At Electrek, we try to focus on all-electric vehicles and not plug-in hybrids because they most often offer only very little electric range.
The Chevy Volt is the exception with its 53 miles of EPA range. It is enough for most people to cover their daily commute and we often hear about Volt owners not having to fill up their gas tank in months or even years.
Now with the 2019 model year, Chevy is enabling you to use the battery pack even more with faster charging and less reliance on the engine.
GM invited us to Vermont to learn more and try the new version of the Volt, along with the new 2019 Bolt EV, but as we previously reported, the new Bolt EV model doesn’t feature as big of an update as its big brother.
As for the 2019 Chevy Volt, it is still the second generation Volt first introduced in 2016, but it does feature more significant upgrades with the 2019 model year.
After 141,000 cars delivered and more than 2.8 billion EV miles, GM took feedback from their customers to improve the plug-in hybrid.
You can see the full list of updates at the bottom of this article and here we will focus on the two most important changes, which have to with charging and the powertrain.
First off, Chevy is now offering a more powerful charger with twice the capacity: 7.2 kW.
It comes standard on the ‘Premier trim’ higher-end version, but you will have to pay $750 for it if you want the base Volt.
For people with short commutes who want to just charge on level 1 overnight, it won’t make a difference, but it is worth the money for everyone else.
If you have access to level 2 charging at work or you are often driving relatively long distances with the car, the new charge rate will make a big difference.
Here’s the drive that we did yesterday for example. I paired up with Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing at Edmunds, to drive a new black 2019 Volt from Burlington to Waitsfield in Vermont.
Dan is an efficient driver and according to the Volt’s energy app, his technique enabled more range.
That said, we took some hilly backcountry roads and the efficiency took a big hit from terrain resulting in the use of 13.4 kWh out of the 18.4 kWh of the battery pack during the 39.8 miles that we traveled to get to the Ploughgate Creamery in Waitsfield:
I took over the driving when we left the Creamery, which is located up the hills, with 4 miles of electric range remaining according to the Volt’s instrument cluster.
By the time we were down in the valley, the instrument cluster was showing 6 miles of range thanks to the regenerative braking from going downhill.
Within about 8 miles of leaving, the gas engine powered up with a somewhat seamless transition.
We arrived at Ben and Jerry’s having driven 47.4 miles on electricity and 27.5 miles on gas:
At this point we could’ve drove back on gas, but we stopped for about 3 hours at Ben and Jerry’s, where they installed several level 2 charging stations, and with the new 7.2 kW onbard charger, we were able to get a full charge.
I was able to get about 30 more electric miles on the highway before the engine kicked back on. To be fair, I wasn’t aiming for efficiency and I driving at a somewhat high speed on the highway for the whole trip back to the hotel.
Nonetheless, we got more electric miles on this trip than we would have with a previous version of the Volt.
Side note: To be fair, we would have also made the whole trip on electric milage with the Bolt EV without having to charge. Funny enough, GM’s staff on trip were following us in Bolt EVs.
The other big change is an update to the Volt’s automatic engine-assisted heating system, which can now be deferred until the temperature is much lower.
It has been a problem for Volt owners who live in cold climates for a long time. Owners often want to optimize their electric mileage, but the engine would always kick in to run the heating system as soon as it would get cold.
The result is that owners would use gas even if they have a very short commute that the battery pack could cover in full.
Now GM says that it has tuned the system and now kicks in at a much lower temperature.
Obviously, we weren’t able to test that feature, but Chevy assures us that it will now only kick in at minus 13 degrees F / minus 25 degrees C.
Here in Montreal, it still gets below that a few times every winter, but it should nonetheless enable more all-electric operation of the Volt.
The 2019 Volt is now available to order with a $33,520 MSRP – as low as $26,895 after the federal tax credit.
Here are all the changes with the 2019 Chevy Volt:
- A 7.2 kW charging system that cuts recharging times nearly in half, by adding about twice the all-electric driving range per hour of charge (standard on Premier trim and available on LT trim)
- Activation of the automatic engine-assisted heating system can be deferred until much lower temperatures — minus 13 degrees F / minus 25 degrees C — for more all-electric operation in cold climates
- Chevrolet Infotainment system with an 8-inch-diagonal color touchscreen incorporates a new Energy App. The app’s Impacts Screen shows drivers how driving style, route, weather conditions and cabin comfort setting may affect range and conveys the impact more intuitively based on mileage rather than the previous numerical “score”
- Six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat is standard on Premier and available on LT
- Pedestrian alert system now uses front and rear speakers to provide audible alerts when operating at slow speeds
- A new digital rearview camera replaces the previous analog system
- Driver-switchable Adaptive Cruise Control allows the choice of conventional cruise control or adaptive cruise control
- Tire fill alert sounds a horn when full tire pressure is achieved
- Decorative seating patterns are offered on cloth seats
- Power Convenience Package available on LT adds a power driver seat in addition to all content offered on the Comfort Package
- Wireless charging pad for compatible phones is relocated ahead of the shifter for easier use (available with navigation radio)
- Exterior color: Pacific Blue Metallic
- Jet Black/Porcelain Blue interior offered on Premier.
- Available dealer-installed blackout package includes sport pedals, black front/rear bowtie emblems and 17-inch machined-aluminum wheels with black-painted pockets
The Chevy Volt was already the “most electric” of all plug-in hybrids, but now this model year update makes it even more electric than it already was.
Interestingly, GM achieved that without increasing the battery pack capacity or making the car more efficient. It’s more about how you use the Volt, which is a cool approach.
At Electrek, we believe the industry is going all-electric sooner than most people think and there are already plenty of great all-electric options out there, but if you are on the fence about all-electric vehicles, a plug-in hybrid is a good compromise.
And as far as plug-in hybrids go, I think the Volt is your best option.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.