Everyone should spend some time with a Volt, a Prius, an Insight and a Tesla. Then everyone would really understand the pros and cons of all types of electric, hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

Each has a niche, and each has its drawbacks. Keep in mind these are all introductions to the cars of the future that will combine all of this tech in different ways to make all sorts of efficient vehicles.

This week we take a look at one of my favorites: the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

Under the hood is a Voltec Electric drive unit and a Li-ion battery unit. Those combine with the 1.5-lion range extender gas engine to provide a total output of 149 horsepower but 297 pound-foot of torque that will propel this hatchback to 60 mph pretty quickly. Acceleration is pretty decent, and driving an electric vehicle is actually really nice, with no hesitation in the gas pedal. For the most part, most people won’t notice the difference while driving this car as opposed to any other small sedan.

So with batteries, electric motors and a gas range extender on board, I’ll do my best to break it down. Simply put, the Volt is always propelled forward or backward with electric motors. An onboard gasoline generator  provides charge on demand, so you can travel an extended range of miles past the car’s battery pack mileage. If you charge the car to full capacity, you will have somewhere between 32 to 45 miles of all-electric (EV) mileage. Once that is gone, you will use the gasoline motor on board to fuel the charging of the batteries to get you home or to a gas station. It’s a really neat idea and one that sips both fuel and electric.

As far as a transmission goes, the car is really just a CVT with electric propulsion, so there is no shifting like traditional gear boxes and the car doesn’t hop around gears. It’s a smooth application of power and even more rewarding when in sport mode with a full charge. The car jumps to attention and will blast down the highway. But really, if you commute in the city to suburbs primarily, the Volt is a really nice alternative to gasoline or even hybrid cars. You can plug in for 40-plus miles of electric charge and use the gas engine to help on highway commutes.

One of the features I loved about the Volt was “Hold” mode. What this does is lock the battery at the current charged level and uses the generator almost exclusively to save battery for city driving. It’s ideal for people who drive in town, then highway to work, then in town again. You can actively change how the car operates to be the most efficient at the specific time.

There is also a Mountain setting that reserves battery for hill climbs. Charging it from almost empty takes 12 or more hours on a regular plug in your garage. So upgrading to a 240 line is recommended if you plan to own a plug-in vehicle of any kind.

So mileage, that’s a rough estimate because you are using two types of fuel and it’s hard to quantify your home battery-charging costs. General Motors claims 106 mpg-e which incorporates the electric charging average and 42 mpg average gas-only. Also, when you are completely charged with a full tank, you will get around 40 miles all electric and 380 miles on the gas, witho a combined total range of around 420 miles. Don’t forget, it’s an eight-gallon tank.

MSRP is $42,420 for the Premiere Hatch.


Will Chamberlain is a local freelance automotive journalist and full-time Realtor with eXp Realty in Beaver and can be reached at wchamberlain@pghcarguys.com.



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