2011 Chevrolet Volt Test drive and new car review 2011 Chevrolet Volt

25 Мар 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2011 Chevrolet Volt Test drive and new car review 2011 Chevrolet Volt отключены
Chevrolet Electric Cars

Is this the EV for everyone?

Welcome to the future — at least the future as seen by General Motors. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is a most unusual car: A battery-powered electric vehicle (EV) that you charge at home. Drive it until the battery is depleted — about forty miles, give or take — and it fires up a gasoline-fueled engine-generator set to keep you going for another 300 miles or so. The Volt is a technical tour de force — but is it a car Americans can actually live with?

Read on. $41,000 base, $43,675 as tested, EPA fuel economy estimates TBD.

First Glance: Who needs it?

Like everything else General Motors does, the Volt is bound to be controversial. So let’s cut right to the chase: Is the Volt any good? The answer is it depends.

The Volt’s unique selling point is its ability to run on battery power for around 40 miles, switch over to gasoline when the battery runs out, and get plugged in for a nightly recharge. So whether the Volt is any good depends on how you use it. If you commute during the week, travel on weekends, and put 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year on your car, then you’re a great candidate for Volt ownership.

If your career as a home sewage consultant frequently sees you driving 100+ miles to job sites, or if you work from home and only drive a few miles a week, then the Volt doesn’t make much sense. It’s as simple as that.

Cost is an important consideration, because the Volt starts at $41,000 and can rise as high as $44,680 with options. (Buyers get a one-time federal tax credit of $7,500, reducing the out-of-pocket price to $33,500 — $37,180.) Chevy also offers a lease for $2,500 down and $350 per month for 36 months. Neither price includes the 240 volt charging station (link goes to photo), which costs $490 plus around $1,500 to install. (The Volt can be charged from an ordinary 110V household outlet, but charge time is 10-12 hours versus 4 hours for the 240V charger.)

Electricity costs for the Volt will vary, but GM figures the nationwide average for a full charge will be around $1.50, or just under $50/month. Once the Volt switches over to gasoline power, it gets anywhere between 30 and 40 miles per gallon. So as you can see, the Volt delivers the best value to drivers who can make the most out of the Volt’s battery range.

In the Driver’s Seat: Tight quarters

Volt dash — note the LCD screen in place of a traditional gauge panel

Photo Aaron Gold

I’ve always liked the look of the Volt; shame that some of the cooler paint colors cost $500 to $1,000 extra. Inside, the Volt was smaller than I expected, and I found the narrow front seats rather constricting. The slender buckets come courtesy of the T-shape battery pack, which runs through the Volt’s central tunnel and likewise bisects the rear seat.

Headroom in the back is limited, but the trunk. though small (10.6 cubic feet), is boxy and free of obstructions, so it easily accommodates groceries or suitcases. My test car had a $1,395 option package that included leather upholstery, heated front seats, and an odd psychedelic pattern on the door panels.

The Volt has an LCD screen in place of traditional gauges; a second touch-screen display sits atop the center stack and controls the standard navigation system as well as the A/C and stereo. The center stack itself employs a futuristic touch-sensitive panel instead of regular buttons — a neat idea, I thought, until I tried to program the nav system. I couldn’t figure out why the climate control screen kept randomly popping up, until I realized that the heel of my hand was triggering the touch panel.

On the Road: What the Volt really does

Driving the Volt is easy: Step on the brake, push the POWER button, shift into Drive and off you go. Flooring the accelerator brings the smooth, steady stream of power that only pure electric cars can deliver — a feeling not unlike a jet plane accelerating down the runway. 0-60 takes around 8.5 seconds, but passing and merging acceleration is better than that number suggests.

What sets the Volt apart from regular hybrid cars is that as long as the battery is charged, the gas engine never starts. Contrast that to hybrids like the Toyota Prius. which have an EV mode but rely on their gasoline engines for heavy power demands such as full-throttle acceleration. Not so the Volt — in fact, it’s theoretically possible that a Volt owner, even one with a lead foot, would never need the gas engine.

In that situation, the engine is programmed to start and run every few weeks to prevent the gas in the tank from going stale or the engine from seizing due to lack of use.

Chevrolet Electric Cars

Once the battery runs low — range varies between 25 and 50 miles depending on driving style; I saw about 45 miles with the A/C off — the Volt stats its 1.4 liter engine. which generates electricity for the electric drive motor. The engine could run at a constant speed, but the Volt’s engineers thought that would create an unsettling driving experience, so the engine revs rise and fall with power demand, just like in a Prius. The engine can also assist the electric motor by feeding power directly into the driveline, which under certain circumstances delivers better efficiency than running solely on engine-generated electricity.

The engine/generator produces less power than the main motor can consume, so the Volt keeps a reserve charge in the battery to boost acceleration as needed. Like a traditional hybrid, the Volt also uses regenerative braking to charge the battery as the car slows down. The engine is not meant to recharge the battery, as doing so would be less efficient than plugging in ; the one exception is when climbing long, steep hills, when the electric drive motor might require more power than the engine/generator can produce.

So the Volt has a driver-selectable Mountain mode, which runs the engine at higher speed to partially charge the battery and ensure you can cross those 9,000 foot passes at 70 MPH.

Journey’s End: A huge leap forward

Volt looks great in red; too bad this paint color is a $995 extra-cost option

Photo General Motors

What sets the Volt apart is that it’s basically a fully-functional electric car that isn’t tethered to an outlet. While environmentalists will no doubt flock to it like aging bikers to a Ted Nugent concert, the Volt was designed to serve the needs of Joe and Jane Average — people who wouldn’t normally consider an alternative-fuel vehicle because of the restrictions they impose. With a Volt, the average American driver can tool around on battery power all day, plug the car in at night, and start fresh the next morning with a full charge, same as if they owned a pure EV like the Nissan Leaf — but unlike Leaf owners, Volt drivers need not worry about range.

If they want to drive to Las Vegas on a whim, they just fill up the Volt’s gas tank and go.

Overall, I think the Chevrolet Volt is a brilliant vehicle and a tremendous achievement: The first mass-produced car that bridges the gap between conventionally-powered vehicles (including hybrids and diesels) and completely oil-independent transportation. Is the Volt perfect? Of course not.

But it is the biggest and boldest step any major automaker has taken towards ending our dependence on oil. Well done, GM — and thanks. — Aaron Gold

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