The 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.
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.
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.