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Holden Volt: What happened to it?

The Holden Volt was an early adopters dream - it was the first plug-in hybrid from a mainstream brand to be sold in Australia.

​If the Holden Volt was guilty of anything, it was of being ahead of its time.

To see why, you need to flashback to 2010 in Australia. Holden's local engineers were working feverishly on a new Commodore, the VF. Customers were still buying the home-grown brute, and our collective motoring palate was still running toward big cars.

And right in the middle of this festival of fuel, Holden's sister brand in the US, Chevrolet, was working on something very, very different; the Volt. A plug-in hybrid based on the Cruze platform, it became the Holden Volt when it launched in Australia in 2012, and it was genuinely cutting-edge.

A plug-in hybrid, you say? Ho hum. But this one was different.

Where most range-extender vehicles allow you to use battery power until they run flat, and then shifts to conventional petrol power until you plug it in to recharge, the Volt's petrol engine (a 1.4-litre unit) was only ever used to recharge the batteries on the fly, and never actually powered the wheels.

The batteries alone could deliver up to 80 kilometres of range, but with the engine working as a mobile recharging station, that number was increased to 300km. It also meant that the Volt was technically always an EV, just with an engine that acts as a generator to keep the batteries humming wherever you go.

Clever, right? And the future-facing stuff continued in the cabin, too. Think twin 7.0-inch screens, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, a DVD player and a Bose sound system with speakers that were 50 per cent more efficient than a regular stereo.

But keep in mind the market at the time. Holden's traditional audience couldn't give two hoots about green motoring, unless that green was whatever bright shade the new HSV arrived in. Not helping matters was the price, with the hybrid electric Volt arriving with a whopping $59,990 price tag.

The point is, nobody invested in a Volt. Seriously, Holden shifted around 250 cars total between 2012 and 2015. In fact, in the first four months of 2015 (it was canned in April), Holden shifted just seven examples. Writing clearly on the wall, Holden declared it wouldn't be offering a local version of the updated model, which is actually still on sale in the US wearing a Chevrolet badge.

The batteries alone could deliver up to 80 kilometres of range, but with the engine working as a mobile recharging station, that number was increased to 300km. The batteries alone could deliver up to 80 kilometres of range, but with the engine working as a mobile recharging station, that number was increased to 300km.

Which is a shame, really, because the market turned its attention to EVs soon after, with plug-in hybrid or pure EVs either in market or incoming from just about every significant brand. From the all-electric Jaguar iPace to the long awaited Tesla Model 3, consumer interest in green motoring has never been stronger, even if that interest is yet to translate to out-and-out sales.

You could try shopping for a second-hand Volt, but good luck; for one, there were so few of them sold to begin with, and so the second-hand market is hardly massive. But for once, you won't have to worry about tales of battery deterioration bringing ever-lower range expectations. Because at the time of writing there is not a single Volt currently listed for sale anywhere in the country.

So, is that the end of Holden's EV vision in Australia? Not so much. Parent company General Motors has already announced plans to launch as many as 20 EV or fuel-cell vehicles by 2023, and Holden's hand will be back in the air when that time comes.

First cab off the EV rank could well be the Chevrolet Bolt - a 400km-range, all-electric hatchback which is already being tested here. The current Bolt is left-hand-drive only, but the new generation, due in 2022, is expected to be offered with a steering wheel on either side of the car.

Was it a mistake for the Holden Volt to launch when it did? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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