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Chevrolet leaving a Bolt-sized hole in the affordable EV marketplace

Chevrolet officially announced that the Bolt EV and EUV are dead at the end of the 2023 calendar year. With its removal from the marketplace, the number of truly affordable EVs drops quite significantly.

The Tesla Model 3, at least at the time of this writing, is $41,380 with destination. When you factor in the benefits of the Supercharging network, it’s probably a decent EV deal, but it’s not something we’d call affordable.

The new Kia Niro EV is a nice car, with a great interior and a lot of great things going on for it. But it also has a starting price of $40,875. Again, a car that has an MSRP that starts with a “4″ is not a vehicle we’d consider super affordable in a world with rampant inflation, sky high interest rates, and a looming recession.

The Mini Cooper S E, a car that we absolutely adore, can be had with a starting MSRP of $31,895. That’s a lot more like it, but it’s also a Mini which means it’s basically a two-seater with a compact storage area. It also doesn’t come packing with a lot of range.

The Nissan Leaf standard range is a viable option.

The base Nissan Leaf has admittedly low range for the starting price. The $29,135 starting price with delivery gets you a real car with real space. The 150 miles of EPA range relegates this car to a second vehicle, and the slow CHAdeMO connector means you won’t want to take this on any long road trips. But it is much more affordable.

But jumping up to the Leaf Plus, which has 212 miles of EPA range, crests $38,000 with delivery. There’s a decent amount of standard features, but it’s close enough to the Model 3 that it becomes not a great choice.

One thing we haven’t considered in pricing is the federal tax incentive. It’s still in considerable flux as it is presently being used in a bargaining chip for the debt ceiling bill. Additionally, with everyone’s tax situation being unique, it’s better to consult your tax adviser before you buy if you’re hoping to maximize its use.

The Equinox is allegedly going to start at $30,000 when it goes on sale. While I’d love to give GM the benefit of the doubt here, until it’s on sale at that price it’s probably not worth betting on. I hope the do hit that price target for an entry-level model, as that is good for the overall state of the EV industry.

But right now I see a big hole in the marketplace. A hole that makes EVs even more a luxury item than they already were. The Bolt benefited not only from being an affordable EV, but also just a generally good car for the price. It is better, in a lot of ways, than some of the gasoline-powered cars for the price.

Is it a hole big enough for a Chinese automaker to swoop in and take over? Possibly. It’d be a big ask to get an American consumer to buy from a Chinese brand — even if some cars on sale right now in the U.S. were assembled in China — but they seem to have a better grasp on making affordable EVs.

Of course, there’s still the final question of if people even want affordable EVs? I’d like to think so, since in order to go all EV in the future there need to be cars that everyone can afford. Public transit just can’t keep up. But sedans and small cars sell in lower volume than crossovers, which tend to be more expensive.

Bolt sells well. If another company can deliver a similar product, with similar range, at a similar price, it’ll sell well.

Will anyone step up to the plate?

Written by Chad Kirchner
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