2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Chevrolet Volt. Click image to enlarge

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2011 Chevrolet Volt

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2011 Chevrolet Volt

Detroit, Michigan – While driving silently through Detroit on a cold day in January, I am reminded of a comic book quote from my childhood, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!”

In this case, the Chevrolet Volt is neither a bird nor a plane. It is not a hybrid, although it does have both an electric drive unit and a gasoline engine. But it is not a battery electric vehicle either because it does have that gasoline engine on board.

The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle with extended range, meaning it is propelled by an all-electric drive unit, but with the assistance of a gasoline engine that generates electricity for the electric drive system, can be driven without a recharge or fill up for up to 610 kilometres. Amongst electric vehicles, it truly is Superman.

The Chevrolet Volt is powered by GM’s unique Voltec propulsion system which, in simple terms (for a more detailed explanation, see the accompanying feature, “Deeper into the technology: the Voltec electric drive system”) consists of a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 149-hp electric drive unit that propels the car exclusively on electricity for up to 80 kilometres, depending on terrain, driving style and climate. When the car’s battery reaches a minimum charge, a 1.4-litre gasoline engine starts up to maintain the minimum charge of the battery enabling the Volt to continue on its way for an additional 530 kilometres, give or take.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Chevrolet Volt. Click image to enlarge

On this blustery winter day, we drove approximately 40 kilometres before the driving mode graphic in the driver’s display indicated we had switched from pure electric to extended driving range mode. Not until we came to a stop light, however, did we hear the engine.

Once tuned into the sound of the engine, you realize that it seems to operate with a life of its own. Unlike a gasoline powered car or a hybrid, the rise and fall of the engine speed is not related to the action of your right foot. RPMs increase or decrease according to the needs of the battery pack. It is an unusual feeling to be sitting at the same stop light and hear the engine accelerate while the car is sitting still!

While driving exclusively in electric mode, the driver’s display indicates that we are achieving 250+ miles per gallon (the display can be easily switched to metric) or infinity in other words, but once the car switches to extended driving mode, the fuel consumption figure begins to drop. Over a full 610 kilometre drive, it is expected that the Volt will achieve, according to the US EPA, 37 mpg (6.3 L/100 km) in extended range mode and 60 mpg (3.9 L/100 km) in combined electric and extended range modes. However, if used locally and charged regularly, the Volt will use little to no fuel at all.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Chevrolet Volt. Click image to enlarge

The Volt can be charged using either a household 120-volt plug in or a dedicated 240-volt charging station. The Volt comes equipped for the former with a 20-foot charging cord stowed in the back. Charging time takes 10-12 hours on 120V, but only four hours on 240V. Owners can schedule immediate charging or coordinate the charging for their departure time or to take advantage of lower-cost off-peak electric rates. If the vehicle is plugged in, recharging can be controlled remotely using an OnStar mobile app for iPhones and Android smart phones or by accessing an application at MyVolt.com.

While the Volt may not be range limited, our time in the Volt was, with about an hour and a half inside the car, so naturally our driving impressions are somewhat limited. Our drive took us on Detroit’s freeways and suburban streets on our way to GM’s Hamtramck Assembly Plant where the Volt is built along side the Cadillac STS and the Buick Lucerne (although it shares nothing in common with these two).

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