Chevrolet Bolt Is Smashing Chevrolet Volt – Has The Plug-In Hybrid Stopgap Stopped?


2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV - Image: Chevrolet

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV - Image: ChevroletIt seemed so obvious when introduced at Christmastime in 2010. Why not take the best bits of the modern automotive gas-electric hybrid and marry them to the perks of an electric car?

The Chevrolet Volt was engineered to merge the internal-combustion past with the all-electric future. The Chevrolet Volt, General Motors believed, would deliver the benefits of an electric car — emissions-free driving, hilariously inexpensive commuting, torque on demand — without the range limitations and inconvenience believed to be a part of the electric lifestyle.

The Chevrolet Volt fulfilled GM’s goals from a design perspective. Critically acclaimed, the first-generation Volt seemed eminently prudent, entirely realistic, and definitely consequential. Yet for a company that hoped to sell more than 50,000 copies annually in the United States, the Chevrolet Volt has attracted an average of only 21,100 per year and will likely not sell 20,000 in 2017. That’s despite the launch of an improved second-generation model with more power, more range, and more features.

Huh? It hardly makes sense. If the Volt was the future brought into a present, why aren’t early adopters lining up outside Chevrolet dealer doors? 2018 Chevrolet Volt - Image: ChevroletBlame the future’s second, pure electric coming. The Chevrolet Bolt, a strict EV with 238 miles of range and even more critical acclaim, has slowly increased its popularity as availability grew nationwide. The result is five consecutive months in which the Bolt has outsold its Volt forerunner. And not by a small margin.

General Motors has reported 8,400 U.S. sales of its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt but only 4,517 plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volts, an 86-percent gap in favour of pure electricity. That’s nearly twice as many Bolts as Volts.

While November 2017 was the best month ever for the Chevrolet Bolt, with 2,987 total U.S. sales, November 2017’s Volt performance was down by a third compared with November 2016. A year ago, the Volt accounted for 18 percent of America’s total plug-in vehicle market. That figure fell to 10 percent in November 2017.

Of course, that market share tally is due in part to the increased competition, not the least of which is the Chevrolet Bolt, which was by far America’s best-selling plug-in model in November 2017. The Toyota Prius Prime, the second-generation plug-in hybrid Prius, produced 1,834 sales last month, topping the Volt for the fifth consecutive month. (The Prius Prime is also outselling the Volt on a year-to-date basis now.) A number of higher-end plug-ins also saw huge November sales improvements, as well: BMW X5, 7 Series, 5 Series, and 3 Series sales, for example, nearly quadrupled to 2,398 units.

Always worthy of note is the collective rarity of cars that plug in. According to HybridCars.com,  plug-in hybrids and EVs accounted for 1 percent of all U.S. new vehicle sales in November. Perspective? Greater than 5 percent of the U.S. market, meanwhile, can be traced back to the Ford F-Series line of pickup trucks.

While the Volt has lost all of its initial momentum, what little momentum there was, the Volt did serve to solidify a level of General Motors acceptance in the plug-in market. Consequently, General Motors does have a surprisingly strong grip on America’s plug-in/electric market, claiming 28 percent of the sector in November 2017.

  • David S

    The Bolt is a new segment, a somewhat affordable electric car with enough range for a long commute. Many people who want a car like the Volt already have a first generation Volt, and Toyota has the Prius Prime now that is a better choice than the Volt, the last Prius plug in wasn’t competitive. With the plug in Ioniq coming it is only going to get worse for the Volt.

    • Nero

      How is the Prius Prime a better choice than the Volt?

      The Volt has over twice the EV range of the Prime. After incentives the Volt is only slightly more expensive than the Prime (at list). In fact in most dealers you can get a Volt for the same price as the Prime (if not cheaper). The Prime is a four seat car to the Volt’s five seat (although the 5th seat is for children or a car seat). And the Volt easily is a much more fun to drive car than the Prime. Availability is much better for the Volt too.

      The only area’s where the Prime is better is that it offers more standard safety features. And has a better gas only fuel economy. Which is largely an irrelevant metric for 99% of people, unless you normally drive more than 200 miles everyday.

      • David S

        Prius Prime starts at $27,995 including destination, the Volt starts at $38,445. Now there are better deals on the Volt, but only because it is a worse deal at list. The Volt still winds up being around $1000 more instead of $10,000 more. According to fueleconomy dot gov the Prius costs less for fuel for the average driver, $600/ year rather than $650/ year. The Prius has a bigger tank for a longer range. The Prius is also slightly bigger inside.

        • Nero

          Also to further add to my comments. Your number $38,445 is for a Premier Volt. The Volt LT starts at $33,220.

          • David S

            $34,095 for this year and you can’t get auto braking on the LT. So to get all the safety equipment that is standard on the Prius you have to get the Premier.

          • Nero

            While it’s true that Toyota offers safety features standard that the Volt has optional the base Volt is much better equipped than the base Prius prime outside of the safety features. Also from a technical stand point the Volt is much better thought out than the Prime. The Volt has active liquid thermal management for the battery (Prime does not [passive air cooled and heated]). So after a few years you will see much more battery degradation in a Prime than a Volt and more extreme climate limitations in the Prime [power limited in hot and cold situations for example]. The Volt uses a negative pressure gas tank to keep the gas better longer. Prime does not. The Volt has engine and fuel maintenance modes to keep the engine lubricated every six weeks and if fuel is not used for a year it will burn fuel once a year to keep the car running great and reliable for a very long time. The Prime does not do this. Toyota assumes their customers will be using the gas engine enough to not have these issues. The Volt has an excellent track record of reliability. And while the Prius also has a great track record. Toyota’s plug in offerings do not.

        • Nero

          You do realise the Volt qualifies for the full $7500 Federal tax credit and the Prius Prime qualifies for $4500. Also for most people as 80% of all drivers drive less than 40 miles per day the Volt will be all electric while the Prime will still use some gasoline. Yes the fueleconomy gov site makes some assumptions based on theoretical data. But the real world is much different. The Volt routinely far exceeds it’s EPA rated numbers. The larger gas tank is rater moot as the Volt already has a range longer than needed. And the Prius is bigger on paper. But have you actually sat in both? I have and both have so-so back seats but the Volt has a much more comfortable front seat. Now all you have to do is drive both and you would have to be fully numb and void of all emotion to actually think the Prime is the better car.