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Why GM Fails to Impress with Official 2020 Chevy Bolt EV Updates and Changes

The confirmed fleet order changes and improvements for the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV don’t address the primary concerns of drivers or the rising competition from other long-range electric vehicles.


If you’ve been following our electric vehicle coverage over the last month or two, you’ll know we’ve been advocating for some significant changes to the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. Entering its fourth model year, we’ve talked about our hopes for a mid-cycle refresh, not least to fix some of the things that make the Chevy Bolt EV feel dated already.

Unfortunately, it looks like our hopes have been dashed, as the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV updates recently posted to GM’s Canadian fleet order guide site are minor, to say the least.

2020 Chevy Bolt EV: Mainly Colors and Cameras
In keeping with the updates to the 2018 and 2019 model years, the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV receives only a couple of color changes and some minor feature adjustments. If the consumer-facing updates match only those listed on the fleet order guide, buying a Bolt EV in 2020 will look much the same as it does right now.

Of the ten changes listed, half of them relate to color additions and deletions. The rest are unlikely to excite even the most ardent Bolt EV enthusiasts, so we’ll simply post them as they appear in the GM listing:

Delete: Green Mist Metallic exterior color
Delete: Shock exterior color

New: Oasis Blue exterior color
New: Cayenne Orange Metallic exterior color (additional charge)
New: All-weather floor liner, LPO

Change: Keyless Open on front doors replaces (ATH) Keyless Open on all 4 doors;
Change: HD Rear Vision Camera replaces (UVC) Rear Vision Camera
Change: HD Surround Vision replaces (UVH) Surround Vision
Change: High gloss Black grille replaces (TUR) Dark Silver grille and (TUS) Black grille
Change: Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking is now called Automatic Emergency Braking

It’s possible that the addition of HD cameras to replace the low-quality versions in previous model years will raise a cheer or two from current owners, but there’s precious little else to inspire prospective buyers to hold out for a 2020 Chevy Bolt EV.

The Pack (and Software) Remains the Same
While it doesn’t come as a surprise that GM has sticking with the same battery pack at this early stage in its EV development, it’s disappointing that there don’t seem to be any software tweaks to enable longer fast charging at the maximum rate of 55kW.

Greater control over thermal management and battery conditioning would also be interesting additions for current Bolt EV drivers, some of whom will be ending three-year leases next year and looking for reasons to stick with the vehicle.
For those of us in areas with harsh winter conditions, for example, the ability to preheat the battery before heading to a DC fast charger would be a welcome feature. Tesla added this via an over-the-air software update earlier this year and it highlights an area where every legacy manufacturer, not just General Motors, fails to compete.

It’s possible that such updates wouldn’t make the fleet update listings, but nothing in GM’s actions to date gives us reason to believe that anything major is lined up for the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV.

A Glimmer of Hope in New Models?
The last remaining chink of light for anyone interested in GM’s steps towards electrification in 2020 could be a new model.

We’ve already looked at the rumors surrounding the Chevy Bolt EUV and GM has stated that 20 new models are planned by 2023. It seems reasonable to believe that at least one or two of those will be unveiled before the year is out, at which point it becomes a question as to how quickly any new vehicle can be produced and how closely they match the needs of buyers already considering the Chevy Bolt EV.

That means a price point below $40,000 and a similar form factor (preferably larger SUV or CUV styling). For many, the requirements for any new offering also means a battery pack at least as capable as the current 60kWh version, delivering 250+ miles of range and an improvement on DC fast charging speeds to keep up with the competition and rapidly expanding infrastructure.

Given the current pace of General Motors’ EV development, we’re not optimistic that any of this will happen by 2020.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean that GM is about to lose the non-Tesla EV lead that Nissan surrendered, the vultures are circling in the form of competitive long-range BEV models from Kia and Hyundai. Then there’s the looming shadow of the Tesla Model Y, which could see Tesla storm into another important mainstream vehicle category.

The only certainty in the electric vehicle marketplace right now is rapid change and increased consumer expectations, which makes GM’s apparent lack of ambition with the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV somewhat concerning as we enter the fourth model year with essentially the same vehicle released back in 2016.

What do you think GM needs to do to keep pace with the EV market? Let us know in the comments. See you in the next story where I am discussing why the rumored Cadillac Escalade Electric SUV is essential to a growing EV market.

Steve Birkett is an electric vehicle advocate at Plug & Play EV. You can follow him on Twitter at @Plugandplayev, Instagram and Youtube at Plugandplayev Channel to send him EV news tips.


Len (not verified)    July 15, 2019 - 7:29PM

GM has fumbled the ball once again. I think Tesla can overcome its early shakiness and run with it now as the primary EV supplier. All the other auto manufacturers with the exception of Kia/Hyundai have hesitated or fallen short of coming up with any good competition in the sector.

Steve Birkett    July 16, 2019 - 8:25AM

In reply to by Len (not verified)

I'd say Kia/Hyundai are also fumbling as they're not releasing the Niro EV/Kona Electric fully yet in North America and there are long waiting lists in parts of western Europe. The jury is still out on whether those manufacturers can maximize the advantage of temporarily having the better non-Tesla EV and a full federal tax credit to leverage in the US market. They have about 12-18 months, I'd say, before other automakers swoop in with models that surpass the Niro and Kona. Tesla is simply in a different league right now and the Model Y could further cement that lead.

Tim (not verified)    July 15, 2019 - 7:30PM

know it shouldn't be about the looks, but as the owner of two Volts now (Gen I body style preferred over my current Gen II), I just can't bring myself to like the Bolt body-style.

Tom Mathews (not verified)    August 3, 2019 - 2:34PM

In reply to by Eric Stormzand (not verified)

Own a 2017 Volt and it is a great EV that GM refused to even advertise as they were only pushing the Bolt. Now, it looks like the Bolt will be soon in the ashcan as they have no interest in even upgrading the car. A GM loyalist for years, I have owned 3 new corvettes including a 2015 stingray that I traded down on our present Volt. I am done with them! Want to buy a 2020 American car if possible but it will not be made by General Motors.

Tim (not verified)    August 6, 2019 - 2:56PM

In reply to by Tom Mathews (not verified)

Glad you like your Chevy Volt, but it’s not an EV. It’s a plug-in hybrid with a very short electric-only range, not at all comparable to the fully electric Bolt with an EPA range of 238 miles.

John (not verified)    July 15, 2019 - 10:33PM

My 2017 Bolt EV meets my needs perfectly. I will seriously consider a 2020 Bolt EV when it is released.

Gary (not verified)    July 15, 2019 - 10:33PM

Maybe a GM is saving its improvements for a Cadillac EV SUV? This does highlight the difference between Tesla (which provides a steady flow of free improvements to their whole installed base) and other auto makers.

Erik (not verified)    July 15, 2019 - 10:33PM

GM is launching a new CUV on an enhanced BEV2 platform. It will likely be a 2021 model year car. So improvements to the Bolt EV might happen in line with the new EV.

Steve Birkett    July 16, 2019 - 8:29AM

In reply to by Erik (not verified)

Whatever their plans are for the next wave of EVs, I think we need to know them sooner than this time next year. It's possibly just impatience, I suppose, but there are paying customers who might switch to Tesla if they're not presented with concrete plans from GM well before the goes to production.

Rich Spitzer (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 10:37AM

Steve, looking closely at the (Canada) fleet order guide, it looks like the Comfort and Convenience package and DC Fast Charging are now standard equipment. Almost all 2019 Bolts now for sale have those packages as options. So if the MSRP stays the same for 2020, this is effectively a $1,305 price cut.

Steve Birkett    July 17, 2019 - 8:46AM

In reply to by Rich Spitzer (not verified)

Don't get me wrong, I think the car we have already is an excellent all-round EV and very capable. If GM continues to level out the price as the tax credit phases out and offers more features as standard, that deal only improves on previous model years. Against the competition, however, the car is going to become even more dated. That's fine if it gradually shifts to GM's entry-level electric model and others are introduced above it. But if this is all the company can offer throughout 2020, it's looking like a lot of EV talk but not enough action.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 7:40PM

This is definitely bad news for GM because there is a surprising lack of EV support coming from GM today. Look at the articles and news on the Silverado and upcoming Corvette, and in contrast the relative absence of EV advancement and innovation from GM. Sure, we have Cadillac's announcement of being GM's EV torch carrier, but no real info on the new models or features, and now the Bolt is virtually unchanged despite Hyundai/Kia rivals getting great reviews, and the ongoing success of the Tesla Model 3. We have rumors of the Bolt EUV, and perhaps a 545HP, AWD, hybrid version of the Camaro, but again the only things that we see are the production end of the Volt, and cosmetic changes for the Bolt. Now it is true that even though VW is shouting very loudly that they have plans to build 1 million EVs, and have their MEB platform ready for production, there are no new BEV vehicles in showrooms yet, And Ford is worse, as they killed off their compliance EV Focus, and most all of their cars and EVs in general, with maybe a PHEV Escape later in the year, and a hybrid Explorer announced, but no MPG info given. Chrysler is (expectedly) worse still, having only their Pacifica Hybrid as a real PHEV, and their notably-feeble ETorque, passive hybrid technology to try and keep them from getting more millions in EPA fines. I get the feeling that the American automakers (except Tesla) are purposely dragging their feet on EVs, just as they did in the 70's with economy cars, and subsequently they gave away the market to imports.

Steve Birkett    July 17, 2019 - 8:50AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Exactly. If there was no-one holding their feet to the fire, I'd understand, but Tesla looming with the Model Y should be enough of a threat. That's a segment that GM does advertise heavily with the Trax/Traverse/Equinox trio and pickup trucks could be next, depending on whatever Musk has up his sleeve later this year. Hopefully GM has a couple of new electric models of its own to fight back, but at this point I'm not optimistic we'll see them announced this year.

G Brine (not verified)    July 17, 2019 - 10:17AM

People have been complaining about the driver’s seat since introduction. Doesn’t GM have any other seats to choose from?

Q (not verified)    July 19, 2019 - 3:20PM

I don't understand the hate. This is a 3 year old model, and major updates on a 3 year old model are extremely rare. The fact that the Bolt is getting new hardware (like the cameras) at all is actually a good thing, and somewhat unusual (in a good way).

It doesn't fail to impress, it simply meets (and maybe slightly exceeds) expectations. Sheesh.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 19, 2019 - 5:07PM

I'm not sure if you are replying to my comments about the Bolt. I've always really liked the Bolt. It was a real innovation for Chevy/GM and lead the charge for an affordable, long range EV. But I am displeased that GM dropped the Volt and all of their other plug in hybrids, and the only EV that they are offering now is the Bolt. So now there is far more focus on the Bolt remaining competitive, and this was heightened with the introduction of the Hyundai/Kia, Kona/Niro BEVs that are priced comparably to the Bolt, and offer the extras that newer designs can bring. And GM has always done a weak of in promoting the Bolt, both in advertising and at dealerships. In contrast VW is releasing creative new advertising promoting long range, affordable, BEVs, even before their first one is available to buy. I really want to see GM innovating and leading the EV charge into the future, but it is frustrating when they repeatedly drop the ball after showing us what a good job they can do when they try.

Brian (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 5:21AM

Let's be honest, the BOLT EV is a cool, electric vehicle. Did GM (LG?) really beat Tesla at anything by introducing it before the Model 3?

The BOLT makes a nice city car, but with 50kW CCS as the DCFC, is it really worth the price of a Model 3 Standard Range or SR+? No, unless you just can't stand the thought of having to buy one of those Tesla.

Just like the new LEAF, the market for these is to buy them used, the way I see it, like sub $20k.

Anyone buying one to solve ALL of their EV needs and more is frankly, not doing very thorough research.

And GM, like the other legacy auto manufacturers is between a rock and hard place because they can't really afford to show people how GREAT electric vehicles are until they're making them a half a million or more at a time probably.

Leo M. Mara (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 5:58PM

I am the owner of a 2018 bolt LT. I weigh 315 pounds and am 6 ft 2 in tall. I had difficulty with the driver seat. I found a fix on YouTube where I installed a 1-1/2" thick kneeling pad between the seats padding and it's springs.
I have noticed the small Buick SUV, which looks to be the same size and shape as the Bolt, has no center console. It has instead two larger more cushy front seats. They might be a fix. Check them out.

Richard A Nedbalek (not verified)    August 19, 2019 - 12:48AM

Automatic Cruise Control! For the love of God, it’s a given when this great car has over 200 miles of range. And while we’re at it, every EV should have at least front heated seats as standard to reduce heater use, thereby extending range. Whoever overlooked including both of these on the Bolt has some ‘splainin’ to do!

Mike K (not verified)    February 19, 2020 - 2:32AM

I see the Bolt as a budget EV, maybe in the long run a bit like the VW Beetle was, an EV for the masses. I don't mind if the changers are minor as long as the price keeps dropping until it reaches parity with petrol vehicles. It's a good looking solid little vehicle that lives up to expectations. It will end up being the second EV in your garage and I think GM would be happy with that.