By on June 28, 2018

Image: GM

It’s not a pure EV, but in the early part of this decade, Chevrolet’s Volt offered one of the few mass-produced electric driving experiences on the market. Now in its second generation, GM’s “extended-range electric vehicle” — which packs a 1.5-liter gas generator — has seen its status dwindle as all-electric competitors rivals sprout like dandelions (among them, the confusingly named Chevy Bolt). Lesser plug-in hybrids abound.

Though the Volt still represents an easy-to-live-with compromise between gas-fueled convenience and emission-free commuting, GM knows it needs to do something to sweeten the pot. Extending the range beyond 53 miles seems pointless. But what if the car could charge almost 50 percent faster?

That what General Motors promises for 2019. By adding a 7.2 kilowatt charging system, the 2019 Volt’s charge time drops to 2.3 hours when plugged into a 240-volt hookup — the type you see at public charging stations everywhere.

Depending on your living situation, it might not be all that expensive to install a 240V outlet.

Basically, GM wants to make the Volt a better “electric” car, but without actually adding extra battery capacity. By increasing throughput and decreasing charging times, GM hopes Volt owners decide to make the most of the car’s electric capability, reducing the amount of gasoline used by the inline-four generator. People will be encouraged to top up as they go about their daily grind. It’s also a less-expensive way to boost the appeal of an existing product.

Image: GM

“It effectively extends the vehicle’s all-electric driving range, while providing about twice the range for the money when plugging in at public facilities that charge by the hour,” said Jesse Ortega, chief engineer of Chevrolet’s electric vehicle division, in a statement.

Buyers of the 2019 Volt Premier see this system as standard kit, while Volt LT buyers gain it as an option. The LT comes with a 3.6 kW system.

Other upgrades include new regenerative braking profiles that allow owners to recapture more energy after easing up on the throttle, thus extending the vehicle’s range. Drivers can also defer the startup of the gas generator for cabin heating. If you’re made of tough stuff, GM claims you’ll be able to delay ICE ignition until outside temperatures reach minus 13F (-25C).

For 2019, Volts gain a Chevrolet Infotainment System with 8-inch touchscreen, mated to an energy app that shows users how best to increase their all-electric driving range. Owners can switch between conventional and adaptive cruise, and a digital backup camera replaces the old analog one. The Volt’s low-speed pedestrian warning noise sees a change, too, with look-over-here sounds emitted from front and rear speakers.

Oh, there’s also a power driver’s seat — a feature surprisingly absent from previous versions. Still, the seat only comes standard on Premier trim. LT buyers can spring for one if they want.

After entering the market as a 2011 model, the Volt’s fortunes have waxed and waned. Last year’s U.S. sales tally stands at 20,349 vehicles, but the first quarter of of 2018 showed a marked decrease in volume. We’ll know if that trend continued when GM posts its quarterly sales stats next week.

Expect to see the outwardly unchanged 2019 Volt on dealer lots this fall.

[Images: General Motors]

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34 Comments on “2019 Chevrolet Volt: The Overlooked ‘Electric’ Wants You to Plug In More Often...”


  • avatar
    Dan

    So a 40 minute lunch recharge will add 14 miles instead of 7. Saving you 0.17 gallons of gas.

    Or, in economically literate terms, 50 cents.

    I read the full press release on this and discovered that, even more importantly than those 50 cents, the 2019 Volt will also have a feature wherein self-loathing progressives in colder climates will have the option to allow activation of the automatic engine-assisted heating system to be deferred until much lower temperatures — minus 13 degrees F / minus 25 degrees C — for more all-electric operation.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It doesn’t save you anything if you never actually activate the ICE. It will save you a few cents if you’re paying for time-based public charging.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      Why the hate, and who said anything about a 40-minute lunch recharge?

      Going from empty to full in 3 hours instead of 6 means that much less chance that an owner will need to use the ICE. No skin off your back if your neighbor charges his Volt twice as fast.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’m with srh: Why all the hate?

        Here’s a thought: Maybe folks aren’t buying these cars to save fuel. I’ve spoken at length with previous gen-Volt owners (I haven’t met someone with the newer gen Volt yet), to a person they love the car. Low maintenance and sometimes they don’t burn any fuel at all in their normal routine driving. Each person has remarked about the impressive acceleration and good handling traits, also.

        If I could, I would commute on electrons, rather than burning dino juice. I’m about 10-12 years out from retiring, I’d like to get something good on gas and has low maintenance requirements.

        However, I like my minivan for most of my daily driving and up until the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid became available, there wasn’t a choice. Now, I may end up with a Pacifica hybrid, yet.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Dan: Electric mode isn’t all about saving gas. In heavy traffic, electric mode gives the ICE relief from stop-and-go abuse.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    The quicker the charge the shorter the battery life. But let’s ignore this little fact of battery physics.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Newer batteries don’t have as many issues with longevity. Besides, 7.8 kW is pretty tame. Many batteries are good for over 3k complete discharge/recharge cycles before reaching 80% of their capacity when new. I have 65k miles on my Leaf and the capacity loss is still in the single percentage digits. And that’s with hundreds of 50 kW charges.

    • 0 avatar
      ceipower

      I wonder If that is really true with today’s batteries. I had always heard that about lead-acid batteries and it kind of made sense. Not all electric cars use the same type of battery , true? Traditional car reviews do a poor job imo of explaining how the batteries differ and the advantage or disadvantage of each design. My 2 cents.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        There is a lot to know about batteries.

        Battery architectures far more interesting to me personally than hacked up SBC engines. But, when it’s all said and done, it’s probably about the same amount of jargon and knowledge.

        It’s fair to say that most auto journos don’t have any idea about batteries. Their reports would be better if they did.

        For a primer on lithium ion batteries, o recommend Micah Toll’s book on DIY lithium battery pack design:

        DIY Lithium Batteries: How to Build Your Own Battery Packs https://www.amazon.com/dp/0989906701/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_RCCnBb0ZY2048

        He’s mostly oriented toward DIY E-bike traction batteries, but it’s a good introduction to to the topic for automotive traction batteries too.

        The big caveat is that there are more cell types than he lists in the books. He covers the major types and tradeoffs well enough that you’ll be able to figure out where a new cell type or chemistry fits into the world.

        This book should be required reading for anyone who would mention cylinders & displacements, and gear ratios in a car review. They’ll need to talk about series and parallel strings, voltages, amps, C-rates, and thermal management. It’s a different jargon, but EV stuff keeps me interested in cars!

        P.S. If you want a quicker and cheaper intro to the material, Micah Toll’s YouTube channel covers the same information pretty well. He won’t describe an automotive pack directly in mostmod the videos, but you’ll see the patterns you should be looking for.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I would pass on this improvement, if I were a Volt owner. My Ford C-Max Energi is a comparable plug-in hybrid, albeit one with a real engine, not a “gas generator,” which sounds like something I wouldn’t want at all. It recharges at home, at night while I sleep. In a lot less time than i take to recharge, in fact. I investigated installing a 220v charger for it, but there was no good reason to. Electric miles are cheaper, by a penny or two a mile, but I would never recover the cost.

    Plug-in hybrids make great sense to me, but I just look at their total performance. Sixty-six MPG is fine, beyond my wildest dreams, in fact. There’s an environmental cost to driving gas or electric, but it doesn’t get much lower than this.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      The volt drives exactly the same when it is using the ICE to power the electric motors. You hear typical ICE noise, nothing more. I have spend a lot of time in a Volt (2013 MY), it really is a great car and very comfortable for 300 mile trips. I have no reference to the Ford as I a have never ridden in one.

    • 0 avatar
      Tandoor

      The Volt’s gas engine is not just a generator. It can directly drive the wheels as well. But I agree that this probably is not a useful upgrade. I paid for the faster charger on my Leaf, but it was overkill. On work days I get a full charge on 110V during my 12 hour shift and I won’t even plug in on my 30A at home.

      • 0 avatar
        Carroll Prescott

        The problem with the Volt is the engine is far too large to be efficient in the application in which it is designed. Having actually studied this concept back in the 1980’s before it was fashionable, the ONLY way a petrol engine (gas or diesel) could be used efficiently is to have it run ONLY in its most efficient power band; having it as a drive engine is plain stupidity – that makes the engine far too large to be used in a generator mode.

        But then again, I’m not an engineer. I just did my research. An ideal application would have been at most a two cylinder biodiesel capable “generator” that never drove the wheels but kicked in as a range extender and operated in its sweet rpm range of efficiency and then cut off when it was not needed – and it would never be used to charge the battery to capacity – just to bring it up to the range near 75% charge. Recharging through electricity connection would bring the charge to full.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          BMW used your approach with the i3 REx. Problem is, the 2-cylinder engine (putting out 36 horsepower like an air-cooled Beetle) can’t keep up with the power demand going up a steep highway grade, leading to abrupt and dangerous “reduced power” scenarios. The Gen 2 Volt is pretty much immune to that sort of thing, since it has triple the amount of gasoline horsepower available.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    The Volt was a loser from the get-go. BoB Lutz May have many hits (just ask him) but this patch up Hail Mary isn’t one of them. It fails too meet the needs of almost everybody. At the time it was being designed everybody except GM and Lutz pretty well knew what other manufacturers had coming that would make the Volt a sure fire dud quickly. The Volt was a lousy electric car , and a lousy gasoline car. The car nobody asked for came right out of the bowels of a bankrupt GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Go drive a Volt.

      I’ve driven it, and I loved it!

      Granted, I didn’t buy one the first time (too many kids) or the second time (my wife got a job with a commute which doesn’t match the Volt’s battery size). But I loved the driving experience!

      EV smoothness makes luxury cars feel like rattletraps.

      We’re getting a Tesla Model 3 instead. That can cover my wife’s monster commute on 100% electricity. I’m a good candidate for a Pacifica Hybrid PHEV — my daily driving fits within the battery’s range.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      There’s so many things wrong with this statement I don’t know where to start. I’ve owned my 2017 for 1.5 years and it is an absolutely brilliant car. It meets almost every need I have for it. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to maintain, real nice tech, drives absolutely fantastic.

      Even with the battery range gone, the gas motor still can muster 40-45mpg with normal driving. I really have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Driving an EV makes an ICE feel archaic. The Volt is everything a commuter car should be. The only thing that’ll make it better is a legit wagon body. The slope-y hatchback does eat up a lot of valuable cargo space.

      The fact there’s a free town charging station minutes from my house makes it a total no brainer. My 70 mile commute a day cost me all of $1 of petrol. The rest of it is essentially free.

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      Wow. I’m on my 2nd Volt, 1st a 2013 and now I just leased a 2018 – with a Spark EV thrown in between. Everything I loved about the 2013 is even better in the 2018. It’s slightly bigger all-around. Those small improvements in dimensions make a big difference in how I fit since I’m 6’4” and closer to 300 lbs. than I want to be. Drives a lot smoother than the first Gen, it’s quieter even with ICE engaged. The ICE no longer requires premium gas. Fit and finish and styling have all improved. Plus, because they’re languishing on dealer lots, got a heck of a lease deal.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        “Wow. I’m on my 2nd Volt, 1st a 2013 and now I just leased a 2018”

        I own a 2013, but I need to test drive a 2nd Gen. GM did a nice job making some substantial improvements over the 1st Gen. Not sure I could ever go back to an ICE car after owning a Volt, such an amazing vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      In its 7 1/2 years on the market 160,000 Volts have been sold in the U.S. More than any other plug-in.

  • avatar
    emg77

    As an actual Volt owner, this is a welcome improvement. I bought a 2014 Volt used last year. It now has 45,000 miles on it. It’s had 3 oil changes, a set of tires, and a broken window regulator replaced under warranty. That’s it. It’s used 180 gallons of gas since new. It costs me $1 to charge it off peak and I can go 40 miles. If I need to go farther, I get 37-40 mpg. My distances between fill-ups are measured in months and thousands of miles.

    I bought it to save money and because I like the car. You can’t just judge cost savings on fuel alone. Maintenance is almost nothing. The warranty is great (8 years or 100k miles on all the Voltec systems (battery, electric drivetrain, high voltage systems, etc.). I was able to buy a 3 year old used car that has a 5 year warranty on most major systems.

    If you drive primarily a city commute, the Volt shines. It’s really fun to drive around town with the instant torque. It’s comfortable on the highway too, but it really shines around town.

    And for those that are laughing about the heat comments, the reality is that the volt has an electric heater and heats up faster than most cars on electric only. Add to that the fact that you can pre-condition the car inside your garage with no CO concerns because the engine doesn’t run to pre-heat, and most people would be jealous. I start my car from my phone in the winter 10 minutes before I leave, and the interior is nice and warm when I get in and I don’t even have to wait for the engine to warm up. The feature they added allows those with short trips to not burn gas to heat the cabin at low temperatures, where previously it forced the engine to run to supplement the 6000 watt electric heat. Now you have a choice.

    The charging thing has been a complaint for Volt owners for some time. It onl

  • avatar
    emg77

    As an actual Volt owner, this is a welcome improvement. I bought a 2014 Volt used last year. It now has 45,000 miles on it. It’s had 3 oil changes, a set of tires, and a broken window regulator replaced under warranty. That’s it. It’s used 180 gallons of gas since new. It costs me $1 to charge it off peak and I can go 40 miles. If I need to go farther, I get 37-40 mpg. My distances between fill-ups are measured in months and thousands of miles.

    I bought it to save money and because I like the car. You can’t just judge cost savings on fuel alone. Maintenance is almost nothing. The warranty is great (8 years or 100k miles on all the Voltec systems (battery, electric drivetrain, high voltage systems, etc.). I was able to buy a 3 year old used car that has a 5 year warranty on most major systems.

    If you drive primarily a city commute, the Volt shines. It’s really fun to drive around town with the instant torque. It’s comfortable on the highway too, but it really shines around town.

    And for those that are laughing about the heat comments, the reality is that the volt has an electric heater and heats up faster than most cars on electric only. Add to that the fact that you can pre-condition the car inside your garage with no CO concerns because the engine doesn’t run to pre-heat, and most people would be jealous. I start my car from my phone in the winter 10 minutes before I leave, and the interior is nice and warm when I get in and I don’t even have to wait for the engine to warm up. The feature they added allows those with short trips to not burn gas to heat the cabin at low temperatures, where previously it forced the engine to run to supplement the 6000 watt electric heat. Now you have a choice.

    The charging thing has been a complaint for Volt owners for some time. It onl

  • avatar
    redliner

    Gen 1 Volt owner here… all I can say is: It’s about time!

    I drive about 200-250 miles per day, usually in 60 mile spurts with charging available at most places. In my usage, a 7.2kw charger is the difference between 4-5 gallons of fuel or 1 gallon of fuel used.

    Now make it available in the Impala.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Chevy Volt: batteries and figures not included.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    It’s so odd to me that so many people think of the only purpose of driving an EV is to save money, no other automotive purchase is held to this standard.

    If saving money were the only factor that counted, we’d all be driving Versas and Mirages.

  • avatar
    Booick

    The volt gen 2 styling is a huge regression. Also, gm is about out ofntax rebates, they will sell zero of them when it happens. Also, the bolt, as a hatch, is 100x more useful. Also, prove me wrong, tco of a Hyundai Ionic hybrid will crush that of the volt. If I were buying a car, Ionic hybrid would be on the shortest of short lists…hard to pads up 50 to 55 mpg combined and not desling with plugging in and having to gas up.

  • avatar
    PJmacgee

    This is the second article this week that’s referred to the “confusingly named Bolt” – what is so confusing? It “bolts” around in traffic, quickly, like a “bolt” of lightning, and it’s, ya know, an electric car. I don’t get it.

    Is it just because it sounds too much like Volt (with a V)…?

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Although i like the looks of the first gen much better(why clone a civic for 2nd gen)This is one of the best cars on the road today. It doesnt get the credit and attention it deserves.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    This is a nice update, reflecting the fact that today’s Volt buyer is no longer a plug-in hybrid buyer (someone who just wants more MPG) but an EV buyer (someone who wants a pure EV but couldn’t find one that met their needs). I can’t tell you how many Volt owners I’ve met who are like me: wanted a Bolt but couldn’t bear the Bolt’s front seats.

    That’s because Volt is the only PHEV that runs 100% as an electric car until the traction battery is dead. Full throttle? Still an EV. Turn on the heater in all but the most insane weather? Still an EV. Twice as many miles into your drive as any other PHEV can manage on electricity? Still an EV.

    So for these folks, keeping it EV is important–even though the “generator” is generally inaudible in the Gen 2 Volt. Faster charging makes staying in EV mode possible more of the time.

    Personally I don’t think these changes are what the Volt needs most though. While the faster charging is a neat trick, most Volt owners charge overnight at home anyway, and that’s enough time to do the trick even on a wall outlet. And upgrades to the blended braking and infotainment are gilding the lily; they were already best in class. My wish list would be: 1. Wider front seat bottoms without hard plastic sides, 2. Better cabin materials/assembly (no more dashboard buzzes or rear door panels that don’t match the fronts), 3. More rear headroom, 4. Quicker steering in Sport mode.

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