Bolt, Volt. Chevrolet’s two electrified models sound a lot alike, but they’re completely different cars. The Bolt is an all-electric car, meaning it does not run on gasoline and relies exclusively on electricity to move forward.
Now well into its second generation, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid car equipped with a four-cylinder engine that takes over when the battery runs out of electricity. If you’re not sure which one to choose, read on for our Chevy Bolt vs. Volt comparison highlighting design, technology, performance, and safety.
An electric car is, by definition, a high-tech vehicle. To that end, even the base version of the Chevy Bolt comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen integrated in the dashboard, Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility. Music plays through a six-speaker sound system. The optional infotainment package offered on the Premier trim bundles a nicer, seven-speaker sound system made by Bose, a wireless phone charger, and two USB charging ports for the passengers sitting in the back.
Chevrolet also bundles in a 4G LTE connection that connects up to seven devices — though it’s only active if users pay extra for a data plan — and Chevrolet Connected Access, which gives the driver access to an array of useful information including vehicle diagnostics and dealer maintenance notifications.
The Chevy Volt offers the same level of standard equipment as the Bolt, though its touchscreen is a smaller eight-inch unit. It boasts a clever app called Energy that shows how driving style, weather conditions, and cabin comfort settings (like the A/C or the heated seats) can affect electric-only range. In terms of tech features, both models stand proud near the top of their respective segments.
All electric, the Bolt uses a 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 150-kW motor. In more familiar terms, the hatchback produces 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Its 3,580-pound weight makes it rather portly for a compact car, though it’s on the lighter side of the spectrum for an electric car. Chevrolet quotes a range of up to 238 miles, but your mileage will vary depending on how you drive, where you live, and what you routinely carry.
Charging times are ballpark estimates, too. Chevrolet says a full charge takes approximately nine hours when using a 240-volt home charger, but about 24 hours when the Bolt draws electricity at the rate of four drivable miles per hour through a standard 120-volt outlet. Fast-charging stations can zap the battery pack with about 90 miles of range in 30 minutes.
The main part of the Volt’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain consists of a pair of electric motors that jointly deliver 149 hp and 294 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels. They draw electricity from an 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that stores enough juice to power the car for up to 53 miles. If your commute is shorter than that, you could theoretically never have to put gasoline in it.
The other half of the powertrain comes to life when the battery runs out of juice. It’s a 101-horsepower, 1.5-liter EcoTec four-cylinder engine that fires up automatically when it senses the motors are drawing the battery’s last electrons and acts as a generator to top up the battery pack. This gasoline-electric setup provides a useful 420-mile range before needing to fill up or stop for a charge.
Regenerative braking captures the kinetic energy generated during braking and channels it back to the battery pack, though it’s not enough to power the car on its own. Charging the Volt’s battery pack takes a whopping 13 hours when using a 120-volt outlet or 2.3 hours when plugged into a 240-volt power source. Achieving a 2.3-hour charge requires the quick charger that’s standard on the Premier model and offered at an extra cost on the LT trim. Chevrolet cautiously points out the actual charge time may vary depending on factors like the weather.
Automakers routinely talk about how electrification opens up new possibilities in terms of design, but Chevrolet decided to play it safe this time around. It’s the company’s first series-produced electric car so straying too far from the mainstream could alienate buyers — Audi came to the same conclusion when it developed the E-Tron. The Bolt looks very much like a conventional car in both shape and design; nothing about it screams “I’m electric!” It’s more toned-down than the Leaf, one of its main rivals in the electric car segment. It falls in line with Chevrolet’s current design language inside and out.
Gray grille inserts make the Volt look more futuristic than its electric sibling. In profile, the body looks like an evolution of the first-generation model, which in turn drew inspiration from the Toyota Prius. The roof line peaks right above the driver and gently slopes down towards a small spoiler directly below the rear window. It’s not just about style; the design makes the Volt more aerodynamic than a comparable three-box sedan and, consequently, more efficient.
The Bolt blurs the line between a tall hatchback and a crossover. We’re inclined to go with the former, while Chevrolet doggedly sticks with the latter. At any rate, it stretches 164 inches long, 69.5 inches wide, and 62.8 inches tall. It can carry 16.9 cubic feet of trunk space. The Volt is more of a conventional sedan with a sweeping roof line and a hatch added for practicality. Its measurements check in at 180.4 inches long, 71.2 inches wide, and 56.4 inches tall. It offers 10.6 cubic feet of trunk space, a dismal figure even subcompact hatchbacks like the Kia Rio manage to beat.
Every Bolt regardless of trim level comes with dual front, side, and curtain airbags in addition to knee airbags for both front passengers. It also comes with traction and stability control systems, plus the peace of mind of Chevrolet’s OnStar technology. The Volt comes with the exact same set of safety features. Both cars received a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The 2018 Bolt carries a base price of $37,495 after Chevrolet adds a mandatory $875 destination charge. Think of it as shipping and handling for cars. The Volt’s technology isn’t as expensive, so pricing starts at $34,395 with the same destination charge added in. The story doesn’t end there, though.
Certain buyers qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. This is designed to help offset the additional cost of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and convince hesitant buyers to go green. In some states, buyers benefit from additional incentives. Combined, the federal and state incentives can knock about $10,000 off the price of a Bolt, bringing its price down to a more palatable $27,495. The Volt falls to $24,395.