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Opinion
Edward Niedermeyer

Chevy's Volt and Obama's Green Legacy

When the history books are written about Barack Obama's tenure as commander in chief, the Chevrolet Volt will doubtless be remembered as the most important car of his presidency.
Looking for a jolt.

Looking for a jolt.

Photographer: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

When the history books are written about Barack Obama's tenure as commander in chief, the Chevrolet Volt will doubtless be remembered as the most important car of his presidency. Like selfies, secular stagnation and the Tea Party, General Motors's plug-in hybrid is inextricably linked with the America of the last seven years.

Like Obama himself, the Volt was cast as a reinvention, a new kind of player that could bridge the gap between zero-emissions electric-car enthusiasts and traditional car buyers. But like candidate Obama's promise of a post-partisan political order, the Volt's bold compromise between "green car" innovation and everyday practicality unraveled nearly from its debut in 2010 and only deepened the divides it sought to heal. With the first-generation Volt now ending production after building just a fraction of its projected volume, the Volt seems destined to become an enduring symbol of the Obama administration's surprisingly divisive legacy.