The 2019 Chevy Volt And Bolt Represent Excellence Without Excitement

Chevrolet is not a brand known for subtlety. It defines its market segment as “America” and its best-selling truck commercials are rife with wind-blown American flags. It once invited us to test drive its new Equinox crossover during the vernal equinox. It named its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle the Volt, followed with its first battery electric vehicle, the near homophone, Bolt. We had the opportunity recently in the hills of northern Vermont, outside of Burlington, to drive both – mildly refreshed for the 2019 model year – and ponder their unsubtle charms (and unrealized potential).

A Chevy engineer told us that this change — along with others that increase energy regeneration on throttle lift and provide the capability for 7.2 kW charging, which can halve charging time — was implemented based on consumer feedback. As were changes that update the infotainment screen, particularly the “impacts” screen that demonstrates how one’s use of various features in the car like heating, air conditioning, and charging ports deduct from one’s range, now calculated in list miles.

These minor changes echo similar tweaks made to the Bolt. Based on consumer input, that vehicle is now available with tweaked climate controls, a charging limiter that can be selected to provide from 40 percent to 90 percent of a full charge when plugged in, and a feature that will prevent your car from rolling away when you unbuckle your seatbelt to reach for your wallet while traversing a restaurant drive-thru.

While these changes are in response to actual issues related to the product development team by actual consumers, there is something about their eerie specificity. It seems that Chevy is paying too much attention to the needs of current owners, rather than furthering the broader mission of these vehicles: to disseminate EVs beyond early adopters, to address charging infrastructure, and to counter misinformation about range and use.

Perhaps, even, to create vehicles that fit squarely in the top categories in which consumers are interested. At the moment, that does not include compact sedans or small hatchbacks. Chevy sells an awful lot of trucks and crossovers. Maybe they should consider electrifying one of those?