It took a while and some begging, but I managed to get a Chevy Volt for testing. Reason being, Volt’s are initially being sold in metro areas. However, Outten Chevrolet on Tilghman Street in Allentown has a demo model on display and, according to their sales manager, has two coming in for sale.
A lot of misinformation has been floating around regarding the Volt. It’s not a totally electric vehicle. Actually, GM refers to it as an E-REV, or extended range electric vehicle. It gets it power from two sources; an electric motor rated at 149-hp (111 kilowatts) and 273 lb/ft of torque; and a 1.4-liter, 84-hp, 4-cylinder gasoline engine that requires premium fuel. But there are actually two electric motors; the 149-hp drives the front wheels while the other (74-hp) generates electricity from the gas engine.
Volt has a top speed rating of 100 mph and can be driven anywhere between 25-50 miles on electric power alone which is depended on driving habits and the use of power-robbing accessories.
For recharging, Volt’s 16-kwh lithium battery can be recharged in a household 120-volt outlet in about eight hours, or three if plugged into a 240-volt line.
When I first got the car for testing and used up all the electric power, I plugged it into my outside receptacle overnight with the furnished charging cord assembly. The next day, the electric gauge showed the battery was still depleted. I then broke out the owners’ manual, which states, “not to use an extension cord,” which I did. After that, I pulled the car closer to the outlet and plugged it in with the provided charging cord that goes from a thick 12 gauge, down to normal 16-gauge wire. The next day the battery was fully charged.
From that full charge, I managed to drive 33 miles before a dash indication showed the battery was depleted (it actually shows how many miles remaining as you drive) and the gasoline engine took over unnoticeably.
I could have gotten more miles out of the charge but daytime temperatures were in the high 90s and the A/C was constantly on, which sucks up more juice as does the radio, electric windows, wipers, heater and heated seats.
Charging stations are available and are estimated to cost around $500 or so installed – unless you have a friend that’s an electrician and can do it for less. But realistically, the 240 is not needed if you can live with the 8-hour charge time. With this, I wouldn’t want the Volt as an “only” car unless you’re someone who takes very short trips.
The average cost for a 10-hour charge is said to be about $1.60, but I couldn’t determine my cost because of the high-usage of my home A/C.
Volt is relatively heavy (3755 pounds) and its heft can be felt. But it’s a secure, planted feeling on 17-inch Goodyear low rolling resistance tires. It rides like a much larger car and is nimble when traversing Allentown’s roadways and highways.
Volt also parks easily with quick and brisk acceleration under electric power that is similar to that of an electric golf cart. And it’s relatively quiet under electric propulsion with only a swooshing sound when starting and stopping. Its 0-60 time has been rated at 9.2 seconds, which is reportedly slightly quicker than a Toyota Prius.
Cargo space in the Volt is huge, especially when the rear seats are folded. It measures 59 inches deep, 39.5 in width and 29 high. With the seats up, there’s 28 inches of depth or 10.6 cubic feet. Under the cargo floor are the charger cable and tire air pump, as there is no spare. Much of this area is occupied by the large battery which has been rumored to cost around $10K is it needs replacement.
The vertical stack is high-tech and all control buttons are pressure sensitive and sealed beneath a plastic skin. And the Bose audio system is a first for any GM car as it uses 50 percent less energy and is lighter in weight.
My major complaint with Volt is its chin spoiler that is used for aerodynamics but is a mere 3.5 inches off the ground and gets scraped when entering meager driveway lips or speed bumps.
Of course there’s also the $39,995 base price that is offset somewhat by the governments’ $7500 federal “green car” tax break.
Volt will become a more viable sedan once there’s more pubic infrastructure for charging in place. Locally, the Lehigh Valley Mall has several charging stations but non-electric cars seem to occupy the spaces every time I walk by there.
To see and test drive a Volt, stop by Outten Chevrolet in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” box atop this page.