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Chevrolet thinks it can one-up Tesla with a $30,000, 200-mile Bolt

The race for the people's electric car just heated up. Much of the conversation about electric cars thus far has revolved around Tesla, but Chevrolet is angling to change that.

Chevrolet announced on Thursday that testing is underway for its fully electric Bolt, which the company claims will exceed 200 miles of range and be available to consumers for around $30,000. This puts Tesla right in Chevy's crosshairs; the former is working on a $35,000, 200-mile range electric vehicle (EV) called the Model 3.

Currently, EV offerings in the U.S. are either limited in range, expensive or in some cases, both. The best range comes from the Tesla Model S 85D, which offers a range of 270 miles but at a starting cost of $85,000 before federal tax credits. The best EV in terms of range around the Bolt's target price is the Kia Soul EV which boasts a 93 mile range for the price of $33,700 before tax credits.

If the Bolt lived up to its promises — and that's a big if — it would bring useable EV performance to a potentially huge amount of people. The current crop of non-Tesla EVs are great for zipping around town and for short commutes, but don't offer much flexibility.

Of course, just because Chevrolet says that the Bolt will achieve these lofty numbers, doesn't mean it will when it hits production. Indeed, Chevy promised a lot when it debuted its concept for the Volt hybrid in 2007, but that car largely failed to live up to expectations when it launched in 2010, and sales have been disappointing.

But 2015 General Motors (GM) is much better than 2007 or 2010 GM. The new Corvette might very well be the best car it has ever made. Cadillac is in the midst of a renaissance and the new Camaro and Cruze look promising, too.

The Bolt will have to be stellar to sell as well as GM hopes. It's going to come down to a lot more than just price and range; those elements are important, but the overall quality will have to be top notch if it hopes to compete with Tesla.

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