Story and dash photo by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=4023
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt may define a new era of hybrid vehicles; vehicles that act like EVs but utilize a gasoline motor to fit the public's need for range and assurance. The five-door four-passenger Volt is designed to provide the benefits of an electric vehicle without the range limitations associated with other electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf.
Jump in the car and hit the power button and, as you come to expect from an electric vehicle, nary a sound can be heard. The Volt is whisper-quiet inside; the electric powertrain spools up with a muted hum and the car’s stiff structure muffles any outside wind, road, and engine noises. Yet, turn the car off and jump out and you may hear the air compressor start up to cool or warm the battery. These types of unusual and quirky characteristics give the Volt added appeal. The car is also quiet to pedestrians, even bordering on dangerously quiet, prompting GM to work with the American Federation of the Blind to incorporate a driver-activated noise feature to alert pedestrians near intersections of the car’s approach.
Besides the car’s lack of noise, it drives like most other gasoline-powered mid-sized sedans. The steering is direct although numb and despite the green-nature of the car, it has good grip with minimal body roll. The Volt has a little bit of a dead area upon first contact with the accelerator but provides perfectly adequate propulsion if pushed, allowing one to easily enter highway traffic without worries of being run over. The Volt’s electric drive produces 149 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, taking it zero-to-60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds, through the quarter mile in less than 17.0 seconds, and on to a top speed of 100 mph. As a result of the car’s regenerative braking system, the brakes are grabby and braking power does fluctuate despite consistent braking pressure.
Under the hood, you will find a mass of large orange wires connecting the small engine to the electric motors. It may be a little intimidating to those that prefer to change their own oil (which can be once every two years in the Volt). GM’s Voltec propulsion system provides a pure electric range between 25 and 40 miles. Our test car estimated that the gasoline engine would extend that range another 250 miles. GM says the car is capable of 379 miles on a full tank of fuel and a fuel charge.
To provide such a range, during development, every major element of the Volt was designed for efficiency. This includes its aerodynamic exterior, lightweight wheels, specially designed tires, and energy-saving premium stereo system. So much emphasis was placed on the car’s ability to cut through the wind that Chevy says the Volt is the most aerodynamic sedan in the company’s history. By reducing the energy needed to overcome air resistance, Volt aerodynamicists contributed an estimated eight miles to the electric range and 50 miles to the extended range. The car’s aerodynamic efficiency does come with one drawback: a flexible but still breakable air deflector under the car’s front bumper gives the car a rather low ground clearance.
Inside, two seven-inch full-color screens dominate the dashboard. One screen is located where you would normally find the instrument cluster and provides more important information like the car’s electric-only range, extended-range, and tire pressure. A second screen at the top of the center console serves as a redundant touch screen for infotainment and cabin climate controls. It can also access, through a Leaf button above the power button, live energy usage and a power-flow graphic displays. Still we prefer the touch screen controls to the mass of buttons that travel down the center console from the center screen. That is because car’s interior follows a trend in automotive annoyance. Like the new 2011 Ford Explorer we tested, the Volt’s center dash is filled with buttons that are flush with the rest of the console and provide no feedback. The hit detection of these buttons is inconsistent as well. Go quickly to lower the car’s A/C fan speed, and you will find yourself repeatedly tapping the blue down arrow as some hits are registered in succession while others go unnoticed. The backseat is comfortable for short stints for two full-sized adults and the car does feature enough convenient space for larger loads thanks to its five-door hatchback design and 40/40 rear-folding seats.
The Volt comes with its own charging system including eight or so feet of electric cord. Parking farther away will require multiple extension cords to be run out to the car. Plug in the Volt and a green light will glow on the car’s center dash, letting you and any passersby know that the car is recharging. When fully charged, that same light blinks green. The car’s vehicle theft system will also alarm you if anyone attempts to tamper with the car’s side of the charge cord. The car will completely recharge in 10 to 12 hours on a standard 120V outlet. Access to a 240V outlet will reduce that time to four hours. A power management system allows owners to further reduce the cost of ownership by allowing the owner to schedule the car’s charging times. Once the vehicle is plugged in, owners can schedule either immediate or delayed charges according to departure time or during off-peak rates. Owners also can manage and monitor the Volt remotely online or through a downloadable phone application.
CVT mostly operates like a 1-speed
The first EV compatible with what the public demands
A little pricey for something designed to save you money