[Herald Interview] Bolt EV chief engineer talks creation of game-changing EV

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 31, 2017 - 14:32
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2017 - 14:32
Offering a reasonably priced electric vehicle with a driving range that is more than double compared to some of its competitors, GM’s latest Bolt EV is looking to open a new era of market share for electric cars, both domestically and worldwide.

The compact vehicle was introduced to local consumers for the first time at the 2017 Seoul Motor Show, where GM Korea CEO James Kim referred to the Bolt EV as a “game changer.”

The new Bolt EV has a driving range of 383 kilometers on a single charge, the first of its kind to be introduced in the domestic market. 
Michael Lelli, vehicle chief engineer of Bolt EV, speaks during an interview at the 2017 Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. (GM Korea)

“They (customers) told us clearly, they wanted an affordable EV, they wanted more room and more space and more performance,” said Michael Lelli, vehicle chief engineer of Bolt EV, during an interview at the 2017 Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday.

“So in order to get that affordability, we had to manage all of those attributes. And we are very good at reducing costs in cars ... when you reduce mass, you can reduce cost,” he added, noting that it was customer demand that drove GM in its creation of an all-new EV architecture.

The vehicle has a starting price of 47.79 million won ($42,722), however with government subsidies, the price gets cut to less than 30 million won making it one of the most affordable green cars available in the domestic market.

“At 383 km for our price, when you talk about affordability – sure there’s other cars out there maybe priced a little bit lower – but when you bound space, functionality and range, we become the most affordable car.”
Michael Lelli, vehicle chief engineer of Bolt EV, poses next to the new Bolt EV during the 2017 Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. (GM Korea)

Inside the new EV’s batter pack, which spans the floor of the car from the front foot well to behind the rear seat, is a new cell design chemistry. The nickel-rick lithium-ion chemistry provides improved thermal operating performance that allows the Bolt EV to maintain peak driving performance in varying climates and road demands.

The new Bolt EV also features one-pedal driving that enables the vehicle, under certain conditions, to slow down and come to a complete stop without using the brake.

“Our one pedal driving, it’s like an all-new way to drive a car,” he says. “I drive back and forth to work and I never touch the brakes.”

While some argue that one of the biggest downfalls of owning an electric vehicle is the lack of power in that many EVs downplay its horsepower and speed capacity, Lelli stated that not compromising on the Bolt EV’s performance was one of the company’s biggest pillars during the development process.

“We had to deliver on performance. So zero to 100 kph in seven seconds is a pretty darn good performance. And 36.7 kg.m of torque is an extremely high amount of torque ... so we are not giving up anything in performance with this car,” Lelli said.

Aside from electric vehicles’ obvious environmental benefactors with zero emissions, the Bolt EV’s chief engineer said it’s the overall driving atmosphere and performance that makes driving an EV a pleasurable and satisfying experience for mass consumers.

“There’s no clutches, there’s no delay when you accelerate waiting for gears to wind up and transmissions to shift. It’s very quiet. Its low center of gravity allows the car to be very connected to the road,” he explained.

“At 383 km, you don’t have to charge every day. I charge once a week with my car back in Detroit.”

GM Korea initiated presale contracts for the new Bolt EV in Korea earlier this month, and within two hours, all 400 units had sold-out. The company announced that it expects to begin delivering to customers next month.

By Julie Jackson (