Successive Approximations

The Volt, Part 3: End of Life

The Volt, Part 3: End of Life

(Part 2 of this story)

When I was doing my research to find a used Chevy Volt to buy, the news that the Volt was being discontinued after 2019 crossed my notice. Not a big deal, I thought. I wasn't planning to buy a new one anyway.

But after driving this car for six months and really coming to like it quite a lot, I've noticed there's that voice in the back of my head. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Nobody really knows why GM discontinued to Volt, and I won't try to speculate as a part of that discussion except to say that without a doubt their engineers learned a huge amount iterating on the design. There is no amount of simulation and testing that can compare to 9 years (and counting) of real world data on how an engineered device performs in the real world.

Some people chalk it up to the fact that "people don't buy sedans anymore," which is non-sense. It only looks like a sedan. Like the Prius, it's a hatchback which is basically a very small SUV with low ground clearance. The back folds down to get more than 4 feet of space, so you can haul quite a bit in it if you want. (Our other car, a 2017 Toyota Rav4, has just over 6 feet of space with the back seats folded down.)

Some folks say GM is just waiting to roll out an SUV using the same Voltec system. Maybe. I hope so. Better than the whole project disappearing into the archives. (And, personally, I'll probably need an SUV as the family grows. So that wouldn't be so bad.) But if we haven't heard about it yet, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Meanwhile, the other similar cars like the Hyundai Ioniq and Prius Prime have roughly half or a quarter of the all-electric range. Maybe they'll be on par with the Volt one day.

Of course, maybe this is tilting at windmills (turbines?). Maybe the low price of gas, from the one-two punch of fracking and then COVID-19 is enough to remove the economic reason to have an electric car for day to day purposes.

I hope I'm wrong. I think having an electric-first car with an unlimited gasoline range is a gateway to getting more people to start driving electric. (Of course, the point of driving electric is limited when the power is still generated from fossil fuels. It's hard to know exactly where your power comes from at any given time, but I like to think all the electrons stored in my car come from Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant which is 28 miles away.)

So we'll see how long this car goes for. It may be that electrical components have a longer service life than traditional combustion cars (if the battery packs don't; presumably replacements will be available for those at some cost).

That said, if Chevy brings the brand back and I can get a kid a used model year 2040 Volt as a college graduation present to keep the family tradition going, that would be just fine by me.

Ben Berry

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