By on July 22, 2013

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of the population can’t get past “Electric” and immediately cross the Volt off their list. There is also [strangely] a segment of the population that says, “that’s great but I want a hybrid.”  Guess what? The Volt is a hybrid.

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Exterior

Aerodynamics dictate the shape of modern high-efficiency cars, and as a result, the Volt has a profile very similar to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Like the Japanese hybrids, the Volt is a liftback design which is more practical than your typical trunk lid for carrying large items from the home improvement store.

The Volt’s styling isn’t for everyone, but I find the overall style aggressive and attractive. There is a caveat. Since the shape is dictated by wind-tunnel testing (just like the Prius and Insight) the Volt reminds me of NASCAR cars. Why? Because they all have the same shape and teams paint / add decals to “brand” their car. The Volt/Prius/Insight reminds me of this tactic and parked next to one another in the dark you’d be hard pressed to differentiate them by silhouette.

For its first refresh since it launched as a 2011, GM decided to ditch the somewhat awkward black roof and black painted liftgate opting for a more harmonious body-matching hue. There are also subtle tweaks to the rear tail lamp modules this year.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Hybrids have long suffered cheaper looking and feeling interiors than their “normal” counterparts. That is true for the Prius, Insight and the Volt. The reason is two-fold. The first is obviously cost. Motors and batteries aren’t cheap and the Volt has 288 batteries jammed into a “T” shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car and across the back of the car behind the rear seats. With a nominal 16.5kWh capacity, this battery is about four times larger than the Prius Plug-In’s pack and nearly twice the size of Ford’s Energi. The second reason is weight. Hard plastics weigh less.

Hard plastics included, the Volt is a nicer place to spend your time than a Prius but Ford’s C-MAX takes top position in terms of interior parts feel. Style is subjective, but I would rank the Volt between the Prius’ funky interior design and the C-MAX’s mainstream interior. Part of this is because 2013 brings more sedate and mainstream choices to the Volt’s interior. Gone are the funky orange door panels with “circuit board” patterns replaced by a dark silver plastic panels on the black interior. New for 2013 is some brown love, a color combo that brings the Volt’s interior feel up a substantial notch without actually improving the quality of the plastics.

Front seat comfort slots between the Ford and Toyota alternatives up front, in the rear there is less headroom and legroom than in the Prius or C-MAX. There is also one less seat. The lack of a 5th seat seems to be a common reason given for choosing something else over the Volt, but the battery had to go somewhere so the Volt trades more cargo room with the seats in place vs the C-MAX Energi for that 5th seat. Pick your poison.

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

When it comes to infotainment and trendy gadgets, the Volt scores big. Sure the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster isn’t as snazzy as Land Rover’s 12-inch readout, but the Prius is stuck in a 1980s Chrysler LeBaron electrofluorescent-time-warp and one 7-inch readout trumps Ford’s twin-4.2″ display setup in my mind. That’s before I comment that the Volt’s gauges are where they belong, in front of the driver…

The Volt gets Chevy’s latest MyLink infotainment system with some slight tweaks for 2013. GM’s mid-market  entertainment operating system is one of my favorites. The graphics are slick, the display is easy to read and GM offers a touchscreen and a joystick/knob controller so you can use whatever comes naturally. Unlike MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE, the Chevy is virtually crash-free and always responsive. 2013 brings improved voice commands for your USB/iDevice allowing you to command your tunes at the press of a button, and unlike Toyota’s similar system, MyLink doesn’t have a problem with large music libraries. If you opt for nav software, destination entry is quick and the map software uses high-resolution maps with satellite traffic info.

On the safety gadget front 2013 brings collision and blind spot warning systems from the Cadillac XTS. The system is camera based so you can’t get radar adaptive cruise control, a system that is offered on the Prius and the Fusion Energi but not on the C-Max Energi.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Before we dive into the Volt, it’s important to know how hybrid systems work. GM’s Belt-Alternator-Starter, Mercedes’ S400 Hybrid and Honda’s IMA hybrids are all systems where the engine is always connected and even if the car is capable of “EV” mode, the engine is spinning. Porsche, VW, Infiniti and others use a pancake motor and clutch setup to disconnect the engine from the motor and transmission allowing a “pure EV” mode. Honda’s new Accord has a 2-mode setup where the motor drives the wheels via a fixed ratio gearset, the engine drives a motor and above 45MPH a clutch engages, linking the engine and motor together at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Ford, Toyota and the Volt use a planetary gearset “power splitting” device. Yes, the Volt uses a hybrid system that although not identical, is thematically similar to Ford & Toyota’s hybrid system.

Say what? I thought GM said it was a serial hybrid? Yes, GM did at some point say that and I think that has caused more confusion than anything else about the Volt. The bankrupt Fisker Karma is only a serial hybrid. The engine drives a generator, the generator powers the battery and the motor to move the car forward. At no point can the engine provide any motive power to the wheels except via the electrical connection.

The Volt’s innovation is that it can operate like a Fisker Karma or like a Prius. It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid. To do this, GM alters the power split device power flow VS the Ford/Toyota design. Then they add a clutch allowing the gasoline engine to be mechanically isolated from the wheels. And finally they add software with a whole new take on a hybrid system.

volt-tranmission, Courtesy of MotorTrend.com

The Volt has four distinct operating modes.

  1. Starting off from a stop, the Volt draws power from its 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) battery pack to power the 149HP main motor.
  2. At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.

When the battery is low, or when “hold” or “mountain modes are engaged, the system switches to one of two hybrid modes.

  1. The system starts the 1.4L 84 HP gasoline engine and uses it to turn a 72HP motor/generator. The system feeds the power to the battery and primary motor. Maximum horsepower is still 149. When more than 72HP is being consumed, the balance is drawn from the battery.
  2. When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable. Starting off at home with a full battery, I was able to drive 32 miles in EV mode. That’s about 22 more than the Prius Plug-In and 18 more than the C-MAX Energi. How is that possible with a battery that is so much larger? Allow me to digress for a moment.

GM takes an interesting and very conservative approach to battery life. Rather than charging and discharging the battery nearly completely as Nissan and Tesla’s EVs do, the Volt will only use the “middle” 65% of the battery. This means that when the display says it is “full,” the battery is really only 85% charged. When it reads empty, the true state of charge is around 35%. Why? Because batteries degrade more rapidly when they are at high or low states of charge. By never operating the battery at these extremes and having an active thermal management system, I expect the Volt’s battery to have a longer life than other vehicles on the market with the same battery chemistry.

Back to those modes. We clocked 0-60 in 8.72 seconds when the Volt was operating as an EV (slightly faster than the C-MAX Energi and much faster than a Prius). In parallel hybrid mode, the broader torque curve dropped this to 8.4 seconds. Transitions between modes is practically seamless unless you are driving the Volt aggressively on mountain roadways. On steep inclines when you’re at a lower state of charge, the Volt will switch from serial-hybrid to parallel-hybrid modes to keep from draining the battery below the minimum threshold. Transitioning from one mode to the other causes a momentary delay in power application as the transmission disengages the clutch pack and synchronizes the speeds of the motors and engine. This transition is more pronounced than a typical gear shift in a traditional automatic.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to road holding, the porky 3,899lb C-MAX Energi is the winner thanks to its wide 225-width rubber and the chassis’ Euro origins. The Volt is a close second at 3,781lbs with the standard 215 low rolling resistance rubber. The Prius? A distant third despite being the lightest at 3,165lbs. Admittedly handling better than a Prius isn’t a terribly high bar to leap, but in the grand scheme of things the Volt handles as well as the average compact sedan. Overall wind and road noise slot (yet again) between the quieter C-MAX and the noisier Prius.

Fuel economy is the most important part of a hybrid, and this is the area where the Volt starts having problems. Starting with a full battery (at my rates, this cost $1.52) the first 32 miles were in EV mode followed by 26 miles in hybrid mode. My average economy was 90 MPG, a few better than the Prius plug-in’s 72 on the same trip and 60 for the Ford. Being unable to charge the Volt at my office due to construction, these numbers fell rapidly on my way home. On this single-charge round trip, the Prius averaged 62 MPG, the C-MAX averaged 50 and the Volt dropped to 46. What’s going on? Once under way the Volt’s four-mode hybrid system seems to be less efficient than the C-MAX. The exact reasons for this I’m not sure, but on a round-trip commute without charging, I averaged 32-33 MPG vs the 40.7 in the C-MAX Energi and 52 in the Prius Plug-In. The longer you drive your Volt without charging it, the more it will cost to run than the Ford or Toyota.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port

On the flip side if your commute is within 30-35 miles of a charging station you will almost never use the gasoline engine. (The Volt will run it now and then to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad in the plumbing.) Unlike the alternatives, the Volt will also stay pure electric even under full throttle acceleration giving you a driving experience that is very much like a LEAF/Tesla until you deplete the battery.

This brings us full circle to the EV vs hybrid question. What is the Volt? In my opinion it’s a plug-in hybrid. I also think this is the best marketing angle for GM because when you explain to people that there is no range anxiety in the Volt and you can use the HOV lane in California solo, they seem to “get it.” The fly in the ointment is the price, The Volt starts at $39,145 and ends just shy of 45-large. The “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” is a hard rep to shake, and even GM throwing cash on the Volt’s hood isn’t helping. Factor in the $8,000 premium over the C-MAX Energi and Prius Plug-In and you start to see the rest of the problem. At the end of my week with Chevy’s car with a plug I came to the conclusion that the Volt is the most misunderstood car on the market right now. But with a high sticker price and only four seats I’m not entirely sure that understanding GM’s conflicted EV/Hybrid will help them sell.

 

 General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.285 Seconds (EV Mode)

0-60: 8.72 Seconds (EV Mode), 8.4 Seconds (hybrid mode)

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 84 MPH (EV Mode)

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 48MPG over 565 miles, 32-33MPG hybrid mode

 

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148 Comments on “Review: 2013 Chevrolet Volt (Video)...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Good article.

    Also

    “Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable.”

    How long until an aftermarket hack is introduced?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      This is not entirely the case: 2013s have the Ampera’s “Hold” mode, which forces the car to burn gas for power. I don’t know if that enables the parallel power-split mode offhand, though it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

    • 0 avatar

      This is why I LOVE attacking EV’s.

      4 Modes BASICALLY MEANS that:

      The electric motor and its battery pack ARE NOT ENOUGH to realistically keep this car moving at highway speeds beyond hypermiling-style driving habits.

      So at the end of the day, you are most likely going to need the internal combustion engine, unless you are doing minimal velocity for minimum distance.

      No thank you.

      $40,000? LOL – If I needed a car for long distance I’d buy a $25,000 (or cheaper) Sonata/Fusion/etc and use the $15,000 I saved to put gas in this thing for the next 6 years (regular unleaded). For the size of the Volt, I’d rather have a DART GT.

      Someone wake me when they release a 470 HP EV that costs less than $55,000 and recharges in less than 2 hours. I’ll buy it immediately.

      Lately – I’ve been seeing more VOLTS on the road than ever before (all 6 of them) and some of these guys HOG THE MIDDLE LANE backing up traffic just cause they are trying to make it to their destination without refueling and don’t want their AC to deplete their battery in the 105′ weather. The funnier ones are the guys who have Volts and get mad when I cut around them and then try to catch up to me and overtake me. That’s epic lulz.

      BTW – GREAT REVIEW ALEX. Videos make all the difference!

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The Volt isn’t an EV though.

        4 modes should, in theory, mean that the vehicle uses different modes for optimal efficiency.

        When I tested drove a Leaf and a Focus Electric, both moved fine on the freeway. The Plug-In hybrids are interesting to me because my wife only drives 15 miles a day. The Volt lease payments also make me interested.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Absolutely the Volt is an EV. You can drive the Volt at a 100 MPH and as long as it has battery power it is spewing nothing but electrons. In simple terms it is an EV with gas assist. It absolutely does not need the gas engine to help propel the car under ANY circumstances unless the battery charge has been depleted.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “It absolutely does not need the gas engine to help propel the car under ANY circumstances unless the battery charge has been depleted”

            Therefore, not an EV. It’s a plug-in hybrid. The gas engine can power the wheels with the electric motor so its a PHEV not an EV.

            That isn’t a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t give owners range anxiety like the Leaf, Focus Electric, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        Hey, I saw my first Volt on the street today, on South Tacoma Way about a block from the dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        Oh Bigtruck yada yada I was HOPING you’d weigh in here with your .02¢! You made my day. I’ll quote your screed last week on EV’s:

        “Electricity does not grow on trees. Fossil Fuels do! Plants have NOTHING TO DO AT ALL but sit their (sic) and collect energy from the sun all day. That’s what fossil fuels are.”

        Please keep ‘em coming – that was epic comedy gold!

      • 0 avatar
        focher

        I’ll keep that in mind next time I cruise at 90 on my 200+ drive with an MPG of over 40. Of course, I will smile thinking of your mantle holding the award for most inane Internet comment of the day.

    • 0 avatar
      rickkop

      Yep, I bought one of these and I love it. Rick

  • avatar
    ash78

    tc;db (too complicated; didn’t buy)

    I’m a Volt fan and think GM screwed the pooch a little bit while coming out of the gate. They were first-to-market with a palatable plug-in bybrid, but I guess they didn’t label or market it correctly. I still see more Volts than C-Maxes by a 10:1 ratio right now, and that’s in a decidedly non-greenie Southern suburbia (I’ve even seen a couple Tesla Model S tooling around, but I digress).

    But since the 2011 launch, everyone seems to have created hybrids and mass confusion along the way. Alex’s review goes a long way towards straightening out the three most similar competitors, but GM is sort of like if Apple had launched the original iPod and then let Sandisk and Creative Labs overtake them in people’s mindspace (cheaper, arguable lesser products that rode the former’s coattails).

    As a Ford shareholder and fan, I like the C-Max, but I’m still irritated we never got the 3-row, sliding door version they promised a few years ago. For a company with no minivan, it seems they could have offered a whole C-Max line (or S-Max) with little cannibalization of their other people haulers. My $0.02.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Having driven a C-Max Diesel 6 spd manual while on a staff ride through Belgium’s Ardennes region, I can attest to just how good a vehicle the C-Max really is and how robbed I feel that Ford won’t ship a few over here for Yankee consumption. Averaging 42-44 mpgs while slick-shifting on the tight, mountainous terrain while chasing Kampfgruppe Piper’s destructive path was a true joy. Its a wonder to me that Ford, without any minivan offering, doesn’t bring at least the automatic, diesel, seven seater here in the states.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Peiper. Also, was that a tour or did you just fly over, rent a car, and create your own “tour”?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_Peiper

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      They do have a 3 row, 7 passenger, minivan on the way in the Transit Connect Wagon. There is a Wagon version of the current Transit Connect but it is only a 5 passenger.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Ford will have a 3-row minivan based on the Transit Connect. It comes out in early 2014. The 2.5 and 1.6T will be the initial engines. We can all hope and pray the 2.0TDCI makes it stateside, but I won’t hold my breath. Based on Ford’s marketing of the C-Max in the US, I would be suprised if we ever get a non-hybrid version. It is their hybrid brand now.

      As someone who has purchased a C-Max, I would have rather had the diesel, six or seven passenger version. However, the hybrid is probably better for my wife’s communte, which no longer involves freeway driving.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Awesome news on Transit Connect. I considered the current passenger version, but it seemed like a weak engine, high-priced combo that was an afterthought to the cargo model. I still haven’t seen a passenger version yet.

        I’m shopping for a minivan later this year, and might seriously consider a new Connect vs a couple-year-old Honda Ody$$ey or similar. Should be a more unique, quirky alternative to the current crop of generic transverse-6 vans on the market.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The long wheel base Transit Connect Wagon should be an interesting vehicle. Hopefully they can keep the price down. The C-Max and S-Max would have been better drivers alternatives, but this is a step in the right direction.

          I’m hoping the next Edge is more like the S-Max than the current Edge, but Ford sells too many Edges to justify much of a change.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Where I think GM screwed the pooch with the Volt was by badging it and selling it as a Chevrolet instead of as a GM, which they did with the EV-1. Introducing cutting edge (expensive) technology into a “standard” car line is problematic (see the “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” argument).

      IMHO had they badged the first (and so far, only) model to use the Voltec drivetrain as a GM, they could have sold the Volt in any GM store worldwide and set a price independent of any division’s pricing norms. The early adopters would have felt a bit more special, paid a little more, and GM might have made some money on each on they sold. Then, once the technology is vetted and the economies of scale kick in, you develop and sell division-specific versions.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        As a child of the 1980s, GMs various badges don’t mean much to me. Even as a kid, I could see that they were the same cars with different stickers and I couldn’t figure out why they bothered.

        GM has made some progress (re?)building Buick and Cadillac into brands, and shed some of the useless ones – but branding among GM nameplates is still new to me. I’m in my 30s, a parent, and doing well in my career, so I’m not too far away from being GMs core customer – at least as far as brand awareness goes.

        I’m not convinced that calling the Volt a Chevy, Buick, Cadillac, or GMC matters that much. The car is what matters. Maybe it would have made a better halo for Buick, or whatever (if Buick wants to be known for technology cars), but that’s not going to sell (or unsell) a car to me. With the Volt, the transference if esteem goes from the car to the brand.

        P.S I’ve driven the Volt and seriously considered buying one. I like the car a lot, and found it to be a compelling mix of technology and subtle luxuries.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I absolutely believe the Volt is a technological marvel and wish I could own one.

    How does one describe the Volt? Easy. It’s a road-going, gasoline-using version of a diesel-electric locomotive! At no time does the engine turn the wheels, just powers the generator to turn the wheels after the battery is depleted. Simple, IMHO.

    Right now on my long commute, I could use one, as I need to fill up my 2012 Impala every 3½-4 days.

    Great review – thanks, Alex.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Actually, the Volt’s engine does drive the wheels sometimes. What you’re describing is how the Fisker Karma was set up. The Volt is an awkwarsd blend of that and the Toyota HSD.

      In the long term, I think everyone will end up using some variant of the HSD after the patents expire, with the big choice being the size of the battery pack.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I stand corrected, thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        “The Volt is an awkwarsd blend of that and the Toyota HSD.”

        The Voltec system has none of the limitations of HSD, if that’s what you mean by awkward, then yes.

        By limitations I mean the way HSD works there is a limit on the RPM of each of it’s two power sources, such that higher speeds force both to work together. Not so with the Voltec, which can run the electic motor alone up to top speed.

        If you study the gear set diagram, what you will not see is that the Voltec can have the engine driving the generator while being completely disconnected from the drive (electric) motor. The 3 clutches are the key, one connects the engine to the generator/motor and another connects the generator/motor to the ring gear, while the third locks the ring gear to the case.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          The Volt is a beautiful piece of technology, but the business case is difficult to make. Kind of like the Concorde; a technological success but am economic failure. I hope the Volt can do better for the long term

    • 0 avatar
      jhott997

      This is not correct and one of the biggest misunderstandings of the “Voltec” system.
      The I/C engine does couple to the drive wheels and provide motive torque during certain regimes. Specifically, when higher speeds and lower battery capacity are available.
      The Voltec system has the motor/generators internal to the “transmission” case along with a series of planetary units and clutches. This system is actively managed to provide motive torque from the motors/generators and I/C engine directly to the drive wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      That’s the setup for a BMW i3 with its optional 2 cylinder gas-powered generator. MSRP just announced at $42,275 with shipping, but without the generator.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      “It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid.” – This was news to me too, believing no mechanical link existed with the internal combustion engine, and often citing your locomotive example. This is the best review I’ve read so far, especially for its clarity.

      The hybrid / EV critics will inevitably post that the batteries consume more energy to mine & produce than they save, that owning one is akin to socialism, that you’ll never recoup the investment and worse. All wrong. I even read recently in TTAC’s own comments section this screed to justify not buying an EV:

      “Electricity does not grow on trees. Fossil Fuels do! Plants have NOTHING TO DO AT ALL but sit their (sic) and collect energy from the sun all day. That’s what fossil fuels are.”

      Somewhere a grade school science teacher weeps.

      EV’s and hybrids have somehow become politically charged lightning rods. In the early days of hybrids some Prius owners poisoned the waters by plastering their cars with smug in-your-face political stickers which you had no choice but to read because you were stuck behind them at 54mph in a 70mph zone with no gap in the rapidly passing traffic. Hopefully we’ve moved past that as the industry has matured.

      If I wasn’t getting 60mpg+ out of my Insight I’d spring for a Volt without a second thought because it’s chock full of American ingenuity and built here. It was engineered here. It’ll save you enough dead presidents with constant use to justify the premium you pay for it.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Zackman: Your description appeals to me the most, and it is the way I look at the Volt.

      I too, would love to have one, but the timing worked against me. My last lease expired in 2009, I couldn’t wait a couple of years for the Volt to materialize. We got an Ecotec equipped Pontiac G6 instead, which has served us well. I still manage to get 29-30 MPG driving in typical Michigan 80 MPH traffic…

      Maybe “Volt Gen II” will have an Orlando- or HHR-style of wagon…

      THAT would be neat!

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Well , That was enough to confuse the heck out of me! Too complex is my first reaction , and way to complex for GM. GM’s history with “New” or cutting edge tech has been awful over the past 3 decades. If that wasn’t enough , then you have to consider the dealer network and the ability of a mechanic to trouble shoot the thing. Again , there’s GM’s abysmal record over the last 30 years at the dealer level. Buying a Volt is a huge gamble IMO. Maybe , and it’s a big maybe, the Volt will have a past history that indicates it’s a decent , reliable car and not just another GM garbage bin. Bill C.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Mechanically, this is a very simple system. Far less complexity than if there was an automatic transmission hanging off the end of that engine.

      The customer satisfaction has been exemplary so far with this car.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Don’t read too much into the customer satisfaction. When you overspend by $13K, you’re strongly motivated to love the car. There’s a psychological term for this, which escapes me at the moment.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          The Consumer Reports question on the survey that Volt has performed well on is:

          “Considering all factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, enjoyment, etc.), would you get this car if you had it to do all over again?”

          Aren’t you the one stroking out about give away leases on the Volt anyway? Who the heck overpays by $13k on the Volt?

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            The early Volt buyers, the ones who have had time to complete the CR surveys, paid a lot for the cars. The super-size givebacks are a relativley new phenomenon.

            Further, the car is “special,” which will tend to increase perceived (maybe it’s “reinforced”) satisfaction.

            The owners often post about how much money they’re saving on gas and it makes the Volt worthwhile. Drill deeper and you find, often enough, that they traded something like a Tahoe. Heck, yes, they’re saving money. But they would have saved money with almost anything else, including practically all the CUVs on the market.

            TrueDelta has reliability info for the 2012 and 2013. The 2012 is looking pretty good but the 2013 is mid-pack.

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            I got the 2011 Volt, loved it, then traded it in for a 2013 Volt w/the $4000 discount and another $7500 off my taxes. 2013 has a few new features and the infotainment system is superior. If Tesla can get their Model X down to the mid-60s for the 2-motor variant w/85kWh battery I’d definitely trade in for that though.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Doctor,

            Did you lease the ’11? If not, what was your initial purchase (net after credits, etc) and what did you get in trade?

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            I bought the fully-loaded 2011, initial purchase was about $45k + taxes and tags, and when doing the trade I got back about $24k and change, though it did have a dent in the hood and scratches in the paint which would have run me about $2k to repair/replace. The fully-loaded 2013 came to $40k and change + taxes and tags. Subtract $7.5k from both for the Fed kickback.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Thanks. I ask mostly because I’m curious to know what the resale is like on the Volt; the $7500 and other incentives must distort the used market. However, the resale is holding up better than I might have guessed.

        • 0 avatar
          Crabspirits

          That may be true to some extent, but unlike a Range Rover, this car doesn’t seem to break.

          Also, with the ‘bama bucks, most owners don’t think they’ve overspent at all. In fact, they seem to think buying one is the miserly thing to do. Whether YOU or I disagree with that, is inconsequential.

          • 0 avatar
            VoltOwner

            I disagree with your characterization of the tax credit, in your vernacular you should be calling them “Bush Bucks”.

            GW is responsible for the way it is only available to those with enough tax liability to claim a tax _credit_.

            If it was an O’ idea, it would be available as an instant rebate at the dealer, so you would not have to come up with so much scratch in the first place.

        • 0 avatar
          HiFlite999

          @KixStart:

          “I ask mostly because I’m curious to know what the resale is like on the Volt; the $7500 and other incentives must distort the used market. However, the resale is holding up better than I might have guessed.”

          The tax credit does distort the market in some strange ways. Since, to take full advantage of the credit, you have to have a Federal tax bill of more than $7500, many cannot do this. (This is why Obama wanted to change the law so that the credit goes to the *dealer*, allowing the MSRP drop to be applied right on the lot.) Hence, about 2/3 of the Volts sold are leased. On the used market, in principle, the tax credit is folded into the asking price. However, there are few used Volts available, so the price is driven back up.

          What will be interesting is what happens in 2015 when a significant number of Volts start coming off-lease into the used market. Will it fall to the natural level for Chevys ~45% or $18k, or will it remain at Prius levels ~62% or $25k?

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “Far less complexity than if there was an automatic transmission”

        That’s so true – especially if you compare it to some of the new transmissions. Here’s a link to the ZF 9 speed page. Watch the video and peruse some of the documentation. Then re-read this article.
        http://goo.gl/XBCBw

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    That is the best video review on the Volt that I have ever seen.
    That said (I have seen nearly all of them. There are a lot.), you should be quite proud. I also enjoy all of your reviews.

    I pointed my brother in law toward a Volt. When they went to test drive it, the salesman kept them on a short leash. It was a terrible experience for a prospective buyer. I’m thinking that there are so many looky loos with this car, that the sales teams don’t really care for them that much. It’s something you really need to take home anyway to see if it fits. I know we always joke about rental fodder, but in this case, it might actually help sales if they forced them on the general public. I’ve seen a few around Chicago with Zipcar stickers.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Great review in general – and a solid explanation of the pros and cons.

    Completely agree and have said/posted many times that the marketing of the Volt has been horrific, at best.

    Given the overall tone of the review, and the utter lack of politically motivated snark, somewhere, Bertel is rending his garments.

  • avatar

    Alex, could the Volt’s lower efficiency once the battery is low be explained by conversion losses, since unlike the others the engine isn’t usually driving the wheels directly?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Toyota claims that is the reason the Volt is less efficient but GM won’t comment of course. I do find it somewhat interesting that Toyota engineers were willing to dish…

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        It’s part of the reason, though something like 10-15% of the power comes directly through the engine in steady-state cruising. IMO, the major reason is that the present Prius engine is a state-of-the-art design for fuel efficiency. Like the Prius did in the beginning, the GM engine is an off-the-shelf unit, moderately modified for this use.

        Perhaps if sales warrant, the Gen 2 Volt will have its own engine. However, the economics even then, aren’t so clear. A typical Volt owner runs the engine way less than half the miles covered. One can reasonably expect a Gen 2 will have even more battery-only range, so this percentage would fall. Does it make sense to build a new engine costing 50% more, getting 20% better mileage, when it’s run only 25% of the time?

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        “I do find it somewhat interesting that Toyota engineers were willing to dish…”

        That just means that they realize the limitations of their product, and they want to save face somehow. Without admitting the superiority of the competition of course.

        An off-the-shelf engine that has had a few software tweaks to make it into a generator goes a lot further towards explaining the 40MPG mileage numbers that I get than conversion losses does…

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Toyota/Ford system has conversion losses at a steady state cruise. If the battery is at the target SOC the traction MG, the one connected directly to the wheels, is operating in generator mode powering the range MG, the one controlling the planetary transmission to obtain the desired gear ratio and providing the link between the engine and wheels. If the range MG is not being powered the ICE can’t provide power to the wheels. Letting it spin freely, neither consuming or generating power is how the ICE is able to not turn when the vehicle is operating in EV mode. The big advantages the Toyota/Ford system have is that engine that operates in the “Atkinson cycle” mode and they have less weight to carry around.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Voltstats.net puts the CS mode fuel economy of the Volt at just about 35mpg. Fuelly says a standard Prius gets 48mpg, the Prius PHV is probably just about the same (it weighs more but can capture a little more braking energy).

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        Yes, it does, and I find it a bit puzzling. When I track my use via miles vs gallons used on the car’s display, my gas mpg is considerably better than what voltstats/onstar shows. I’ve only been able to compare the car display to gas actually used at the pump a couple of times, but the display seems to be dead on.

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        Voltstats average is misleading in several ways.

        First if you sort by EV percentage, you will see that the volt with the lowest EV miles gets 42.69 MPG almost exclusively on gas.
        Second, sort by MPGcs. You will see a whole lot of Volts that only get a mile or two per gallon! How can that be you say? Easy, those cars never drive on gas, yet burn a teaspoonful every 6 weeks for engine maintenance mode.
        Sort by MPGcs again so that the highest MPGcs is on top and you will see that there are quite a few Volts getting higher than 40 MPG. My numbers place me in the top 100 in all but MPGcs, and there I am in the middle of the pack at 35 MPG, and yet, when I do drive on gas I can calculate the actual miles traveled per gallon at closer to 40 than 35. At the end of 2 years, I have 15K miles and have used 15 gallons…

        YMMV is so true, Voltstats merely shows the range of possibilities.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      Actually, the engine is normally connected during any low power cruising situation with a depleted battery. Cruising will almost always have the ring gear spinning and the other two clutches connecting the engine to the motor/generator, and the motor/generator connected to the ring gear. This is in effect coupling the engine torque through the motor/generator to the ring gear and on to the wheels. The reason for this is to lower the RPM of the main motor and increase it efficiency.

      The authors description of the engine and main motor being used for high speed operation is wrong. If more power than the motor/generator can produce is called for it must be disconnected from the ring gear and the ring gear locked to the case, enabling the main motor to provide the power requested, by itself. It’s only in low power situations that there is any power sharing going on, which is always done to reduce the RPMs of the main motor and thus increase it’s efficiency.

      The only time you will feel any sort of “shifting” going on is when the ring gear is being spun down to a complete stop so that the clutch can engage to lock it to the case. (All 3 clutches are only allowed to engage/disengage at zero differential speed, so they should not wear out.)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Alex — As a group, your reviews are the best out there, by any measure. And, among your reviews, this is one of the best, in terms of being informative and factual.

    Well done!

    Apart from non-rational reasons to buy this car (and, heaven knows, lots of people buy lots of cars for non-rational reasons), the people who should buy this car are those whose typical driving doesn’t take them away from the plug for more than about 50 miles at a time but who, nevertheless, manage to drive 15,000 miles or more a year in this car.

    For use on mostly long trips, this car makes no sense. There are any number of equally spacious, plain old gasoline sedans and hatchbacks that will do better, not to mention diesels. The problem is this car’s mid-30s MPG once the battery is depleted. People with long, stop and go commutes should get a true hybrid. People with long commutes with few stops, should get a conventional gasoline car or a diesel.

    For people who will drive this (or any similar car) less than 10,000 miles a year, the gas savings will not recover the substantial price premium. For the same dollars, you can get a nicer conventional car and its mileage disadvantage won’t cost that much. For less dollars, you can get a conventional car of equal size -e.g. Focus — that will come close enough in mileage to still leave you money ahead (considering the price difference), and this other car will also make sense for use in longer trips.

    The Volt is the ultimate niche vehicle, like a sports car, really.

    • 0 avatar
      HiFlite999

      “The Volt is the ultimate niche vehicle, like a sports car, really.”

      Quite true, and one reason I have now an all-out sports car together with an all-out commuter car!

      The economics depend on your mission profile. Volt owners with say a 60 mile commute and charging available at their work, report saving more gas per month than their Volt lease payment! (Not mentioned so far is that a full charge costs about a buck.)

      BTW, the Volt can be set up to supply a continuous ~1 kW to your house during a weather event or other emergency. Hook up an inverter to the 12v battery. Park the car outside and leave it powered “on”. The main 350v battery will keep the 12v charged. When the main battery capacity is depleted, the engine will start and recharge it. I’m told that some Volt owners after Hurricane Sandy did this for weeks.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    I agree 100% that the Volt has been horribly marketed. The fact it has become a political football hasn’t helped either. This review did a better than average job of covering the electro-mechanics, but missed the mark on a number of points.

    1) With federal tax incentives (which are higher than for the C-Max, et al) and GM/Ally program offers, the $42,500 MSRP Volt I bought a couple months ago, came to $29,000. CA, CO, IL, WV and others offer additional incentives.

    2) True, a $20k Cruze will get you from point A to point B just as well as a Volt. It will also do so as well as BMW M3. Spending an extra $30k toward German ego (or “performance”) seems to be okay with the automotive world. Spending an extra $10-20k on the intangibles associated electrics seems not.

    3) I’m always surprised at the low MPGs and EV ranges that come out of typical auto journalist reports. I’ve never gotten below 40 miles EV on mine and have gotten as high as 52 miles. (Though it will be less in cold weather.) Battery-depleted, engine and AC on, I see 40 mpg @ 68 mph. Under the same usage pattern, my 4-cyl Solara got 25 mpg, while the Volt is getting 80.

    4) There was no mention of the “Hold” mode. This allows the driver to select when the battery is to be used. Typical for me: 40 miles engine-powered on freeway, 40 miles home-charged electric when I reach the metro area, 3.5 hours recharge, 40 miles electric, 40 miles gas. 160 miles, 2 gallons, 80 mpg. If I can’t charge there, 53 mpg for the trip.

    5) Operation modes are, or can be, user-selectable. Besides “Hold”, one also has “Sport”, “Mountain”, and “Normal”, plus “Drive” and “Low” with the transmission selector. Different combinations do different things.

    6) No car is ideally suited for every task. I love my RX-8, but hate city driving with it. Does that make the RX a bad car? No, it only makes it ill-suited for city driving. The Volt is most ideal as a suburban/urban commuter daily driver. It does not “review” all that well, because most reviewers aren’t driving it that way.

    7) Not much of the tech really matters. If the casual commuter simply charges it every night, then drives in a normal manner, he will be getting overall 50-100 mpg without really trying.

    From a gearhead perspective, the Volt is, with little doubt, the most technologically sophisticated car being mass-produced today. From my own perspective, it’s the first American-made car I’ve bought since a 1970.5 Camaro. I’m hardly alone in this, most Volt sales are “conquest” and many are to people who’ve never previously owned any American car, much less a Chevrolet. There’s significant value in that beyond what the limited sales so far show.

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      Hmmm…I am genuinely curious to know what makes you say the Volt is any more technological than other mass produced plug in hybrids. Let’s just use the obvious: Prius Plug-In Hybrid. I don’t see that much of a difference if all thing like battery size were equal.

      How is the Volt “with out a doubt” more technological?

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        A good question! (Though tough to keep the answer short …)

        Typical hybrids have a big engine and a small motor. The Volt has a big motor and small engine. 159 hp = 111,154 Watts. A typical house has a 100 Amp breaker box. 100 A x 120V = 12,000 Watts. The Volt therefore must deal with 10x the max power draw of an entire house, not to mention having to do it with a battery!

        So, the big #1) Cooling & Heating. The Volt has 3 heating/cooling loops: engine, motor/electronics, and battery and is known my the moniker TMS for Thermal Management System.
        A) The engine cooling loop is typical, sortof. But in addition, it has the ability to use engine-heated water to warm the the TMS circuit for the battery.
        B) The motor/electronics loop cools the 112 kW traction motor and the ~39 kW starter-generator. Additionally, it cools the DC to AC inverters which drive the motors and the AC to DC converter which engine charges (or sustains) the battery. It also cools the 120/240V AC to DC converter from the plugin circuit.
        C) The battery loop keeps the battery temperature in the best operation range. It can be heated by hot water from the engine (in very cold weather), or a resistive heating coil run by the battery or plugin circuit. It can also cool the battery via its own radiator or, in very hot weather by a loop from the electrically-run air conditioner. [The lack of such cooling ability has caused Leaf batteries to lose capacity when run in hot weather.]

        2) Engine control. The Volt engine never idles. (If it did, there would not be sufficient voltage generated to charge the battery.) It almost always runs ~3,000 rpm with wide open throttle and full load. If that is insufficient, it runs up to 4300 rpm (redline). If it generates too much electricity being run at 3000 rpm, it cycles on and off. Besides general roughness and commotion, going to full load instantly is not good for engine life. Hence, there is no conventional starter. Powered by the 350v main battery, the starter-generator is used to spin the engine slowly up to 3000 rpm. When it’s been there long enough to get full oil pressure, it’s started by opening the injectors. Conversely, when the engine is shut off, first the fuel is cut, then the starter-generator slowly winds the engine down to avoid and shaking or other unpleasantness.
        3) Regen is seamless, done by phase-shifting the AC on the main traction motor.
        4) Because the engine is small, it cannot generate enough electricity to drive the traction motor at full power. Hence, when prolonged hill climbing is anticipated and the battery is depleted, the driver can select “Mountain” mode while still on the flat. This runs the engine full time at full power and uses the excess electricity generated to charge up the main battery to full capacity.
        5) There is no conventional alternator, the the 12V “car” battery has to be charged through an inverter from the main battery.
        6) Climate control is very sophisticated, to maximize effect with minimum power. The electric AC is very efficient. However, from cost considerations, resistive heating is used for the interior heat if the engine is not running. To maximize winter/summer range, the car will heat and cool itself from the plug in power, leaving full battery charge for transport.
        7) Lots of little things. Available regen is very powerful, hence brakes get very little use. There is a special coating on the brake rotor to prevent rust and rust pitting from damaging them.

        The Tesla has many of the same high-power battery issues to deal with, but none of the engine or engine-management ones.

        The car most similar to the Volt, the Fisker, has unwittingly proven how hard the Volt big motor/small engine model was to get right.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Most of those points you make are true about the regular Toyota/Ford Hybrids and their plug in versions and some of those points are true about the pure EVs on the market.

          • 0 avatar
            HiFlite999

            Perhaps the simplest thing to say is, you can take a Volt and accelerate from 0 – 100 mph in pure electric mode. No other hybrid can do this. No other plug-in hybrid can do this. A Tesla can, but it’s pure EV and double the price.

            In principle, an EV drive train is nothing more complicated than a battery-powered drill. In practice, getting 300 times the power requires much more than 300 times the engineering to accomplish.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “Perhaps the simplest thing to say is, you can take a Volt and accelerate from 0 – 100 mph in pure electric mode.”

            Whose bucket list is that on?

            I note that this is often cited as a reason for the Volt’s superiority over the Prius and C-Max.

            Seriously, this is a Transportation Appliance, although Volt owners insist it’s a nicer TA than most. But for a TA, the keys to selling are a combination of low acquisition cost, low operating cost, utility and features.

            I really don’t care how it makes the power when I demand maximum acceleration. If I burn some gas the two or three times per day I want maximum acceleration, so what? Few Volt owners get through the year, or even a month, without burning some gas. You’re dragging an ICE along, anyway, might as well use it.

          • 0 avatar
            HiFlite999

            “Whose bucket list is that on?”

            It’s not a bucket list item, it’s an illustration of the big motor / small engine approach.

            The cheapest way to drive is to get some POS mobile, do the work on it yourself, and drive it till it dissolves. Beyond that, everything is an option. If a Prius or something else works better for your needs/wants then buy it. Had I the need to haul 5 people, perhaps I’d have gotten a C-Max or Fusion plug-in. They are not bad cars, they are different cars, with different compromises. Prius? No way – it feels like I’m the ball inside a spray paint can. YMMV.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The Ford Energi cars are supposed to go up to 85mph in EV mode, more than fast enough for most people. Of course the Volt has a longer all EV range and is cheaper when comparably equipped since the Energi’s smaller battery back reduces the tax credit.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Volt uses either 50hp (up to 72hp), or cycle on and off. This sounds like a really bad plan in parallel mode. I’m also shocked that they couldn’t get remotely good hybrid efficiency if they are only using what should be BSHP islands (although they are typically around 1/2 wide open throttle power levels).

          It sounds like it needs more work on the drag coefficient (and possibly ways to narrow the outline, preferably without making the interior feel cramped). Of course such things are hard to justify on a car designed as an urban commuter.

          • 0 avatar
            HiFlite999

            The engine itself is not optimum for what it’s asked to do. Then there is a loss generating the electricity, storing the electricity in the battery, then retrieving the electricity from the battery. Even at 90% efficiency for each stage, that’s a 27% loss. [This is why there is a supplemental direct connection of the engine to the wheels in steady-state cruise.]

            Finally, the motor itself was also pretty much an off-the-shelf design. The application-designed motor for the Spark EV is quite a bit better for efficiency.

            Is this version of the Volt the best EREV that will ever be made? Not a chance. The first of anything never is. Most will want to wait until it gets better. Regardless though, the Gen 1 Volt is a remarkable achievement.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Well, that’s GM for you. They bragged on about the Volt for nearly 4 years, then priced it at $40K, cheaped out on a key component and get mediocre CS mode fuel economy and maximum range as a result.

            I wouldn’t mind buying an electrically-powered vehicle, I bought the house I bought to avoid using gas (and wasting commute time) to the greatest extent possible, but the way we use a car (very short commutes plus the monthly very long trip) means that the Volt would use more gas than a Prius in a typical year.

          • 0 avatar
            sunridge place

            As usual Kix

            You bitch about the price of the car, yet you bitch that they didn’t add a more expensive option which would have made the car more expensive.

            Classic hypocrisy.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            The car is $40K and the promise was 50/50/600, nicely under $30K. Now, they didn’t make the MSRP but they didn’t make those other numbers, either. One reason is that they used an off-the-shelf engine with a stock hotrodders trick to raise compression and boost efficiency and another is that they don’t have a purpose-built vehicle.

            Gas-electric drivetrains have been on the market for a long time, now, and it was fairly obvious, especially if one took 10 minutes to study the history of the Prius and other competition, what was necessary to make the Volt truly outstanding. GM didn’t put in the effort to get it there.

            With that high MSRP, limited seating and cargo space, premium fuel recommendation and mediocre DBFE, they put a car on the market that languished, even with $7.5K in Federal rebates (and other incentives in most places where people would be somewhat inclined to buy it). It takes a special kind of company to build a car that won’t sell out when aided by serious government cash.

            Part of this is just GM’s basic short-sightedness in this space altogether. When El Lutzbo declared they were going to “leapfrog” Toyota, he either didn’t know or didn’t care that GM wasn’t quite ready to do that, that they hadn’t been building up the store of technology tricks that would make it feasible.

            Yeah, it “leapfrogs” Toyota, by virtue of being compromised and packed with expensive batteries that make the car very difficult to sell. But this is the car business and selling – and making money – is the real goal, not leapfrogging some competitor in an unviable market as a sort of Executive Viagra.

          • 0 avatar
            probert

            KIx – I have the distinct feeling that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Your feet are moving fast but you really aren’t going anywhere.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the volt is interesting, but it really needs to be $30-35k max before tax incentives for me to consider it (and I’m in IL).

      $29k after tax incentives lets me buy a stripped down prius c AND another motorcycle. My commute is 60-70 miles daily so i’ll always be using gas with the volt.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “the most technologically sophisticated car being mass-produced today”

      It’s actually outdated. The i3 has 118mi range, carbon fiber passenger cell mounted on an aluminum body with a weight 2634 lbs, and a similar list price (if the guesses about the range extender costing only $2-$4k extra).

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        Point taken! Let’s see how it does in the real world. It is, however, a bit different in philosophy, as I understand things so far. The cost of increased battery capacity is that the range extender will not maintain full cruise speed after battery depletion. 500 mile days, while possible in the Volt, wouldn’t work in the i3.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “500 mile days, while possible in the Volt, wouldn’t work in the i3″

          When it comes to 500 mile days, an electric vehicle range extender made by Cessna, Gulfstream, or Boeing is far superior to any range extender made by either BMW or GM.

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        That’s what happens when you hire people away from a competitor. Probably also did a tear-down of a Volt to see what they could change to get around the patents. I heard some parts are licensed from GM.

  • avatar
    ant

    how long does it take to charge in all the way up with a regular (110?) plug if the batteries are fully depleted?

    Does the regen whilst braking feel much different than a normal car? How about compared to the Prius?

    Does the batteries take up too much room width wise for fat people?

    Overall, the car sounds pretty dang cool to me. And I like the way it looks.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It takes 10-12 hours to charge on 110V.

      The braking is excellent, better than in the Prius.

      The rear seats may be tight for larger folks.

    • 0 avatar
      HiFlite999

      There are two options for household current charging. The car defaults to an 8 amp draw. The driver can optionally set it to 12 amps. Normal house circuits are rated to 15 amps, but if there are other devices on that circuit 12 amps could cause problems. Still it’s a pretty big draw for an appliance, so good condition plugs and such are important.

      Up to 16 hours at 8 amps, 10 hours at 12 amps for a full from empty charge. However, the charge rate is not linear, it tapers off toward the top end of the charge. Haven’t done the math, but getting 1/2 the charge in 1/4 the time or 2/3 the charge in 1/2 the time isn’t unreasonable.

      4 hours @ 220 Volts, BTW. The Volt’s max allowed charging rate is ~ 3.3 kW per hour.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Common household circuits are rated for 15amp intermittent use. Per the NEC a circuit must be down rated 20% if the load is going to be continuous, IE more than 3 hours, which is why the max it is allowed draw from a 110 supply is 12a.

  • avatar

    The Volt IMO is the best stop gap car until battery technology is good and cheap enough to provide a 300 mile range at a reasonable cost and charging times.
    The price after federal and state incentives is not any higher than an average car.
    There is no need for a second car for longer trips.
    The 40 mile range covers 70% of the commuters without having to use a drop of gas.
    The electric motors are far more efficient at propulsion compared to an ICE engine
    The catalytic convertor is not efficient until it gets hot (first 6 miles, nearly 10 in winter). Most trips can be made in a Volt without letting the ICE kick in.
    32% of electricity is generated from non-fossil fuel/non-carbon emitting sources. 32 out of every 100 all electric miles emit no GH gases. Of the total 221 million EV miles driven by volt drivers alone, 71 Million miles were Zero emission miles (at the power source, not just at the car)
    Carbon emissions for the remaining 68% of energy sources can easily be sequestered compared to at the tailpipe. Some of the emissions are actually put to other industrial uses like producing dry ice or sulfuric acid.
    5% of electric energy is produced by wind power. It’s higher for some states. A volt in South Dakota will do 22 out of 100 EV miles on wind power alone.
    If the oil supply from OPEC gets interrupted, a Volt can still be powered through domestic energy sources or even home solar or wind turbines.

  • avatar
    redliner

    Alex, I must say that you are one of the few reviewers that actually takes the time to figure out how these systems work. Most other auto “journalist” still describe the Prius (and other power-split hybrids) as having a typical belt and pulley CVT. It’s just nice to see a reviewer who knows what they are talking about.

    Just one thing (please don’t take this personal) Maybe I’m just imagining things, but you use the word “fairly,” fairly often in your video reviews.

    Anywho, nice review.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Here in Vancouver, BC I am seeing a huge surge in Tesla Model S sales. I see more of them than Volt’s and other niche sports cars. In the past 2,months, I am regularly seeing 1-3 per day throughout my day.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    BTW, did you do your tests in Sport mode?

    (at the office, haven’t watched the video)

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      We tried all the various modes and the only thing that made the Volt faster was being in hybrid mode which you can do easily now bu putting the Volt in “Hold” mode which maintains the current charge.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        I typically drive it in Sport + L, and the pedal remapping between Normal and Sport feels like the difference between a 4cyl and 6cyl IMO, though flooring it in either mode will demand all 111kW.

        I do so wish there was a Volt SS option that would let the secondary motor/generator spin up while in full electric at lower speeds, coupled with gearing for faster launches. I’d happily sacrifice 5mi of charge for a 7s 0-60, and if the RAV4EV that weighs more yet has virtually identical motor stats can do 7s 0-60s it sucks that the Volt cannot.

      • 0 avatar

        Why do you say in the article that the modes are not user slectable when you can in fact select them individually with the Driving Mode button? I drive in Sport mode most of the time, but switch to Hold mode when on the highway for longer trips. Onthose longer highway trips, i can average well over 50 mpg, as I’m not using the gas geenrator around town where it’s least efficient. And it’s still not driving the wheels and will shut down if it’s charged the battery enough to run on the battery for a while.

        Also, I’ve had it well over 85 mph without the gas engine kicking in, so it might be nice to say when that gas engien helps drivie the wheels, because in my daily driving experience for 6 months, it doesn’t UNLESS you select mountain mode or have drained the battery (which I have yet to do).

        Lastly, since I got it in February of ’13, the Volt’s range when fully charged has been increasing as the weather warmed up. I regularly see 44-45 miles of indicated range when fully charged, and have gone almost 60 miles on a single charge without plugging in or having the geanrator kick on. AND without hypermiling (I tend to be driving in Sport mode, with jackrabbit starts being the norm… lol)

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Another example of the disheartening, age old (just ask buickman) GM issue: great engineering, lousy marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Out of curiosity, what would you have done differently in the ‘marketing’ compared to how it was/is marketed?

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        That’s a tough question. I would personally have started by making the Cadillac ELR first, but that aside I would have gone strong on plug-in-hybrid. GM’s latest marketing campaign “electric when you want it, gas when you need it” is what they should have started with. I would never have called an Range Extending EV, and I would have focused heavily on green washing and HOV access stickers.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          Not sure how leading with the ELR would have helped. I think they avoided ‘hybrid’ even in the form of ‘plug in hybrid’ because a casual view of pricing would move people straight to a more affordable Prius if they heard hybrid.

          I don’t think ‘Range Extending EV’ was really a part of their ‘marketing’ of the vehicle but more to differentiate it from a hybrid. I don’t recall a lot of branding around the range extending name.

          HOV advertising needed to be done locally, not nationally and it wasn’t even available until a year after the launch.

          I think they did a ton to paint it ‘green’ by partnering with any influential group they could.

          There are many who say the ‘marketing’ of the Volt sucked…none of those people have a real suggestion on how it could have been any better.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Thanks for not comparing it to pure EVs such as the Leaf or Model S, products which serve a different market niche and (in my opinion) are probably not cross-shopped with the Volt.

    The complexity of the Volt alarms me; it will be interesting to see how they age.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The person who I know with a Volt did cross shop the Leaf and traded in a TDI for the Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        This is pretty interesting, as the use case for the Volt is almost completely opposite that of a diesel car. If I didn’t have a commute that was within the bounds of full-electric, I doubt I’d have bought the Volt, and as my family has need of a regular long-distance cruiser I can’t recommend it for them.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The interesting thing about the guy is that he had an 06 Jetta TDI shopped the 3 cars and bought a 12 Jetta TDI and was so disgusted after living with it for 6 mos he traded it in on the Volt. Before he bought the 12 Jetta we had a discussion of his existing Jetta and he said that he was getting 42mpg but with the price of diesel in our area it cost as much to fuel as a gas powered car that would get 36mpg in his average driving. He was seriously considering the Leaf at that point since his employer was willing to instal a charger at work. A number of his co-workers also took advantage of the deal so their are 3 Leafs and a Focus EV charging next to his Volt. One of the things that sold him on the Volt over the Leaf was that it “feels like a more substantial car” and “is more luxurious”. Because his commute is almost exactly the same as the Volt’s EV range he normally doesn’t charge it at home Mon-Thur night unless he is going somewhere in the evening. That means he doesn’t have to pay for commuting at all. As I mentioned below he has managed 84% EV operation of the 14K he has put on it in the 8 months he has owned it.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s one of the things that put me into a Volt vs a Prius or Leaf. it’s just much nider to be in. Lease rates are such that youre barely paying more for the Volt than the Leaf or Prius, and less than the Fords. I rarely drive over the Volt’s range, and so have not put gas in it in over 4 months of daily driving. Couldn’t say that about the Prius, but I also have taken it on a trip to CT from Baltimore, and you can’t really do that easily in a Leaf.

            The Volt reminds me in amany ways (other than rear seat legroom) of my old BMW 740iL. Same solid feeling, with just enough athleticism to be fun in the twisties. But more luxury than the BMW had, with better connectivity and infotainment.

          • 0 avatar
            AustinOski

            We find the LEAF fairly solid feeling, even coming out of a BMW 5 series wagon (and we have two MB’s).

            I wouldn’t call the LEAF luxurious, the leather in the 2013 helps (especially vs. that fabric).

            Merc63 – Close in cost on lease? We did $2300 down and $155 month on the LEAF SL. How close to that are you on the Volt? I found there to be a pretty decent diff.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Out if all the hybrids and electric cars on sale this is probably the only one I’d buy with GM putting decent effort into making sure the battery life lasts a reasonable amount of time as well as having an interesting method of distributing electricitygas.

    Also I’ve come to like the styling when its in red, though while the blanked-off grilles look good a part of me can’t help but wonder “Why even have a grille?”.

    That smaller generator that changes direction does worry me though north of 120k I could see it going out and being a costly fix. That and like most hybrids the small gas engine concerns me coping with so much weight and weight.

    Good review as always though.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      The small engine drives the generator almost all of the time. When it directly couples to drive the wheels, it does so at cruise, which is pretty benign.

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        There is no time when the smaller motor/generator is _Directly_ coupled to the wheels. It is used to drive the ring gear backwards to lower the RPM of the main motor. When the engine is connected to the motor/generator they both drive the ring gear and they are driven at an RPM that is independent of road speed. The main motor is also independent of road speed, it is only in tandem that the road speed is followed in two-motor mode.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The motor generator cares not which way it spins. Think reversible drills their motors spin both directions. The motor generators in the Toyota and Ford systems spin both directions and can be used for both functions which ever way they are spinning. The Toyota/Ford hybrids rely on the traction MG as the sole means of providing reverse gear. They are never operated in such a manner that they change direction rapidly. Because they are what makes the CVT function happen the rate of change of their RPM is relatively slow and if they are going to change direction they slowly decrease the rpm in the one direction before they are commanded to spin the other direction and then their speed again ramps up.

      Now a DC motor can be optimized to be more powerful or efficient when in operated in a particular direction. That is why with cordless drills that actually provide specifications you’ll often see that the peak torque is different in forward vs reverse.

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        Both motors in the Volt are AC. While the small one is mostly generator and the big on is mostly motor, both can and do serve either purpose.

        The main motor never reverses, however, except when actually backing up. For regen, the AC phase is shifted relative to the rotation, instantly turning it from a motor to a generator, or more properly said, an alternator.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yes I should have worded that better. I know that the Volt’s MGs are AC and they don’t care what so ever which way they spin. A DC motor on the other hand can have it’s commutators aligned to the windings slightly differently to optimize it’s performance in one direction or the other, or can be made where it will perform the same in either direction.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is the best, most thorough Volt review I’ve seen on the web anywhere, Chevy dealers should play it for prospective buyers and I’m sure most of them would go for it.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This answers a lot of questions for me, thanks, but it also creates a few. My first was why is the Volt so much more then the competition? After reading the comments about discounts and incentives my question becomes what is the real-world price compared to the competition? What can people realistically expect to pay for each one of these cars? This where you can begin to calculate a true cost analysis to see what your savings over a similar non-hybrid would be

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      I know that in my area (Metro Baltimore/Washington D.C.) The state of Maryland gives you a $1000 tax credit (may be more in other states) plus the feds kick in $7500. My local dealer has a fully loaded volt (Msrp $45,xxx) for sale at 42,xxx. So the realistic out-the-door price is about $35,000.

      Plus, my employer provides free parking and charging for EV drivers, which adds up to a monthly savings of about $150. That’s half of the lease payment right there.

      It’s a niche vehicle, but for some people, like me, it would be ideal.

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        Pay in cash: get an additional $4000 off.
        Loan from Ally? 0% @ 48 months and get $3000 off
        Lease? Take $4250 off the top, and Ally effectively adds the fed tax credit to the residual. Payments on $42k – $4k – $25k ~ $13,000 at 1% APR. About $250/month plus whatever state sales tax you have.

        Lease payment – gas savings could get you down $100-$150/month depending on what your commute is and the car you’re now doing it with.

      • 0 avatar

        Mine was mostly loaded (no nav or backup camera, but premium leather intirior, OnStar and all that) and it stickered at $41k. Got an internet discount of $2800, plus when leasing, Ally took the $7500 credit AND at the time a $2000 MD credit. Basically by the time it was done, I was financing a $28k car. Now, the State credit is lower, but there’s $4k on the hood of a 2013 on the lot. With haggling, you can get a 2013 for less than I paid by quite a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      AustinOski

      As posted above LEAF SL for $2300 down and $155/mo. including some minor options and no major options (there is just one – the premium package with the parking helper and the upgraded sound system).

      • 0 avatar
        VoltOwner

        Drove a Spark yesterday. Lease was $1789 down and $199 month. $8953 total of payments for 36 months. Your Leaf deal is pretty good @ $7880 ToP. Of course in hotter climes it will be worth the extra grand for the TMS.

        They also had the “One at this price” deal of $3999 down and $149 a month, which of course works out about $400 more than the standard deal…

        • 0 avatar
          AustinOski

          Should have specified 24 months. Monthly cost, including down, was less due to residual and cramming the $7500 and good discount into that short term.

          TMS? If you mean thermal management system, it likely won’t matter to us with our range needs and projected 24 month term of ownership. We actually run with it set to charge only to 80% and adjust to 100% if we anticipate a heavy driving day (did that once). We don’t even own a level 2 charger. Haven’t found the need, though we may since it’s so darn cheap with rebates and tax incentives. Also, likely not our last electric.

          It was 102F today. Sure like the remote/app start of the AC! Mitigates the black only leather in the heat.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    This is a timely review as I got my first chance behind the wheel of a Volt this weekend. Annoyingly the last of the licensed drivers in my family to do so, my son being the first. Overall I liked it though the windshield forward styling needed for aerodynamics is kind of annoying. So far the owner has racked up 14K on it since he purchased it in November. Total EV time has been 84% with a 184MPG average (plus electricity used of course). It costs him $1.40 to charge a fully depleted battery when he does so at home. However since his employer installed chargers at his work for him, the Leaf and Focus EV drivers he doesn’t pay a penny for his Tue-Fri commuting. He plugs in at the office and leaves with a full charge which will get him home and back to the office the next day. So he frequently does not plug in Mon-Thur nights unless he is going to be driving it elsewhere. He has calculated that on average it is saving him about $175 per month vs the car it replaced a TDI Jetta, including the cost of electricity used to charge it at home and the couple of times he has charged it at a pay station.

    • 0 avatar
      HiFlite999

      Yes! Most Volt owners aren’t only getting better than the big EPA 37 mpg on the window sticker, they are getting multiples better. I know of no other hybrid on the market (yet) that can do this routinely.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Granted I cheated since I swapped cars, but my current lifetime MPG is in the 430 range now ;)

        (the Volt I traded in was in ~235mpg)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        You are kind of stretching the facts there, just as the display wants you to, since it does not take the amount of electricity consumed into account. Which of course is something GM is promoting with the way the display is programed and their initial announcement of 230mpg. I know when he took it on a 400ish mile round trip he said the net was in the low 40′s starting off with a full charge at both ends.

        Just to put things into perspective, IF his employer didn’t have a charger he could use at work for free that in his case covers his daily commute it works out to 3.5 cents per mile. Now that is if he sticks to the surface streets if he hops on the freeway that results in a slightly longer distance but a shorter time it does need to burn a little fuel to cover that trip. Covering that same basic route in my Wife’s 2010 Fusion Hybrid costs about 7 cents per mile.

        • 0 avatar
          HiFlite999

          Huh? The Volt’s numbers are as real as it gets for owners that sign up with myvolt and voltstats free through Onstar. Every drop of gas and every cup of electrons is accounted for, recorded and is analyzable. It doesn’t depend on the optimism of the owner, nor ICEer’s propensities for only measuring mpgs during the best conditions.

          BTW, to do $0.07/mile with a Fusion Hybrid, you must be assuming gas at $3.29/gallon and 47 mpg which is EPA. Gas here is $3.90 and almost nobody reports that the Fusion H actually gets 47 mpg. (Lawsuits are pending). Talk about optimism!

          I get about 4.3 miles/kWh electric, if that helps. At my electric rates of $0.10 per kWh, that’s 2.3 cents per mile.

          If Chevy wants to hide the facts about fuel and electric consumption, why do they offer owners a frequently updated stats downloaded from every car directly?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I specifically asked him how much electricity has it used so far and he said it didn’t report a total. He did say that if he charges after a trip where the engine had to kick in because he depleted the battery it costs about ~1.40 to charge. he also said that he rolls into work with basically less than 1 mile of EV range. That is what I based my comment on.

            Note I said for the same basic route my wife’s Fusion, that is a 2010 it costs about 7 cents per mile, it gets about 55 MPG on that route because it is mostly flat to low rolling hills and a max speed limit of 45 mph. I did not say that was the average cost per mile but that on what is basically the same route he takes since he lives about a mile from me and we often travel to near his work for the family doctor, dentist, shopping or dinner.

            Overall cost of fuel at current prices in our area, and the average mixed use MPG of around 42 +/-, is about 9 cents per mile.

        • 0 avatar

          let me put it to you this way. I traded in a Mustang GT that was using about $200 worth of gas each month to commute and run errands with. I’ve replaced that wqith a Volt that uses no gas on teh commute or run erands with, and uses about $8 in electricity per month (4 kWh per day). I drive 8 miles to work, and use 1.2 kWh to do it.

  • avatar
    cRaCk hEaD aLLeY

    Owner pitching in for what’s worth:

    - GM Canada Marketing on this car is dead or about to die. Dennis Rodman and the Pyongyang News Agency did a better job marketing the Volt in North Korea.

    - Up here Volt is mostly a curiosity but you do see the occasional unit every now and then. There are way more privately-imported-for-retail Teslas circulating in Vancouver than there are Volts. Tesla is THE car to be seen in in Vancouver, it just so happens that its electric.
    The average Joe, the GM dealership walk-in able to afford a 45K four-seat plug-in hybrid is as rare as a Kermode bear.

    + I Commute 69 km (42mi) per day 100% electrical. 50% heavy city traffic, 50% rural roads, I do not recharge at work:

    1) @ summer: Drive like a scientist = +7km left at the end of the day. Drive normally = +3km balance.
    2) @ winter (Dec-Mar): 0.25L (0.10 gallon)/day = ~5L/month (~1.5gal/mo)

    + Automatically pre-conditioning the car while plugged-in 240V home charger: it rocks.

    + Fact: Lifetime average: 437MPG

    + Not a fact: The more congested, chaotic and f$#@^_up traffic is, the better you feel about it and the more efficient the car seems to be come (yes, its subjective).

    - I would not consider this car if I had a long fast commute and could not re-charge at work. As soon as the magic juice is depleted you have a 85hp (ok, 149hp) 35 mpg 40K+ compact 3800lbs hatchback. Gulp.

    + Fact: I went from a V8 @ 14.6 l/100km (16 mpg) to a Volt. In other words: 500$ Cdn/mo. to ~$25/mo. Hence, car pays for itself.

    + Fact: If you already drive an economy car, this car makes no financial sense whatsoever. But if money is not the issue it may make complete emotional sense depending where you are in life. Case in point.. I know a Volt owner who has not driven his LS460 in months.

    + A Volt is the perfect match for those divorcing their BP Oil shares and their SRT / C/K 2500, Durango, Yukon, 4Runner V8 etc etc.

    Lastly you may perhaps get hooked for different reasons such as
    a) silent commute
    b) AAA points at Whole Foods
    c) You like to chat with strangers:
    - “Hey, isn’t this one of those electric cars?”
    - “Doesn’t it drive by itself?”
    - “What do you do when you run out of electricity?”
    - “Can you charge it at home?”

    and my favorite one so far:
    “Aren’t you afraid of washing it? ”

    + Zero problems, everything works.

    Tip of the day: MS Excel, Google Maps, 0% finance or GM lease offers, Internet forums, Whole Foods and Mountain Equipment Co-op are your friend…last two ones were a joke.

    Ah, people who understand energy management (pilots, sailors, hard-core cyclists etc) all seem to love driving the Volt. Same is true for kids.

    • 0 avatar
      HiFlite999

      “Ah, people who understand energy management (pilots, sailors, hard-core cyclists etc) all seem to love driving the Volt.”

      Guilty! I’m not only a pilot but also a sailplane (aka glider) pilot; only one shot available for a decent landing.

  • avatar
    magicboy2

    Just writing to say that Alex did a great job.

    The Volt certainly isn’t for everyone; this review does a great job educating folks about just who it might be for. It would seem that for the folks who fit within its usage profile, they are exceptionally happy with the car.

  • avatar
    focher

    I appreciated the review, especially the technical details. However, I would highlight some important things:

    1. The Volt driving experience is significantly better than both the Prius and the C-MAX.

    2. The driver doesn’t actually need to care about the technical design pieces, anymore than they do in a Prius or C-Max.

    3. Absolutely spot on that GM’s marketing of the Volt has terrible. They essentially gave up.

    4. A lot of people – probably the majority of US drivers – would get better efficiency in a Volt than the other cars. People tend to have an inflated view of their driving habits and distance needs. The average 40 mile range in EV mode covers most people’s driving situation. In that case, the (dismal when compared to the Prius) MPG of the Volt in charge-sustaining (ICE) mode is largely irrelevant.

    5. Price – A fully equipped version of those cars plus taking into account discounts, tax rebates, and lower TCO makes the Volt extremely competitive if not downright cheaper.

  • avatar
    AskMeAboutMyVolt

    I’ve had a LOT of cars in the 61 years I’ve spent on this planet… from one of my favorites a 1970 240-Z, a couple of Camaro Z-28s, an Audi a number of TDI VWs and (get this) even a bucket truck :) but the absolute finest and most enjoyable car I have ever owned is my 2012 Volt I call Dusty. I have two farms having livestock, and when I need to go to the feed store, instead of using a 2012 longbed pickup I have, I take my Volt and toss a few bags in the back, because the Volt is so darned fun to drive. There are a lot of old men at the feed store who scratch their heads when I show up and then leave, hollering “giddy-up.” And I suppose, no other old man in the entire county has as much fun as I do “drivin’ around”…

    In my small village of not too technical people, when someone asks me “About My Volt” and what it runs on, I keep the answer simple and say “It runs on gas and and it also runs on electricity…” My reply usually encourages more “head scratchin” and I tell people that “drivin’ my Volt purely on electricity instead of gas, is nearly as cheap as when I bought gas in high when gas cost 35 cents per gallon…”

    The truth is, my Volt is incredibly inexpensive to run on electricity and I have about 16,400 miles on it now, and have only used about 7 gallons of gas since the day I drove it away from the dealership.

    If I needed to drive from Texas to Vermont, my Volt can easily make the trip. Try that in a LEAF (not to say that the LEAF isn’t a fine automobile) it’s just that my Volt gives me “options” that many other cars on the road don’t afford.

    (Oh, my avatar is me sitting in a Tesla Model S… I hope to buy one in the coming year, but I am keeping the Volt for myself and my wife will get the Tesla… which is too pretty to drive to the feed store, and I don’t want to have to explain to a bunch of old farmers what a Tesla is :)

    This link (if they allow it here) shows that my Volt Dusty indeed has more than 16,000 miles on it and I am averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200 MPG (no joke) http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/Details/1791

    If the link doesn’t work, just Google “voltstats Dusty” and you should find that I am not “fibbing” about what this car is capable of. You can also find me on YouTube under the moniker “AskMeAboutMyVolt” and you’ll see an old Texas goat rancher having the time of his life in a filthy-dirty Volt named “Dusty.”

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      From your stats it certainly sounds like a Leaf would have been the more economical choice for you. Even if all 7 of those gallons was burned on a road trip a “economy class” rental car for that one trip, or breaking out the Pickup, would have still left you ahead of the game. If that 7 gallons was used a couple of drops here and there then the Leaf would have likely made all of your trips. Of course you couldn’t hop in it right now and make a cross country trip and the Volt is a much nicer car than the Leaf. Of course the only thing that truly matters is that you are happy with your choice, and it certainly sounds like that is the case.

      • 0 avatar
        AskMeAboutMyVolt

        @Scoutdude
        I’m an old, patriotic Vietnam Vet having flown the flag when I was a kid and I keep this tradition going today on my farms… and as a volunteer to that crazy war (I thought it was patriotic to join back then, I wasn’t drafted) … to this day, I think it is patriotic to buy something from an old American car company (Chevrolet just recently turned 100 and sometimes I feel like I am too) I like the idea that I bought an American engineered, designed and “made in America” car that can run on “fuel” made in my backyard, not having to come from OPEC or nations that hate our democracy, our values, our right to worship as one pleases (or not to worship if one chooses.) There are thousands of wind turbines near my farm ( http://www.ipernity.com/doc/305025/20861479 ) making electrons that power my Volt. No American soldier needs to die or be injured or maimed in protecting this “backyard energy source.” And as someone who is disabled, I don’t want young troops being harmed for the sake of foreign oil.

        Yes, the LEAF would have worked well for me. There are occasions when I might need to drive about 200 mules in an emergency (my father-in-law is in a nursing home) and the Volt is up to the task for that trip. And, when I was young, I loved my 240-Z and Camaros. I suppose, my Volt is the closest thing I’ll own now that handles like an Indy car. It sticks to the road like gum. Although I confess, I drive it 99% of the time like a “little old lady” when in fact I am a 6 foot tall, portly old fart, but one having a smile on his face as wide as Ohio.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I respect your desire to buy a car that was designed and built in the US by a US based company. You won’t find any of them furrin cars in my driveway either.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      I’ve nothing to add to this other than you might be the BEST emissary for EV ownership in the entire southwest. If I was a marketing boffin at GM I’d have you in an ad, stat.

      • 0 avatar
        AskMeAboutMyVolt

        @ Piston Slap Yo Mama (I like that name!) I had an airplane years ago that had a habit of doing a piston slap, right when I was flying over mountains with no soft place to land…

        Thanks for the comment, except like the old saying goes, “You can take the old man out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the old man…” I’m happy to wear old blue-jeans with holes in them these days and I’d die a slow death in an office. My goats and chickens and a jackass named Pablo (who protects the goats) are the only “office workers” I could tolerate, although they don’t smell as nice.

  • avatar
    Music

    Loved the review – all of the points, good and bad, seem very accurate, thorough and well presented. Outstanding job.

    One thing missing from the conversation (or at least I didn’t see it)…
    This car can check one or more boxes for people – all individualized. Some want to be green. Some want to save money. Some people feel they are part of some ‘movement’. For me, the box I checked said OPEC.

    The one factor that receives the greatest ire in my experience, is in the US, there’s a $7500 tax credit available only to high-ish income earners with over $7500 in tax liability. It’s a terrible tax credit in my opinion, though I’m going to gleefully accept mine.

    When this gets brought up, almost never do folks openly talk about the tax payer funded costs of gasoline. In the U.S., gas consumers only pay for the extraction, refining, transportation and retailing of gasoline. Plus tax. They don’t cover the cost (estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year) to protect access to to the oil that becomes gasoline. Oil Wars excluded, this easily totals in the trillions of U.S. dollars over a very short number of years.

    I’m very proudly burning electricity generated from good old PA coal. Coal is an energy market controlled by the US, regulated by the US, and with no influence from cartels of countries that genuinely despise us. It’s more stable in price, and all we need is right here under American soil. It doesn’t spill, it doesn’t bubble up from the ocean floor and it can be burned cleaner than it ever could in the past.

    Granted, coal is a bad word to some. But for some reason, it has become a WORSE word than OPEC. I’ll take coal over OPEC any day. But that’s just me. Sure, we are producing more oil here in N.America than any time in recent memory, but it’s still an energy market controlled by OPEC. If you disagree that OPEC is in control, you’ll surely pass on disagreeing if I say they strongly influence the world oil market.

    Their influence leads us to pander to countries that hate us, and prostitute our sense of right and wrong. The way they (OPEC middle eastern countries) treat women, Christians, Jews, Catholics. The way central and south american oil producers accept drug production as a legitimate economic input. The way they war, and then take our billions of US dollars in foreign aid…

    Why don’t more people hate OPEC more than they hate the VOLT or oil, or whatever else.

    And why don’t more people make the connection that in a Chevy Volt, the worst case (depending on where you are in the country) is drive around powered by coal. In the best case – you’re driving around powered by wind, sun, waves, natural gas or whatever else. I just don’t understand.

    For me…the box I checked…OPEC. The rest is just bonus.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’d just like to say that reviews like this tell us “the truth about cars.”

    I thought the site was in its coffin and all of a sudden not only did it get up, but it started running half-marathons.

  • avatar
    VoltOwner

    “When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.”

    Disengages the clutch pack? Meaningless. There are three clutches, the car will not move with all three disengaged.

    You have this backwards actually, the main motor is engaged _by itself_ to drive the car whenever more power than the motor/generator can produce is needed. (Two motor mode is limited to the max of the smaller motor.) The slight delay you feel when mashing the go pedal is the ring gear spinning down and locking the ring gear to the case, removing the gas engine and motor/generator from the drive line. At that time the engine is only providing power to the battery and main motor by way of the motor/generator, no mechanical link exists. You may get the impression that the car is faster with the gas engine running, but it really is not from any mechanical energy, perhaps the voltage is raised in this mode, allowing the main electric motor is to produce more than it’s rated 149HP.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      “At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.”

      Actually, the max power in two-motor mode is 72HP. Any more and it has to switch back to single-motor mode.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    In the video (but not the written review), Alex points out the odd location of the backup light. What happened was GM used the rear bumper from the European Opel Ampera where the US backup light opening is used for the mandatory rear fog light. The Opel has backup lights next to the taillight lens.

    So, in what appears to be a cost-cutting move, the Volt gets taillights which do not have backup lights and the Ampera’s bumper, but with a single US backup light instead of the Ampera’s rear fog light.

    And since I didn’t see it mentioned in any of the other comments, a good way to describe power transmission in the Volt is to think of it as a mini, gas-powered, locomotive drivetrain. The power is ‘always’ routed through the battery. When there is enough charge in the battery (supplied from a 120v or 240v outlet when the car is parked), the ICE generator is idle. Like all other traction-battery equipped vehicles, when the MFD indicates the battery is depleted to a specific, safe threshold, the battery really isn’t fully depleted. This would cause a significant reduction in battery life (the original Honda Insight achieved high mpg numbers in this manner, but the batteries needed to be replaced the most regularly of any hybrid to date). In the interest of longevity, there is always a ‘buffer’ charge in any hybrid/EV battery.

    So, when that certain, safe percentage of battery charge has been depleted, the ICE generator begins to operate and maintains a constant charge to the battery, then motor, which drives the wheels. This is why it wouldn’t be possible to operate a Volt by unplugging and removing the battery – there’s simply no direct connection between the ICE generator and the drive motor or wheels. The Volt’s generator is always routed through the battery.

    There are certain high-requirement times when the traction battery’s ‘buffer’ could, theoretically, be tapped into. One of them is when climbing a steep mountain. When this happens, if there is no saved reserve in the battery for just such a purpose (i.e., Mountain Mode), the engine will race to keep the battery charged enough to keep the car in motion up a steep grade. You’ll make it up the grade, but gas mileage will suffer.

    The other circumstance is when the vehicle runs out of gas. Then the car can potentially dip down into that battery buffer reserve to keep the car moving, but in a reduced propulsion mode. It should be noted that this is definitely not recommended due to the long-term damage that could result. In this state, the car will be flashing all kinds of warnings saying to pull over and stop.

    • 0 avatar
      focher

      I could very well be wrong, but I don’t think that’s accurate. My understanding is that the ICE sends the electricity it generates directly to the electric motors, and any extra to the battery to charge it. To send all electricity through the battery would cause an efficiency loss for no benefit, and in fact put wear on the battery.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I believe you are correct. Additionally there are times when the ICE is connected to the wheels and does provide some power to the wheels w/o conversion to and from electricity.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      “The other circumstance is when the vehicle runs out of gas. Then the car can potentially dip down into that battery buffer reserve to keep the car moving, but in a reduced propulsion mode. It should be noted that this is definitely not recommended due to the long-term damage that could result. In this state, the car will be flashing all kinds of warnings saying to pull over and stop.”

      Not really germane, because my experience with Reduced Propulsion Mode happened with a fully charged battery, and zero gas in the tank. There was no message about stopping or pulling over, just Propulsion Power Reduced, and Engine Not Available. (The NAV came up asking if I wanted to see the closest gas station too.)

      The main effect is the re-map of the Go pedal response. It felt like the inverse of Sport Mode, with small pedal inputs having very small power outputs. The same power as before was available by mashing the pedal down to the floor, I had no trouble keeping up with traffic.

      How having a “depleted” battery would affect this, I don’t know yet.

      Still, it was great to actually drive to a gas station after running completely out of gas!

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    The Volt should have been a Cadillac. THAT is it’s major flaw and a giant fail by GM corporate and marketing.

    Right now it gets compared to Prius’ at best, and more often Honda Civics and the Cruze, and it loses on value every time.

    On the other hand, it’s a technological show-piece. It’s expensive. It lacks a middle seat in the back.

    They COULD have marketed it as a businessman’s green choice, cruising in the HOV lane without burning gas.

    Instead as a Chev they want us to think it’s a be-all end-all and a valid replacement for everything.

  • avatar
    AustinOski

    We didn’t look at the Volt because of a)price and b)it’s only a four-seater. That was a deal killer for my wife. We leased a LEAF.

    Why LEAF and why a lease after 32 years of buying? $2300 down, $155/mo. along with $125/mo. net fuel savings and virtually zero maintenance. And, I don’t care about how many snacks and juice boxes my 4.5y.o. daughter spills in it because it’s an appliance that a) I’ll return in two years and b) I don’t care about.

    Not that it’s not a decent car. It is surprisingly solid and the quietness gives it a more upscale feel (that the SL now has leather also helps).

    The line about why electric cars make no sense when compared to something like a Versa or a Fit hold no water for me and they probably have not compared then in real life. The LEAF feels much more upscale and solid compared to those -partially because of sound (or lack thereof), partially because of weight and partially (for me) all the electronic gewgaws.

    And, no, I didn’t buy for environmental reasons. I bought it because it’s a near zero cost vehicle when considering fuel savings, maintenance savings, depreciation savings vs. what I would have bought otherwise. BTW, his car replaced a late model BMW 5 series wagon and my wife is fine with it.

    For the sake of transparency/honesty, I should also add that I bought it because I didn’t want our new-to-us pristine, low mileage ’94 E320 wagon to get trashed. It arrived and I couldn’t stand the thought of it getting mauled after nearly 20 years of pampering (it was owned by the GM of a MB dealership). Anyway, that’s my own personal issue I need to work-out.

  • avatar
    VoltOwner

    The author does not understand the operation of the Two-motor vs. one motor mode.

    In the video he states that the small motor/generator “has to stop spinning in one direction … then start spinning in the other direction”.

    The ring gear that is driven by the small motor/generator comes to a complete stop and is then locked to the transmission case, while at the same time the small motor/generator is disconnected from the ring gear (and the engine while the transition is effected).

    As far as power to the road is concerned, that’s it. Once one-motor mode is powering the car up the hill, the small motor/generator revs match the engine and the two are connected to provide power for the main motor.

    I don’t believe the small motor actually changes direction between acting as a motor driving the ring gear and acting as a generator, since the engine always drives that motor/generator in the same direction, whether it’s running as a generator or connected to the ring gear and providing torque.

    Anyway, it wouldn’t matter if it did since the power to the wheels is already flowing from the main motor (powered from the battery) once the ring gear is locked, before the small motor/generator has to do anything about seeing to the needs of the battery and main motor.

  • avatar
    truedat

    GM has now had to drop the price on this LIE – TWICE! They would have been better making it a lease only. Now you can get one $0 down, $229/month. They should be flying off the lots but the lies from GM and owners have taken their toll. What lies? How about the method GM used to say the volt (i.e. DOLT) gets 287mpg? They filled the tank, drove 50 miles and measured how much gas was left. Forget the fact it was running on a separate power source for almost the entire 50 miles. The volt is the 21st century EDSEL.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Was the Edsel electric too? This IS surprising.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      “They filled the tank, drove 50 miles and measured how much gas was left. Forget the fact it was running on a separate power source for almost the entire 50 miles.”

      Yep, 50 miles on battery is dead simple on a ’13. Thanks for pointing that out. A little more difficult with my ’11 though, I’ve been only getting 42-44 lately.

      My method of figuring the mileage is to figure how much gas I have put in it since I bought it, and check the odometer for how far I have driven. 15,500 miles on 14.3 gallons is a tiny bit better than GM’s 230MPG. (The rest of the miles on battery cost me less than 3 cents per, so say $450. Technically my cost for electricity has been zero, due to not even using as much as my solar system produces for charging.)

      “What lies?”

      The lies have mostly been from posters such as yourself and RW media, attacking an American made vehicle that has the potential to free us from imported oil. Big Oil is known for attacking cars that affect their bottom line (see Prius), but you don’t sound like one of those paid posters, they are usually better informed. You sound more like a deluded follower of some RW talker that can’t remember all the lies you’ve been told.

      For the record, the new, lower price is $34,995, reduced from $39,995, which was the original MSRP of the base model.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      The derp is strong with this one.


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