Chevy Bolt vs Volt: Which Electric Car Is Best For You?
If you aren’t sure about the difference between a Chevy Bolt and Volt, you’re not alone.
The decision by General Motors to give the company’s two plug-in electric vehicles such similar names was bound to create confusion. “Did you say Bolt or Volt?” is a common refrain among EV shoppers.
To add more confusion, mainstream consumers are uncertain about the differences between a hybrid like the Volt and an electric vehicle like the Bolt. But it’s precisely this technological distinction that distinguishes the two vehicles, as follows:
- The Chevrolet Bolt (with a B) is a pure electric vehicle. The only source of the Bolt’s propulsion is an electric motor. To “fuel” a Bolt, you plug it in to charge its battery pack. You never go to the gas station because the Bolt doesn’t have an engine, gas tank, or a tailpipe.
- The Chevrolet Volt (with a V) is a plug-in hybrid. It has two power plants. The Volt uses both a battery to power an electric motor and a gas tank to power an internal combustion engine. Sometimes the Volt works and feels like an electric car and other times it functions as a regular gasoline vehicle. Volt drivers plug in their cars on most days but only visit a gas station a few times a year.
Both cars are among the most efficient vehicles on the road. For practical purposes, the big difference between the two vehicles is the size of their battery packs. In this case, size does matter. The battery pack size is the main factor that determines how far you can go on electrons. While the Bolt has a much larger battery pack and can go nearly 240 miles on a charge, when its battery is depleted, you have to stop and recharge. On the other hand, when the electric juice runs out on a Volt after about 50 miles, the onboard gasoline engine fires up and runs until you have a convenient opportunity to plug it back in.
How Far Can You Go on Electricity?
Bolt: The Bolt can store an ample 60 kilowatt-hours of energy. It has an EPA-estimated driving range of 238 miles on a single charge. Considering that American commuters, on average, drive about 40 miles per day, the Bolt can provide several days of service before needing to be charged. Nonetheless, most Bolt drivers plug in every night before they go to sleep so they can wake up the next morning with a full battery pack capable of those 238 miles of driving.
The EPA rates the Bolt’s efficiency at the equivalent of 119 miles per gallon, in combined city/highway driving. But the most important number to consider is its 238-mile range, which is extraordinary for an affordable electric car that only costs around $30,000 after the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit is considered.
Volt: At 18.4 kilowatt-hours, the Volt’s battery pack is pipsqueak compared to what’s in the Bolt. That’s the point. With a plug-in hybrid like the Volt, the idea is to provide just enough energy storage for a single day’s needs, and then to rely on gasoline for road trips. The Volt is estimated by the EPA to travel 53 miles purely on electricity. After that, the Volt uses gasoline from an 8.9-gallon tank to power a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The Volt’s total combined driving range of electricity and gasoline is 420 miles.
The Volt’s EPA combined city/highway efficiency rating is the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon. That’s when the Volt is operating as an electric car. When the 18.4 kilowatt-hour battery is depleted, and the car starts working like a conventional no-plug hybrid, its efficiency falls to 42 mpg, which is still quite thrifty on fuel.
Winner: Chevy Bolt
The Bolt’s 238 miles of driving range beats the Volt’s 53 miles.
Which Car Is More Fun To Drive?
Bolt: Many consumers don’t realize electric cars are very quick off the line. The Bolt sprints from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a brisk 6.5 seconds. It completes a quarter-mile in about 15 seconds. The Bolt’s top speed is governed to 91 miles per hour. The EV’s powertrain provides 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque via a one-speed automatic transmission.
With the heavy battery pack positioned beneath the cabin floor, the Bolt has a lower center of gravity than the Volt, which gives the car a solid feel. When you shift the Bolt into Sport mode, it adds even more driving excitement. And there’s a Low gear setting that maximizes the regenerative braking so the car slows down to a stop without needing to use the brake pedal. The combination of Sport mode and Low create both an enjoyable and efficient driving experience.
Volt: Car publications, such as Edmunds and MotorTrend, peg the Volt’s zero-to-60 performance at about 7.5 seconds. Its 101-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine and its pair of electric motors combine to produce 149 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque.
The second-generation Volt, which was introduced in 2016, operates more like a traditional hybrid than the first-gen model, finding the best combination of electric and gas power for maximum efficiency and performance, depending on the driver’s inputs and road conditions. Even when the battery is depleted, the Volt could pull power from the electric motor to exclusively operate the car under 15 miles per hour. Similarly, the gas engine could contribute torque when power is needed, even though the battery pack is not yet depleted. The Volt’s driving manners are also hybrid-like because it uses a smooth continuously-variable transmission (CVT), whereas the Bolt deploys a more responsive single-speed all-electric transmission.
Winner: Chevy Bolt
The Bolt reaches 60 mph about one second faster than the Volt.
Charging Times for The Bolt and Volt
Bolt: Plugging in an electric car takes about 10 seconds. After you pull into your garage or driveway, you simply reach for the connector from a wall-mounted 240-volt charging unit and place it in the Bolt’s inlet on the driver-side front panel. This assumes that you have access to a home charging station, which commonly costs a few hundred dollars to purchase and install. With the Bolt’s 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger, you can add about 25 miles of driving range in one hour. When charging at home, the cost for the equivalent of a gallon of gas is about one dollar, although it varies depending on where you live.
The Bolt has a big, 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack. On the rare days when you arrive home on an empty battery, it would take a full overnight charge of eight to nine hours to restore all 238 miles of driving range. But in a typical day of driving of about 40 miles, it takes less than two hours to restore the full supply of energy. It’s possible – but not advisable – to rely on a regular 110-volt charge that only adds about four miles of driving range per hour.
Chevy also offers an optional $750 fast-charging port for the Bolt. This could be helpful for road trips because it allows you to add about 90 miles of range in around 30 minutes from certain types of public chargers. The fast charger can be extremely helpful for a trip of 300 to 400 miles. But even with the fast-charging port, road trips require planning a route with highway-based charging stations that use the CCS standard.
Volt: The beauty of a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt is that it eliminates so-called range anxiety. If the Volt’s 18.4-kWh, 53-mile battery pack gets depleted, just spin over to a gas station and fill ‘er up. You can travel coast to coast using the Volt’s 42-mpg gas engine, just like you would take a road trip with an internal combustion car.
However, for nearly every day of the year, you can charge up at home, thereby avoiding the need to go to a gas station or spew emissions from the tailpipe. Many Chevy Volt owners say they visit a gas station only two or three times a year.
The 2019 Chevrolet Volt offers the same 7.2-kilowatt charging speed as the Chevy Bolt. Considering that the Volt’s battery is less than one-third the size as what’s on the Bolt, you can refill the pack with a 240-volt source in less than 2.5 hours. If you have can charge during the day, then your Volt’s battery is even less likely to run out of energy, so you can stay in electric mode longer. The 7.2-kW system is standard on the Volt Premier. It’s optional on the Volt LT, though, which otherwise would take twice as long to charge using a 3.6-kW charger.
Given the Volt’s relatively small battery pack and backup gas engine, the quick-charging capability is unnecessary.
The Bolt and Volt use the same 7.2-kW charger so the rate of restoring range is the same.
Comparing Passenger and Cargo Space
Bolt: The Chevrolet Bolt is a tall, upright compact hatchback. But it’s interior space measuring 94.4 cubic feet is bigger than you might expect. It has an upright, SUV-like high driver position with excellent visibility.
The five-seat Bolt EV comfortably seats two adults in the back – or three people can squeeze in with reasonable space for short trips. Because there’s not a tunnel running down the center of the floor, the middle seat in the back has good foot room. However, the cushions are somewhat flat.
With all the seats up and in use, there are 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space. The Bolt offers 60/40 folding seats to create more space. Knock down all the seats for an SUV-like 56.6 cubic feet of cargo space.
Volt: The Chevy Volt is a low-slung, sedan-like compact. Its length is 180.4 inches compared to the Bolt’s more stubby 164 inches. The Volt’s wheelbase is also nearly four inches longer. However, the Volt’s 90.2 cubic feet of passenger volume is four cubes smaller than the Bolt, and you feel it. The Volt’s cabin is also lower to the ground with a height measurement of 56.4 inches compared to the Bolt’s 62.9 inches.
The Volt nominally has five seats, but the middle rear seat is very tight because of the battery tunnel. Thick roof pillars also compromise driver visibility some drivers. The Volt offers a modest 10.6 cubic feet of cargo space, significantly less than what the Bolt provides. When you fold down the Volt’s seats, the cargo area expands to an estimated 30 cubic feet. (GM doesn’t provide the exact number.)
Winner: Chevy Bolt.
The Bolt looks smaller from the outside but provides more interior space than the Volt.
The Price For a Bolt Versus a Volt
Bolt: The Bolt EV is available in two trim levels: the base LT at $36,620 and the Premier trim for $40,905. Most shoppers will qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as some state and local incentives depending on where you live. The two trim levels use the same powertrain and differ mostly on cabin and safety features.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier includes leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel, as well as Surround Vision (for a bird’s-eye view of the car’s surroundings), blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors. The LT is well equipped with a 10.2-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Proximity-key entry and push-button start, a Backup camera, and 4G LTE with mobile Wi-Fi. A Comfort and Convenience package can be added for $550, bringing heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The $500 Driver Confidence package, meanwhile, provides blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
The Bolt starts as low as $29,995, after the federal tax credit (excluding destination charges).
Volt: The base Chevy Volt LT begins at $33,220, a few thousand dollars less than the Bolt’s starting price. The upper-trim Volt Premier at $37,570 also beats the sticker for the Bolt Premier. The Volt Premier adds an eight-speaker Bose audio system, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and automatic parking assist. Volt customers also have the option of the Driver Confidence and Comfort packages available on the Bolt.
The Volt starts as low as $26,595 after the federal tax credit (excluding destination charges).
Winner: Chevy Volt
The Volt costs less than the Bolt.
Bolt vs. Volt: By The Numbers
|Chevy Bolt||Chevy Volt|
|Electric Driving Range||238 miles||53 miles|
|Battery Size||60 kilowatt-hours||18.4 kilowatt-hours|
|0 - 60 MPH||6.5 seconds||7.5 seconds|
|Onboard Charger||7.2 kilowatts||7.2 kilowatts|
|Interior Space||94.4 cubic feet||90.2 cubic feet|
|Starting Price (before incentives)||$36,620||$33,220|
**Note: Our apologies for the red font in the graphic above. We are currently experiencing some technical TablePress issues.
As you can see, the two vehicles might have nearly identical names but they are quite different. Nonetheless, based on all their respective features, we can declare an overall winner and the best car for different types of drivers.
Best Overall: Bolt
The Chevrolet Bolt’s combination of long-distance electric driving, fun behind the wheel, and creature comforts give it a decisive edge over the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. However, until there is ubiquitous fast-charging along major highway routes, the Volt is a better choice for drivers who frequently take to the open road for long journeys, don’t have access to a 240-volt charger, or those who tend to worry about driving range.
Best for Drivers Taking Frequent Long-Distance Road Trips: Volt
Best Value Especially If You Can Charge Throughout the Day: Volt
Best If You Want to Entirely Dump the Pump: Bolt