The most significant concern cited when drivers are asked if they’d ever choose to drive an electric car is a phenomenon known as “range anxiety”. Basically, people are scared they’ll get stuck somewhere with a dead battery and no place to charge it. Given the limited range of most electric cars on the market today, it’s somewhat understandable. While statistics consistently show most people drive far fewer miles on a daily basis than they think they do, a perceived concern is still a concern, regardless of the reality.
Chevrolet’s Volt counters this by adding a 1.5-liter gasoline powered engine to generate electricity when the battery pack is depleted. Originally introduced in 2010, Chevrolet has released a completely revised Volt for the 2016 model year. This new version boasts a lighter and more compact propulsion system, seating for five, rather than four, and its electric driving range has been increased by 25 percent. While the styling is also new, it is instantly recognizable as a Volt.
Inside, this iteration of the Chevrolet Volt employs a more conventional interior treatment, replacing the flush-fitting backlit touch controls in the previous version of the car. The new setup is at once contemporary, and exceptionally intuitive to operate.
Standard features include keyless entry and pushbutton start, remote start, automatic climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, OnStar with 4G WiFi capability, and Apple CarPlay. Available upgrades include heat for the steering wheel, exterior mirrors, and seats (front and rear). Also offered are leather upholstery, a Bose audio system, wireless charging for portable devices, and automated parking.
Passenger comfort is also improved, and there’s ample legroom for all. However, because of the configuration of the battery pack, the middle rear seat position does require an occupant to straddle the protrusion it necessitates in the floor.
The new 1.5-liter gasoline-fired engine/generator is lighter and quieter than the 1.4-liter unit it replaces. Volt’s two electric motors have been combined into one housing, and the power inverter unit has been built into the drive unit to reduce mass and improve efficiency.
All told, the propulsion package weighs 100 pounds less than the one employed in the original version of the Chevrolet Volt. Combined, the electric motors make 149 horsepower and 294 ft-lbs of torque. Total range is estimated at 420 miles, and overall fuel economy is rated at 42 mpg on gasoline.
Battery pack recharging from near depletion takes 4.5 hours with a 240v power source.
Every inch a contemporary family car, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is quiet and composed in nearly every situation. Further, it rides comfortably and comports itself reasonably when asked to corner and brake aggressively.
Cutting edge safety features include lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision alert with a following distance indicator, and automatic braking. Volt also has a pedestrian notification system to alert cyclists and people on foot when it is approaching in electric mode.
All in all, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt represents a solid improvement over the original. Better in every way, it’s a plausible alternative to a fully electric vehicle.
Pricing starts at $33,250.