Discontinuation of Chevy Bolt Signals Setback in EV Revolution, Threatens Climate Change Goals
The recent announcement by General Motors that it will discontinue production of the Chevy Bolt at the end of this year has been met with disappointment from consumers and climate activists alike. The Bolt was a game changer when it first hit the market six years ago, as it demonstrated the mass-market potential for electric vehicles (EVs) by providing an affordable battery-powered car with 238 miles of range on a single charge. The Bolt has only grown in popularity as its range improved and its sticker price dropped, making it one of the cheapest EVs on the market.
However, the decision to end production of the Bolt is a step backward in the fight against climate change, including President Biden’s goal of cutting the nation’s air pollution in half by 2030. The move to replace the Bolt with larger, more expensive EV models will make it harder for Americans to afford to go electric. Automakers have been phasing out sedans and hatchbacks in favor of gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks that bring them fatter profits, and the Bolt’s demise signals that this trend is unlikely to change with EVs.
Bigger, heavier, and less efficient EV models have more environmental impacts than smaller ones. They are more deadly to pedestrians and other drivers, have larger batteries that use more electricity (much of which, for now, is still generated by natural gas and other fossil fuels), and they require more critical minerals and other raw materials to manufacture. Discontinuing lower-priced models like the Bolt will reduce options and shut out an entire segment of drivers who want to buy electric cars but won’t be able to afford them.
Consumer groups are right to be worried about this trend, and there are steps that can be taken to push back against ballooning sizes and price tags. New auto emissions standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could be retooled to provide greater incentives for automakers to produce smaller, more efficient, and affordable models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could adopt standards to push automakers to produce smaller, lighter vehicles that would be less dangerous in crashes. California lawmakers are already considering legislation to study the costs and benefits of charging car owners more for registering heavier vehicles, in recognition of the link between bigger vehicles and pedestrian injuries and deaths.
In addition, it is important that California continue to modernize and streamline its clean-vehicle rebate programs. The state has recently increased incentives for low and moderate-income Californians to buy zero-emission vehicles, allowing them to apply for rebates of up to $7,500. However, more can be done to smooth out these programs, such as making them redeemable at the dealership or point of sale rather than forcing car buyers with limited incomes to wait months for reimbursement.
The Bolt may be on its deathbed, but it doesn’t have to stall the EV revolution. If we can find ways to push automakers to build more small, zero-emission cars that most people can afford to buy, we can continue to make progress toward a more sustainable future. Discontinuing the Bolt in favor of larger EV models is a step in the wrong direction, and we must take action to ensure that affordable, sustainable transportation options remain available to all.
By: Mis Natalie Nunn