General Motors Canada announced that the production version of the award-winning Chevrolet Volt began shipping to select Canadian dealerships this week, and that customer deliveries will begin immediately.
The first orders are destined for retail customers in seven markets -Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Oshawa, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal and Quebec City. Customers in these regions have been able to place orders for the Chevrolet Volt since May 2, 2011, but GM executives contend that the innovative Volt will be available nation-wide within twelve months.
Unlike rival hybrid products such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight which rely on their gasoline engines for the majority of their motivation, the Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in, range-extended, electric vehicle with an on-board gasoline generator. Hybrid designs utilize a small electric motor for low speed driving, but switch to a regular gasoline powered engine when accelerating or cruising at higher speeds with the electric motor providing additional energy. These are referred to as “parallel” hybrids as both the gasoline engine and electric motor are working side-by-side ( in parallel).
The Volt, on the other hand, is a “series” vehicle, which simply means that the electric motor powers the car at all times, while its small gasoline engine acts as a generator for making electricity once the battery is depleted. The car is powered by GM’s revolutionary VOLTEC propulsion system which consists of a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric drive unit that provide battery electric range between 40 and 80 km, depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature. I had the opportunity this week to spend a day with the Volt during a pre-launch media event here in Vancouver and am happy to report that the system worked exactly as promised. In fact, the car performed beyond my expectations in almost every area.
General Motor’s literature claims that “after the battery is depleted, an engine-generator seamlessly extends Volt’s range an additional 500 km by generating electricity to operate the vehicle’s electric drive system. This distinguishes the Volt from battery electric vehicles, which cannot be operated when recharging is not immediately available, such as during a power interruption or on a long-distance trip.” I managed to deplete the Volt’s batteries while exploring the car’s abilities to tackle extended climbs up one of Vancouver’s local mountain highways. However, the transition from full electric to the car’s 1.4-litre ECOTEC “generator” engine is so smooth that it would have gone unnoticed had I not been watching the car’s power usage/transfer information screen along the way.
My brief experience behind the wheel revealed that the car is very quiet, well-appointed, and provides ample space for four adults and light cargo. But I am looking forward to spending a few days behind the wheel of a Volt in the near future to see how easy it is to live with on a daily basis.
The Volt starts at $41,545 before taxes and freight ($1,450).