editors-blog-entry3The arrival of affordable 200+ mile electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model 3, the 2017 Nissan LEAF, and, yes, GM’s own Chevy Bolt, combined with outrageously low gas prices — which hurt EREVs/PHEVs and hybrids more than pure electrics — mean a limited future for GM’s extended range EV (EREV) the Chevy Volt.

Why?

Here are five reasons –>

1. The limited scope of early to mid-early electric vehicle adopters. There aren’t very many of these early to mid-early adopters, at least when measured as a percentage of the total car buying American public. This relatively small group of early adopters falls into three distinct categories: 1) Greenies; 2) Technophiles; 3) Penny pinchers. The first two groups — which already tilt toward pure EVs — with 200+ mile pure EVs here will lean even more heavily toward a pure EV over an EREV such as the Volt. Why? They want to be driving as close to a one-hundred percent electric as possible. The third group, the Penny Pinchers, was opting for the First Generation Volt to save money on gas. With gas prices very low, the Volt saves you little, if any money. This third group will mostly evaporate — as long as gas prices stay ridiculously low. All of this means even fewer people looking at the Volt than before.

2. An emerging long-distance high-speed charging network. Tesla’s Supercharger network — which it continues to build out nationwide and worldwide — turn the pure electric car into a long-distance travel vehicle taking away the only real advantage gasoline cars have over electrics.

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The Chevy Bolt.

3. The Chevy Bolt. The Bolt will draw large numbers of prospective Volt buyers away from the Volt, something GM is surely aware of. In fact, the Bolt WILL outsell the Volt within a few months of the Bolt’s nationwide availability.  Case in point: My own case — yes, I KNOW it’s anecdotal, but it is nonetheless illustrative. When I thought the two-year lease on my 2014 Nissan LEAF (thanks to divorce, the LEAF is my ONLY car) could not be extended, I first looked at used First Generation Volts. I was thoroughly disappointed at how quickly I lost the already low pure electric range of the used Volts I drove (I test drove them in January in Colorado). I quickly abandoned my search for used First Generation Volts and asked my brother if I could borrow his old Landcruiser for two months so I could wait it out for the arrival of 2017 Chevy Volt, which has 50 miles of pure electric range. However, the truth is, I really didn’t want to get locked into a three-year lease with a car that has just 50 miles of pure EV range. I would have been very unhappy being stuck in a Volt as the Bolt arrived, the Model 3, etc. Now, thanks to a Nissan extension of my LEAF lease, I can hop directly from one pure EV with NOT enough range to make it a viable ONLY car (post-divorce, the LEAF has been my only car) into an affordable 200+ mile EV — and skip the Volt altogether.

4. No one understands the Volt — and no one ever will. Okay, a small percentage of EV advocates and technophiles understand the Volt and how it works. But 99 percent of Americans do not. Another case in point — yes, I KNOW, it’s once again anecdotal, but it’s illustrative: When I was looking to possibly buy a used Volt in January of 2016, I went to four used car dealers with Volts on their lots. NONE had bothered to keep their Volts plugged in. In fact, a couple dealers seemed genuinely surprised to hear that you should keep a Volt plugged in! And one of the Volts I test drove had been sitting on the used car dealer’s lot for 45 days, in the Colorado winter — without ever being plugged in at all!



5. The whole point of longer range EVs is to kill the gas car, including ‘hybrids’ such as the Volt. News flash: Electric cars aim to replace gasoline cars. And they are doing just this. Granted, EVs are doing so more slowly than some would like, but they’re replacing gas cars nonetheless. As their range extends, EVs will replace gasoline cars more rapidly. Affordable 200+ mile EVs represent ‘the sweet spot’ for pure EVs replacing EREVs and PHEVs such as the Volt — for the most part. I will concede the Volt MIGHT survive as an even more niche vehicle than it already is, serving a very small, tiny group of people that’s likely to shrink to even tinier proportions over time. Affordable 300+ mile EVs stand as ‘the sweet spot’ for a massive shift from gasoline to EVs. Yes, there is ONE big “if”: This massive shift happens ONLY if a robust, wide, long, deep fast-charging network is built for EVs. Unfortunately, this is still a very big if. Except at Tesla, which, not at all coincidentally, is the ONLY car maker dedicated entirely to building electric cars, and, hence, the only car maker not in at least partially in the pocket of Big Oil.

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The Tesla Model 3.

7 Responses

    • Christof Demont-Heinrich

      Fair enough. I agree that a TINY market might continue to exist for the Volt, assuming that GM continues to want to service it (SUV PHEVs are a different story — they’ve got no pure electric competition).

      But do you agree –>

      1) That this market for EREVs such as the Volt is very tiny?

      2) Is very unlikely to grow, and, in fact, is likely to shrink as people like me — and there are a lot of us — go for a Bolt over a Volt?

      3) That low gas prices really hurt PHEVs and hybrids more than electrics? This is because die-hard EV fans will buy the full electrics for reasons other than to save money, but a substantial portion of Volt buyers have gone to the Volt to save on gas money. With today’s prices, the savings are minimal.

      Reply
      • Richard Joash Tan

        But low gas prices will hurt long range EVs EVEN MORE! I WILL BUY THE 2017 VOLT!

      • Christof Demont-Heinrich

        I’m glad you’ll buy the 2017 Volt. I support the Volt. But I think low gas prices hurt the Volt more than pure EVs. Here’s why: The people who are attracted to pure EVs are more likely to be mid-to-hard core techies and greenies, whereas, one of the major attractions of the Volt is fuel savings, and more ‘traditional’ money-savers/pinchers, including more conservatives are attracted to the Volt. The techies and greenies are NOT primarily motivated by gas savings, and will therefore buy/lease a pure EV regardless of whether gas prices are low whereas because many more Volt buyers/leasees ARE motivated primarily by money and gas savings, and those savings are virtually non-existent, to extremely small right now, fewer of these penny-pinchers will buy Volts. Thus, the Volt is hurt more by low gas prices than pure EVs because the type of person who buys a pure BEV is often very different from the type of consumer who buys a Volt. Yes, that’s just my theory, but I think it has decent potential validity. We shall see. Of course, I’d live for pure BEV and EREV sales to both go up substantially — in an ideal world.

  1. Jimmy

    The long distance national network reason won’t be valid for several years. Until Bolts can use the Tesla network (they can’t) many will still opt for plugin hybrids. GM has mentioned they don’t want to invest in a network not even contribute to the infrastructure Nissan has been contributing. You are correct that people still don’t understand the Volt. I love and have been explaining mine for years and people still don’t get it. I see the Bolt being very popular with fleets. They know their daily mileage and if it’s under 200 miles a day, why wouldn’t they use the Bolt with the fuel and maintenance savings

    Reply
    • Christof Demont-Heinrich

      Good points! And I’m sorry so few people still do not understand the Volt. I think that’s both a commentary on GM and its lack of marketing investment in the Volt, and a larger commentary on American society, which doesn’t seem to care about much of anything — other than whether the status quo continues to keep it satisfied just enough to maintain its ignorance and apathy toward progressive changes that just ‘might’ benefit the whole of humanity, and the earth too. Sigh…

      Reply
  2. Paul K.

    I own a 2015 Volt, in addition to a Prius. The Volt is hands-down a better driver! The (non plug in) Prius is like a tin box compared to the Volt.

    EVs are great, I love the driving experience, but the two problems – range and rate of refilling your onboard energy – are still tough for the general public to adopt. Think about this – my Volt takes 4-8 hours to feed about 10 kW into the battery. It takes seconds to pump some gas in. Like it or not, gasoline is very energy dense and moves into the vehicle quickly. Imagine pushing your car for 40 miles…..

    My line of work requires a lot of mileage. The Volt is cheap to run where I live – I get 40 miles for 75 cents worth of electricity (OK, coal generated in Maryland plus some nuke). 40 miles of gas power costs $2.40 for a gallon of premium. It would be great to get more EV miles but for now that is the tradeoff.

    Plus I get a Maryland HOV sticker, which has saved me countless hours.

    My son has a 2015 Leaf, which is another tin box, plus it’s been recalled 3 times, there are no parts for the recalls, and my Daughter in Law is forced to be in a rental. They are way upside down on their lease, which will become Nissan’s problem soon.

    Actually, most of people have no idea where electric power comes from, and unless you have your own solar collection system, or on 100% nuclear, all you are doing is shifting the CO2 emissions from your really clean modern car to a dirty coal plant, oil or natural gas plant somewhere on the grid.

    Plus, power plants fired on coal/oil/gas are only so efficient, much of the energy in the fuel is wasted, plus, the grid is very inefficient as well. I’m an environmental engineer, so check the facts.

    Porsche, for the upcoming Tesla-killer, Mission E, (My FAVORITE car brand) is engaging new technology – based on 800 ++ volts – to charge 80% of the 312 mile range in 15 minutes. This beast will have 600 HP, and will out-handle and drive rings around a Tesla. It won’t be as fast as the Ludicrous mode, but it won’t fly off the road, which will be the next Tesla story (e.g., some idiot “ludicrous modes himself off a cliff). Sorry, just the facts.

    Reply

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