Will Chevy's Bolt Mark a Turning Point for Electric Vehicles in the U.S.?

Automakers are hopeful that 2016 will be the year that U.S. consumers really begin to accept vehicle electrification. A new car from General Motors (GM) , the battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt, could prove to be a turning point. 

2015 has hardly been a banner year for electric vehicles (EVs), with sales of about 40,000 in the U.S. out of total vehicle sales of about 15.7 million through November. 

The Bolt, which was released earlier this year in concept form, is expected to go on sale later in 2016, powered by electric motors. Its batteries probably will generate about 50 kilowatts, giving it a range of about 200 miles between charges. 

Consumers have resisted buying electric vehicles because they are relatively expensive, compared to similar-sized gasoline powered vehicles, and their range is limited. Through November, Nissan (NSANY) sold less than 16,000 units of its Leaf, the most popular EV in the U.S., down more than 40% from a year earlier. 

For 2016, Nissan is increasing the size of the Leaf's battery to 30 kilowatts from 24 kilowatts, extending its maximum range to 107 miles from about 84 miles. GM executives have hinted that Bolt's range will be 200 miles between charges and the car will sell for about $30,000, after application of relevant government subsidies. 

Automakers are under pressure to develop EVs in order to meet fuel efficiency standards and to comply with looming restrictions in California and a few other states that will mandate zero emission vehicles. Unless consumers begin to buy EVs, automakers' sales of conventional vehicles could be restricted. 

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