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Wired - How GM Beat Alon Musk in the Race to Build a True Electric Car for the Masses

Wired has published a long form piece that examines how GM beat Tesla to the punch as it pertains to building an affordable electric vehicle for the masses. Here are some quotes that I found interesting from the story, and I have posted a link to the full article at the bottom of this post.

Most of us simply can’t shell out more than $70,000 for a Tesla. But comparatively affordable electrics like the Nissan Leaf still travel only about 80 miles on a charge—not far enough to dispel the dreaded “range anxiety” that such a low number provokes in most American drivers. A 2013 study by the California Center for Sustainable Energy found that only 9 percent of consumers said they would be satisfied with an electric car that can go 100 miles on a charge. Increase that range to 200 miles, though, and 70 percent of potential drivers said they’d be satisfied.
General Motors first unveiled the Chevy Bolt as a concept car in January 2015, billing it as a vehicle that would offer 200 miles of range for just $30,000 (after a $7,500 federal tax credit). Barring any unforeseen delays, the first Bolts will roll off the production line at GM’s Orion Assembly facility in Michigan by the end of 2016. As Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, recently put it to me with a confident grin: “Who wants to be second?”
It’s not just that Chevy will likely be first. It’s that a car company as lumbering and gigantic as GM, with infrastructure and manufacturing capacity on an epic scale, has gotten there first—and is there now. Tesla is nimble, innovative, and fun to watch, as companies go. But the Bolt is far more significant than any offering from Tesla ever could be.
The Volt project was still in its infancy when the US economy tanked in 2008, sending GM into shock. The company began losing $1 billion a month and started cleaving off limbs in desperation, eliminating or selling its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer brands. The Volt project could easily have fallen under the ax as well—but instead it took on an outsize significance. President Obama seized on the car as one reason GM was worth a $40 billion bailout, holding it up as a sign that the bankrupt automaker could adapt.
The Bolt is the most concrete evidence yet that the largest car companies in the world are contemplating a very different kind of future too. GM knows the move from gasoline to electricity will be a minor one compared to where customers are headed next: away from driving and away from owning cars. In 2017, GM will give Cadillac sedans the ability to control themselves on the highway. Instead of dismissing Google as a smart-aleck kid grabbing a seat at the adults’ table, GM is talking about partnering with the tech firm on a variety of efforts. Last year GM launched car-sharing programs in Manhattan and Germany and has promised more to come. In January the company announced that it’s investing $500 million in Lyft, and that it plans to work with the ride-sharing company to develop a national network of self-driving cars.
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