2019 Chevrolet Volt: The Overlooked 'Electric' Wants You to Plug In More Often

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

“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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • DEVILLE88 DEVILLE88 on Jun 29, 2018

    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.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jul 01, 2018

    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.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.