But who is really to blame?
The Chevrolet Volt was a brilliant car launched in the wrong era. It didn't last long, and as a result, it's now costly to fix. How does $30,000 for a new battery sound?
Technically, it was a hybrid with a 16-kWh battery pack in first-gen guise. That model also had a small 1.4-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder under the hood and could be plugged in to charge up the battery. That technically makes it a plug-in hybrid, but the ICE component was hardly ever used to power the wheels. Instead, it powered an onboard generator, which substantially increased the range. When running on a fully charged battery, the early Volt had an all-electric range of up to 35 miles and a total range of 380 miles based on 2012 EPA ratings. If your commute was short enough, you could go for quite some time without having to recharge.
A quote from Roger Dean Chevrolet in Florida recently went viral after the dealership wanted to charge a 2012 Volt owner a staggering $29,842 to replace the 16-kWh battery. That's $26,853 for the battery, $33,98 for coolant, $40 for shop supplies, and $1,200 in labor.
The quote obviously raised a few eyebrows. For $30,000, you can buy at least two used Volts with less than 90,000 miles on the clock. Plus, Volts are generally known for being robust vehicles, and various owner forums claim that you should be able to get 300,000 miles without incurring any exorbitant repair costs. It's one of the main reasons why the Volt is one of the best used purchases out there.
At first, it was thought to be a hoax, but the famous fact-checking website, Snopes, quickly confirmed that it was indeed real. Volt fans quickly turned to online outrage, which seems to be the most effective tool in the consumer's arsenal these days. The online community soon started spamming every post Roger Dean Chevrolet made, and eventually, it caved and provided a response on Facebook.
"This is an estimate for a 12-year-old vehicle out of warranty and for a battery that is extremely hard to get due to the older technology of the 12-year-old vehicle. The dealership does not set battery prices. In the newer EV or EUV vehicles with newer technology, the batteries do cost less. Think of it like big screen TVs. Remember when the first big screen came out, they were very expensive, and as the technology advanced, the prices became better. This battery is also out of warranty of 8yr/100k miles, whatever hits first," said the dealer.
If you Google the part code for the first-generation Volt battery, you'll see that it has been discontinued. It was a genuine GM part, assembled at the Brownstown Battery Pack Assembly Plant in Detroit. Since that route is no longer available, the dealer had to rely on an unnamed third-party supplier, which likely builds Volt replacement batteries to order.
This is not an isolated case and certainly not limited to Chevrolet. Earlier this year, a UK man was quoted $20,000 to replace the battery on his eight-year-old Mercedes-Benz E-Class hybrid.
The case of the nearly $30,000 Volt battery perfectly demonstrates one of the critical problems with EVs. The technology is advancing at a stellar rate, and cars quickly become obsolete. Chevrolet is on the verge of launching three next-generation electric vehicles, including the Silverado 1500 EV, Blazer EV, and Equinox EV.
Still, we think it should have at least kept on manufacturing Volt batteries until the passing of the average lifespan of a vehicle in the USA, which currently stands at 12 years.