FIRST DRIVE

Wattage worry is a thing of the past when it comes to the Holden Volt

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Web On The - SA­MAN­THA STEVENS sa­man­tha.stevens@cars­guide.com.au

Ter­ri­bly clever thing, the Holden Volt. Clever­est car of the year. But what’s it like to live with?

BY now you prob­a­bly know the Volt is not your con­ven­tional hy­brid. Nor is it like any other elec­tric car on the mar­ket.

It is some­thing else en­tirely — and it is ar­guably the best of both worlds.

Other elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVs) are reliant on elec­tric­ity to power their bat­ter­ies. Con­ven­tional hy­brids use a petrol power plant en­hanced or backed up by elec­tric bat­ter­ies.

The Volt is a pure bat­tery­pow­ered elec­tric ve­hi­cle. Yes, it has a petrol mo­tor, but this works as a back-up gen­er­a­tor to keep charg­ing the bat­tery when it has used up all its stored volt­age, ex­tend­ing its range from 90-odd km to 600km, hence the tag ‘‘ ex­tended range hy­brid’’. With­out a fir­ing mo­tor hooked to a driv­e­train, the ride is vi­bra­tion-free, silent, and qui­etly im­pres­sive.

It’s a shame you’re sim­ply swap­ping one fi­nite re­source for an­other to power the car but its power us­age is frugal enough to make a dif­fer­ence to the hip-pocket and the planet.

If only more peo­ple could af­ford it and had a place to charge it— be­cause pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions are con­tin­gent on gov­ern­ment at var­i­ous lev­els get­ting its act to­gether, the af­ford­abil­ity part of the equa­tion will oc­cur first.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Any­one who has spent some time in an elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV) knows what it’s like to have ‘‘ wattage worry’’— the anx­i­ety of watch­ing the bat­tery bars go down with no recharge sta­tion or wall socket in sight.

The Volt gets around this by us­ing up the elec­tric­ity stored in the lithium-ion bat­tery pack (50-90km) then the 1.4-litre Holden Cruze-sourced petrol mo­tor charges the bat­tery pack, keep­ing the car’s elec­tric mo­tors run­ning for an­other 500-600km de­pend­ing on your driv­ing style and your se­lec­tion of Nor­mal or Sport set­tings.

A ‘‘ hold’’ mode runs just the petrol engine on bat­terys­ap­ping long trips or free­ways.

The ride stays silky smooth and very silent— the whirr of the plan­e­tary gearset is the loud­est as­pect of the driv­e­train.

VALUE

Un­less you plan to keep it for about 20 years, buy­ing a Volt will not pay off in petrol sav­ings. That $28K pre­mium Cruze, on which it is based, how­ever, buys con­ve­nience and a clean con­science.

Frugal it is, claim­ing 1.2 litres/100km and clock­ing 3.1 litres on test af­ter 250km on the one charge. An av­er­age charge costs $2.50 in elec­tric­ity, while the petrol tank takes about 36 litres, or $55, to fill. The Volt can be pro­grammed to recharge only dur­ing off­peak elec­tric­ity times, which takes five hours on full am­per­age, or 10 hours on a trickle charge.

DE­SIGN

The five-door hatch has four ded­i­cated seats, the back­cen­tre seat sac­ri­ficed to make room for the bat­tery pack. The rear is slop­ing with a huge glass rear win­dow, mak­ing en­try a duck-or-bump af­fair and a hot propo­si­tion un­der sum­mer sun.

But the boot has a large floor, and bulkier items that won’t fit un­der the hatch can be pushed into the sec­ond row via split-fold­ing seats.

The charg­ing ca­ble re­sides un­der the boot floor, next to the nor­mal car bat­tery and a sad-look­ing in­flat­able tyre kit. The ca­ble hooks up eas­ily to the port un­der­neath the pas­sen­ger A-pil­lar, with a cra­dle that is easy to wrap and un­wrap with­out tan­gles.

The cabin fea­tures gloss­white and matte black plas­tic sur­faces and pin­striped leather seats. The sat­nav, rear-view cam­era, cli­mate con­trol and car info is all dis­played on a huge cen­tre-mounted touch­screen, and be­low is a nerd-heaven touch-pad stack. Choos­ing a song or chang­ing the cli­mate con­trol needs the light­est touch and feels like you’re oper­at­ing an iPhone in­stead of a car.

SAFETY

Five-star green cre­den­tials are matched to five-star safety, with the full com­ple­ment of airbags, ABS and ESP matched to in­tu­itive ac­tive alerts such as a for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing and a lane-de­par­ture warn­ing.

DRIV­ING

On the road, the Volt feels more Euro hatch than Holden. While the front-heavy, front­drive lay­out and bat­tery pack push its weight up to 1700kg, it doesn’t feel heavy to drive.

In fact, the im­me­di­ate torque from the elec­tric mo­tors is eye­brow-rais­ing, though af­ter stomp­ing the go-pedal the gearset stretches out and the torque is more con­ser­va­tive.

The sus­pen­sion is well sorted with nicely neu­tral han­dling,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.