The Chevy Bolt Is Dead. Will Affordable EVs Ever Be a Thing?

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  • GM will stop producing the Chevy Bolt by the end of 2023. 
  • The Chevy Bolt is the most affordable EV on the market, with a starting cost of $26,500. 
  • The next most affordable EV -- the 2023 Nissan Leaf -- is still 39% cheaper than the average new car. 

Well, it was fun while it lasted. That is, the dream of buying an affordable electric vehicle. 

On Tuesday, April 25, GM announced it will stop producing the Chevy Bolt by the end of this year. The company will close its Orion Township, Michigan plant, where the Bolt is produced, and repurpose it to manufacture electrified versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. 

The decision is hardly a surprise. Trucks and SUVs have wider profit margins than most sedans and hatchbacks, even if they don't cost much more to produce. And given the narrow margins on most sedan EVs, it's likely GM wasn't earning much profit on its Bolts to begin with. The Bolt may have been the first “relatively” affordable EV in the U.S. -- but affordable to whom is what GM is probably asking itself. 

But the death of the Chevy Bolt has car buyers asking a question that's almost as old as the metals that make them: Will carmakers ever -- ever -- make an EV that Americans earning a median annual income of $69,717 can afford?  

Will an affordable EV ever be a thing? 

Take heart -- even after GM killed the dream, I'm a firm believer that EV makers will make electric cars that most Americans can afford. 

First, let's give our condolences to the Chevy Bolt. Because, despite its early death, the Bolt was the first affordable EV in the U.S. 

Right now, the Chevy Bolt EV starts at around $26,500. If we factor in an EV tax credit of $7,500, then the sticker price drops to $19,000. The average new car, according to Kelley Blue Book, is more than $49,000. That means the Bolt is about 39% cheaper than the average new car. 

But to drive the point home (carbon-free!), the next cheapest EV is the Nissan Leaf, which starts at $28,040. Even without the EV tax credit, which doesn't apply to most foreign carmakers like Nissan, the Leaf is cheaper than the average new car. It's still roughly 56% more expensive than the cheapest new car on the market (the 2023 Nissan Versa -- $15,730), but it's definitely not as expensive as the cheapest Rivian (the R1T – $69,300). 

Another reason I'm bullish about affordable EVs: Their prices have been dropping. Take the Bolt, for instance. A 2017 Chevy Bolt cost around $37,500 new and had an EV range of roughly 238 miles. A 2023 Chevy Bolt is $10,000 cheaper ($26,500) and has an EV range of 259 miles. Less money with more EV range? Pinch me. 

Okay, okay, you're right -- the Chevy Bolt is dead. But what about a Tesla? Well, the story isn't as encouraging with Tesla, nor with any pure EV maker. But even Tesla has dropped the price of its vehicles. In 2022, you could buy a Model 3 for roughly $48,490. Today you could buy the same car for around $39,990. 

Should you buy an EV in 2023? 

Most vehicles produced by EV makers (such as Tesla, Rivian, Lucid Group, and Promerra) are not affordable. Not in 2023, at least. 

But you can still buy the 2023 Chevy Bolt and get the EV tax credit, which could put the starting price at $19,000. The 2023 Nissan Leaf is also affordable, even if it doesn't qualify for the tax credit. The next cheapest EV would be the Hyundai Kona, which is priced at about $35,000. 

If you're thinking about buying a vehicle from a pure EV maker, like Rivian or Tesla, I would reconsider. These companies are working to reduce production costs and sell EVs at lower prices, especially as Americans grow impatient with their lack of affordability. Even waiting until 2024 could mean saving a few grand on a new EV. 

But if you're gung ho about buying an EV in 2023, I would browse the best auto loans to see which lender will give you the best rate. In a high rate environment, even knocking your interest down a few percentage points could help you save thousands over the long run. In addition, I would also compare different car insurance companies, as buying insurance for an EV can be more expensive than a gas-powered car. 

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