We’ve all heard the expression that the “third time is a charm,” and for Chevrolet we think that “charm” is the 2016 Chevrolet Volt.
General Motors has made three all out attempts to build electric cars. Just before the turn of the century GM jumped years ahead of the market and built the all-electric EV1 coupe. Although it was an impressive effort, only 1,117 cars were built and leased. A few years later GM reclaimed all the cars and destroyed most of them, leaving only 40 cars for museums and educational facilities.
In 2011 Chevrolet introduced GM’s second effort, the Volt – an electric car with a gasoline range extender. Again a great effort, but the market didn’t seem to understand the concept and there was great debate as to whether it was an electric car or a hybrid. Also some people thought it looked weird, although we liked the unique design. The bottom line was it wasn’t a runaway success.
The third attempt, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, is a real charmer. The concept is a much refined version of the original 2011 Volt. It’s a car that you plug in at home or at a public charger and then you can drive up to 53 miles on that charge, that’s up from the 35-mile range of the first generation Volt. When the battery runs out of charge, the Volt has an on-board gasoline powered generator that starts up and supplies more power to the battery/motor system. Unless you are watching the gauges, you don’t feel or hear the generator start, it’s virtually undetectable. Chevrolet estimates the battery and range extender combined, produce a range of around 420 miles. That goes a long way toward eliminating the range anxiety normally suffered by electric car buyers.
Alan Batey, president of GM North America, describes it like this, “The 2016 Chevrolet Volt provides our owners with a no-compromise electric driving experience. We believe our engineering prowess combined with data from thousands of customers allows us to deliver the most capable plug-in vehicle in the industry.”
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt five-door hatchback looks great, with a high quality fit and finish and with a sporty driving feel. It accelerates quickly, and if you are into numbers, buff magazines are saying 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds – that’s a bit quicker than a Toyota Prius. It’s also quicker than the original Volt thanks to a new two-motor drive system.
But the important numbers are for economy. Running on battery only, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt gets an EPA combined city/highway MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) rating of 106. Even if you didn’t charge the Volt and ran it with just the generator the EPA estimates a combined city/highway mileage of 42 mpg. The cool thing about using the battery as much as possible is that electricity is much cheaper than gasoline. Imagine, if you commute, say 20 miles to work, or just go out and run around town doing errands, you could conceivably not burn any gasoline at all. However, you would still feel secure in knowing you had the backup generator which could extend your range by more than 350 miles, should you needed it.
Other than an entirely new look inside and out, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt gets some other significant changes. The new two-motor drive unit is 12 percent more efficient and 100 pounds lighter. The battery capacity is increased to 18.4 kWh and 20 pounds lighter.
Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer explains, “Volt owners complete more than 80 percent of their trips without using a drop of gasoline and they tell us they love the electric driving experience. Putting that experience at the center of the new Voltec system’s development helped us improve range, while also making the new Volt more fun to drive. We established a precedent when the original Voltec propulsion system debuted and this newest iteration sets the EV technology bar even higher.”
The gasoline powered generator or “range extender” is a 75-hp,1.5-liter four-cylinder. Because the engine has nothing to do with driving the car other than providing electricity, it doesn’t have a transmission. The two electric motors that drive the Volt combine to produce 111 horsepower and 294-lb.ft. of torque. Charging the battery using a standard 120-volt outlet will take about 13 hours and can vary based on the temperatures. A 240-volt charger drops the charge time to 4.5 hours with the same caveat of ‘charging times may vary.’
In the all-new interior, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt drivers can use a shift paddle-like device on the rear of the steering wheel called the Regen on Demand™ to intensify the regenerative braking thus turning the braking back into electrical energy. The brakes have been redesigned so they regeneration process isn’t so obvious or distracting like it is on some electric and hybrid vehicles.
Structurally, the front-wheel drive Volt has a stronger body structure and quieter, stiffer ride improves its handling characteristics. The new body’s muscular design was refined in the wind tunnel to measure a slick 0.28 coefficient of drag. The design also includes active grill shutters to further improve aerodynamics by route the air around the car rather than into the motor area when it’s not needed.
The interior, which is bathed in ambient blue lighting at night, is designed for five passengers, but the middle passenger gets the squeeze, which is better for that passenger than the console (the first generation had seating for four).
Of course, this high tech car has the connectivity features we’d expect in the form of the Volt MyLink system which connects with Apple iPhone5 or later models (the Android system should be available soon) using a well-placed eight-inch color screen above the center stack. The system has Apple Car Play capability, a wireless charging device, XMSirius satellite radio, OnStar®, navigation and a handy 4GLTE Wi-Fi Hotspot capability so several devices can wirelessly connect with the Internet. The system also supports messages, maps and music with compatible third-party apps.
Safety is a paramount for General Motors, so the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt is equipped with a standard rear-vision camera and 10 air bags. Other available safety equipment includes Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Alert with following distance indicator, front automatic braking, and advanced park assist.
Pricing ranges from $33,995, including the destination charge, for the Volt LT to $38,345 for the Premier. Our 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier hatchback with most of the available options totaled $40,225. Available federal and state tax credits could reduce the final price significantly.
Until batteries can give cars a 3 or 400 miles range, the Volt is a great secure alternative for this clean efficient technology. We think the Chevrolet Volt is the best alternative in the electric vehicle market.