Chevy on charge with Volt
THE car of the (near) future is up and running in the USA, and heading for Australian showrooms early in 2012.
The Chevrolet Volt is the world’s first workable electric car, and one that ends the new-age fear of ‘‘range anxiety’’ with a hybrid system that turns the Prius world upside down.
The Volt runs on battery power but has an onboard petrol engine that works as a generator, providing a potential range of more than 600km and ending the fear of running ‘‘dry’’ beyond a plug-in socket.
Holden is an early adopter and plans to have the Volt in its range as soon as possible.
However, a pricetag estimated in the $60,000 range means it will not be for everyone.
But range extender technology could be a widespread hit, providing plug-in city driving and the chance for long-distance trips using gasoline topups along the way.
‘‘The Volt can be your one car, your only car,’’ says Mark Reuss, former head of Holden and now leading Chevrolet in the USA.
It is impossible to rate the Volt without a showroom sticker.
The price is likely to be about $60,000 and that will be costly by any measure.
The Volt comes with a bundle of value-added stuff in the US, including roadside assistance and satnav, as well as a 160,000km, eight-year warranty on its lithium-ion battery pack.
There is a vast amount of technology in the Volt but its foundations are all Cruze. The GM compact car provides the foundation and the engineers and futurists do the rest.
The heart of the Volt is its heatedand-cooled, 198kg battery pack.
It’s so big that it’s shaped in a tee and steals space between and around the cramped back seat.
There is also a 1.4-litre petrol engine in the nose that’s responsible for charging duties any time the battery gets severely depleted, or when there is a need for sustained heavy pulling power.
GM says the Volt can hit 160km/h and has a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than 9.0 seconds, while happily running with similar range to a petrolpowered car.
The Volt is designed for minimum drag and that means a relatively sharpedged body that’s not unlike a Prius.
Stylists have tried to dress the shape but it’s still no beauty.
My first drive in the Volt was exactly a year ago, and it was effectively just a lap of the block at GM’s technical centre in Detroit.
This time there is more than 90 minutes of driving, on freeways and city streets.
The Volt fires up easily and, despite an icy winter chill in Detroit, the cabin is soon warm without stealing much battery power. Heated seats help.
The car easily matches or betters other cars in city conditions.
Cruising at 110km/h is easy and the car is quiet and relaxed.
IT drives nicely, delivers on its electric promises, and is far more than just a science experiment.
A hybrid hero that’s surprisingly good to drive.