To know is to love
There currently isn't another vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt on sale in Canada. Ford plans to bring a plug-in electric Fusion to market in the fall of 2012 as a 2013. Interestingly enough other electric cars such as the Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan LEAF are all considered as comparable vehicles.
Electric vehicles are defined as using an electric motor (my electrical friends tell me that motor is the correct term and that engines use other sources of fuel) to power the wheels. How the electricity is provided is what makes the Chevrolet Volt distinctive.
Lighting up your life
Charging the 196-kg battery pack on the grid can be done by either an external 220-volt charging station, which takes about four hours, or by an internal 110-volt system, which takes up to 12 hours if the battery is absolutely flat. Off the grid, a 1.4L on-board gasoline engine powers the motor and charges the battery when required.
It is this 1.4L gasoline engine that creates the extended-range part of the designation. Chevrolet claims that if you had to run the entire time on the gas engine, you could go 500 km. When you add in the 80 km from the battery, you get a range of 580 km.
By installing a gasoline engine, Chevrolet believes the Volt offers the best of all automotive worlds. If you charge up at home and head out for work, you can get up to 80 km on the electric charge in the battery. If your journey is longer or you get stuck in traffic, you don't need to hunt down one of the rare charging stations to be able to get home. If you do go onto the gas engine, you have still contributed considerably fewer emissions than a gasoline-only car.
With a bit of route planning and a driver tune-up (you really do need to relearn driving habits to get the most out of a Volt), I was able to make nearly a full 80 km on the battery charge. My fuel consumption readout came down to about 1.4L/100km for my trip.
The best part of this is that I managed to do this without being a rolling roadblock. Keep in mind that this was in light traffic, not rush hour and I was able to do all the good stuff like ease smoothly away from stoplights and use extra regenerative braking when slowing down.
A True Sleeper
One of my concerns, and of many others, is the degradation of the driving experience. No more thunderous blasts from the stoplight or aggressive cornering! Somebody forgot to tell the Chevrolet engineers that this was supposed to be a boring car. I admit it can be, if the owner is boring to start with.
Power from a stop is impressive since an electric motor produces maximum torque at full load and zero shaft speed. Put the transmission in low range and there is an additional torque multiplier as well as added regenerative braking. Do this and that muscle car beside you is in for a surprise. You may not win, but you aren't going to be far behind either.
If you choose to dive into a few corners, the low rolling resistance tires will start to moan long before the front end comes loose. Back off a bit and the noise goes away, serenity returns and you still go fast around corners. The Chevrolet Volt rewards smooth, energy conservative driving, not necessarily slow driving.
Modern Effective Design
Except for the badging on this five-door hatchback, you would never know that it is an electric car. Front grille and fascia as well as the tail are definitely identifiable as Chevrolet. Front and rear doors are cut generously into the sculpted sides and the roof line stays high until past the rear seat.
By keeping the battery pack in the centre of the car where the driveshaft hump would normally be, and by being a hatchback, the Chevrolet Volt actually has a decent-size cargo area. The only possible drawback to this system is that this is definitely a four-seat car, although all seats are comfortable with adequate space for long trip comfort.
The instrument cluster is definitely a bit on the PlayStation side, right down to a floating ball that tells how well you are driving; the objective is to keep the ball in the circle for maximum practical electrical usage.
I gather that some of my confederates don't like the Chevrolet Volt. I do, but maybe I'm just a bit crazier than they are and willing to try new ideas! The only concern I have towards sales is that I think Chevrolet, which used to offer the entry-level vehicles of General Motors, has missed its price point. At current MSRP, sales volume will not be as brisk as hoped for.
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