Goodbye Chevy Volt, The Perfect Car For A Future That Never Was

A month ago General Motors announced plans to wind down production of several under-performers. At the forefront of news coverage on this are the consequences facing factories making those cars, and the people who work there. The human factor associated with the closing of these plants is real. But there is also another milestone marked by the cancellation of the Volt. Here at Hackaday, we choose to memorialize the soon-to-be-departed Chevrolet Volt. An obituary buried in corporate euphemisms is a whimper of an end for what was once their technological flagship car of the future.

2006: Gas-Electric Hybrids Hit Their Stride, Battery Electrics On The Horizon

That was a future envisioned in 2006, the year of An Inconvenient Truth and a time when Hollywood stars would arrive at the red carpet in a hybrid instead of a limousine. Hybrids didn’t always make economic sense as only a fraction of Prius owners would save enough on gas to offset their up-front cost. But it was a high-tech car within reach of everyday consumers who wanted to do something for the environment (or at least, be seen as such). Eco-friendly was in, and Toyota basked in praise for their fuel-efficient hybrids. Tesla shared in this adoration, as their Roadster hit the show circuit and promised to be the start of a wonderful zero-emissions future, even though its price tag was far from mainstream.

GM found themselves out of step. Their big introduction that year was the new Camaro: a tire-shredding muscle car derided as primitively backwards. Whenever there is talk of environmentally friendly technology, GM was the villain Who Killed the Electric Car. A faction within GM, led by Bob Lutz, was unhappy about this public perception and sought to change it.

Car Hacking to Be The First To Take The Next Step

Since that perception won’t be changed by merely following, the team looked for something to put them a step ahead. Toyota’s Prius is an affordable efficient car, but still entirely powered by gasoline. Lithium-ion batteries that gave Tesla’s Roadster intense power and long range were very expensive, forcing an affordable car to have both a limited range and a small audience. In GM’s search for a compromise they chose an answer between those extremes: an electric car with a small battery to keep it affordable, backed up by a gasoline-powered generator to provide the in-between-charging-stations range consumers expect from a car. Their vision was a vehicle that was electric first and gasoline second.

First Chevrolet Volt prototype road tests in 2008 [via TopSpeed]
For anyone analyzing the information available in 2006 — cost of Li-Ion batteries, rising gasoline prices, and lack of widespread charging stations — it was the next logical step and GM moved to take that step before anyone else. There was no time for a clean-sheet design so expeditious hacking began on an industrial scale.

A big hole for the battery was cut from the middle of an existing compact car platform and a complex motor-generator unit needed to be fit in the space where the transmission formerly sat. Everything not specific to the new car — from the generator’s gasoline engine to the power window switches — came from GM’s extensive catalog. These hacks allowed Volt to reach showrooms late in 2010. An impressively short time considering it required entirely new technologies, fighting GM bureaucracy, and surviving a global financial crisis.

2010: Chevrolet Volt Hits The Streets

The Tesla Roadster had proved a long range electric car was a reality, but it was a low volume toy for the rich. Yet it did one thing really really well: everyone knew Tesla stood for an electric-only future. And Tesla seized on this, buying an old GM factory in the middle of 2010 to make the Model S at higher volume.

Chevrolet Volt production line in Hamtramck, Michigan

GM was no stranger to mass production and had Volt’s own factory up and running. But where Tesla succeeded on their messaging mojo, GM failed. Almost no one understood the Volt was designed as an electric vehicle with a gasoline back-up system. Despite glowing reviews from enthusiastic early adopters, the Volt never sold in great volume. Neither GM marketing nor Chevrolet dealerships found an effective way to convey Volt’s advantages to a confused public. Too many consumers thought GM merely cloned Prius several years late at higher cost.

If 2010 costs of both lithium-ion batteries and gasoline were as expensive as predicted in 2006, the Chevy Volt would have been a near-perfect way to combine the best of both worlds and dominate the market. It never did.

2019: Battery Electrics Hit Their Stride

2018 Chevrolet Bolt at a charging station

The Volt’s unique advantages faded as time passed. Every year electric vehicle charging infrastructure grew and lithium-ion battery cost dropped. Inevitably, there’ll be a point where a Volt no longer makes sense, the automotive equivalent of a VHS+DVD combo player: a transitional bridge to the future.

And that future has arrived. The car market of 2019 will offer several electric cars with over 200 miles of range at under $40,000 USD. Battery electrics are now where hybrids were in 2006: not necessarily a sound financial option, but one within reach of consumers who want them. And the first to arrive in this market? The Chevrolet Bolt. As it turns out, the Volt wasn’t just a transition for drivers to bridge two worlds, it was an educational transition for GM engineering and manufacturing as well. It paved the way for Bolt to reach market well ahead of competitors, though whether that first mover advantage will pay off for GM remains to be seen.

The Hacks Will Go On

But never mind the big corporation, look at the impact Volt has made on these pages! We’ve seen people hacking up their own variants at varying levels of safety and functionality. It’s much harder to satisfy government safety regulations so it was interesting to see how GM did it. We’ve digitally explored the Volt’s Cadillac sibling ELR and seen its battery capacity increased. And when these cars reach the salvage yard, intrepid hackers will undertake new projects possibly with custom electronics.

Production of Volt will cease next in March, but its impact on the car industry and on industrious hacking will continue for decades to come.

164 thoughts on “Goodbye Chevy Volt, The Perfect Car For A Future That Never Was

    1. Ha for some reason the ambiguity of how we refer to months in the future makes my eye twitch a bit. Seems like it could stand to be more precise.

      I am willing to admit this is probably my own deep-seated personal problem, though.

    2. The law in the US is that the manufacturer has to supply parts to the car until the end of the last car’s warranty. The Volt was cobbled together out of special parts made specifically for this car, which they don’t want to support indefinitely, so they basically have to kill the car and replace it with something easier to manufacture.

      1. I’ve been saying this since I bought my Gen II Volt a year ago: GM should make a Voltec Equinox. Small crossovers are hot right now, hatchback/sedans aren’t. Call it the Equinox Plug-In Hybrid, dumb the hybrid interface down (tick boxes for settings like “automatically use gas on the highway” instead of the “Normal/Sport/Mountain/Hold” control, etc) and put in even a tiny bit of effort to market the thing, and they’ll have a winner.

        1. To offer a driver selective control of the Volt’s computer program is the unique advantage of the Volt over the Prius plug-in. Take that away, and the concept is totally destroyed!

      1. I just bought a 2018 Volt Premier. I don’t like it. I love it. Its an amazing vehicle. I head to work it’s all down hill. I actually change all the way to work. Its amazing. I run hold setting heading home.

      1. New they’re definitely a bit pricey for what they are, but 2 years ago I bought a 2014 with 12K miles on it for <$14,000 after tax and title. It was a low mileage lease return. Now that they're cancelled and long term support in question it may be a bit of a riskier bet, so the prices will probably drop further for anyone willing to take the chance.

        1. Well you are getting an EV that can make many trips on battery power alone that also has a back up ICE that is actually powerful enough you can continue driving it like a normal car on a long trip.
          It’s like getting a Nissan Leaf and a Malibu for the same price.
          Though GM never did a good job of explaining this.

      2. Its really not. The average person simply doesn’t do a TCO calculation when they buy a car. Car + Maintenance + Gas over time owned for a Volt is much lower than people think if they drive an average amount.

    1. I’ve been interested for a while but I had a short (3mi round trip) commute so it didn’t make sense. Now I have a ~40mi round trip commute and I’m seriously thinking about getting one. The facelifted version (2016+) looks pretty sleek as well.

      1. Go for a Tesla you get more range and better tech. the volt has less the battery capacity of a standard model 3 Tesla. plus Tesla’s crash test ratings is off the chart on all the models.

        1. Only if you count just the electric part if you count the range offer by back up gas tank the Volt has twice the range of the 3.
          Since it’s being discontinued I’d recommend the Honda Clarity or the Prius PHV no waiting list and they’re both a lot cheaper and both companies have a lot better customer support.

      2. If you can charge at home, you should be able to do your daily commute on the Gen II’s electric range.

        Honestly it would have been worth it for your 3 mile commute too. Nothing kills a gas engine car faster than short drives where it doesn’t get up to operating temperature very long.

        1. Really? A “sleeper” that needs nine seconds from 0 to 100 kph?
          Here in Europe you get that kind of performance out of nearly every compact car.
          The standard-Volkswagen Golf with its 1.4 liter engine ist one second faster!

          1. Gen II’s 0-60 is about 6.5 seconds.

            The difference is the electric drivetrain gives you 300 pound-feet (400 Newton-Meters) of torque right off the line.

      1. Quick? Yes, electric power provides maximum torque at zero RPM. That’s why trains are diesel electric.
        (Yes, that’s a hybrid) Those trains are often 1/2 mile long or more.

  1. This is a pity since they finally matched driving habits and auto build; electric only for local jaunts (the majority of driving for the majority of people) while if you have to go farther, the gas motor kicks in and you’re not left stranded.

    Teslas are lovely cars, but could you drive one from Barstow to Ely, Nevada? Prius are likewise very efficient but the motor still runs on local errands. The “Volt paradigm” is the correct one IMHO.

    What isn’t mentioned in most of these articles is GM’s hamfisted management practices which, despite shedding its pension obligations and shuttering plants, continues to cement the company’s reputation as a finance company that makes cars relevant only to the Midwest.

    1. “What isn’t mentioned in most of these articles is GM’s hamfisted management practices which, despite shedding its pension obligations and shuttering plants, continues to cement the company’s reputation as a finance company that makes cars relevant only to the Midwest.”

      Yes, but an unpopular POTUS getting involved with GM’s problems also left a bad taste in the mouth of Midwest buyers.

      1. As a resident of the midwest the volt is not relevant to me. But neither is a pickup truck.
        I feel for those robbed of their pensions by people who don’t know whow to manage money or a company. Gm would have done better to shed chevy and keep saturn.

    2. I love my Volt. I drive 52 miles roundtrip to work and except during the coldest parts of the winter I can make it back and forth all electric. My gas bill went from about $150/month to $0 and my electric bill went up by $20/month. I managed to convince work to put in a Level 2 charging station, knocking my monthly electric bill down by another $10. I looked at the Bolt and to me it wasn’t worth the extra $5,000+ premium over what I paid for the Volt since the smaller battery covers the bulk of my usage. Also, at 22k miles I haven’t done an oil change and the brakes have a ton of life left in them. I’ve managed to convince 4 friends to buy Volts, and one of them liked it so much that their husband went and bought a Bolt. I hope the powertrain will live on in another vehicle. I’m going to drive mine until it dies.

      I think these US car companies dropping their cars is going to come back and bite them in the ass. When gas gets to $5 again someday they’ll have nothing that people will buy.

      1. I filled my volt up with gas one time last year. you said it all… thank you… if GM would have the engine charge the Batteries when it runs out of charge and when the motor is running. charge it up so you could go back and forth… then they would have something. I would trade my volt in for one. otherwise my volt is great… I’ll have it until the wheels fall off… I hedge had it 5 years… NEW- 2014.

          1. I use Pure brand gasoline (no ethanol) super premium, and GM does make you burn gas, at least in my 2012 Volt, to keep the average age of the gasoline at or under 1 year. So I get one tank a year (summer gas is better) and often don’t manage to run it out by the time the car gets upset about it, so I just drive around on the “old” gas for awhile before refilling. I’m seeing 161 life mpg (and 243 since I broke the engine in in the first few months so as to justify a change to quality oil), and I live 26 mi round trip from the nearest general store with beer. I’ve never charged mine from the grid, as I have solar power here, and in the boonies….no charge stations anyway. Doesn’t matter for what I use the car for (errands, I’m retired from the business I ran…which was here anyway), and having the gasoline engine kick in if needed without any thought on my part if I go past the normal battery range is just super nice. I just drive the car, and it’s a fun car to drive, even for an old hot rodder and wrencher, now just a driver.

            The Volt’s gas tank is airtight, and pressure controlled, which probably helps gasoline not go stale as quick. You have to push a button and wait for it to normalize to atmospheric before it’ll open the gas fill door.

          2. The Volt has “fuel maintenance mode”–a system that will kick on the engine if the average age of fuel is over a year, regardless of battery level so that the fuel doesn’t go bad.

        1. It does charge the batteries, though not all the way. There isn’t a mechanical linkage between the gasoline engine and the electric motors that drive the wheels, so the generator is supplying power when the battery is depleted–some of which will go toward a residual battery capacity.

          Simply storing power from the generator in the battery makes for an inefficient conversion scheme (though it does do this to some degree to ensure that the car can move quickly when the accelerator is pushed).

          1. There seems to be some conflicting descriptions of the drivetrain.

            According to
            “Unlike a conventional powertrain, there are no step gears within the unit, and no direct mechanical linkage from the engine, through the drive unit to the wheels.”

            “Engine power and traction motor power are combined in the
            planetary gear set and drive the vehicle in this output power-split configuration jointly
            (see Figures 8.11 and 8.12).”

            All this to say, I should like to amend my statement to say the engine does not *directly* drive the wheels.

          2. “When the engine is running it may be periodically mechanically linked (by a clutch) to a planetary gear set, and hence the output drive axle, to improve energy efficiency.”

            The early Volts were series only. (IMHO) The “Plug In Hybrid” may have that feature added.

        2. That is inefficient… you’re lugging over 1/2 a gas tank around for a good portion of the year, it’s dead weight.
          Also summer and winter gas has slightly different composition to better suit the temperature range.

          1. 9 gallon tank half full is about 25 lbs of gas. Carrying that is ‘inefficient’ compared to what? 4-5x the battery weight in a Tesla, or 10x the fuel weight in an ICE?

      2. A friend bought a Volt, put in a 220 based charger at home, replaced his furnace with an ASHP, replaced his gas stove with an electric one.
        His Volt does his commute on electric for three seasons, and in winter it does 90 to 95 % of it on electric.
        With everything from his prior electric load, plus all that he’s added to the electric load, his total electric bill is less than his commuting gasoline bill used to be.

        Until there’s more charging stations, and greater EV ranges, and just because, people are going to resist not being able to have the backup of being able to run on gas and to stop and fill the tank to get home. As his wife had to do once.

        So now GM won’t have a car to sell that can do that?

        His volt kicked me in the ass when I hit the pedal. Sure sucked the range down…

    3. “Teslas are lovely cars, but could you drive one from Barstow to Ely, Nevada?”

      Yes, you could, quite easily. Stop in Las Vegas and supercharge for an hour. But getting back might be harder. You’d have to recharge 1-4 days in Ely (depending on what kind of EV charging setup you have in Ely) in order to make it back.

      1. That hour might be a little stretch.

        In a normal service station it’s 5 minutes in and out, but on a Supercharger it’s 50 minutes per customer, so the handling capacity is 10 times less per outlet and the lines grow hours long during popular holidays.

      2. Point in case:

        Even with such a small number of cars, the infrastructure is overwhelmed. They need 10 times the number of stations to provide the same level of service (although still painfully slow) as an ordinary car. Some argue that electric cars don’t need as much because people can charge up at home, but so can people buy a barrel of gas and a hand cranked pump – the point is that we don’t need to because there’s a service station for every few thousand people and one 5 minute filling goes for a week.

        Tesla is handling the situation by declaring ordinary 110 Volt outlets at malls and hotel parking as “destination charging stations” to inflate the number on their network.

        1. To be a Tesla Destination Charger, it has to be a Tesla HPWC. There isn’t a single 110V plug that is listed as an official Tesla Destination charger on their website. PlugShare may list a few 110V plugs, but that has nothing to do with Tesla.

          Regarding SuperCharging congestion, generally that only happens in California or for holiday travel. I’ve never personally had to wait at a SuperCharger and I’ve had my Model S for 6 years. Tesla monitors usage and is generally doing a great job expanding chargers at popular locations.

          95% of the time, an EV takes less time to charge (since you are charging overnight while you sleep) than a gas car. The only time an EV has a slight tradeoff is the 5% of the time you drive long distance and even that time is being reduced with increasing speeds in the charging standards. The fact is, gas cars time is waning, and as EVs get more popular, we won’t need as many gas stations, and you’ll need to drive further and further to get to one.

      3. One of the options at Tesla. is a battery exchange. Those of you without a cash flow issue, will opt in to a quick battery swap (10 to 15 minutes often less) at all service locations coast to coast.

    4. Yah they actually got the concept of a hybrid right and everyone else had to play catch up.
      If their management had any sense they would implement something like Voltec on the Tahoe and Equinox.
      Probably could get away with a NA 4.3l V6 or 2.0l ecotech for the ICE on either that can run on cheap 87 octane.
      On the latter it would just be a 40% scaling of the Voltec drive train to match the 2.0l NA engine vs the 1.4l engine.
      The former probably go with something similar to the integrated motor on the Insight and Civic hybrid they sell a lot of Tahoes and getting another 4mpg would help their fleet average.
      Offer the same setup as an option in the Camaro and Silverado.

  2. “And when these cars reach the salvage yard, intrepid hackers will undertake new projects”

    Already happening. The Volt packs are the best power performance packs available in the salvage yard. In my race truck I get 400kW from a single 15kWh Volt pack. We used my 2013 volt to hack the DC-Dc converter and charger are also very popular to hack.

    I think I just realized I have something to contribute to hackaday….

    1. Almost all my recent stuff is on YouTube:

      Sylent is the name of my electric race truck that uses 3 partial Chevy Volt packs to deliver 3000A at ~340VDC and the playlist for that is here:

      And this playlist has most of my Chevy Volt stuff:

      The CAN hacking of my Volt for the other parts was back when I was helping the EVTV hack team which I think Jack still sells the stuff for:
      He had the CAN for the heater but I don’t see it anymore


    1. A camel is a horse designed by committee.

      Several committee design flaws and the bad press that followed, may be the largest factor in the Volt fiasco.
      1.) Antifreeze cooling instead of a pricey charge circuit.
      2.) Thin structure amidship
      3.) Small engine

      The fire widely reported in the Volt, was a result of crash testing, including a T-Bone amidship.
      After the crash, the Volt was towed to a boneyard, where the ruptured cooling and when it dried a bit. caused a direct short in the battery pack. The Volt and all the other crashed cars in that line burned up
      Gm said, not us! Not our fault.

      After extensive study by the government agencies, Gm increased the alloy in the center body.

      No other changes.
      Too much, too late.
      The public only saw news of the fire, and sales dropped off dramatically..

      I documented this fiasco in my college classroom.

      1. Teslas also use glycol coolant loop for cooling the battery it’s necessary to deliver that level of performance and allows supercharging to be possible.
        The only ways to get rid of it would be to go to LiFePO4 batteries but this would result in a 40% reduction in range or just limit max current as Nissan did in the Leaf which causes it to be slower than the 3.

    2. Came to say exactly this, all the early magazine ads made it look like a sportier, electric version of a camaro, when it actually released, it looked like a dumpy prius clone.

      good riddance.

  3. I have a GM engineer friend, his job title features the words “propulsion” and “fuel cell” …. So presumably they’re focusing more on that sort of tech. I wonder if we’ll ever see it come to light in any significant way. (And remember fuel cells don’t necessarily mean hydrogen is the fuel)

    1. I would love to see a fuel cell powered Volt-like car–an electric battery with a fuel cell powered generator. Basically, switch out the gasoline engine with a fuel cell.

      That way, the inconvenience of refilling a fuel cell can be offset by the infrequent need of refueling.

        1. Whoa! I never knew this. At first I thought you were like joking or referring to a conventional fuel tank as a gasoline fuel cell but I’m looking it up right now and this is pretty interesting. That’s a smart idea for the whole transitional stage, thanks for pointing that out.

          1. SOFC:s can run on pretty much any fuel that you can evaporate into gas. More advanced PEM cells are also internally reforming, so they use the water that comes off the exhaust to generate hydrogen by water gas shift reaction in the stack, consuming the carbon in the fuel for energy.

            There’s no need to “transition” to a different fuel, just produce the fuel in a different way. There’s plenty of peak renewable power at off-peak consumption hours that currently just goes to waste and strains the grid to transmit over long distances. Power-to-methane systems already exist and can turn the excess electricity into CNG, which plugs directly into the existing pipeline distribution system.

          2. Point being, that in places like Texas, peak wind power production occurs at night times, which is when people use the least electricity. The operators have built loads of turbines to farm the subsidies, and in order to do that the utilities are just giving away free electricity to people who use it to heat their pools and do all sorts of other pointless activity that wouldn’t happen if it cost something for them. The utility gets the subsidy, green credits, turns it into tax breaks for the company… etc. it’s just a waste of taxpayer money.

            But the situation won’t change until the RE subsidies drop substantially. Now they’re just throwing away money to industry lobbyists.

  4. Late model Prius owner here. Huge difference in useable volume between the two. I know a single guy with a Volt but the Prius is more practical for a family. Even the Prius Prime is space constrained by the extra battery.

  5. The Volt has not been superceded by any Tesla – their cars typically start at the price of small house. The Volt was a superior method of obtaining electric propulsion, especially considering the lack of fast public chargers for extended EV trips. It was, in fact, far more practical than anything Tesla produced. But the extreme environmentalists were gaso-phobic folks who didn’t want to drive anything with a gasoline engine. Had battry prices remained where they were when the Volt launched, it would be a big seller by now – early Tesla vehicles, which had what we now consider small batteries, required $40,000 to install or replace them. Tesla would still be a niche automaker that never made a profit of any consequence. Battery price drops saved Tesla.

    1. “Battery price drops saved Tesla.”

      Well, true, but I also think Tesla saved themselves in this respect because they work hard to make sure this is the case by securing their own battery supply and whatever technology advances necessary. GM, Nissan, Toyota, etc. could’ve done everything Tesla’s done, but they choose not to, so far.

      1. That will still turn around. The EV is the victim of its own success, because battery recycling is still more costly than making new ones, and the supply for lithium, cobalt, REEs etc. gets short because the mining and refining industry can’t keep up with the demand growth in other things as well (grid storage, EVs, laptops, cellphones, power tools…) Plus, most of the current supply is coming from China, Congo, etc. anyhow, because they have the cheapest deposits and don’t mind the environmental issues from mining it – increasing supply means opening up new mines in more expensive places.

        In other words, when EV sales go up, battery prices go up.

        1. Lithium is not in short supply but many RREs are and cobalt and RRE mining both are environment disasters.
          Cobalt also comes at a huge humanitarian cost as it has become a modern day blood diamond.

          1. 20% of the cobalt mined goes into EVs and laptop/phone/power tool batteries and motors. 80% of the cobalt mined gets used in refining oil into gas and diesel. Let that sink in for a minute. Cobalt use is often used by anti-EVers as a point against them, when in fact it’s gasoline users that consume the vast majority of cobalt currently.

      2. I think Tesla was partly saved by Spacex becoming profitable due winning those NASA and com sat contracts.
        Google supposedly loaned them a lot of money as well which would explain why they are pushing self driving technology so hard even though it’s more of a liability when you are trying to get an affordable product out.

    2. I’m sure you’re right, there are gas-phobic people out there not buying Volts, but the people I know who bought Teslas early on were people previously driving expensive flashy BMWs and Audis. They wanted a fancy car with lots of tricks, not a mild mannered grocery-getter, which the Volt was. I’m not a fan of Tesla (the corporation), but they were certainly smart in releasing the S and X first, Tesla knew which part of the market would open their wallets until battery prices came down.

      That being said, people who cared about all-electric seemed to be buying Leafs. And now two of my neighbors have sold Priuses and bought Bolts.

    3. Curious to know where you live that:

      A. Doesn’t have EV chargers at most malls or bigger stores
      B. You can buy a house for the 50K a Tesla Model 3 costs

      I’m thinking somewhere exceptionally rural, where an EV probably not best choice to begin with.

      1. A – most of the mall chargers are slow regular Volt outlets rebranded as “destination charging”.
        B – the average selling price for the average car is $20k – most people buy second hand to afford it.

    4. I had a Volt until I traded it in for a Tesla, less than a month ago. When I got my ’16 Volt Premier, it was a $40k car. The Tesla Mid-Range Model 3 was $45k, a little over a week ago. Sure, it’s more, but not outrageously more, and loan rates were cheaper a month ago, than when I financed my Volt.

      The Volt is a fine car, and I’m sad to see production end, but the Tesla Model 3 is a game-changer. It has more usable space than the Volt, 5 seats, no transmission/battery hump in the back. Plenty of headroom. Not to mention the seats are more comfortable, and it’s fast as can be.

      As for the cost of batteries, all the mfrs were estimating on significant battery price declines. Yes, GM too. So, your hypothetical is a strange one to say the least.

      1. I’ve had 2 Volts, and was on the Tesla3 wait list for a year before losing interest. T3 is superior in several ways you mention, but it’s only a game-changer for someone who will never, ever, have to travel more than 200 miles in a day. This is (was) the Volt’s true game-changing feature.

  6. As time goes on the ev’s will become more the norm. Like everything , things get better and better. Batteries will improve drastically over the next 5 years or so. All batteries now use a wet cell set. In the future they will be a true dry cell and molded out of plastic or some similar material. This will drive cost way down. The cost today is 25 to 35% of the cars cost. So in the future there is hope of more affordable cars for the majority of the public. Musk started the ball rolling, now it’s up to the rest of the auto industry to keep it moving.

  7. While GM obviously invested a fair amount of $$ in developing the Volt and Bolt, I do not believe the company has fully committed to this line of products. My only real example supporting my suspicion is this:

    Over the past 4 years, I have attended an annual NASCAR race near Dallas where Chevrolet was a sponsor and would host a big showy pavilion. Each year, I would dutifully fill out some fake contact info and a survey on a kiosk to receive a free Chevrolet t-shirt. The purpose of the kiosks were to gather sales leads and most of the questions in the survey were along the lines of “Do you plan on buying a car in the next 6 months” and “Which Chevrolet vehicles would you like to receive more information about?” In the list of vehicles, of which there was pretty much every Chevrolet truck, mini-van, and sedan I could think of, neither the Volt or Bolt were ever listed as an option in the survey.

    1. Whenever there is a large organization (and GM certainly fits) not everyone is on the same page. The Volt team is constantly at odds with detractors inside GM. Since it was not directly relevant to design or engineering of the car, the only mention in this article was the line “fighting GM bureaucracy.” We can just leave it at that…

    2. GM was the same with the RWD Holden built GTO. The year it was introduced, Pontiac got an entirely new product line. For some reason I was sent a fancy booklet with the title “Meet the New Pontiacs”. While the homegrown FWD G6 was prominently featured, the new GTO was not mentioned at all.

  8. I love my 2012 Volt. It’s a fun car to drive and I went from going to the gas station twice a month to twice a year! I’m easily 97 percent electric for all my driving. It’s a shame that Americans didn’t embrace this awesome car and that GM never marketed it properly.

    1. “urbanite with no children”? , “It’s a toy for the wealthy that would be worthless after a couple years of commuting.”


      What is a “Real car”?

      We used our Volt to haul the wife and I, our two kids and our two dogs all over Colorado (We live in the rural outskirts of Denver). It’s a hatchback, making it really versatile so I use it for most of my hardware store runs as opposed to firing up my full size truck. I put snow tires on it for 4 months out of the year and use it for everything from skiing to hunting.

      We got our Volt because I commuted 70 miles a day. I could charge up at work so I could do the whole commute on electricity which is less then 1/4 the cost of gasoline.

      We got our Volt brand new in 2013 for $22k after all rebates. That was the same price as our base Prius that it replaced.

      We have put 111,000 miles on ours and the only maintenance besides tires was a $20 sensor and 2 oil changes. That combined with the 135mpg has made this car ridiculously cheap to own.

  9. Sorry to rain on your electric parade, but I will never buy an electric car. I live in the rural US South and a gasoline or diesel pickup truck suits my lifestyle more than some battery-powered roadster (which couldn’t even be driven onto my property). And there are millions just like me who will never get on board the electric train.

    1. Same here, but for other reasons. I live in Germany and electricity costs close to 30 Eurocents/kWh. At public chargers you pay almost double that.
      Driving an electric vehicle here is just insane.

    2. I think the real question is why eco-cars have lane guidance systems that default to the left-most lane… wait? they don’t have lane guidance systems? …you mean… shit drivers are just drawn to under-powered cars and feel a sense of entitlement to drive in whichever lane they choose?

      …also- the Prius Prime has the ugliest rear end of any car ever produced.

      That’s the real reason electric cars do so poorly when compared to electric… why am I going to pay a premium for a less capable option when I know the biggest selling point is completely negated by factories- globally and domestically that are charging ahead in pursuit of the almighty gold coin without regard to the environment?

      1. This article focused on a novel design to fit a niche, and the engineering required to make it happen, only to fail in the marketplace due to economic factors outside control of the design and engineer team.

        There is no mention of driver skill, personal stylistic tastes, or corporate ethics. You are free to hold your opinions, but this isn’t the forum. Please stay on topic.

    3. So? Who asked you? Everyone knows there’s stubborn people who will never consider it no matter how far the technology develops. There were people who refused to accept the horse wouldn’t eternally be the default mode of transportation too.

      I’ve seen those videos of southern diesel truck boys blocking the electric charging spots and assaulting people. I know from personal experience how angry they get whenever somebody even mentions electric or hybrid cars, though I don’t have one myself. Nobody’s trying to make you drive an electric vehicle, you have your personal choice as you say. So why not the same consideration for the other side? Why do people think they have to override other’s choices to have their own? Why is it always a point of contention?

      Feels like you want your freedom of choice respected without respecting that of others.

      1. That’s funny. Here in California they are trying to mandate that people only buy electric cars. It’s not law at the moment but we expect it to be in the not too distant future.

        You greenies want to ram your agenda down our throats and you don’t care that most of us aren’t making six figures and can’t afford the junk you want force us to buy. Worse a lot of us are commuters who can’t afford to replace a car every two to three years especially one that costs as much as a Volt.

        It’s just not cost effective for us mere mortals.

        1. If electric cars are cheaper to run as conventional ones I will certainly buy one as my daily driver.
          My current car (Mercedes station wagon, Turbo-Diesel) costs about 15 Eurocent per Kilometer (absolutely all inclusive) with diesel prices at 1,25 Eurocent/liter.
          If an electric car with the same dimensions, a range of at least 600km at highway speeds and the same kind of comfort can be run at that cost; shut up and take my money!
          Otherwise I will pass…

        2. You’re right the Volt isn’t necessarily cost effective for everyone. No single car will be perfect for 100% of the car buying public, that’s why automakers have multiple models in their lineup. This was true before the Volt, it will remain true after its production ends.

          In any case, we are veering far off topic. This is Hackaday where we can celebrate novel design and engineering. We’re not a site for car shopping advice, there already exists far more suitable forums for that.

    4. Yeah, it sounds like it will be an electric truck, not a car, if they stop selling the gas someday.

      There will be more electric trucks available as the price comes down. Right now most of them are DIY or custom.

      But don’t underestimate where a Tesla Model X could be driven.

  10. I love my 2012 Volt. The design features I don’t like are mostly because I’m short, not to do with the vehicle’s functionality. I travel from Iowa to Oregon every year, and in 4 years of ownership, I’ve added 100k to the odometer at an average of 49 mpg. The Volt has added about $40/month to my electric bill and cut my has usage by about 75%. I bought the Volt for economic reasons. I’d never pay the price for a new one, but I sure am disappointed that I won’t be able to keep buying used ones!

    1. I love mine too. I wonder, since that was the first year that they became generally available, if they might have been built with tighter quality control and more conservative parameters for the battery, since at least mine is a pretty serious cut above most American cars in fit, finish, and general feeling of tightness and rightness. I’ve owned other similar age GM cars…no comparison. Cruze is a tinny piece of econo-box even if it is fun to drive, the 2010 Camaro was hot but things rattled off and it was like driving a (very agile and fast) tank through a vision slit…just sayin, maybe the supervisors were on the production line for that one…I don’t care, I own it and it’s been perfect all this time.
      Remember GM was “going out of business” and this was a “bet the company” car, which strangely was pushed through by Bob Lutz (hot rod freak who thinks if it can’t do burnouts at > 100mph it’s not a real car).

  11. Who still buys American Cars in 2019 ? I can understand why some buy American trucks, and maybe SUVs and sports cars. But buying an American compact, hatchback or full size sedan just doesn’t make sense anymore.

      1. OK I’ll get eloquent. American cars are generally built to be a disposable commodity and not built to last. They break down much more often and require more maintenance than their foreign counterparts. Basically they are trash. Everyone knows this. It is no secret. They’ve been trash for a long time.

  12. 100% agree !!! Cars nowadays all look alike. I swear the other day on the road, I saw multiple cars in a row following one another (the a-holes all tailgating one another at 70 mph – but topic for another day), and guess what ? they all had that ugly curved rear with a shelf over the back window. The only difference was the color and the badging (brand). Or how about the even uglier front ends that resemble a Cylon Warrior from the old Battlestar Galactica show from the 70’s.

    Give me an old Pontiac GTO anyday !

    1. Funny story about the EV1.
      My son moved out after high school, (early 1980s) and shared a house with some buddies.
      Next door, a weird guy was building an electric powered car, under contract to GM.
      Always in the garage futzing with batteries and wires.
      My son moved on, and a few years later, (1996) the EV1 was available.

  13. What kills any of these is that batteries are still an order of magnitude away from practical – if you could 10x capacity OR /10 the charging time that would make the whole thing viable for millions of people.

    Until then, you’ve kinda gotta have off-street parking at home with a charging point or huge additional infrastructure to even think about being viable for a lot of people.

    Also, having a crash whilst sitting on a huge bed of lithium cells is still not optimal, I suspect the safety guys would outlaw them if there was any viable alternative.

      1. you dont need a Mega watt of power to charge a 18.4Kwh battery, Tesla cars have 40-85Kwh batteries.
        in my state where 1Kwh = $0.13 its pretty flipping cheap to charge.

  14. For those who say the Volt was too expensive, I submit the following:
    It cost me $3500 less to drive my 2017 Volt than my son spent for his 2017 Camry.
    2017 Volt MSRP $33220 less $7500 tax credit = net $25720
    2017 Camry MSRP $23070 no tax credit = net $23070
    Volt cost to charge 33 mi. per day for 24 mo. 11Kw@.$.13/kwh = $1044
    Camry cost of gas 33 mi per day for 24 mo. 24Mpg@$2.65/gal = $2660
    Resale factor:
    Kelley Blue Book
    2017 Volt 24000 mi Fair Purchase Price $20985
    2017 Camry 24000 mi Fair Purchase Price $16438
    Volt net cost including fuel ($25720-20985= $4735 + $1044 fuel = $5779
    Camry net cost including fuel ($23070-$16438=$6632 + $2660 fuel = $9292
    Net cost savings to drive the Volt: $3513
    The Volt has been trouble-free and a pleasure to drive with zero range anxiety.

  15. I doubt elec would ever work for my pickup needs, but I have wanted an elec car for 40 years. But sometimes I want to drive for 8, 12, or 18 hours. I don’t want to gas-up every 400 miles so I buy a big tank. Flying was never convenient for me. If I got an electric I would at least need something like an external wheelchair or motorcycle holder to carry a 10 gal tank and small generator. If it will sustain 70 with a dead battery, fine. Solar charging can rule at home. My dad would get laughed and honked at a couple times a year, pushing his ride home. It was a Honda Trail 90 which he had to gas up each 2.months and he did forget that soarse routine a time or two. One bro was often in debt. Dad laughed with the honkers and all the way to the bank. Far from well-off, he had every desired toy, and paid cash. He bought a SuperBeetle, noting a Rabbit was a gas miser, but break-even was 10 years out. Hybrid? Bring them on! Battery-only? Then I need a theft-resistant generator-rack option. Not everyone drives far. But when I do, I don’t want to rent-a-car. I drive to arrive; not to sight-see. I looked at an elec SUV once. The back lost 10-12″ of vert space. No sale. You buy an SUV FOR people PLUS that space.

  16. It’s a real shame they’re killing it as GM actually one up Toyota on the Volt as it’s a better hybrid than the Prius and it’s cheaper and more practical for most people than a pure EV.
    You can decide to take a volt on a cross country drive on a whim with no worry something you can’t do with a Tesla or Nissan leaf or even a BMW i3 with the backup generator without a lot of careful planning so it can be your only car.
    The real problem GM did not advertise it well their advertising in general is terrible so yes most people did not understand just how much better it was than the other hybrids.
    But it still makes a lot more sense than a pure EV for 95% of the public.
    You pretty much got a car that can be used like a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Malibu for one price.
    Another issue is the reality that hybrid technology does come at a cost and has a higher return for manufacture on SUVs they can sell for a higher price.
    Maybe GM should come out with something like a Tahoe or Equinox with something like the Voltech drivetrain on the latter this would be more reliable than turbo charging a 1.5l or 2.0l engine to get something that heavy to move.
    Though their CEO and product planner are idiots.

  17. Volt was the best car Chevy ever made- the base model in particular. Reasonably priced and quite modern, a rare descriptor for this company. I assume the next model will feature a 12.28 liter 7.5 cylinder in a fractal configuration that can only turn via torque steer and only to the left.

  18. The price killed it for me and I went with a Prius. The dealers kept saying “you will get a tax rebate” but I read into those and by the time I equipped the Volt, and MAYBE got a tax rebate I was 4K higher than the Prius.

    My 2013 Prius can boogie pretty good too. Those electric motors get people turning their heads when I pass them with ease.

  19. p*ss poor advertising. they never stressed the system enough. shoulda done a demo where someone shoots the gas engine, closes the hood, and drives off on electric power. An armored version would have sold like hotcakes to Royalty and paranoid CEOs…

  20. I was a landrover and range rove guy for 35 years, bought a volt when i rolled my rover off cliff on pacific coast, bought a volt with half the money i recived from insurance, pge also sent me a check for $800. My gas bill was about $250 a month now for past 6 months my electric bill is $4 a month on average for charging to get 60 miles a day for basically free, if i need to run from SF to LA, costs me a whopping 7 gallons to fill the generator that juices the batteries. Do the math folks. Also my volt is and feels stronger, more plush and superior handling, can beat anyone, yes porches and vettes to first in line at next light 0 to 60 pulls about 4.5 gs, 60 to 100 in a couple seconds. The physics of torque are undeniable, istant acceleration (do the physic azad nd math), has saved me numerous times from being hit by idiot drivers, i will never go back to a gas engine. Its ridiculous the petro chemical industry didn’t roll out the electrical infrastructure in the 50s. Now the tort lawsuit they are, well will be facing (because they buried the effects os CO2 for 60 plus years), will make the tobacco industry tort suit look like childs play. Unfortunately it will be in the 1000s of trillions, bankrupt them all , and guess who pays? All our children, there children and at a minimum there children.

    But what do i know only a geologist, hydrogeoligist, physics, mathematics and chemistry degrees holder from the top geology school well alway in top 3 of the world.

    Dam shame.

  21. Electric charging infrastructure has not grown much at all in Northern NJ. Unless you own a house, there are limited charging opportunities and those that exist cost you more than running your car on gas. It is not practical to leave your car at a dealership for 6 hours a day to charge. I have managed to get a spot in my apartment’s garage that has access to an outlet that I have been secretly using to charge my car – but it takes over 12 hours to get a full charge. I would have been better off buying a Tesla and charging for 30 min. at the mall once a week. So far it appears the future is only here for people who own a home or a Tesla.

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