Chevy on charge with Volt

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Gover

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.

Value

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.

Technology

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.

De­sign

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.

Driv­ing

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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