May 23, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 21 July 2011 12:24
There are hybrids and diesels, all-electric cars and 40-mpg econocars. And then there’s the Chevrolet Volt. There’s nothing like it. And never mind the middling sales figures. It’s an easy car to love.
Chevrolet had sold just 2,745 Volts at midyear, but insists it’s more a problem of supply than demand. The company still expects to roll out 10,000 Volts this year.
We drove our Volt more than 200 miles and burned less than a quart of gasoline. That’s because we kept the Volt plugged in overnight at home; the friendly folks at our employer’s loading dock let us charge the battery during working hours; and we took no extended trips. We therefore would estimate our fuel economy for a week’s worth of driving was about 1,000 mpg.Chevrolet says recharging a Volt’s battery costs about $1.50; you can figure on a higher price in Connecticut and upstate New York. Pop for the 240-volt charging system, which costs upward of $2,000 for purchase of the unit and installation by an electrician, and you’ll be able to administer a full charge in about four hours rather than eight to ten.
Unlike the all-electric Nissan Leaf, the Volt can be driven just like any other car. Drain the battery and the gasoline engine discreetly engages, delivering 37 mpg. With a 9.3-gallon gasoline tank, it’ll take you an EPA-estimated 344 miles. If you drain the battery of a Leaf, you’ll need a tow.
And unlike the gasoline-electric hybrid Toyota Prius, the Volt can travel 40 miles without using any gasoline. Subjected to our daily commute, a Prius would consume almost a gallon of gasoline a day.
But the other reason we loved the Volt was its driving qualities. It’s much more fun to drive than the Prius or Honda Insight thanks to the seamless performance of its 149-horsepower electric motor (and equally seamless transition to fossil-fuel power). It’s nimble, silent and comfortable, its exterior styling is easy on the eyes, and its interior, while edgy, is functional and convenient. The “regenerative” brakes, which return a little power to the lithium-ion battery when applied, do require some getting used to.
Although the Volt is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, emergency workers responding to a crash may not know the route and location of power cables within the car. That could delay extrications.
The Volt’s major liability is its high price of $40,280. With leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear camera and park assist, and a few other options, the bottom line on our Volt reached $44,680. That’s before a federal tax credit of $7,500 takes effect.
Do the fuel-economy math and you may find you’re better off with the similar Chevrolet Cruze, which seats five (compared with four in the Volt), has a much roomier cargo compartment, and costs $10,000 less, comparably equipped — even after the tax credit is taken into account.
Ten thousand dollars will buy you 2,500 gallons of gasoline at $4 a gallon, propelling your Cruze at least 75,000 miles — with no effect on your electric bill. That’s something to think about. Still, there’s something to be said for the cutting-edge technology and unique qualities of the Volt, a very special car that’s like no other on the market today.
Engine: 149-horsepower electric motor; 273 lb.-ft. torque; 1.4-liter inline Four, 80 horsepower
Transmission: 1-speed direct drive
Weight: 3,781 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 17x7-inch forged polished alloy ($595 option)
Tires: P215/55R17 93H
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 10.6 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 9.3 gallons
Fuel economy: 93 mpg, all electric; 37 mpg, gasoline only
Fuel type: Premium
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