It’s not a pure EV, but in the early part of this decade, Chevrolet’s Volt offered one of the few mass-produced electric driving experiences on the market. Now in its second generation, GM’s “extended-range electric vehicle” — which packs a 1.5-liter gas generator — has seen its status dwindle as all-electric competitors rivals sprout like dandelions (among them, the confusingly named Chevy Bolt). Lesser plug-in hybrids abound.
Though the Volt still represents an easy-to-live-with compromise between gas-fueled convenience and emission-free commuting, GM knows it needs to do something to sweeten the pot. Extending the range beyond 53 miles seems pointless. But what if the car could charge almost 50 percent faster?
That what General Motors promises for 2019. By adding a 7.2 kilowatt charging system, the 2019 Volt’s charge time drops to 2.3 hours when plugged into a 240-volt hookup — the type you see at public charging stations everywhere.
Depending on your living situation, it might not be all that expensive to install a 240V outlet.
Basically, GM wants to make the Volt a better “electric” car, but without actually adding extra battery capacity. By increasing throughput and decreasing charging times, GM hopes Volt owners decide to make the most of the car’s electric capability, reducing the amount of gasoline used by the inline-four generator. People will be encouraged to top up as they go about their daily grind. It’s also a less-expensive way to boost the appeal of an existing product.
“It effectively extends the vehicle’s all-electric driving range, while providing about twice the range for the money when plugging in at public facilities that charge by the hour,” said Jesse Ortega, chief engineer of Chevrolet’s electric vehicle division, in a statement.
Buyers of the 2019 Volt Premier see this system as standard kit, while Volt LT buyers gain it as an option. The LT comes with a 3.6 kW system.
Other upgrades include new regenerative braking profiles that allow owners to recapture more energy after easing up on the throttle, thus extending the vehicle’s range. Drivers can also defer the startup of the gas generator for cabin heating. If you’re made of tough stuff, GM claims you’ll be able to delay ICE ignition until outside temperatures reach minus 13F (-25C).
For 2019, Volts gain a Chevrolet Infotainment System with 8-inch touchscreen, mated to an energy app that shows users how best to increase their all-electric driving range. Owners can switch between conventional and adaptive cruise, and a digital backup camera replaces the old analog one. The Volt’s low-speed pedestrian warning noise sees a change, too, with look-over-here sounds emitted from front and rear speakers.
Oh, there’s also a power driver’s seat — a feature surprisingly absent from previous versions. Still, the seat only comes standard on Premier trim. LT buyers can spring for one if they want.
After entering the market as a 2011 model, the Volt’s fortunes have waxed and waned. Last year’s U.S. sales tally stands at 20,349 vehicles, but the first quarter of of 2018 showed a marked decrease in volume. We’ll know if that trend continued when GM posts its quarterly sales stats next week.
Expect to see the outwardly unchanged 2019 Volt on dealer lots this fall.
[Images: General Motors]