The sole purpose of GM while building the Volt was to address range anxiety. Engineered to override the nagging fear you have in an electric car, when the charge in your battery is running low, the Volt is an electric car whose range can be infinitely extended by using a petrol engine as an electric generator.
Powered by GM’s Voltec propulsion system which consists of a lithium-ion battery pack and electric drive unit coupled together, the Volt can be driven as a pure electric for a range of around 40 to 80 km. Once the charge is partially depleted, however, a 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in, charges the battery and extends the range by 550 km. And if you want to travel even further, just top up the tank.
The Volt’s battery can be charged using a household electrical outlet, or much faster via purpose-built 240V charging posts which are being set up at convenient locations across the USA (we use 240 volts in India in any case). Once the vehicle is plugged in, owners can schedule either immediate or delayed charges (to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates) and the even monitor it remotely via computer on MyVolt.com or an exclusive smartphone app.Its largest component is the more than five feet long battery. The 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack weighs almost 200kg, is T-shaped and actually sits in a spine between the seats, allowing the Volt to have a real boot. The petrol motor is mounted in the nose and drive from the electric motors is sent to the front wheels.
The Volt looks cutting-edge. The faux grille instantly tells you all is not normal here. It’s clear a lot of attention has been paid to refining aerodynamics and, truth be told, this really is a well balanced, good looking car with no odd quirks included just to make the design stand out.
There are Normal and Sport modes, but since this is an electric, I stick it in Normal and set off seamlessly. The Volt pulls away easily, as any torque rich electric should. The relaxed demeanour continues even when you pull the car harder. In comparison, something like a Prius feels strained and wheezy. Only under hard acceleration above, say, 80kph, does the engine cut in and become quite audible. It’s not got the nicest of engine notes.
A right hand drive version has been made for countries like the UK and Japan, the car will soon be in China and Chevrolet India is working on a plan to get the car here as well.
The car’s central spine of lithium-ion batteries means the Volt can only be had with two seats in the rear, but they are comfortable enough for average passengers. What you do get is a large boot that makes it a practical car to own.