Volt points to motoring future
Holden’s new-age electric car, the Volt, is about to be launched in New Zealand. Rob Maetzig headed 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, has a range of about 600 kilometres – but has an average fuel consumption of as low as 1.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
That’s better than 217 miles per gallon in the old imperial measurement.
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, which under normal circumstances is easily enough for the daily commute.
So here’s the potential daily use: 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? 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 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.
All Holden dealers will be able to sell the Volt through 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 United States and Europe – as a Chevrolet and Opel/ Vauxhall – and that in the US alone the Volts have been driven a combined total of 200 million kilometres, two-thirds of that distance on electricity.
So there is obvious potential for this car to do exactly the same thing in New Zealand and Australia, making it a very viable alternative to the conventional petrol-electric hybrid vehicles already on offer here.
Any vehicle that can use such small amounts of petrol for daily operation, and in doing so have average exhaust emissions of just 27g of CO per kilometre, has to receive the fullest praise.
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 size of its battery pack means that not only does it weigh 200kg, but it also runs through the middle of the vehicle and acts as a centre console, which means the Volt can only be a four-seater.
But Volt represents the beginning of General Motors’ journey into the world of the extended range electric vehicle, not the end.
As the years roll over, the development costs of this vehicle will reduce and such product will become less expensive. Battery sizes and weights will reduce too, making vehicles even more appropriate for everyday use than the Volt is now.
A major feature of the Volt’s interior is that almost everything is touch control. The vehicle has two full-colour LCD screens that display key information and house touchscreen controls for everything from infotainment and climate control, to driver and energy information.
ON THE ROAD: Holden Volt is a class act.