Well over a year after the Chevrolet Bolt EV’s initial public debut at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, it seems General Motors CEO Mary Barra wasn’t exaggerating when she called it “more than just a car.”
“It is an upgradeable platform for new technologies,” Barra said at the time, according to Automotive News. The new battery-electric vehicle would serve a role in GM’s plans for “everything from car-sharing apps to new ownership models and, one day, self-driving cars,” she claimed.
Evidence bears that out. In June of this year, Chevrolet announced that it had completed production of a 130-strong fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV prototypes. The platform is an inherently strong one for autonomous tech as the large battery pack can support additional electronic equipment beyond the drive motor, such as the self-driving computer, the requisite sensors, etc. What’s more, GM said in September that the Bolt had become the most popular option in the Maven car-share fleet among those driving for Uber and Lyft.
Writing for Automotive News, Michael Wayland argues that the Chevrolet Bolt EV is “the symbol of General Motors’ future.” The automaker has announced plans to introduce 20 new battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles globally by 2023, and the success of the Bolt is largely to thank.
“It’s helped [GM] to see what is possible from full battery electric vehicles,” Vice President of Global EV Programs Pam Fletcher recently told reporters. She says lessons learned from GM’s compact, 200-mile battery-electric vehicle have helped the carmaker accelerate its work in the area of EVs, helping it develop a new platform, battery pack, and propulsion system for its next generation of battery-electric vehicles.
That’s about as close to a symbol for a new era as you can get, and it validates Mary Barra’s rather grandiose statements from the Bolt EV’s early-2016 unveiling. Sometimes, a vehicle’s impact is far, far larger than its physical footprint.