Elon Musk learned an interesting piece of news this week: Tesla might not be the first automaker to offer a mass-market electric vehicle. General Motors unveiled a new electric concept car, the Chevy Bolt, at the Detroit auto show, and it is likely to come out before Tesla’s mass-market Model 3. And in a bonus for future car buyers: The Bolt will cost only $30,000 after rebates, approximately $5,000 cheaper than the similar vehicle that Tesla has been promising.
The confusingly named Bolt will likely cause marketing issues–there is already a plug-in hybrid called the Chevy Volt–but will have no trouble getting attention. It will be able to drive more than 200 miles per charge, and will be sold inside the United States and several other international markets. GM’s head of global product development, Mark Reuss, told the Detroit News that the new vehicle could be coming within a year to a year and a half. Judging from the vehicle’s specs, it seems that GM likely had Tesla in mind: The Bolt seems very similar in capabilities to Tesla’s option.
Both Tesla and GM are going after middle class consumers who, unlike today’s electric car early adopters, don’t have $90,000 to spend on a new ride. Because of rebates and tax breaks that accompany electric cars, they could be an increasingly attractive proposition for buyers, especially in dense metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington that can support an extensive charger network.
Is this competition bad news for Tesla? Maybe a little. But it’s also exactly what Elon Musk wanted; last year he made Tesla’s patents available for free to competitors, as a way to encourage a more robust electric car ecosystem. The more such cars there are on the road, the more incentive local governments and commercial property owners have to build charging stations. And the more charging infrastructure there is, the more people will be willing to buy an electric car. So that makes GM’s announcement pretty good news, even for the guy who’s selling a competing car.