The premiere_PHEV has proven so far to be the “Best in Class” for a number of really good reasons.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- June 9, 2011
2011 Chevrolet Volt Charging in the Drive - $41,000 to start (not incl. tax credit), 35 miles AER and 37 mpgUS combined per the EPA.
The Volt, named after Alessandro Volta, is a unit of electromotive force and is defined by the difference of potential that would carry one ampere of current against one ohm resistance. And while 99.97% of the world could care less what a volt actually is, those same 99.97% would love to own the four wheel variety
The Volt, a newcomer that we have been watching with great interest since the Concept debut on a cold January day in Detroit back in 2007 is finally here. Any number of CleanMPG members have done short hops in one with preliminary optimistic results (A Volt in Milwaukee
) and it is about time we discover more about the Volt with a full week behind the wheel. Let me add that so far, the Volt’s design and capability is thus far proving it to be a lot better from behind the wheel than what we have come to understand from our reads online.
With over one-hundred Volt stories from the initial concept release (GM’s Chevrolet “VOLT” shocks the industry
) to minute detail on everything from pricing
to battery warranty
, is there much more that needs to be written up?
The Volt is the car that is supposed change the transportation landscape. Unfortunately, the high price takes it out of the hands of the majority and in its charge sustaining (CS) mode when it acts like a standard hybrid vehicle; its rated fuel economy does not match that of the ubiquitous Prius.
Regarding the price, does the Lexus HS250h or CT 200h when similarly equipped make sense by comparison to the Volt? How about a base BMW 3-series, Audi A3 TDI or Fusion Hybrid? After an hour in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, anything costing $30K or more does not make sense so let me bury my own preconceived pricing arguments right now. I was wrong and for any vehicle to save precious liquid fuels by the hundreds to thousands of gallons per year is worth the price of admission. Especially when it saves gasoline like the Volt can.
2011 Chevrolet Volt Details
The five-door, four-passenger Volt is designed to provide the benefits of a BEV without the range limitations associated with BEVs currently or soon-to-be available.
Designed, engineered, built and delivered to customers over an extremely short 29 month development period, the Volt is offered in one well-equipped standard trim level, along with two option packages: a Premium Package and a Rear Camera and Park Assist Package.
Regarding if the Chevrolet Volt is a hybrid or not, who cares. If my experience with the Volt the past two days is any indication, its EPA rated 35-mile all-electric range (AER) is only a number on a sticker and that can be bested without breaking a sweat. I suspect the same holds true of the 37 mpgUS EPA rating but we will hopefully find that out later this weekend. Even at 37 mpgUS combined, it will best most everything on the market including the far less capable Prius due to the fact it will rarely run on gasoline. Even when it does, 37 mpgUS per the EPA is Fusion, Sonata and Insight-II Hybrid territory.
The Volt is powered by GM’s Voltec propulsion system consisting of a 16-kWh Li-Ion battery and electric drive with up to .2 g’s of regenerative braking providing an all-electric range (AER) of 35-miles per the EPA. An 84 HP, 1.4L gasoline-powered engine provides an additional 344 miles of range from the onboard 9-gallon fuel tank until the car can be plugged in and recharged or refueled.
Wheels and Tires
The Volt rides on lightweight ALCOA sourced forged aluminum alloy wheels
that weigh just 17.8 pounds each. The Volt arrives equipped with Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max all-season, low-rolling resistance tires
optimized for electric vehicle range, noise, feel and performance.
Volt Battery Details
The Volt incorporates an LG Chem sourced, 435-pound T-shaped, 288-cell liquid cooled 16-kWh prismatic Li-Ion battery pack manufactured in Brownstown Township, MI. It supplies energy to a 149 HP MGSet (Motor-Generator) to propel the vehicle.
Charging the Volt’s battery through a 120V conventional household electrical outlet took just 9.5 hours from empty to full. Through a simple menu, I was able to schedule an immediate charge or delayed one to take advantage of off-peak pricing. You can also manage and monitor the Volt remotely via computer on MyVolt.com; or an exclusive smart phone application, Chevrolet Mobile App powered by OnStar MyLink. I have not attempted to use any of the remote apps yet and I do not know if they are available as this is a press fleet Volt and not my own.
Charging, ingenious LED lighted charging plug, stowed under rear floor and velcro strap attached to mat.
The Charging Cord, plug and reel are a true work of art. Not only is there a dedicated storage location under the rear hatch floor for the entire cord, plug and reel, it is also wrapped with a Velcro strap. When you place the reel assembly on the carpeted mat, it will stick as if it were meant to be tossed in the back hatch and forgotten. In addition, there is an LED light on the bottom of the charge plug so that when you are going to plug your vehicle in at night, you have a small light in order to see the port for an easy connection. Both of these features were missing on the Prius PHEV charge cord we drove last week and proves GM was really thinking outside the box when they designed the Volt.
Inside the Volt, its front seats can be adjusted manually fore and aft, up and down and recline. Like the Cruze we drove last month, I felt the heavily side bolstered front seats were a bit too confining. After I have some more seat time, I should have a better feel as the Cruze seats proved to be comfortable after a few hours and I suspect the Volt’s seats will provide the same.
The rear seats are 40/40 split-folding.
Two, seven-inch, high-resolution and beautifully rendered full-color screens are included: One is a reconfigurable graphic cluster display that shows electric-only range, fuel economy, trip information, tire pressure information and other vehicle messages.
Confusing Climate and Radio/NAV controls at first glance
The center stack display features a touch screen and touch-control switches allowing control of the infotainment and cabin climate controls. An Efficiency (Leaf) switch accesses energy usage, power flow and charging screens as well. The center stack control layout is confusing for the first day or so and then it becomes workable. In addition, anytime the center screen is showing, I believe the radio is on and you can only turn the volume down, not shut it off?
The proximity key’s included fob has a remote A/C on button with allows drivers to remotely start the vehicle and precondition the cabin based on outside temperatures. The mimic made little sense on first look but it is not like I could not figure it out
Proximity key and FOB w/ lock/unlock, charge access door release, remote A/C and panic buttons.
Standard infotainment features include:
- Navigation radio with 60-GB (30 GB for music storage) hard disc drive, AM/FM/DVD-Rom/MP3 playback capability, voice recognition, Radio Data System, Bluetooth and pause-and-play radio functions.
- XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic/Weather, one of the industry’s most advanced, real-time information systems.
- Premium, energy-saving Bose audio system with six speakers and subwoofer that really sounds good.
- Five years of OnStar Directions and Connections service.
The Volt protects occupants before; during and after a crash with crash-avoidance features including standard ABS, traction control and electronic stability control.
The Volt’s body-frame-integral structure is almost 80 percent high-strength, advanced high-strength or ultra high-strength steel. Active occupant protection features include eight standard air bags and safety belts with dual pretensioners.
In addition, the Volt has recently been awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick
and earned an NHTSA 5-Star crash test rating on what is arguably the toughest crash test regimen in the world!
IIHS Top Safety Pick
NHTSA 5-Star Crash Test Rating
2011 Chevrolet Volt Warranties
Volt owners receive both a a battery and vehicle limited warranty coverage. In addition to the eight-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on the Volt’s 16-kWh Li-Ion battery, Chevrolet will provide:
Initial Drive Impressions
- Three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage
- Five-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation
- Five-year/100,000-mile limited gas engine coverage
- Six-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection coverage.
The Volt’s MacPherson strut-type front suspension, torsion beam rear end and rack-mounted electric power steering system deliver a refined ride with a particularly solid on-center feel. The low center of gravity provides a confidence inspiring handling solution no matter the conditions experienced so far. The only area where the Volt has felt out of sorts is when running over sharp edged curbs. There is a very noticeable noise and harshness intrusion into the cabin and through the wheel. I felt this in the Cruze and it was no surprise the Volt felt similar.
The Volt’s top speed is 101 mph with a 0 to 60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds and while I will never test either of those two specs out, I can say that the VOLT has better straight line performance and cornering attributes under electric mode vs. most other sub-compacts and compact conventional, hybrids and diesels we have driven recently. Simply a very well sorted out electric drivetrain and chassis tuning and my compliments to the engineers that designed it.
For the two miles I ran the Volt in normal CS mode, the engine could be heard and felt but only slightly. When placed in Mountain Mode however, the engine rpm ramps up and it is easily heard and felt from within the cabin at slower speeds.
Steve Baran of G. Schmitz (the GM Press Fleet handlers) just minutes after dropping off the Volt
As soon as the car arrived, I plugged it in to bring its SoC up from the 12-miles AER left to as much as it would take in the few hours before heading out.
A Trip to the Drive-In
– If only the pics would have turned out
With 27 miles of EV range indicated, I unplugged and my wife and I drove to the local Drive-In. I wanted so much to catch the highest tech car on the planet in a nostalgic automobile moment but it was too dark when we arrived and the Keno Drive-In did not light up the area at intermission. In any case, the 18.5-mile drive to the Drive-In saw the indicated electric range drop from 27 miles to 20 miles.
- And here is where it gets interesting. Because Drive-In’s now provide audio through your FM radio, you need to have the car in Accessory to keep the radio on. Whoops, how do you place the Volt in accessory mode? Even after reading the manual after the fact, I do not believe there is an accessory mode? So I booted up the car, tuned the radio in, shut everything from climate control to the display down and hoped for the best. About 15-minutes later (I am making a WAG here), the Volt shut down and down went the radio. I rebooted the car; shut everything back down and the radio stayed on until I shut everything down at intermission about an hour later. X-Men – First Class is pretty good by the way
For the second movie, I rebooted and shut off everything. This time, the radio stayed live the entire movie. Except during all of this time, the EV range was falling mile by mile every time I checked at the first and second reboots. By the time the second movie had ended (Brides Maids and it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be
), the indicated range had fallen to just 12-miles. So the Volt lost 8-miles of range by having the radio on which means in actuality, a lot more (inverter/transverter) was booted up and powering more than just the radio during the ~ 3.5 to 4-hours we sat there.
When I reached the 35 mile point about 2.5 miles from home, the indicated range dropped to 0 and the engine started in CS mode as expected. I did not have an SG-II connected so I have no idea what kind of instantaneous I was receiving with no iFCD that I could find. I swapped to Mountain mode with about 1.5 miles left to see how the charging cycle would change. I did not see a single mile added to the electric range but the engine RPM’s ramped up mightily. I am not sure I did anything other than burn some fuel so maybe Mountain mode should only be used when you still have some EV range left? Or maybe not as I did not leave it there for long. Arrggghh, more questions than answers about MM now?
Time for a full charge
And the fun begins. It was about 01:30 AM when we arrived back home and it was time to plug in for her first full and measured charge. This is where the included LED light on the charge plug was a godsend! After plugging in, the charger was drawing ~ 1,400 W which seemed in-line with what the Prius PHEV was doing last week. There was a round green LED that lit up on the dash and a short horn beep when charging commenced. Cool!
At 10:45 AM the next morning, I went out and checked and saw W dropping back as if there was a pre-programmed charging cycle occurring. Within 15-minutes, it was topped off, the round green LED was now blinking on the dash, the charge was completed and 41-miles EV range was displayed.
Let’s go for a drive
The Kill A Watt indicated 12.00 kWh had been dispensed from empty to full.
Now here is where it gets really interesting. You are only supposed to receive 35-miles but there must be an algorithm at work calculating estimated EV range based off your previous drive or drive(s). The efficiency balls were both at 100% for climate and driving style the night before (I will take a pic of those later as they are really just eye candy) and I suspect the algorithm was basing the range off of my previous nights drive? That was even after I had lost the 8-miles while sitting at the Drive-In?
Temps were in the mid 80’s, winds out of the south at 15 + mph and the Lightning could be seen in the distance as a major storm was headed this way.
0.0 miles out, Trip A/B reset and 41-miles of EV indicated.
My city cycle route begins.
3 miles out
- By the time I reached 3 miles out, the driving efficiency ball was at 100%. It was overcast and T-Storms were threatening so I did not need any A/C which had the climate control ball at 100% before I even started. The 41-mile EV range had not moved which was not a big deal just yet.
~ 4 miles out
, the EV range went up to 42 miles
and now I am beginning to wonder what in the hell is going on
~ 8 miles out
, the EV Range climbed another mile to 43 miles and now I am really wondering? And like any hypermiler, we start calculating rates and ranges in our head and wondering about the possibilities from a full charge? There was a drop of 1-bar (1 of 10 bars) from the SoC battery meter so maybe things are working and displaying as they are supposed to?
8.9 miles out - 43 miles EV Range displayed and 1 bar of SoC gone.
Sorry about the pic as I lightened it, dropped contrast to almost 0 and even adjusted Gamma a bit to bring out what I could. I was taking them on the fly as you can tell.
~ 12 miles out
, the EV Range bumped up another 1 mile to 44 miles!?
~ 15 miles out
12.1 miles out - 44 miles EV Range displayed and still 1 bar of SoC gone.
, the EV Range dropped 1 mile to 43 miles with 1 bar of SoC gone.
~ 20 miles out
, the EV range and SOC battery meter both dropped 1 mile to 42 miles and 2-bars were now gone.
As the T-Strom came in, the winds really picked up and it was time to park the Volt in the drive for the night.
2011 Chevrolet Volt - 21.6 miles out - 42 miles EV Range shown and 2 bars of SoC gone.
I might head out after dinner to put another 20 miles on her to see where she lands but right now, I am pretty excited about the possibilities.
While expensive, the Volt sure is fun to drive. If I could describe the feeling behind the wheel it would be “solid
”. From the feel of the wheel to the straight line and cornering stability, the Volt was designed really well. In addition, the EV range has already bested my expectations and I suspect it will do a lot more than that once the first CD mode range test is completed.
The charging cord reel and plug were over the top in build quality and features and I was really pleased with the thought that went into it.
The initial confusing controls and displays are becoming easier to understand so that will not be a bother after another day or two.
On the downside, there were a few negatives. The CS engine run modes I still need to get my arms around as the Volt’s MM rev up and possibly no charging addition I need to figure out. The front seat(s) seemed a bit tight due to the intrusive side bolsters and the shift lever moving into an opening within the dash seemed “goofy” from this otherwise well designed vehicle.
While the Volt is not selling well due to supply or demand (it is not something I can do anything about anyway?), the ability to drive most anywhere I normally drive locally (within 70-miles) without using a drop, with home charging only and doing so at what appears to be ~ 150 Wh/mile (about 25% more efficient than the Prius PHEV) is so far impressive.
We will have to see if my initial enthusiasm holds true but right now, anyone considering a Lexus, Ford, Lincoln, Hyundai, VW or even GM hybrid when similarly equipped had better put the 2011 Chevrolet Volt on their short list. It may not have the room but it certainly has the capability and advanced tech to satisfy just about everyone.