Few folks doubt we’ll see a big surge in the sale of battery-electric vehicles during the coming decade. But just how fast the BEV market grows is likely to depend on a variety of factors. And while range and charging times are the ones most commonly addressed, the bigger concern could be affordability. Right now, the typical all-electric model costs about $65,000, roughly $20,000 more than the average gas-powered model.
Although General Motors is bringing out some high-priced options of its own, including the $300,000 Cadillac Celestiq, it’s hoping to score a bit hit a more mainstream audience with an all-electric version of the popular Chevrolet Equinox SUV coming to market next year.
“We indicated it will be around $30,000” when GM CEO Mary Barra first announced the Equinox EV last January, “and we’re still in that ballpark,” Chevy brand boss Scott Bell confirmed during a media background briefing last week.
With the official, online unveiling of the Equinox EV today, we can offer a bit more insight into what’s coming.
Room for five
GM is planning to bring out 30 or more BEVs by 2025 — and will go 100% electric a decade later. While all four of its North American brands will get in on the game, expect to see Chevy take the lead in the near future. The brand was an early entrant into the long-range market with its Bolt EV. And it’s dropping prices for 2023, meaning you can get into the little hatchback for as little as $25,600, plus $995 in delivery fees.
The Bolt is, in a sense, old news, however. It relies on earlier technology while GM is just rolling out its latest Ultium system, including higher-power batteries and a more advanced EV platform.
We’ve already heard about two Ultium-based Chevy models: electric versions of the Silverado pickup and the Blazer SUV. Now comes the Equinox.
A size-class smaller than the all-electric Blazer, the Equinox EV will have room for five.
Cheating the wind
It looks a lot like the gas-powered crossover — at least from a casual perusal. But there are some key differences, starting with a sealed grille highlighted by a light bar that runs corner to corner, just below the hood. The silhouette reveals a large C-pillar where the gas model has a rear half-window. And, depending upon the trim package, the Equinox EV will be offered with two-tone paint, optional white on the LT, black on the RS.
The sealed grille is one of the steps Chevy designers took to reduce range-stealing wind drag. Among other things, Equinox EV also gets flush door handles.
The Ultium platform the crossover rides on is a skateboard design, with motors and batteries mounted below the load floor. So, while gas and electric versions of the Equinox will have roughly the same dimensions, the nose of the battery model will be shorter, with overhangs pushed to the corners. That will mean improved cargo and passenger space. Chevy officials have declined to comment, whether the Equinox EV will get a Tesla-style “frunk,” or front trunk.
Inside, the electric model will be roomier and a bit more high-tech than the gas model, with a digital gauge cluster and, depending upon the trim and options, up to a 17.7-inch edge-to-edge infotainment display. Expect features including onboard navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, also dependent upon trim.
Range, power and charging
The underlying platform used for the Equinox EV will be a downsized version of what’s to come with Blazer. So, where buyers can choose from amongst three battery pack options with the bigger crossover, there will be just two for Equinox. That said, the EV version still will deliver between 250 and 300 miles range between charges.
And charging times are reasonably quick. Using the base, 11.5 kW Level 2 charger the crossover will add 34 miles per hour. An upgraded 19.2 kW charger takes that to 51 miles per hour. Meanwhile, plug into one of the newest public quick chargers at up to 150 kW, and it adds 70 miles of range in as little as 10 minutes.
Two different drivetrain packages will be offered. With front-wheel drive, Equinox EV uses a single electric motor producing 210 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque. The optional eAWD system will add a second motor on the back axle, the combination delivering 290 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque. By comparison, the gas-powered Equinox makes 170 hp and 203 lb-ft from its turbocharged 1.5-liter engine.
For those who want serious performance, the Blazer will probably be the BEV of choice. It will be offered in a novel three different configurations, front-, rear- and AWD, and the SS package gives meaning to the name Blazer. At 557 hp, it will hit 60 in less than 4 seconds, Chevy claims.
Driving an EV can take a bit of learning, especially if it’s operating in “One-Pedal” mode. It’s a bit like downshifting a manual transmission several gears, which lets you speed up or slow down simply by modulating the throttle. But rather than revving up the engine, One-Pedal simply increases the amount of energy that’s “regenerated,” and sent back to the battery when you coast. You can even come to a complete stop without hitting the brakes in many situations.
The Equinox EV will offer an array of advanced driver assistance systems — again, depending upon trim. And that includes GM’s hands-free Super Cruise. The automaker recently announced it will double the range on which Super Cruise can operate, to around 400,000 miles. That will include not only freeways and divided highways, but numerous undivided two-lane roads, such as portions of California’s scenic Pacific Coast Highway.
Chevy clearly hopes that Equinox EV will be, in brand chief Bell’s words, “a game-changer.”
Added marketing chief Steve Majoros, “We’re going after the masses (who) can’t afford” most of the EVs on the market today. Models like Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV 6, Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 — as well as the upcoming Chevy Blazer — start at least $10,000 more than Equinox. And the least expensive version of the Tesla Model Y starts at $65,990.
No, the compact Chevy crossover won’t be as quick, nor as well-equipped. But it could be the option that wins over a new generation of BEV buyers.
Look for the Equinox EV SUV to reach U.S. showrooms by autumn 2023. It will head out to other markets starting in 2024.