by: Mike Ginsca
As we move further into the future, it would seem as though the electric car will be the vehicle that moves the masses. Yes, there is hydrogen fuel cell technology but that’s still too expensive and most of the hydrogen comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. So at the moment it appears that the electric car is the best alternative to the gasoline car and Chevrolet is among the first to offer a vehicle that majority of the public can actually afford.
Performance – The Chevrolet Volt has an 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers two electric motors producing 149hp, roughly the same amount of power as a gasoline powered economy car. However it doesn’t feel as slow as a normal car because with electric vehicles, you get instant power the moment you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal. When you accelerate from a stop, the instantaneous torque from the electric motors will give you the “pin you the back of your seat” feeling… albeit not quite as strong as in a Tesla Model S for example. Around corners it’s not as bad as you might expect from an economy electric vehicle and what’s more, the electro-assisted steering feels precise and like it’s actually connected to the front wheels. Just be careful when accelerating hard out of a tight corner because the inner wheel will spin from the instantaneous torque of the electric motors.
The Chevrolet Volt has an electric range of 85km. Compared to something like the Tesla Model S that has an electric range of over 300km between charges, the Volt may seem like it only belongs in a city where a power outlet is easily accessible. But when the batteries get depleted you don’t need to panic because the Volt has it’s own on board charging system. It’s a 1.5L gasoline engine that is there solely for charging the batteries when they’re dead or require more power for sportier driving. The engine is not directly connected to the wheels like how it is in a conventional hybrid such as the Toyota Prius. The gasoline engine extends the range of the Volt to almost 600km combined electric and gasoline drive. What’s more, you don’t have to wait 300 million hours for the batteries to recharge but just 5 minutes as you refill the gas tank at any gas station.
Granted you are still using fossil fuels to fuel up the Volt but if you use it as a daily commuter vehicle in a city, you may only need to fill up for gas every month or longer. While the 85km all electric range may seem short compared to a Tesla Model S, most daily commutes are less than that. So that means you can go to work and back home without using a drop of fuel. Once you’re home, you can plug in the Volt to a 120V or 240V socket to charge overnight and have another 85km full battery charge for your next day to work. Essentially you have an electric vehicle that doesn’t require any fuel for possibly months at a time but when you do go on long trips, you never need to have range anxiety.
Comfort – This being an economy vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt was designed to be just that with a sprinkle of comfort added throughout. Because it is an electric vehicle, it is (as you’d expect) very quiet inside the cabin. The only noise that intrudes into the cabin is wind and tire noise at higher speeds along with a faint whistle of of the electric motors. The layout of the dashboard is conventional and similar to that of the Chevrolet Cruze where everything is where you’d expect it to be. However don’t expect to see much out of the rear window because the high trunk line blocks visibility to the point where all you can see are the roofs of the cars behind you. The suspension is also soft enough to provide good comfort when going over bumps and potholes on city streets. The front seats offer plenty of space for front occupants and there is just enough leg and headroom in the back seats for average sized adults but the middle rear seat (if you can call it that) is a joke because not only is there no cushion, but absolutely no headroom.
Odds and Ends – Although there is still “plenty” of oil left in the world, electric vehicles are gaining in popularity and continue to be made better every day. The Chevrolet Volt blends the best of both worlds by utilizing clean and cheap electricity for majority of the time and only using gasoline when it’s a necessity.
Thank you to Eagle Ridge GM for providing the vehicle and visit their website to view this and other vehicles available for purchase or lease. www.EagleRidgeGM.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.