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1 Major Problem With General Motors' New All-Electric Bolt

By Daniel Sparks - Updated Dec 19, 2016 at 3:49PM

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Unless General Motors improves the maximum charging rate for its Bolt, road trips in the new electric vehicle could be downright frustrating.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has long been known as an early adopter willing to give new products a shot early in their lifecycles. Unsurprisingly, he has been a vocal owner of a Tesla (TSLA -2.44%) Model S -- perhaps the geekiest car on the planet. And in September, Wozniak said on Facebook he would be switching to General Motors(GM -2.50%) new all-electric Chevrolet Bolt when it came out.

Chevrolet Bolt. Image source: General Motors.

General Motors was certainly happy about Woz's decision. In a November press conference at the LA Auto Show about the Bolt, the company highlighted Wozniak's decision to switch to a Bolt, showing a slide saying, "Apple co-founder ditching Tesla." Woz's decision to buy the Bolt signaled just how compelling the Bolt was, even to early adopters.

But now that the Bolt is here, Wozniak has changed his mind, instead buying an additional Model S. 

What happened? Woz is concerned about the feasibility of the vehicle on road trips, he said on Facebook this week.

While Wozniak's story represents the opinion of only one person, it highlights a major problem with the new Bolt: Its maximum charging rate is too slow.

Woz bolts on the Bolt... for now

"I'm concerned about how it would work on our favored road trips," Wozniak said about the Bolt on Facebook. "So far, Tesla's the only game in town for that."

Wozniak was likely referring to how much longer it will take to charge a Bolt. The 50-kilowatt charge the Bolt can handle is well below the 120 kW of power that a Model S can handle. To be fair, Wozniak is still considering the Bolt, he said on Facebook. "It had a lot of things nicer about it than the Tesla," he noted. But General Motors might have to improve the Bolt's charging speed first.

Tesla Superchargers span major highways in the U.S. Western Europe, and China. Image source: The Motley Fool.

The Bolt's website details the Bolt's charge rate: "Bolt EV offers DC Fast Charging capability, which provides up to 90 miles of range in about 30 minutes of charge time." Going further, General Motors boldly asserts that, "By the time you finish a cup of coffee, you'll be powered up and so will your Bolt EV." But this description doesn't truly capture what the charging experience will be like for Bolt owners.

With over 200 miles of range, Bolt owners will likely charge at home for their daily driving. So the most likely situation in which Bolt owners would need to stop to charge would be when they are traveling long distances. And on road trips, Bolt owners will likely want to charge more than 90 miles, so they should probably plan for a long dinner instead of a coffee -- a full charge will take about two hours.

Will this impact demand?

It's possible Wozniak would have never considered the Bolt in the first place if he had been aware of how slowly the Bolt would charge. As Electrek points out, GM hadn't actually confirmed the Bolt's maximum charging rate at the time. Given that the Bolt uses a 60 kilowatt-hour battery -- a battery capacity Tesla has used in its vehicles before -- buyers would assume the Bolt could handle a charging rate as powerful as a Model S can. But according to General Motors' website, the Bolt charge is much slower than a Tesla vehicle. For comparison, a Model S's 120 kW charge can deliver about 170 miles of range in around 30 minutes.

Chevrolet Bolt. Image source: General Motors.

Sure, the Bolt's $37,500 price tag is much lower than the Model S's $68,000 starting price, helping justify its much slower charging rate. But there's no reason Tesla's $35,000 Model 3, which the electric-car maker plans to begin delivering by the end of next year, won't be able to match the Model S's charging rate.

As Bolt customers recognize this flaw with General Motors' newest technology, Woz might not be the only Chevrolet customer bolting.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of AAPL, FB, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AAPL, FB, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on AAPL and short January 2018 $95 calls on AAPL. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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