Volt Meets the Press

Chevy’s overly-hyped Volt began rolling out to 150 members of the auto media yesterday. We are hearing a great range of opinion—from put-downs about the fuel economy to comments like these from Scott Burgess of the Detroit News:

There is no other electric vehicle in the world—in the world—that I could have hopped into at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, as I did on Sunday, and potentially driven to Miami or Los Angeles or Buenos Aires without ever having to plug the car into an outlet.

And, he concludes, it “is a hoot to drive,” with good acceleration, handling, and an almost-silent ride.

How does one evaluate a car which, essentially has no competition (per GM) or is dead on arrival when compared to the Toyota Prius for mileage, heavy and ugly when compared to the Nissan Leaf?

The key is twofold: how you define fuel economy, which the EPA has yet to determine for this dual-powered car, and how the Volt will be used. Will it be mostly an EV, making 30-mile roundtrips, or extended-range trips, or a combination?

Recharging methods also have a big impact on a car’s functionality. At 110 volts, a full recharge of the Leaf takes about 16 hours; 220-volt recharging cuts that time in half. But with the Volt’s gas engine on board, you eliminate not only this inconvenience but the “range anxiety” problem. Technical details of the interactions between the two Volt powerplants are here.

From what I’ve read, the Volt will function most effectively as a combination vehicle, with daily commutes of around 30-35 miles (full EV operation) and occasional longer trips, recharging with the gas engine. For its fairly aggressive 152 miles of EV operation, Car and Driver figured 74 MPGe, with some caveats. For gas-engine running, they got an average 35 mpg.

There are many variables here, and the point is that this car will serve best by running in EV mode most of the time. It is a great technological achievement for GM, and whether it will sell depends not on the company’s hype but on acceptance by commuter car-buyers.

Does the concept of the Volt make sense to you? Would such a car fit your driving needs?

—jgoods

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3 Comments

  1. I hope this kind of technology reaches to vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect-perfect size for small businesses who do lots of delivery/city driving-are you listening Ford??

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