2011 Chevrolet VoltPosted on April 20th, 2011
Coming to a Main Street near you
By Nina Russin
There seem to be as many theories about the best way to stretch our diminishing oil reserves as there are car companies. Nissan, Chevrolet, MINI, Toyota and Honda all have electric production cars in the pipeline, but each is slightly different.
Keeping all of this information straight can be confusing to consumers who have limited access to the cars in dealerships for test drives.
Both Nissan and Chevrolet have addressed the issue with special events in selected markets. Chevrolet is taking the Volt to the streets as part of Main Street In Motion: a series of programs which invites participants to drive current GM models and their direct competitors.
Test drive in Arizona
I got a quick test of the Volt at a recent event in Glendale, Arizona. To be honest, I didn’t have enough time behind the wheel to formulate driving impressions, but I did learn a few things about the car.
Base price is $41,000. There are two options: a premium trim package which adds leather seats, heated and cooled driver and front passenger seats, and second option which includes a rear camera and park assist. The Volt is eligible for a $7500 tax credit. Buyers can also lease the Volt for $350 per month after a $2500 down payment.
All cars come with an infotainment system which includes navigation, a Bose sound system, 606 GB hard drive, MP3 compatibility, XM satellite radio with real-time traffic and weather update, and five years of OnStar telematics with directions and connections service.
Power comes from a 16 kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, which runs down the center of the car, a 149-horsepower electric motor and a 1.4-liter, 84-horsepower gasoline engine. A liquid thermal management system maintains the battery at an ideal temperature to enhance performance and extend the battery pack’s longevity.
The battery pack weighs 435 pounds. Total curb weight for the Volt is 3781 pounds.
The battery recharges on 120-volt power in 10-12 hours, and on 240-volt power in about four hours. The battery pack is covered by an eight year/100,000 mile warranty.
Driving range on pure electric power is 25-50 miles. Total driving range, including the gasoline engine is 350 miles.
The test car was a fully-loaded model with leather seats. Engineers opted for manual seat adjustments to eliminate weight. The 17-inch aluminum wheels are specially designed to minimize weight as well.
The Volt seats up to four adults with the rear seats in place. The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. While I didn’t try loading a bicycle into the test car, there seemed to be enough room inside to hold a bike with the front wheel popped off, once the rear seats are folded flat.
The infotainment system resembles an iPod with touch pad controls. In addition to the infotainment functions, it also includes an energy meter, so the driver can monitor battery charge.
I drove the car in normal mode: one of three available options. The normal mode optimizes gas mileage, whereas both sport and mountain modes focus on performance.
Aside from its lack of engine noise, the Volt handles very much like a conventional gas-powered car. Acceleration is good though not exceptional. Visibility around the perimeter is good to the front and sides. As with all aero designs, there are some blind spots in back, which the optional rear-view camera eliminates.
What I like about the Volt as opposed to pure electric cars is that it eliminates range anxiety. There is enough range for the car to operate in pure electric mode for short commutes and trips around town. But the Volt also has the versatility to go on extended road trips; something pure electric cars do not.
To find out when Main Street in Motion is coming to a town near you, visit the program web site.
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