Volt driv­ing Holden into fu­ture

Holden’s new-age elec­tric car, the Volt, is about to be launched in New Zealand. Rob Maet­zig went to Sydney for a pre­view drive

South Waikato News - - SPORT -

If this is the fu­ture of mo­tor­ing, then I’m all for it. I’ve just been driv­ing a new Holden sedan that is a medium-sized four seater, rides and per­forms just like any other car, and has a range of around 600 kilo­me­tres – but has an av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion of as low as 1.2 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres.

And that’s if you need to use any petrol at all to run this car. Most of the time you don’t. Nor­mally all you need to do is plug it in to an or­di­nary house­hold power out­let and charge a bat­tery pack that pow­ers the car’s two elec­tric mo­tors.

That bat­tery pack will in turn give you a range of about 87km.

So here’s the po­ten­tial daily use of this car. Charge it up overnight at a cost about the equiv­a­lent of run­ning your av­er­age house­hold re­frig­er­a­tor (a full charge from empty costs about $2.75), use it dur­ing the day in a to­tally nor­mal way, then plug it in to charge up again at the end of the day.

But what about the week­ends when you want to travel fur­ther? Well, here’s the good news. This car also has a 1.4-litre petrol engine on board that op­er­ates as a gen­er­a­tor to main­tain a charge in the bat­tery pack.

That way the car’s range is re­stricted only by the amount of fuel in the car’s petrol tank.

This new-age car is the Holden Volt, which en­ters the New Zealand new car mar­ket in Novem­ber, and which ini­tially will be sold through three spe­cially cer­ti­fied Holden deal­er­ships in Auck­land, Welling­ton and Christchurch.

This doesn’t mean to say that peo­ple in other parts of New Zealand can’t buy this car, how­ever. All Holden deal­ers will be able to sell the Volt via a re­fer­ral process in which they will re­ceive ‘‘spot­ter’’ fees.

But the Volts will only be able to be ser­viced at the three deal­er­ships. And if this means a cus­tomer is re­quired to drive more than 250km to have a ve­hi­cle ser­viced, then Holden New Zealand will pro­vide overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion plus a free loan ve­hi­cle.

A Volt tech­nol­ogy work­shop for Aus­tralasian me­dia was held in Sydney last week, where jour­nal­ists were told the ve­hi­cle has al­ready been sold for some time in the USA and Europe – as a Chevro­let and Opel/ Vaux­hall – and that in the United States alone the Volts have been driven a com­bined to­tal of 200 mil­lion kilo­me­tres, two-thirds of that dis­tance on elec­tric­ity.

There are down­sides to this car how­ever, not the least be­ing that Volt en­ters the New Zealand new car mar­ket priced at a whop­ping $85,000.

An­other down­side is that the sheer size of its bat­tery pack means the Volt can only be a fourseater.

At last week’s me­dia event Holden’s di­rec­tor of elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing Paul Gib­son de­scribed Volt as a ve­hi­cle that marks the end of the big­gest is­sue with elec­tric cars: range.

Cen­tral to how this car works is a T-shaped 16.5 kWh bat­tery pack that is made up of 288 lithium-ion cells.

The bat­ter­ies sup­ply power to a 111kW elec­tric drive unit that com­prises two elec­tric mo­tors and a mul­ti­mode plan­e­tary trans­mis­sion.

At lower speeds just one of the mo­tors op­er­ates, but at higher ve­hi­cle speeds the sec­ond mo­tor kicks to add ef­fi­ciency.

As part of last week’s me­dia func­tion I headed out into the streets and free­ways of ur­ban Sydney and found this Holden to be an easy car to drive, with the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween Volt and con­ven­tional ve­hi­cles be­ing the ab­so­lute lack of engine noise.

Volt of­fers three drive modes, too. A Nor­mal mode is a de­fault set­ting and de­signed to be used most of the time, while a Sport mode changes ac­cel­er­a­tor re­sponse for more en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing.

There’s also a Hold mode which al­lows the driver to or­der the petrol gen­er­a­tor to op­er­ate, thus sav­ing the bat­tery charge for elec­tric-only op­er­a­tion in the city.

The Volt also boasts a very high level of safety spec­i­fi­ca­tion, in­clud­ing for­ward col­li­sion alert and a lane de­par­ture warn­ing sys­tem, voice con­trol for some phone, au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion func­tions, rear-view cam­era, a full suite of elec­tronic ride and han­dling aids, and a pedes­trian alert sys­tem.

All this has al­lowed the Volt to earn a fives­tar ANCAP safety rat­ing, in ad­di­tion to the five-star Green Ve­hi­cle Guide rat­ing it has been given in recog­ni­tion of its en­vi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness.

This is lead­ing Holden New Zealand to be­lieve that de­spite the Volt’s high price, it will sell at least 150 of the cars in its first 12 months on the Kiwi mar­ket.

Plug-in Holden: The new Volt can be charged overnight by be­ing plugged into an or­di­nary house­hold power socket.

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