Electric Vehicle with Extended Range

The Chevrolet VOLT is an amazing vehicle, both from the standpoint of the engineering that went into designing it, and the quality of the production and quality control that is building a superb, reliable vehicle.
Drive 30 to 50 miles (50 to 80km) in Electric mode, using energy stored in the battery.
Then the gasoline driven generator kicks in seamlessly to charge the battery, which continues to supply the energy to the electric motor driving the car.

For years the media have criticized General Motors for lack of vision, poor engineering and quality control. Now the rejuvented company has a winner with the most superbly engineered automobile presently on sale in all continental states of the U.S.A. It is the result of ten years of research and development, with earlier prototypes leased to company fleets for real life testing. Later this year the Vauxhall/Opel version, called "Ampera" will be released for sale in Europe.

The Chevrolet Volt was named 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, 2011 Green Car of the Year, 2011 North American Car of the Year, and 2011 World Green Car. It also won the 2009 Green Car Vision Award.


Any one who has driven this car is amazed by the smoothness of its drive, the pick-up when you depress the accelerator pedal, the absence of any sound or noise (other than that of the bumpy road). The comfort of the seats is outstanding, with good shoulder and hip room. However, it is a compact car, so although the front leg-room is excellent, it is somewhat cramped in the rear. In spite of the price comparable to that of any luxury small car, there is a long waiting list of buyers.
Nice little features: the head lights switch on automatically when it gets dark, the rear-view mirror dims automatically when a car comes up behind you, lots of nifty features that some Chevy salemen don't tell you.

The writer was fortunate to obtain the first 2012 model VOLT available in New Jersey, 2012 production number 217. It is a standard model with only one optional extra: a rear view camera which turns on when reverse gear is engaged. It seats 4 people, the rear seats fold down to provide extra flat cargo space, when you need it.

The VOLT is easy and fun to drive. All locks and power are controlled by a palm-size control transmitter. After adjusting seats, place the controller in the center pocket, turn on power, select desired modes for the display of the instrument panel and the touch screen information panel in the central column. Then with foot on the brake pedal move the control stick to Drive (or Reverse). Slowly release pressure on the brake pedal and the car moves up to 5 mph (8 kph). A very light touch on the accelerator pedal quickly brings the car to desired speed, a heavier pressure provides rapid acceleration. Release pressure on the pedal and the wheels turn the drive motor in generating mode, recharging the battery.

VOLT instrument panel The driver's instrument panel is very clear (click to enlarge). On the left the icon shows the state of charge of the battery and the estimated miles remaining. When the battery is depleted the engine generator switches on automatically and the battery icon changes to a gasoline pump. This is the ONLY indication you have of change of mode. There is no change in quietness. At the top there is a compass. On the right side you see an indicator of driving efficiency. If the green ball is spinning in the center you are driving with best efficiency. If you push down on the accelerator the ball shoots up and stops spinning. Likewise when applying the brake the ball sinks. If you accelerate or brake too hard the ball's color changes to an angry yellow!
The lower half of the screen has several selectable modes. In the picture you see one of the two Trip Reports. The one showing in the picture was reset by the dealer after receipt of the vehicle from the factory. Another possible setting shows the air pressure in each of the tires.

VOLT information panel The information panel on the center column has several selectable screens, all with touch screen buttons. On the left you see the Energy Usage screen which resets each time the battery is fully recharged. If you touch the top-left button "Power Flow" you will switch to the next view, which is fascinating when the car is moving.
VOLT information panel When you press down on the accelerator pedal, you see waves of energy flowing from the battery to the motor/generator, then to the wheels. When the car is coasting or you are applying the brake, energy waves flow from the wheels to the motor/generator then on to the battery.
Other possible selections of this screen control the Climate inside the vehicle, control the Entertainment system, or the timing of Battery Charging.

You may observe from the above pictures, that in the first 20 days of ownership, the writer drove 349 miles and used 0.3 gallons of gasoline, that is 1163 miles per gallon! The car was recharged every night from a standard 115V outlet, using the standard charger included with the vehicle.
However the writer is retired and not a typical VOLT owner. Only twice in this period was the car driven more than 41 miles, when the gasoline driven generator kicked in.

    More typical is the experience posted on the Volt owners' forum by a 2011 VOLT owner:
  • Typical Commute: 57-67 miles (round-trip) (92-108km);
  • Best all Electric miles: 51.3 (83km);
  • Lifetime: 6259 miles, at average 109 mpg (10070 km at 2.2 l/100km).
  • Longest one day highway drive: 1000 miles @41.5 mpg (1600km at 5.7 l/100km).


Chevrolet VOLT 2012Nissan Leaf 2012Toyota Prius 2011
Wheelbase in/cm105.7/268106.3/270106.3/270
Overall Length in/cm177/450175/444176/446
Overall Width in/cm70.4/17869.7/17768.7/174
Overall Height56.6/14661.0/15558.7/149
Overall Weight lb/kg3780/1715¹3366/15273042/1380
Electric Motor Power kw/hp ²111/15080/10760/80
Battery Charge Time4 hrs @240V7 hrs@240VNA
Electric Mode Range ³, advertised/reported, mi/km40, 30-50/64, 48-80100, 55-80/ 160, 88-130NA
Battery Typelithium-ionlithium-ionnickel hydride
Gasoline Engine1.4 liter, 4 cylNA1.8 liter, 4cyl
EPA rating, gas engine only (4)37mpg/6.4 l/100kmNA50mpg/4.7 l/100km
EPA rating, combined gas/electric60mpg/3.92 l/100km NANA
Warranty, battery100,000mi/8yrs100,000mi/8yrs(limited)NA
Warranty, powertrain100,000mi/160,000km or 5yrs 60,000mi/100,000km or 5yrs60,000mi/100,000km or 5yrs


  1. The greater weight of the VOLT is due to the reinforced frame and body, which result in the VOLT having the highest possible safety rating.
  2. The higher power of the propulsion motor in the VOLT, combined with the unique planetary gear and second generator motor, provide the VOLT with exceptionally good acceleration and higher possible speeds (particularly on hills) than either of the competing models. Unfortunately the extra components and performance result in a higher overall cost.
  3. The actual electric mode range is highly dependent on driving habit and outside temperature. In very cold and very hot weather additional power is consumed not only on the heating or cooling of the cabin, but also of the propulsion battery. Thus the wide variation in range reported by individual drivers at various times. Chevrolet correctly advertises an average 40 miles for the VOLT. Nissan advertises the maximum range - most owners report actual range to be much less than 100 miles.
  4. The EPA rating is the official one from DOT tests which include many stops and starts during the several minute test run. In actual practice almost all users consistently achieve higher mileages per gallon.
  5. Toyota plans to introduce in 2012 a Prius with plug-in chargeable battery to provide up to 15 miles (24km) of electric vehicle range.


  • The Nissan Leaf offers more electric miles after a full charge than the VOLT, BUT, at the end you are dead if not close to a charging station - call the tow truck! You should NEVER drive further than 35 miles from home or a 240V charging station. For longer trips you need a second car.
  • The Prius offers better gas mileage than the VOLT running in CS mode (battery discharged), BUT to get overall better gas mileage you would have to drive at lest 150 miles every day AND it is always using gasoline.
  • OVERALL, the VOLT offers the BEST solution for the majority of small familes, or single people. It also offers sporty premium performance.

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MotorTrend Magazine
comparison between VOLT, Prius and Leaf (2011 models).

VOLT 2012 Brochure. Download here.

Rear view visibility of the Chevy VOLT.