to emphasize these are minimum numbers," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said when he announced Model 3 in March. "We hope to exceed them."

Tesla will likely reveal more concrete details on specifications for Model 3 at its planned second unveiling event for the vehicle later this year.

Why it matters

A few months before the vehicle's launch, and just over a year before Tesla plans to bring its Model 3 to market, tomorrow's announcement will play an important role in setting aprecedent for just how well GM is executing on its invigorated electric vehicle efforts.

And investors shouldn't underestimate the potential in this nascent market. While it's still small, it looks promising. Tesla has already proven there's a healthy demand at this price point for long-range electric vehicles, as the company garnered 373,000 deposit-backed reservations for its Model 3 within 15 days of its unveiling. But beyond Model 3 pre-orders, which are refundable, the market for lower-cost electric vehicles with over 200 miles of range has been left completely untapped. And GM will be the first to deliver a vehicle for this market.

As GM prepares the Bolt for its first deliveries later this year, the question is whether the Bolt will be compelling enough to attract a surprising level of demand or even steal some of Tesla's potential customer base. GM's range announcement on Tuesday may offer one of the first glimpses into the value proposition for the all-electric Bolt.

What range do you expect from the Bolt?

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Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.