The Chevrolet Volt, one of the most iconic and important electric cars of the 21st century, will be history after 2019.
Since it originally went on sale in December 2010, it has occupied a unique position in the American plug-in car lineup as the only true extended range electric vehicle on the market and will be sorely missed. At 53 miles of electric range, it has enough legs for the vast majority of daily driving needs, and with a further 350+ miles with the gasoline generator, the ability to make long road trips at the drop of a hat. The Volt was and is a no-compromise EV that’s even practical for EV drivers in states where EV chargers are few and far between. The Volt has often been a major stepping-stone vehicle for prospective EV drivers wary of jumping into the deep end of all-electrics. Together with the Bolt, it gave GM a nice suite of vehicles that met a variety of driver needs.
And the Volt is a great car. It’s quick, responsive, roomy, sleek, and solidly built. Consumer Reports has consistently rated the Volt highly, and Chevy Volt owners are ardent defenders of their steeds.
So what’s happening here? Why is GM killing an excellent product that fits so uniquely into the EV marketplace?
Well, the Volt is a great car, and therein lies the problem. Sales of GM’s cars have been steadily declining in recent years as consumers show a clear preference for crossovers and SUVs. The Volt has also been a comparatively low-volume vehicle, although this is more a function of GM’s production decisions and lack of dealership enthusiasm for EVs than consumer demand. The Volt’s assembly line at the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly Plant is co-located with other sedans that GM plans to cut: the Chevy Impala, Cadillac CT6, and Buick LaCrosse. The plant itself is scheduled for “unallocation”—a euphemism for shuttering—in 2019. Keeping the lights on and the tooling turning for a 20,000-unit per year model makes little business sense.
At the same time, GM swears it is doubling down on its investment in electrification, and rumors have been swirling for almost a year that the third generation Volt would be a crossover SUV—although nothing has been announced publicly. Given the amount of money, time, and resources that GM has poured into the Voltec powertrain (which is markedly different from the Bolt’s BEV II powertrain), it would be a shame for the market and a big loss for GM to end development and production of a mature design. It would make much more sense for GM to migrate the Voltec powertrain to a crossover SUV platform that would be a mass-production, affordable extended range electric vehicle. We look forward to any good news from GM on this front.
Ultimately, the Volt has been an essential part of bringing America into the electric vehicle age, and will always hold a prominent place in EV history. Alongside the Nissan LEAF, the Volt gave the average American the ability to make the switch and drive electric, and provided the initial proof of market validation that Americans do want EVs and will buy them.
Hopefully this isn’t the end of the road for such an iconic EV.