In January General Motors announced the "aspiration" to switch completely from traditional gas-powered cars to electric vehicles by 2035. It has now taken the next step on that path — a step of a few inches.
The company rolled out the newest version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, a five-door hatchback that it has been selling for four years, and the only all-electric vehicle it now sells in North America. But the market has been moving away from cars and strongly toward SUVs for the last several years. So it was important to GM to have an SUV version of the Bolt.
GM formally unveiled what it is calling the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, for electric utility vehicle. But the difference between the Bolt EV hatchback and the Bolt EUV SUV is minimal — a three-inch-longer wheelbase, a six-inch-longer overall length and only 2/10th of an inch higher.
The Bolt EUV doesn't have all-wheel drive, a common feature on SUVs, although GM executives defended it in comments to the press ahead of the rollout.
"It has SUV proportions, it has SUV styling," said Jesse Ortega, the chief engineer of the two Bolts. "I wouldn't buy into idea it has to have four-wheel drive to be an SUV."
Both Bolts will go into production in the late spring and are due in showrooms by early summer. It's not the only EV that GM has plans to unveil in the US market this year. An electric Hummer truck and the Cadillac Lyriq are also due in showrooms. The Lyriq is due to go into production later in the first quarter, while the Hummer is scheduled to be available in the late fall.
The Bolt has its fans with among the highest customer satisfaction rates in the industry, according to Steve Majoros, vice president of marketing for Chevrolet.
GM is using the chips it can get to build its most profitable vehicles: large SUVs and pickups. When asked if that means the two Bolts could be affected by the chip shortage, Majoros said "launch products are critical as well." But he also conceded, "we're going to do what's right for the entire business."
General Motors' new EV initiative was among the top car tech features at 2021's virtual Consumer Electronics Show:
New automotive tech
At CES, luxury automaker Audi showed a near-final prototype of its upcoming e-tron GT electric vehicle. The e-tron GT will be a sleeker, sportier sedan version of Audi’s current e-tron Sportback SUV, with an estimated range of more than 200 miles.
The e-tron GT should be just as smooth as it is fast, with a comfortable cruising mode that operates in near silence, and a dynamic performance mode using an adaptive suspension and four-wheel steering. The interior can be ordered as leather-free, with cabin materials including recycled plastics and microfibers. Audi will unveil the production version later in 2021. Expect it to compete against rivals such as the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S.
Twenty years after the introduction of its pioneering iDrive infotainment system, BMW teased a sweeping update to the software to be fully unveiled later this year. The luxury automaker promised further integration of the system’s current features — such as intelligent voice-activated controls and remote software upgrades — as well as new ones.
The new iDrive promises greater access to services from the digital cloud, plus increased awareness of the vehicle’s physical surroundings. It will recognize hazard warnings from other BMW vehicles on the road, predict the availability of parking spaces in certain situations, and enhance automated parking capabilities. The upcoming BMW iX electric crossover, expected to go into production in 2022, will be the first vehicle equipped with the updated iDrive system.
Automakers have been racing to catch up with Tesla when it comes to large, splashy infotainment touchscreens. With the CES launch of its new MBUX Hyperscreen, a 56-inch digital display stretched across the entire dashboard without any dials or buttons, Mercedes has firmly set a new standard.
The MBUX Hyperscreen builds upon the MBUX system in current Mercedes models with a larger surface and new user interface that aims to make it easier to use. It will debut on the upcoming EQS electric crossover as an optional feature. The real splash will come in a few short years when the Hyperscreen is available on standard Mercedes sedans and SUVs.
The automaker behind brands such as Jeep, Dodge and Ram revealed new additions to its Uconnect Market services and the Uconnect 5 infotainment system. For instance, in one of the most topical announcements at CES, drivers will now be able to place Grubhub orders for contactless pickup through the Uconnect Market.
The Android-based Uconnect 5 system will make its way into new vehicles later this year. Among them are the recently unveiled Jeep Compass and Grand Cherokee L, plus the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Key features include faster processing, support for higher-resolution screens, enhanced voice control, and wireless capability for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In a wide-ranging keynote presentation that addressed everything from the practical to the fantastical — a single-seat drone aircraft was shown in a concept video — General Motors outlined its plans to accelerate the production of electric vehicles across a full spectrum of brands.
The automaker plans to introduce 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025, including an update to its Chevrolet Bolt hatchback and a larger crossover version as well. The Cadillac Lyriq is an electric crossover with a 33-inch digital display and the futuristic Celestiq will offer a full glass roof. Eventually, the battery-powered platform will be applied to everything from performance cars to full-size pickup trucks, the company said.
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