Re-Engineering The Volt Means Plug-In Electric Hybrids Are Now Mainstream

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The 2016 redesigned Chevy Volt The Volt 2.0
The 2016 redesigned Chevy Volt revealed at the Detroit Auto Show

The next generation Volt solidly places Chevrolet in the EV conversation. Although the first generation Volt had some issues and detractors (what car doesn’t?), the current 70,000 owners proved the market for the Volt. They were also extremely happy with their cars, according to Consumer Reports surveys (which the Volt topped two years running). This second generation of the Volt is totally directed to pleasing this base of enthusiastic customers. These Volt enthusiasts have created fans clubs across the country and multiple blogs discussing their love for the car.

The Volt redesign was not approached as I would have expected, to directly increase sustainability concerns (i.e. recycled material use, and some new technology to save the planet), instead the Chevy team took their customers’ desires as the primary goal of the redesign. The top three wishes were more electric drive range, sporty exterior increasing the fun factor, and improved interior with extra room for a fifth passenger.

Rear view of 2016 Chevy Volt
The rear view of the Chevy Volt. New exterior design highlights sporty and fun.

Although I was thinking, “wait, where’s the green manifesto of design criteria,” it dawned on me that a more important shift had happened here. Volt drivers are mainstream drivers who like the environmental aspects but also really like to drive. This is critical for environmentalists to understand. It means that there is really change happening in the general population when it comes to protecting the planet. It’s sort of, “I want my cake and I want to eat it too.” And in this instance, it’s a win-win situation — better environmental impact and happy, happy drivers.

Plus, the first criterion of the drivers was extended mileage on the EV side, which of course means less gas consumption, less pollution, and fewer CO2 emissions. Also in the weird but true category, there are drivers who never get gas in their Volts, which was never part of the plan. Additionally, 80% of Volt trips are driven on electricity. So much for worrying about range anxiety. The diagnosis is cured.

Features of the new Volt include 50 miles of electric range, an improved interior and extra room, a new exterior to provide that “I am fun to drive” look. Other more subtle changes for the consumer, but big on the environmental scale, is the Volt is recyclable — although most cars are nowadays. The Volt has recycled PET used in interior fabrics and carpet, and most exciting is open sourcing on all materials. What does that mean? It means all materials provided from suppliers can have recycled content. Big picture? Chevrolet is opening the doors to creating a huge pipeline to provide the material reuse industry a place to really start selling all the recyclables into new supply chains. Plus, GM is fully committed across all its brands to be a zero-landfill company, so anything not needed in GM finds its way to another life. David Tulauskas, Director of Sustainability for GM, summed it up best: “We are taking waste streams and turning them into revenue streams.”

The Concept Chevy Bolt
Newly revealed Chevy Bolt Concept

What the heck is a concept car?

The other really big news was the Chevy Bolt. Okay, the girl factor comes in here — I had no idea what a concept car was until this trip, and in the excitement of the announcement, my tweets went out saying “a new Volt.”

The Chevy Bolt, a concept EV, is a fully electric vehicle that will get a 200 mile range at a targeted price of around $30,000. It is a “crossover” design, a big term in the car industry now, which for most of us means a sedan in the front with a hatchback in the rear instead of a trunk. However, as a “concept” vehicle, it means it can never be built. Huh? This is a way for car manufacturers to create news by pitching a design to see what kind of press and buzz it will get to determine if there is a market for it. Note to Chevrolet: build the darn thing!

The back of the crossover concept Chevy Bolt
Crossover design is design feature of the concept Bolt EV

The Bolt is a clear winner! Doubling the range of its current closest competitor, the Nissan LEAF, and matching the stated, elusive Tesla Model 3 concept, the Bolt could be in dealerships by 2017. The Bolt has great potential for the very active under-35 crowd. It has room and electric range to haul stuff to nature and is a cool, youthful ride. The Bolt has the potential to be a game-changer in regards to car manufacturers not just offering one EV per line but offering a variety of EVs to meet different market segments. Yes, a very exciting result in the industry.

So, was it cold? Yes, definitely! But I always appreciate the opportunity to see companies embracing sustainability and seeing the future. The Detroit Auto Show always shows America the future, and this time the future is electric.

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18 thoughts on “Re-Engineering The Volt Means Plug-In Electric Hybrids Are Now Mainstream

  • A few nits. The Volt had 80% of “trips” on electric. From the data released earlier here on CT, it was 63% of the “miles”.

    A concept car may be built but after wind testing, and manufacturing cost analysis, and customer focus groups. This will make it all more boring, but the Bolt shown tells you the dimensions they are working around.

    I am glad millenials will like the Bolt, but it also appeals to old fogies like me that want space to haul their kids to college, for the camping trip, and the Home Depot project materials, and to the moms needing room for strollers, and diaper bags, and Costco runs. Half of all vehicles sold are SUVs/CUVs which can’t all be bought by people under 25.

    • All I can tell about the 80% is that we were told multiple times. I
      think I said under 35 and did not use the term millenials ;0) I am not
      saying they are the only audience but design wise it looked like that
      was where they were aiming.

      • I have no idea how they pitched the Bolt but someone needs to learn not to stereotype people. My wife (45 yo) went to Toyota/Scion and really liked one of the Scions. Sporty, cool interior and gadgets, and fun to drive. The sales staff condescendingly told her it was aimed at younger people and she might be happier with a Camry or Corrolla – both of which she thinks are boring and ugly. So she bought a Honda. I can’t imagine her ever buying a Toyota now.

        • Michael, clearly you are very sensitive about age. I am in my 40s also and I am the one who thinks it’s for the younger set since the Bolt design holds no appeal to me. Chevrolet never mentioned its demographic target. Based on what I saw is how I derived the target audience. So blame me but maybe your sensitivity about age is more about your personal experience then a comment in this article. Maybe you should do a blog post somewhere about agism because it does exist and is ignored. It’s all about don’t judge a book by its cover thing.

  • The original Volt concept was stunning. But GM ended up with the current boring design. Imagine what the sales would have been if GM hadn’t completely watered down the design.
    Hopefully, the really cute Bolt will not suffer the same fate because it will blow the Leaf away. But it’s up to GM to decide if they will finally commit their dealerships to stop ignoring the hundreds of millions in investment and truly SELL these cars.

    • GM said the original Volt design was aerodynamically a disaster. Also, if you look at what sells, boring sells. Most people are unapologetically boring and want cars that match their personalities.

      See all those gray, white, and blue Camry’s, Accords, and Malibus going by you on the road? Now count the exciting flame-red, metallic-bronze, and neon-green eye-catching sporty cars you see. I rest my case.

      • Then Tesla obviously has it wrong.

      • The original Volt concept would have taken a chassis the size of a Tahoe to build. It looked OK, but quickly became dated. It had a “chopped” look, like Chrysler had for the 300 update. Before the 300 was re-updated.

  • Quote : ” matching the stated, elusive Tesla Model 3 concept, ”

    Really? Elusive?

    How about “matching the range of the Tesla Model 3, a car that has 5 billion of direct investment locked in to produce 500,000 vehicles per year by 2020”

    • The reason I said elusive is because Tesla has been promising the series 3 for a while and still has not delivered. Money is great but lets at least see a concept car ;0)

      • I agree, it doesn’t matter how much is sunk into producing the Series 3, until it is actually available it is “elusive”.
        Not that I’m bashing the 3, if it turns out as promised I will be in line to buy one

    • I am looking forward to the Model III, but yes, it’s elusive at this point. Not even a drawing has been produced. The $35K promised price is also a head scratcher, even though the fact that BMW and Audi can produce compelling sports sedan at that price suggests it will be possible some day (EVs are simpler after all).

  • The Volt doesn’t appeal to me as I already have an EV (Smart ED) with 50 miles range for my commute.

    Still looking for an EV or EREV that fits 5 comfortably and has range + storage for long trips. Tesla is the one that will take my money in 2017/8 unless someone else comes along.

  • Am I the only one who was a bit underwhelmed by the Bolt? It looks like a Honda Fit, but the Fit is about half the price. Fifteen grand is a lot of ground to make up on gas savings and oil changes. Plus, by 2017 GM might be close to running out of its allotment of federal ev tax credits. Who’s going to pay $37,500 for that thing?
    I am planning on getting a new car in 2017, and it’s difficult for me to imagine that Tesla’s model 3 will do anything less than blow the Bolt out of the water. I suppose the model 3 could be delayed or end up being much more expensive than projected, which would make the comparison unfair, but if you gave Elon Musk some sodium pentathol, I doubt you’d be able to get him to say that he’s much impressed with the Bolt.

    • My understanding is Elon Musk needs no drugs to say exactly what is on his mind ;0) However, since Tesla has yet to deliver anything that average Americans can purchase the Bolt fits a nice niche. Besides the more EVs fighting for America’s dollars the better off we will all be.

      • Thou shall not troll….

    • How many EV miles will the $15K Honda Fit deliver? Bwahahahaha!

      • None. You will be married to a gas pump……forever. Ok if you love the evil Saudis.

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