Though it has not lived up to outsized sales expectations since its hyped introduction in 2007 and start of production in late 2010, the heavily criticized yet widely loved Chevrolet Volt remains a well-engineered car that will be remembered alongside the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S as the foundation of the modern electric vehicle era.
Potential car buyers, however, don’t always consider a vehicle’s future place in history when making a decision. And as sales remain flat, it has recently become clear that the Volt is in great need of a refresh.
America’s best-selling plug-in vehicle (for now) gets a makeover
Just in time, GM is preparing to unveil the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt at next year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January. The company released a teaser image of the back end of the new Volt, looking somewhat like a cross between the current generation Volt and LEAF.
Rear styling aside, GM also issued a press release confirming the global debut of the next-generation Volt and touting the many commendable statistics in the Volt box score. Among them:
GM has sold over 65,000 Volts in the U.S. since its introduction in December 2010, making it the best-selling plug-in vehicle of all time until the LEAF passes it.
Volt owners have driven more than 500 million miles on electricity (though we’ll amicably dispute GM’s claim that that equates to 25 million gallons of gasoline saved).
Volt owners drive 63% of their miles on electricity rather than the gasoline range-extender.
Volt owners average 970 miles between fill-ups at the gas station.
69% of Volt owners came to Chevrolet from another brand.
90% of Volt owners say they would buy a Volt again.
The Chevrolet Volt remains an IIHS Top Safety Pick +, the industry’s highest honor, even after the grueling small overlap test that was the bane of most small cars.
An introduction to look forward to: more range, less cost, or both?
The 2015 edition of the Volt came with a surprise increase in battery capacity and all-electric range, but we are looking forward to bigger changes with the 2016 redesign.
As we speculated in April, it is possible that the next-gen Volt will come with a choice of battery pack size. It has been reported that multiple versions could be offered, one of which will be a somewhat stripped-down version with a smaller battery that will start at or below $30,000.
And though buyers may be able to opt for an increase in electric range, don’t count on more than 50 miles and expect less. What range increase we will see will come from utilization of a greater state-of-charge window (the first Volt was very conservative in this regard) and improved chemistry from cell supplier LG Chem.
Considering that only having four seats has certainly hurt the current Volt, it is unlikely GM will go forward with the four-seat configuration. It is also safe to expect an improvement in fuel economy in range-extended mode with a smaller new gasoline engine.
Most importantly, though, the next-generation Volt will focus on cutting costs. That mostly means GM will make them at a profit, but it will also likely translate into modest price reductions for the consumer as well.
If electric range stays the same, we can take that to mean GM is saving significant money on the battery compared to the previous generation due to the aforementioned improvements. Improving the battery while maintaining range would also allow room for that all-important fifth seat.
Regardless of what the next-generation Volt has in store, its arrival will inject even more enthusiasm into the EV industry and provide a huge shot in the arm to sales of GM's flagship plug-in. It is an introduction to look forward to.