Consumers snubbed the Chevrolet Volt when it was more readily available, prompting the automaker to pare back production, but Californians are chancing their mind about the Chevy just as those decisions take hold of supply.
Now, dealers seem to be scrambling to keep enough of the fuel-efficient extended range electric cars as gas prices remain above $4 per gallon on the West Coast. Part of the problem is that Volts from other states can’t just be shipped over to meet the increased interest because they won’t meet emissions standards that restrict carpool lane access.
Currently in the state, drivers in EVs qualify for an exemption sticker that grants access to the lanes regardless of how many people are riding in the vehicle. For the Volt to qualify, Chevrolet needs to alter the car during its production, whittling engine emissions down to virtually zero — something that can’t be done post-production.
Even without stubborn gas prices, it makes sense that California is warming up to the Volt. To date, the state accounted for 23 percent of all the car’s registrations. That doesn’t mean its becoming a volume-selling vehicle, though. Even with interest piquing, the brand only managed to move 1,680 units in May.
Given the level of federal subsidies, this will surely be the time EVs have the best chance of actually catching on, but the fact remains that they’re still expensive. The Volt starts at $39,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit. In California there’s another $1,500 state tax rebate as well, but that still doesn’t make it a cheap car to buy.
Still, California is a hotbed for higher car budgets than most of the country and the demand cropping up represents a chance for Chevrolet to squeeze into a large market where domestic vehicles haven’t been popular in a long time. Given the Volt’s ability to travel long distances without the need for a charging station, it stands to have a serious leg up over cars like the Nissan Leaf which aside from driving on I5 can’t run long distances.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]