Let me just say one thing right off the bat: I’m a huge fan of the Chevy Volt. In my mind it’s the only logical way to go for someone who wants an electric car.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a better car than the Tesla. Teslas are spectacular, but they have two drawbacks. First is the price. I know they have some cheaper cars in the pipeline, but so far they’ve been pretty expensive. Second, and more importantly, the Tesla (and every other electric car I know of) has one huge drawback. At some point they run out of battery power. While the Tesla can go at least 230 mile (and more depending on which model you buy), there comes that point where you have to recharge. Refilling your gasoline car is quick and convenient. Recharging electric cars is neither.
So why is the Volt different? It has a gasoline generator on board. It’s important to point out that the Volt is not a hybrid. It doesn’t bounce back and forth between electric and gasoline power depending on your speed and conditions. The Volt is powered by an electric motor the entire time. Charge it overnight and you’re good for 54 miles. For most people, that should be fine to get through their daily driving. I live 14 miles from my office and found the range perfect.
Ah, but what happens when you run out of battery power? This is where the Volt leaps to the top of the chart. It seamlessly kicks on its gasoline generator that creates electricity to power the car. Granted, it’s only technically an electric car because without gas it wouldn’t go. But that’s the beauty of the Volt. It gives you options.
Let’s say you just arrived home with 10 miles of battery power remaining. Your spouse calls up and says you need to bring them something they forgot at home. With a traditional electric car, you’ll have wait some length of time to recharge. Even a Tesla supercharging station will take 20 minutes. With the Volt, you just hop in and go. After you drain the battery the gas generator kicks in and you keep going, oblivious to the change.
And then there was the morning when I discovered I’d forgotten to plug-in the Volt. All I had left was the remaining charge from the previous day. Again, it was no big deal.
That’s the beauty of the Volt. With normal driving a person could go weeks without every kicking in the gas generator. But on that day they need extra range, it’s there.
So how is it as a car? I love that part too.
The Volt was restyled for 2016. While some folks have lamented that it looks less “electric” and more like other cars, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I like the looks. I had to laugh, though, when I read the official Chevrolet description of the new design, saying it was inspired by the “toned physiques of athletes and even the natural shapes of wind-swept sands”. Whatever! Bottom line, it looks great.
I think the bigger improvements actually came in the interior. Gone is the futuristic dash that, frankly, I found a little glitchy with its touch points. In its place is a dash that I find very attractive. Mine was two toned and looked both sporty and upscale. I loved the display interface and all of the applications.
While the seats are comfortable, they’re not powered. Yes, you’ll actually have to manually adjust them. I’m sure it’s the result of saving weight and energy. I’m OK with that. The backseat in the old Volt would only seat two, this new version gives you the option of having three passengers. I’m not saying it’s great for a long drive, but at least you have options.
How does the car perform? If you’ve never driven an electric car, you’ll be shocked (OK, bad pun…) by how well they accelerate. The power comes on quickly. In fact, I thought it worked well all through the power range. I was surprised to hear that its 0-60 time was only in the high seven second range. It just seemed faster.
Because this is supposed to be a high-tech car it has additional high-tech goodies. It has its own WiFi spot (which Chevy claims is better than your phone because the antenna is higher). It has a teen tracker application. It has lane keeper assist to stop you from drifting over the yellow line.
Starting price for the Volt is 34,490 for the LT version. I had the upscale Premiere which starts at 38,840. My final sticker price was $39,950. Assuming you qualify for the$7,500 tax credit, you can by a Volt for less than $33,000. Sure, you can buy a comparable sized car for less, but this car gives you the chance to go electric without feeling the panic of range pressure.
I’ve driven electrics and I’ve driven hybrids. If I were in the market for either, the Volt would be my first choice.