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Chevrolet Volt Is The Real Deal In Fuel Economy

By Veeno Dewan

A recent test drive in the  innovate new Chevrolet Volt in a day of real world driving proved this car is indeed the right car at the right time. A team of assembled auto journalists were invited by General Motors in Vancouver to sample this much awaited electric battery and hybrid gas engined car and we were not disappointed.

Basically, the Volt is an electric car with a gasoline engine backup. You plug it in, with a full charge taking ten hours on basic 120 household current, or four hours on 240 current. The car comes with a 120-volt plug, but you can buy a 240-volt fast charger.   Once charged, the car runs on battery alone for between 40 and 80 kilometres, depending on your driving style, ambient temperature and terrain. Plan your route within the electric range and you can actually drive to work and back home without using any gas at all!

Looks wise the Volt arrives as a smart, futuristic, compact four seater with a low beltline, generous interior room, four doors and a handy hatchback cargo area.  The design is less polarizing than the Toyota Prius and looks more stylish to boot. The interior is well finished with funky door panels and neat attractive materials and finishes.

As with a hybrid, the gas engine shuts off when the wheels stop turning: sit at a light or in traffic, and there are no emissions out the tailpipe. (The climate system, stereo and other electronics continue to work.) An engine/battery management system revs the gas engine lower or higher depending on how much power is required. If enough energy has been fed back into the battery, the gas engine will shut off and you’re back to emissions-free operation.

After the lithium- ion battery is depleted, a small 4-cylinder internal combustion engine using premium gasoline creates electricity on-board using a   74 hp generator to extend the Volt’s range up to an additional 499 km).

On the road the Volt proved pleasant to drive and had good stability on corners and excellent road handling. Pure electric mode delivers a silent smooth ride and after about 40km (We were going uphill on Cypress Mountain!), the battery cycle finished and the gas motor kicked in a seamless transition.   Don’t let the short battery range phase you as GM say research shows that many people who want this kind of car actually do drive short distances or commutes on a daily basis.

Drive carefully and you can easily get around 50-60 km on a single charge. Past that point, the combustion engine will turn on. On a highway test around 100- 120 kph, this car proved quite, comfortable and impressively stable, silent with adequate power from the gas engine.

Charging this car is very easy. You simply use its special extension cord to plug it into a 120-volt outlet and as mentioned a battery can be completely recharged within 10 hours.  In Canadian dollars, the Volt has an MSRP starting at $41,545; this will include one very well equipped standard trim level, as well as two option packages: a Premium Trim Package and a Rear Camera and Park Assist Package. It will be available initially in markets including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and is a very impressive and highly economical car. Most municipalities are now mandating that electric charging stations for battery powered cars are built in new building and so the ease of recharging the Volt is not an issue.

I expect to see the Volt to do very well. Highly recommended

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