Chevrolet Bolt Could Return as an Affordable Ultium-Based EV, or Not

Chevrolet Bolt could return as an affordable Ultium-based EV 8 photos
Photo: Chevrolet | Edited
Chevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the riseChevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the rise
GM CEO Mary Barra always thought that success in the EV market could only be achieved by selling an affordable EV. With the demise of the Chevrolet Bolt EV later this year, the Chevy Equinox EV will take over, although Chevrolet could offer an even cheaper EV. Mary Barra implied that Bolt could return as an Ultium-based cheap-as-chips EV.
GM CEO Mary Barra is known for making a lot of bold predictions that are often baseless. In an investor document, they should be marked as "forward-looking statements," although they are more like wishful-thinking statements. Here we can count the plans to sell one million EVs by mid-decade or surpass Tesla within the same timeframe. Still, GM struggles to produce its signature Ultium EVs, with less than 1,000 built per quarter.

The Chevrolet Bolt, its only electric model that can be considered a volume model, is preparing to exit the stage at the end of 2023 after a troubled career. The Bolt was the subject of the most attention-grabbing recall in the EV arena after its batteries started to catch fire in 2021. Chevrolet stopped production until it analyzed the issue and convinced LGES to pay for replacing the defective batteries.

That took almost an entire year, and everyone thought the Bolt's fate was sealed. The Bolt's production line was needed to produce the Chevy Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV. Still, Bolt returned from the dead to become GM's unlikely EV sales champion for over a year. It sold 44,000 units in 2022 and another 20,000 in the first quarter of 2023. That was its best quarterly sales result, and we predict the Bolt will retire in its glory.

Chevrolet Bolt demand is finally on the rise
Photo: Chevrolet
GM announced that the upcoming Chevy Equinox will become its most affordable EV when it launches next year. Projected to cost about $30,000 when it was announced, the Equinox EV should be unprofitable for GM, based on Mary Barra's statements. Barra said EV battery prices are too high to build profitable EVs in the $30,000 to $40,000 price bracket. Not only that, but this should not change until the end of the decade.

Less than a week later, Barra made another statement, which seemingly contradicted the former. Asked why GM is retiring the Chevy Bolt during an NPR Marketplace podcast, Barra replied that Ultium technology allows GM to cut battery costs by a whopping 40 percent. In other words, Bolt has too high battery costs to be sustainable. Nevertheless, even with a 40% cost reduction, the Chevy Equinox EV still loses money, as Barra admitted.

Still, GM is no welfare society to sell the Bolt at $27,495 before counting the $7,500 IRA tax credit. This makes us believe it has a special deal with LGES to supply Bolt's batteries almost for free. The problem is that the deal is limited and probably expires by the end of 2023. It also explains why GM insisted on resuming Bolt's production last year and probably why GM builds these affordable EVs like there's no tomorrow. Because, literally, there's no tomorrow.

To add to the confusion, Barra hinted at the possible return of the Chevy Bolt as an Ultium-based EV. You'd think the 40% reduction in battery costs would make the Bolt even cheaper than the current generation. Still, if the Equinox EV is losing money at a $30,000-$40,000 price, as Mary Barra told us, who would pay more on a Bolt, even if powered by Ultium tech?
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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