The Chevrolet VOLT is an amazing vehicle, both from the standpoint of the engineering that went into designing it, and the quality of the production and quality control that is building a superb, reliable vehicle.
Drive 30 to 50 miles (50 to 80km) in Electric mode, using energy stored in the battery.
Then the gasoline driven generator kicks in seamlessly to charge the battery, which continues to supply the energy to the electric motor driving the car.
For years the media have criticized General Motors for lack of vision, poor engineering and quality control. Now the rejuvented company has a winner with the most superbly engineered automobile presently on sale in all continental states of the U.S.A. It is the result of ten years of research and development, with earlier prototypes leased to company fleets for real life testing. Later this year the Vauxhall/Opel version, called "Ampera" will be released for sale in Europe.
The Chevrolet Volt was named 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, 2011 Green Car of the Year, 2011 North American Car of the Year, and 2011 World Green Car. It also won the 2009 Green Car Vision Award.
Any one who has driven this car is amazed by the smoothness of its drive, the pick-up when you depress the accelerator pedal, the absence of any sound or noise (other than that of the bumpy road). The comfort of the seats is outstanding, with good shoulder and hip room. However, it is a compact car, so although the front leg-room is excellent, it is somewhat cramped in the rear. In spite of the price comparable to that of any luxury small car, there is a long waiting list of buyers.
Nice little features: the head lights switch on automatically when it gets dark, the rear-view mirror dims automatically when a car comes up behind you, lots of nifty features that some Chevy salemen don't tell you.
The writer was fortunate to obtain the first 2012 model VOLT available in New Jersey, 2012 production number 217. It is a standard model with only one optional extra: a rear view camera which turns on when reverse gear is engaged. It seats 4 people, the rear seats fold down to provide extra flat cargo space, when you need it.
The VOLT is easy and fun to drive. All locks and power are controlled by a palm-size control transmitter. After adjusting seats, place the controller in the center pocket, turn on power, select desired modes for the display of the instrument panel and the touch screen information panel in the central column. Then with foot on the brake pedal move the control stick to Drive (or Reverse). Slowly release pressure on the brake pedal and the car moves up to 5 mph (8 kph). A very light touch on the accelerator pedal quickly brings the car to desired speed, a heavier pressure provides rapid acceleration. Release pressure on the pedal and the wheels turn the drive motor in generating mode, recharging the battery.
The driver's instrument panel is very clear (click to enlarge). On the left the icon shows the state of charge of the battery and the estimated miles remaining. When the battery is depleted the engine generator switches on automatically and the battery icon changes to a gasoline pump. This is the ONLY indication you have of change of mode. There is no change in quietness. At the top there is a compass. On the right side you see an indicator of driving efficiency. If the green ball is spinning in the center you are driving with best efficiency. If you push down on the accelerator the ball shoots up and stops spinning. Likewise when applying the brake the ball sinks. If you accelerate or brake too hard the ball's color changes to an angry yellow!
The lower half of the screen has several selectable modes. In the picture you see one of the two Trip Reports. The one showing in the picture was reset by the dealer after receipt of the vehicle from the factory. Another possible setting shows the air pressure in each of the tires.
The information panel on the center column has several selectable screens, all with touch screen buttons. On the left you see the Energy Usage screen which resets each time the battery is fully recharged. If you touch the top-left button "Power Flow" you will switch to the next view, which is fascinating when the car is moving.
When you press down on the accelerator pedal, you see waves of energy flowing from the battery to the motor/generator, then to the wheels. When the car is coasting or you are applying the brake, energy waves flow from the wheels to the motor/generator then on to the battery.
Other possible selections of this screen control the Climate inside the vehicle, control the Entertainment system, or the timing of Battery Charging.
You may observe from the above pictures, that in the first 20 days of ownership, the writer drove 349 miles and used 0.3 gallons of gasoline, that is 1163 miles per gallon! The car was recharged every night from a standard 115V outlet, using the standard charger included with the vehicle.
However the writer is retired and not a typical VOLT owner. Only twice in this period was the car driven more than 41 miles, when the gasoline driven generator kicked in.
|Chevrolet VOLT 2012||Nissan Leaf 2012||Toyota Prius 2011|
|Overall Length in/cm||177/450||175/444||176/446|
|Overall Width in/cm||70.4/178||69.7/177||68.7/174|
|Overall Weight lb/kg||3780/1715¹||3366/1527||3042/1380|
|Electric Motor Power kw/hp ²||111/150||80/107||60/80|
|Battery Charge Time||4 hrs @240V||7 hrs@240V||NA|
|Electric Mode Range ³, advertised/reported, mi/km||40, 30-50/64, 48-80||100, 55-80/ 160, 88-130||NA|
|Battery Type||lithium-ion||lithium-ion||nickel hydride|
|Gasoline Engine||1.4 liter, 4 cyl||NA||1.8 liter, 4cyl|
|EPA rating, gas engine only (4)||37mpg/6.4 l/100km||NA||50mpg/4.7 l/100km|
|EPA rating, combined gas/electric||60mpg/3.92 l/100km||NA||NA|
|Warranty, powertrain||100,000mi/160,000km or 5yrs||60,000mi/100,000km or 5yrs||60,000mi/100,000km or 5yrs|