Search The Virtual Driver
Tagged for Your Convenience
#PinkBeetle 1940 Ford Coupe 1961 F1 season 2003 Mustang Cobra book 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 2012 Ford Explorer 2012 Jeep Wrangler 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 VW Beetle 2012 VW Passat 2013 Chevys 2013 Ford Explorer 2013 Ford Focus Electric 2013 Ford Fusion review 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo 2013 Infiniti JX AWD 2013 Lexus ES 350 2013 Lexus GS 2013 Mercedes GLK350 2013 NAIAS 2013 Nissan Altima 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro 2014 Detroit Auto Show 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2014 Kia Forte 2014 Kia Soul road test 2014 Lexus IS 2014 Mazda CX-5 crossover 2014 Mazda3 2014 Mercedes S-Class 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage 2014 NAIAS 2014 Toyota Corolla 2014 Toyota Corolla S 2014 Toyota Highlander 2015 Camaro 2015 Chevy Trax 2015 Chrysler 200 2015 Detroit auto show 2015 Ford F-150 2015 Ford Mustang 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Kia Sorento SX 2015 Lincoln Navigator 2015 Mini Cooper 2015 Mustang 2015 Nissan Murano 2015 Porsche Cayenne 2015 Toyota Camry 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 Audi TT 2016 Chevy Camaro 2016 Chevy Volt 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 2016 Honda Accord 2016 Honda Civic 2016 Hyundai Tucson 2016 Lexus RX 2016 NAIAS 2016 New York Auto Show 2016 Nissan Maxima 2016 North American International Auto Show 2016 Toyota Prius 2016 Toyota Prius unveiling 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 Toyota Tacoma 2016 VW Golf SportWagen 2017 Acura NSX 2017 BMW 2 Series 2017 C-Class Coupe 2017 Chevy Camaro pricing 2017 Ford GT 2017 Ford Raptor 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show 2017 Golf SportWgen 4Motion 2017 Honda Ridgeline 2017 Mazda3 2017 Nissan Titan 2017 Subaru Impreza 2018 Buick Regal 2018 Corvette ZR-1 2018 Ford Expedition 2018 Ford Fiesta 2018 Ford Mustang 2018 Toyota Camry 2018 VW Golf 289 Cobra Achates Power Acorus Technology Acura NSX Acura NSX aerodynamics Acura RLX adaptive cruise control AEV affordable carbon fiber AIE rotary engine airbag technology Al Vinikour Alan Mulally Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 4C Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Alfa Romeo Giulia Alfa Romeo Stelvio ALMS alternative powertrains American F1 teams AMG SLS E-Cell AM-RB 001 AP Racing Radi-CAL Apple Car ArmorAll Arnolt Bristol AROnline Artificial Intelligence Aston Martin Aston Martin condos Aston Martin DB11 Aston Martin DB11 Volante Aston Martin V12 Vanquish Aston Martin Vanquish S Aston Martin Vulcan Aston Martin yacht Aston-Martin Atlanta Motorsport Park Audi Audi A3 Audi A5 Audi A5 Sportback Audi A8 Hybrid Audi bicycle Audi Q7 Audi Q7 TDI Audi R18 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Audi R8 Audi S8 Audi SQ7 Audi TT RS Austin Powers Autocade automotive fuel cells automotive porn automotive safety systems autonomous cars autonomous driving autonomous vehicles Autorama Avocet Avro Vulcan barn find Beetle barn find Jaguar barn finds Barrett Jackson Battle of Britain Beatrice F1 Bell Pro Star Ben Bowlby Bentley Mulsanne Beverly Rae Kimes Big Bang Theory Bjorn Lomborg BMW BMW 2 Series Active Tourer BMW 3 Series BMW 6 Series GT BMW 7 Series Hybrid BMW i3 BMW i8 BMW i8 luggage BMW M2 BMW M3 CS BMW M4 video BMW M4 vs. Lexus RC-F BMW motorcycles BMW X4 BMW1 Series Bob Lutz BorgWarner Breitling watches Brembo British Motor Heritage BRM Brose e-bike Brush Hero Bryce Hoffman Buick Regal GS Buick Verano Cadillac ATS Cadillac CT6 Cadillac CTS Cadillac CTS-V Cadillac CUE Cadillac DPI-V.R Cadillac Escalade Cadillac Racing Cadillac V16 Cadillac XT5 Cadillac XTS CAFE standards Camaro 2016 Camaro Z28 Camaro ZL1 Camping World Truck Series Car Spy book carbon fiber chassis Carroll Shelby Cars in Context Television Cars in Context TV CART Caterham Caterham Seven Center for Automotive Research CES Chapparal 2X VGT comncept Chevy Bolt Chevy Colorado ZR2 Chevy crate motor Chevy Cruze diesel Chevy Sonic Chevy Trax Chevy Volt Chicago Auto Show China Auto 2012 Chip Foose Chris Craft Chris Wallace Chrysler Chrysler Hemi Chrysler Imperial Chrysler Pacifica Clarion C-Max Hybrid CNG Cobra Jet Mustang Cobra watch Continental Tire Controlled Power Technologies Cord 812 cork surfboard Corvette C7 Corvette C8 Corvette Racing Corvette sinkhole Craftsman CTX tractors Cragar wheels Cunningham C3 Dale Jr Dallara GP2 hillclimb Dan Gurney Dan Wheldon De Lorean Dendrobium EV Denise McCluggage Derek Warwick Detroit Auto Show Detroit Electric diesel engine Dieselgate Dodge Dodge Avenger Dodge Challenger Dodge Dart GT Dodge Demon Dodge Durango SRT domestic energy Donald Trump donuts drag racing Dragon software DRB-Hicom Dream Cruise Drift mode driver alert Ducati Ducati 1926 Ducati 899 Panigale Ducati Desmosedici V4 Ducati Monster Ducati Museum Ducati Scrambler Ducati Testastretta Eagle GB Eagle Indy cars Eagle Speedster Eddie Rickenbacker Edsel Ford electric bike electric vehicle demand electric vehicle recharging electric vehicles Elemental Rp1 EPA EV future Evanta F-150 SuperCrew federal bureaucracy Federal-Mogul Ferdinand Piech Ferrari Ferrari 330 P4 Ferrari 488 GTB Ferrari dog kennels Ferrari F12 Ferrari F12tdf Ferrari GTO FerrariGTC4Lusso FEV Fiat 124 Abarth Fiat 500 Abarth Fiat 500 furniture Fiat 500X Fiat Chrysler business plan Fiat S76 Fiat-Chrysler Fod Kuka robot Ford Ford at Le Mans Ford BoxLink Ford e-bikes Ford EcoSport Ford Edge Ford Explorer Sport Ford F-150 EcoBoost Ford F-150 Tremor Ford F-350 Ford Fiesta ST Ford Focus RS reveal Ford Focus ST Ford Fusion Ford GT Ford GT book review Ford GT Mk. IV Ford GT40 Ford Ka+ Ford Mustang Ford Mustang GT Ford Mustang GT350 Ford S-Max Ford Transit Ford Transit Connect Ford Transit Connect Titanium Formula One Formula One rules Forza Motorsport Fox News Sunday Fq hybrid braking Frankfurt Motor Show FR-S vs Miata Geely Genesis G70 Geneva Motor Show Global RallyCross GM GM Electrovan GM engines GM recalls GMC Canyon Denali Goodwood Festival of Speed Google car graphene ground effects Group Lotus Haddords Caterhan Seven HANS device Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson Breakout Harley-Davidson LiveWire Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Harley-Davidson SuperLow Harley-Davidson Switchback Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual healthcare Henry Ford high-performance hybrid Honda ATVs Honda Clarity FCV Honda CVCC Honda endurance engine Honda motorcycles Honda NSX Honda Pilot Honda RA272 Honda RC213V-S HondaJet hot hatch Husqvarna hybrids Hyundai Hyundai Accent Hyundai designers Hyundai Elantra Hyundai Elantra GT Hyundai Elantra Sport Hyundai Genesis Hyundai Genesis Coupe Hyundai Kona Hyundai Motorstudio Hyundai Veloster Hyundai Vision G Coupe Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indy 500 IndyCar Infiniti Infiniti Q50 Infiniti QX56 Infiniti VC-T inflatable child seat internal combustion engines iPhone 6 J.D. Power and Associates Jabuar Jaguar Jaguar C-X16 Jaguar E-Pace Jaguar E-Type Jaguar F-Type Jaguar luggage Jaguar XE Jaguar XJL Jaguar XKSS Jaguar XKSS continuation Jeep Cherokee Jeep concepts Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Jeep Renegade Jeep Renegade Latitude Jeep Wrangler Jensen GT jet prropulsion Jim Clark John Bereisa John Krafcik Juan Manuel Fangio Kia Forte Koup SX Kia Optima Kia Rio Kia Sorento Kia Soul Kia Stinger Kia Stonic L.A. Auto Show LaFerrari convertible Lamborghini Lamborghini EV concept Lamborghini speakers Lancia Delta Integrale Land Rover LR2 Land Rover pedal car Las Vegas Le Mans lead-acid batteries LED headlights Lego Technic book Lexus ES350 Lexus GS350 F Sport Lexus hoverboard Lexus LC Lexus LS Lexus LS concept Lexus LS460 LExus LX 570 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Lexus RC 350 Lexus RC F Lexus RX 450h Ligier LMP3 prototype Lincoln MKC Lincoln MKX Lincoln MKZ Lincoln Motor Company Lincoln Navigator L Lincoln's future Lingenfelter LiquidPiston Lister Knobbly Lister Stirling Moss edition Lola LMP1 Lotus Lotus Elite Type 14 Lotus Engineering Inc. Lotus Evora Lotus Evora 400 Lotus Evora Sport 410 Lotus Exige Sport 350 Lotus SUV LotusXI Luca Montezemolo Lucire Lyonheart K M1 Concourse magnesium wheels marble Ducati Mark Fields Martin Winterkorn Maserati Levante Maserati Quattroporte Maserati Tipo 250F replica matte-finish film Matthew McConaughey Maxion Flexible Wheel Mazda Mazda chair Mazda CX-9 Mazda Miata Mazda Miata RF Mazda Miata versus Ford Fiesta ST Mazda2 Mazda6 MazdaPro series McLaren McLaren 570GT McLaren 675LT McLaren 720S McLaren F1 McLaren MP4-12C Spider McLaren P1 McLaren P1 interior McLaren-Honda F1 Mercedes Mercedes 4Matic Mercedes CLA Mercedes comic book Mercedes diesel pistons Mercedes EQ Mercedes GL Mercedes GLA Mercedes GLE Coupe Mercedes pickup trucks Mercedes van Mercedes-AMG Mercedes-AMG GT Mercedes-AMG-GT Concept Mercedes-Benz 300SLR recreation Mercedes-Benz E-Class Mercedes-Benz furniture metal matrix composite brakes Mewrcedes-Benz X-Class MG wrist watch Michael Horn Michael Schumacher Michelin Mike Hawthorn Mini Mini Clubman Mini Clubman ALL4 Mini Cooper S 4-door Mini Countryman Mini Coupe Mini hybrid Mini Mk 1 body shells Mini rally car Mini Roadster Mini Vision Mitsubishi Monterey Mopar Mopar shaker hood Morgan EV3 Motul multi-modal transportation Muntz Jet muscle cars Mustang hybrid Mustang tuning kits MyFord Touch NAIAS NAIAS 2017 nanoslide coating NASA Mustang NASCAR NASCAR heating scandal NASCAR rules new Prius New Shelby GT350 New York Auto Show Niki Lauda Nissan Altima Nissan BladeGlider Nissan Leaf Nissan Pathfinder Nissan Rogue Nissan Skyline history Nissan Smart mirror Nissan titan Single Cab Nissan Versa Note Nnissan Quest NSU R0 80 Nurburgring Nurburgring Nordschleife Oliver Winterbottom OnStar FMV Opel GT Packard Grey Ghost Page Not Found Alerts Pebble Beach Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Penske Racing Peter Wright Peugeot 108 Pininfarina Pininfarina Coke machine Pirelli Pocket Classics police chases Pope Benedict XVI Porsche 911 Porsche 911 RSR Porsche 911 Turbo Porsche 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series Porsche 917 Porsche 918 Spyder Porsche 919 steering wheel Porsche 988 Porsche Carrera GT Porsche Cars North America Porsche Cayman Porsche P1 EV Porsche Panamera Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo powertrain technology Prius c Prius v Proton PSA Group Quixx racing Ram Ram 1500 Ram ProMaster Ram Promaster City Range Rover rebuildable batteries Renault Alpine Renault F1 engine Renault F1 promotion Renault Talisman Renault Twingo restomod Ricardo Engineering Rnage Rover Evoque Convertible road repair funds Rod Tempero Roger Penske Rolls Royce Bespoke Rolls Royce SUV Rolls-Royce Phantom Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Ross Brawn Rush movie Saab safety technology Saleen S7 Sammy Hagar Santa SBU V3 Scion FR-S Scion iA and iM Scuderia Ferrari self-healing tires SEMA Shelby Cobra Sir Malcolm Campbell Siri smart Solid Oxide Fuel Cells spare tires Speed Speed Duel split-window Corvette sport sedans Sportster Sta-Bil 360 Performance Sta-Bil Storage Star Wars Steven Tyler Stoner Car Care Kit Stoner Clean & Repel Subaru BRZ Subaru Forester Subaru Impreza Suzuki GSX-R1000 Suzuki SX4 SYNC 3 tailgating Taurus SHO Team Lotus TechShop Tesla Tesla Model 3 The Aresenal of Democracy The Mitty The Virtual Collection Tim Richmond Tokyo Motor Show Tom Brady torque vectoring touchpad technology Tour de France Toyota Toyota 4Runner Toyota Camry Toyota hybrids Toyota iRoad Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Toyota Prius c Toyota Sienna Premium Toyota Tacoma Toyota Tundra Toyota Venza Toyota VenzaMcLaren MP4-12C Tracks novel Triumph Speed Triple Triumph TR8 TRW TRW touchpad Tucker 48 Turbulent Jet Ignition TVR U.S. Air Force Museum UAW Udvar-Hazy Center Ulysses S. Grant unionization Uniroyal tires vaporware vehicle restoration Vehreo fabric Visteon Volkswagen Volvo Volvo 40 series concepts Volvo Drive-E Volvo S60 R-Design Volvo XC40 Volvo XC90 VW VW Arteon VW Beetle Convertible VW Beetle Dune VW Beetle TDI VW Golf VW Golf R VW Golf SportWagen VW GTI VW I.D. VW Jetta GLI VW Jetta Hybrid VW MQB VW Passat TDI VW scandal VW Touareg TDI VW troubles Weego winter driving Wirth Research women drivers wooden boats Xcar video XPEL Yamaha Yamaha anime Yamaha sports car Zenos E10 ZF TRW
« First Run: 2013 Lexus GS | Main | 2011 Dodge Avenger Heat: A Big Step Forward »
Thursday
Dec012011

2012 Chevrolet Volt: Fascinating Technology, Ridiculous Economics.

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Copyright GM. All other photos: ©The Virtual Driver/Chris SawyerI’m not going to fly into paroxysm of hyperbole by calling Chevy’s Volt the replacement for the legendary small block V8, or a straight and true road to a brighter future, or “the answer” to global warming/climate change/automotive pollution/acne/Chlamydia/sovereign debt or anything else. But I will say that it is amazing technology well deployed, and a fine addition to the pantheon of automotive technologies and drive systems. It just isn’t the Second Coming of Nicolaus Otto… or Rudolph Diesel, for that matter.

GM has plenty of experience with electric vehicles, notably the EV1. However, that car proved vehicles designed by government decree have limited appeal and usefulness, despite what supporters may believe. Even with advanced technology batteries, EVs are hostage to the range they can travel before recharging. And replenishing the battery pack is not as simple, fast or easy as topping up the tank. It can take hours, and faster systems can — if used repeatedly — reduce the life and range of the battery pack.

Realizing this, and wanting to blacken the eye of Toyota’s deified Prius, GM decided to pursue the idea of an extended range electric vehicle (EREV). This meant adding a small gasoline-powered engine to provide drive electricity when the battery pack becomes depleted. The benefit is that it allowed engineers to specify a battery pack capable of propelling a fully charged Volt approximately 40 miles* on stored energy, while providing a backup source of power for those situations where the driver needs to go farther. It also meant that the Volt still could be used if it remained uncharged or partially charged. Drivers who religiously plug-in nightly can drive on electricity alone.

This claim is based on a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation that 76% of U.S. drivers commute 40 miles or less daily. That translates to 14,600 miles per year**, and would save approximately 500 gallons of gasoline from being used. (This is based on a 30 mpg average for the gasoline vehicle.) It also is less than half the fuel used by the typical plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and significantly reduces engine start-up emissions. Not only is this a real asset in  environmentalism’s smugness sweepstakes, the thought of not having to fill-up at times of rising gas prices is incredibly seductive. Especially when the average cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity is about 15 cents, and gasoline hovers around $3.50. Less tax, that means $2.40 per day to travel to and from work versus approximately $5.00/day for an equivalent Chevy Cruze Eco.***

Did I mention the Volt is built on the Cruze platform? It is. Which means the price difference between a Volt and a similarly equipped Cruze (there are options available on the Volt that are not offered on the Cruze) is about $20,000. You’d have to save a lot of gasoline over the life of the vehicle to make that equation sensible, and ignore the buzz about a diesel-powered Cruze with a rumored 50 mpg highway rating coming soon.****

On The Road

Most people don’t care about the specifics of the car. They want to know how it drives. And, despite all of the George Jetson hype surrounding the car, it drives pretty much like any other vehicle. In fact, if you have been in a hybrid, the feeling is the same. The big difference is that the Volt goes much, much farther in electric mode.

It looks pretty normal under the hood until...Much has been made of the “instant torque” capability of an electric motor, which is often expressed as it having full torque from zero rpm. But since the motor can’t produce any toque if it’s not spinning, let’s just say that it can produce full torque the minute it starts to move.

Despite what you may think, the Volt is no rocket ship. Put it in Sport mode, and you’ll hit 60 mph from a dead stop in a little under nine seconds. Keep it in Normal mode, and that number is closer to 10. This means that the Volt isn’t quick. It would be easy to blame the electric drive, but it isn’t the culprit. Weight is. At 3,781 lb, the Volt weighs anywhere from 628 – 699 lb. more than a Chevy Cruze. The batteries are responsible for 435 lb. of that difference. To put it another way, it’s like carrying three 200-lb linebackers and a 100-lb cheerleader with you everywhere you go.

Performance from a dead stop is slightly sluggish, however, the weight makes its presence known the most when cornering. Despite being located optimally — the T-shaped battery pack runs across the width of the car behind the rear seats and forward along the center tunnel — you can’t hide the fact the mass has to be accelerated/decelerated, especially when that acceleration and deceleration takes place laterally.

...you notice these hefty electrical cables to the electric drive system.You get used to this quickly, however, and find that other parts of the driving experience grab and hold your attention. The most prominent of these is the eerie silence and the silky ride. Without an engine droning away up front, there’s little else to draw your attention. That’s because the Volt has spent hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel  reducing its drag coefficient for better mileage/range, and reducing wind noise. The latter is important as there is little powertrain noise to drown out the sound of the wind rushing along the exterior when the Volt is running in EV mode.

What you do notice, however, are the other sounds within the interior. If you listen hard enough, it’s possible to pick up the faint whine of the various electric motors that control things like the climate control system’s flaps. And the sound from any interior trim pieces that rub together is amplified by the silence. The same is true of tire noise from the rear wheels as there is no bulkhead between the free-standing rear bucket seats and the cargo area. You quickly become used to the sound, and realize how loud an internal combustion vehicle can be when you drive one back-to-back with the Volt.

 

As for the silky ride, it’s a bit of a chimera. Vehicles like the Volt (in this I include hybrids and other high-mileage vehicles) incorporate a visual representation of driving style. In this case, it consists of a green (What other color would it be?) ball that rises and falls on a vertical scale. Drive more efficiently, and it rises. Drive aggressively, and it falls. The effect of this reinforcement is on par with that used in the reeducation camps of Communist China. As a result, you drive with more finesse as you try to ease the ball higher up the scale without terminally angering the cars behind. Inputs are more measured and less abrupt. But ignore the meter and flog the Volt, and you’ll find that it handles like a heavy Chevy Cruze. The suspension begins to “float” at the end of its travel (there’s a lot of mass to control), and it can tumble hard onto its bump stops when pushed. Still, it acquits itself pretty well.

Low nose is good for aero, not so good in snow and parking lots.Where the Volt might drive its owner to annoyance is in the everyday chores. Because reducing aero drag was central to getting the highest EV range possible, the Volt has a lower front valance than most cars. The rubber front spoiler drops down from the lower bumper to keep as much air as possible flowing around, not under, the car. This means the spoiler is going to contact things like speed bumps and curbs. It flexes and can fold out of the way, but will owners remember to reach down and reset the outer tabs for maximum effectiveness? Further, how many scrapes will the lower bumper take against the high curbs in parking lots? Over time, some Volts are going to look pretty ratty, especially those of owners who “park by ear.”

Drive to the point where the battery is depleted, and the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine/generator kicks in. Neither raucous nor abrupt, the transition is noticeable mostly for the fact that the gasoline engine’s note doesn’t match road speed. Like a CVT-equipped car, the speed at which the engine turns is not directly related to the speed at which the vehicle is traveling. And in the case of the Volt, it starts and immediately goes to a high rpm level to provide the correct amount of electricity to drive the car while bringing the battery charge back up to just above “empty.” (To help battery durability, a discharged battery still has 65% capacity. There’s a buffer charge to keep the drive unit from dipping into this capacity on a consistent basis.) Even when the battery is depleted enough to warrant use of the gas engine, the engine shuts down when the vehicle comes to a stop. The buffer and unused capacity are used to launch the car from a stop up to about 30 mph, at which point the gas engine kicks in again.

And this is where the Volt “controversy” comes in. When GM introduced the Volt, it suggested the car never used the gasoline engine to drive the vehicle. This led to an understanding that the 1.4-liter engine was nothing more than a power generator that provided the juice necessary to drive the car when the battery charge was low. However, when the battery is drained and you need a bit more power than that which the electric drive system can provide to the electric motor, it can directly supply power to the front wheels. Does this make it a hybrid? Does having an appendix, which once was used to digest prairie grasses, make a human being a cow?

Fueling the Volt

If you have a qualified electrician, the requisite electrical service and support, and want to spend the money on the Voltec 240-volt charging station, you can replenish your car in about four hours. Or you can do what I did. Pull the 120-volt charging unit from the below-floor cargo area, plug it into a suitable wall socket, and charge it overnight. The oversize, pistol-grip plug slots neatly into the receptacle on the left front fender. It can be exposed either by pressing the appropriate button on the keyless remote, or using the one on the driver’s door. Interestingly, it is located in plain sight. The release for the gas filler door is above it.

One neat feature is a light built into the plug that goes on when you depress the trigger. This makes it easy to find the receptacle in low-light conditions. The trigger also pulls back a locking tang that is located on the shroud built around the plug face. The shroud keeps the live contacts dry in the rain, while the tang makes certain the plug is fully engaged. And, yes, I used the charger in pouring rain, and while standing in a puddle without harm. Charging can be scheduled to be immediate or delayed, the latter to allow you to take advantage of lower night rates.

The gas cap is located on the right rear fender and the tank must be filled with premium unleaded fuel. Unlike its turbocharged cousin used in the Cruze, the naturally aspirated 1.4-liter in the Volt runs a relatively high 10.5:1 compression ratio to produce its 84 hp. (The Cruze has 138 hp and runs on regular gas.) Removing the turbo makes the engine less expensive for GM and more suited to its use in the Volt, but increases the cost to the consumer when he has to add fuel.

Accommodations

Back seat is a bit tight if the front occupants don't cooperate.

The crossbar of the T-shaped battery pack encroaches slightly on rear seat leg room by forcing the rear seats forward. If the front seat occupants cooperate by moving their seats forward a notch or two, it’s possible to fit four full-sized adults in the Volt. As long as those in the rear seats watch their heads when entering and exiting, that is. The sloping C-pillar can get in the way.

Hatchback and folding rear seats mean lots of usable cargo area despite small size.

Luggage space is 4.8 ft3 smaller than the Cruze at 10.6 ft3, but it is regularly shaped, and supplemented by the folding rear seat backs. Carrying groceries, luggage or other items is no problem, and the fact that you have a gasoline engine onboard means you don’t have to be as concerned about what effect extra weight will have on range.

The instrument panel is dominated by the twin 7-in full-color display screens. One is sited horizontally in front of the driver, the other with the same orientation atop the center stack. Besides becoming mesmerized by the efficiency and power flow screens, it’s possible to become exasperated with the touch-sensitive switches along the center stack. It took time to realize that the nubs below the lettering that identifies each function are more finger rests than activation points. The switches worked best when the area directly above these bumps was pressed.

Much of the design ethos of the instrument panel is drawn from the Apple iPod, and meant to give an up-to-date feel to the interior. However, the multiplicity of buttons and touch areas, though it keeps the surface relatively uncluttered, are not as easy and intuitive to use as a couple of well-damped and designed knobs.

TVD Rating: 4.75 out of 5*****

I enjoyed my time with the Volt, and found it to be a fascinating and extremely usable drive technology that, in many cases, allowed me to be completely free from the gas pump. Judged in this light, as most buyers — real and potential — will, it is nearly perfect. However, as the asterisks below show, it is not an answer to the many perceived problems associated with internal combustion engines. It is one of many possible alternatives and, as such, should be placed on a level playing field with other drive technologies. Only then can its true value be assessed.

The Asterisks

*: Under ideal circumstances, most drivers will get no more than 35 miles of EV driving. Temperature, terrain and driving style all affect the number of miles available.

**: Under this scenario, the Volt would be driven 40 miles every day, 365 days per year. It’s an unlikely scenario. Not only are there days when the car would not be in use (Who commutes the same distance on weekends, holidays, etc.?), but there are many days when the car would be driven significantly farther.

***: The Cruze Eco runs on regular unleaded fuel. The Volt’s engine requires more expensive premium unleaded. The price delta for these two fuel grades averages 20 cents per gallon. In addition, the price for electricity is based on residential rates. Business are not required to sell electricity through third-party charging stations at this rate, and would charge a per kilowatt price that would cover their costs and allow a reasonable profit. As charging stations become more common, competition would drive prices toward equilibrium, but it would still outstrip residential rates.

****: The one wild card, other than the EPA’s unwillingness to accept diesel powerplants, is the price of diesel fuel. Currently it sits above the price of premium unleaded, driven by refining issues, and state and federal taxes. Pulling this price down to parity with premium unleaded would tip the value equation solidly toward the Cruze diesel. Even assuming the Volt can be driven on the daily commute for as little as $1 per day versus nearly $6 for the equivalent amount of diesel (assuming diesel’s 30% energy range advantage zeroes out its 30% price disadvantage, making it roughly equivalent in price to premium unleaded fuel), the cost of the 350 gallons used by the diesel car would equal $1,750 per year. It would take over 10 years to recoup the Volt’s initial price disadvantage.

*****: Click here to read about the many disadvantages of vehicle electrification, including vastly higher water usage per 100,000 BTUs, and higher CO2 levels per 1,000 BTUs. Forcing so-called “clean” energy technologies to replace coal would drive electricity rates much higher, reaching or surpassing parity with gasoline and diesel, and eliminating any fuel price advantage for plug-in vehicles.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Pricing

MSRP: $39,145

Options: Audio system with navigation, DVD ROM and 30 GB audio hard drive storage, $1,995; Premium Trim Package (leather appointed seating, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel), $1,395; Viridian Joule paint, $995; Bose premium speaker system, $495.

Destination charge: $850

Price as tested: $44,875

Powertrain

Engine: Transverse 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder. Cast iron block, aluminum heads, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable intake and exhaust cam phaser.

Horsepower: 84 @ 4800

Electric Drive: 111 kW drive motor, 54 kW generator motor, Voltec drive unit.

Horsepower: 149 (111 kW)

Torque: 273 lb-ft.

EPA mileage rating: 37 mpg )gasoline), 94 mpg equivalent (electricity)

Steering, Suspension and Brakes

Steering: Electric power-assisted rack and pinion.

Suspension F/R: MacPherson struts, hydraulic bushings, hollow anti-roll bar/Double-walled torsion beam, hydraulic bushings.

Brakes F/R: 11.8-in. vented discs with 2.36-in. single-piston calipers/11.5-in. vented discs with 1.49-in. single-piston calipers. ABS.

Dimensions (in inches)

Length: 177.1

Width: 70.4

Height: 56.3

Wheelbase: 105.7

Fuel capacity (gallons): 9.3

Battery capacity (kWh): 16

Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 10.6

Warranty

Anti-corrosion: 6 years/100,000 miles

Engine: 5 years/100,000 miles

Battery: 8 years/100,00 miles

Vehicle: 3 years/36,000 miles

Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 miles, courtesy transportation

 

Reader Comments (1)

This is the car of my dreams! Too bad I can't afford it on online writing jobs money...

December 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermenny

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>