GM’s new electric car Driving the future The Economist

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Chevrolet Volt Electric Cars

Driving the future

Jun 25th 10:54 by The Economist online

FEW are of greater significance, not only for maker, but also for the industry as General Motors Chevrolet and its European version, the Vauxhall/Opel Indeed, GM claims it will be That is why The Economist . which not normally do road tests, was to take up the offer from GM to a pre-production Ampera on normal in the Thames Valley earlier week.

The Volt first cover at the Detroit motor three-and-a-half years ago. its swooping bodywork (subsequently down for something more was a ground-breaking new powertrain. Unlike s Prius, which combines a petrol engine with a electric motor, the Volt s would come entirely a powerful electric motor lithium-ion batteries could be either by plugging the car into electricity or from an on-board

Chevrolet claimed that the car have a top speed of around and brisk acceleration, and be able to run on its alone for about 40 miles—more enough for the average daily which the generator, a small 1.4 internal-combustion engine, would cut in to the batteries running down as the car on its way.

What made the so appealing was that in the city and environment where the Volt spend most of its life, it operate as a purely electric-driven with zero tailpipe but it was also capable of undertaking longer journeys without in its driver any of the “range anxiety” came with pure cars. The downside was that the was fairly complex and would be a deal more expensive to than an equivalent-sized petrol-engined

Since then, although GM has in and out of bankruptcy, the Volt programme has progressed. Indeed, its very was an important factor in convincing Obama s auto task-force GM was not quite the dinosaur of popular Towards the end of the year, the four-door saloon will go on sale in at a price of just under after a government rebate of while the very similar but crisply styled Ampera, is due for in Europe about 12 months

Early adopters and affluent are bound to be first in the queue to buy the but sales will ultimately on whether the Volt/Ampera is pleasant to with, performs reliably and an overall cost of ownership not too far out of from “normal” vehicles. It also be fascinating to see how it competes Nissan s Leaf, a battery-only family hatchback with a of 100 miles that will hit the in America at about the same and a trio of similarly-engineered offerings Renault which will be in Europe from next

So how does the Volt/Ampera drive? pretty impressively. As a well-used car, the one we road-tested still had a few edges.

The basic architecture of the spacious cabin was in place, but the soft mouldings that grace the car when it goes on had not yet been fitted. There was a slightly disconcerting whistle the exhaust when the range engine was working hard, this can be easily fixed. The settings need a bit of fine-tuning, for ragged British blacktop.

But the car was extraordinarily refined. It is whisper in most conditions—it is mostly to tell when the range engine is running—and unfussed at high motorway speeds. is strong (0-60mph takes nine seconds) thanks to the torque served up by the electric while the car s handling is neat and thanks partly to the low centre of that is created by installing the battery pack along would be the transmission tunnel in a car.

The Ampera has a range of 350 miles it needs refuelling and a notional of 175mpg on a long journey translates to carbon dioxide of about 40g/km. Most of the however, the car will run without any for the petrol engine, the batteries only three hours’ from a domestic socket to 40 miles of electric-only running. GM that the cost of an electrically Ampera mile is a fifth of a mile in an ordinary car.

Chevrolet Volt Electric Cars

Used daily for a 40-mile the Ampera could save its more than £2,000 a given European petrol As for reliability, the battery is guaranteed any failure for 10 years. Some of the is taken off it by software that it being depleted to less 30% of its capacity before the generator working, and prevents it ever charged to more than

Apart from the battery, s nothing much to go wrong, and will be at intervals of around miles.

Despite its high purchase price, the cost of a Volt/Ampera could well out to be competitive depending on how it is used and other tax breaks governments its way. For such a genuinely vehicle what it is most about the Volt/Ampera is how easy it be to live with. It manages to be extraordinary and ordinary at the same

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