Chevrolet Volt

2014 Chevrolet Volt

An electric car for any occasion.

By: Anthony Fongaro | August 2014

 

Electric cars are the future! (According to some people). As we run out of fossil fuels, alternative vehicles like electric powered cars are becoming more popular. Mostly every automaker has either a hybrid or electric car in their lineup. Chevrolet isn’t immune to the alternative powered car craze and one of their vehicles to help people be “green” is their Volt.

From the outside, the Volt looks like any other hybrid. Under the hood is both a gas and electric motor. But, the Volt isn't called a hybrid. In fact, it's billed as an "extended-range electric vehicle (or EV for short)." So what does this mean and should you consider the Volt? I took probably the quietest test drive I've ever had and this is what I found out.

Is this similar to the almighty Toyota Prius?

No. The Volt doesn't work the same way as a Prius. In fact, the Volt isn't like anything I've ever driven before. Unlike a Prius or any other hybrid, the gas engine doesn't power the wheels. Only the electric motor does. The Volt actually has two electric motors. One powers the wheels and the other generates electricity from the gas engine. When the Volt has all of its electricity stored up, it can run without the gas engine for a claimed 38 miles. Only after you've used up all the electricity does the gas engine turn on to assist with generating more electricity. This is an electric car with its own onboard power supply. How interesting does that sound?

Very interesting! Tell me more about this (these) engine(s).

For starters, the Volt has a 16.5kWh battery pack propelled by an 111kW (149 hp) electric motor which also has 370 Nm (273 lb-ft). Along with this is a 1.4L gas engine producing 80 hp (60 kW) that powers a 55 kW (74 hp) generator to extend the Volt’s range once the main electric motor is out of electricity. The gas engine does run on premium fuel but it’s a small price to pay if you can run mostly on electricity in the first place. I know you are wondering “what happens to the fuel if you don’t ever have to use it?” Well, the brain of the Volt will have you run the gas engine once every few months so the fuel doesn’t go bad. All of this is combined with a CVT transmission for maximum efficiency. Is this a very complicated set-up? Yes. Does it work? Yes it does. After the drive, the car was telling me that I was doing 55 mpg. I have no idea how it calculated that out since it was on EV mode the entire time but what can you do? If you’re want to know, EV mode is the default mode where the electric motor works by itself before it runs out of electricity. This car also has a record of someone getting 88 mpg.

Is it as slow as a hybrid?

Technically…yes. Even though this has many engines, there isn’t a lot of horsepower to offset the bulk of the batteries. As a result, the Volt gets from 0-60mph in a dizzying 9.2 seconds. While that won’t worry a Ford C-Max owner (8.8 seconds to 60mph), it is quicker than both a Toyota Prius and a Nissan Leaf (10.0 seconds to 60mph each). Handling is typical of the hybrid/electric car segment which means not the best. There is a good amount of body roll and if you’ve never driven a car with a battery as its primary or secondary engine, you’ll have to get used to the regenerative brakes. Electric cars aren’t known to be light and the Volt sticks to that tradition. In fact it weighs 3,794 lbs (1,721 kg). The interesting thing is that it doesn’t feel slow to drive. Since this is electric, you get instant torque off the line and the power delivery is extremely smooth with the CVT. If you want to, there is a Hybrid mode that turns on the gas engine but I would just stick with EV mode. Fun little fact: this car does actually have a “sport” mode which I think could be the most stupid and pointless thing to have for a Volt. Why have a Sport mode on an electric car? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Sport mode doesn’t really change the dynamics of the car, it just makes it so the gas engine works harder aka lowering your mpg.

It actually looks good.

I would agree. The exterior doesn't scream "Look at me! I'm an electric car!" apart from some Volt logos with a lightning bolt in the "V". The Volt's exterior flows quite well with the front end looking the best. There is a sense of presence with the Volt and I appreciate that the designers didn't create a boring exterior. One little nitpick: the reverse light. There is only one and it’s on the bottom of the car. It makes the rear end look confused. Moving on to inside.

The future…of dashboards.

When you first get behind the wheel, you see that there are two screens. The one in front of the driver has a bunch of information that will take you a few moments to get used to. Included in this view are the speedometer, battery range, fuel range, different modes and a green ball. The green ball is there to help you drive calmly so if the ball is in the center of the column it’s in, you’re not accelerating or breaking hard. There is no tachometer because it’s not necessary. The other screen has all your other information such as the sat-nav, audio, and climate controls. All the buttons you see on the center counsel are touch sensitive. Really, the only conventional parts are the steering wheel which is still round and has many buttons and the gear shifter which moves backwards and forwards. 

Will four of my friends and myself fit in a Volt?

Legally, no. The Volt only comes as a four-seater since the middle bit has some more batteries in it. Also, if you plan on getting a Volt make sure you get a back-up camera. The Volt looks good but those looks compromise rear visibility.

And…the price?

Volts start at $34,170. The one I tested cost $38,070. Hybrid and electric cars are not at the point where you can say they are “inexpensive” and the Volt, once again, falls right into that stereotype. After tax, title, and license, $40k is a lot of money for a four-seater family car but there is always the government tax credit of up to $7,500 for buying an electric car.

You seem to really like.

This is a really cool car. I do like the technology and think that out of regular hybrids, extended-range EVs, and pure electric cars, extended-range EVs are the best.

But…

I do still have my concerns with servicing the car as with the life expectancy of the batteries. Now if $38k seems like a lot, don’t worry because these things depreciate faster than they regenerate electricity. You can find Volts that are one to two years old for less than $25k. That’s almost a $10k savings on a car that may have only done 20,000 miles. 

Final verdict:

Exterior: 9/10

This is one of the best looking electric cars on the market. You do stand out in a crowd when you park.

Interior: 6/10

I do like the futuristic dashboard with all the different readouts. The cabin is a bit cramped with only four seats and there are some visibility issues.

Performance: 6/10

While the Volt wasn’t designed to be a Corvette with extra batteries, it is average in performance and handling. Pure electric driving makes the car feel faster.

Fuel economy: 9/10

Every website or magazine that has driven a Volt will say that your results for fuel economy depends on the charge of the battery, amount of fuel, position of the moon, and about 48 other parameters. I did (apparently) 55mpg and am quite pleased with that.

Value for money: 6/10

Seems a bit high for an almost $40,000 hatch back with only four seats, but with the tax credit and the amount of fuel you’re saving, I think the price isn’t that bad. You get a good amount of kit and technically two engines.

Total: 7.2/10

I was very skeptical before I drove the Volt. I’m still skeptical about pure electric cars and think that hybrids aren’t worth the extra premium over their non-hybrid models if you buy them new. The Volt; however, is the best of both worlds. It’s a silent driving EV in a great looking body.  For that, I deem this a Gr8 Ride! Even if you’re not in the market for a hybrid or EV, try the Volt out. It may surprise you. (Then when you’re done, try to drive the Corvette Stingray sitting next to it).

1. Exterior Photo:  http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/06/2014-chevrolet-volt-getting-2-0l-turbo-rumor.html

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