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
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.