The Re-VOLT Continues
Gen Two Volt Improvements continue – now available in all 50 states
By Cam Benty
When the original Volt was launched in 2011, many consumers were confused as to just where it fit within the market. Was it Chevrolet’s answer to the Prius? If so, why didn’t it match the MPG rating of the popular Toyota? What was the true benefit of a vehicle with only a 28 mile all electric range?
So what’s the deal with the Volt?
Over the last seven years, the Volt has developed a solid following – and justifiably so. While many initially didn’t understand the limited full electric range concept, they quickly caught on. Today, Volt owners proudly proclaim that they have purchased some incredibly low number of gallons of fuel for a huge number of miles covered (The folks at Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage state that for 70,000 miles of wear, they have purchased less than 30 gallons of fuel. Knowing that the car is used chiefly for local runs that are completely with in the car’s electric range it is not a surprising or unusual claim.). Those claims are proudly announced to all who inquire.
At the time of its launch, Chevrolet had hoped for such a reaction. In fact, expecting that there would be owners who rarely purchased fresh gasoline, they integrated a failsafe that would burn off the remaining fuel in the tank if gasoline refueling had not occurred in the last six months. Clearly this far thinking, high tech protective measure is being used more that expected.
While the original Volt featured a unique, often controversial design, the new Volt (2016-17) is more in line with current small car design, most notably Honda. Love it or leave it, the true beauty of this vehicle is the internal tech that puts it at the cutting edge for affordable, hybrid/electric transportation.
Second Gen Refinement
With the major overhaul in 2016, the Volt drew a new audience. Cleaner looking with more mileage, safety and comfort features, it is a significant evolutionary change on the original concept with increased electric range and higher MPG rating. That’s a winning combination that should make the new Volt a success. And for 2017, it available in all 50 states.
As you would expect, the battery technology has improved over the last seven years, the new T-Shaped batteries delivering higher output despite dropping in count from 288 in the First Gen Volt to 192 in the new Volt. As you would expect, the overall battery weight has dropped by 31 pounds.
With 53 miles of fully electric transit, the new generation Volt improves on the 38 mile +/- distances found with the first issue Volts and runs on regular gasoline (the first Gen Volt required premium fuel). That figure is actually more accurate than the earlier car’s figures, folks rarely getting the full 38 miles due to driving style and terrain encountered. The new Volt actually does get close to 50 miles in electric mode, which means that it is that much better at avoiding the use of gasoline.
When the gasoline engine is fired, mileage on the second Gen Volt is 50 mpg, up from 35 mpg for Volt Gen One. That makes for a big difference in overall mileage. Back when the first Gen Volt was released, it was determined that when covering distances under 135 miles, the Volt was more efficient than the Prius. With the changes of the Volt – and to the Prius, that number has moved up closer to 162 from our calculations believing that the MPG and electric range of the Volt are achieved.
Using the 110-volt plug in system to recharge the Volt took more than eight hours to reach full. Those new buyers of the Volt will clearly need to install the 220-volt system for recharging if the vehicle is needed for regular commuting. One engineer did tell us that the charge will last longer than if the slower, lower volt charger is used, however the delay in recycling will probably not fit some of the consumer’s daily demands.
While the first Gen Volt often required shifting into the Mountain mode to climb hills or just stay up with highway traffic, the new Volt, with its 1.5-liter gasoline “range extender” is a marked improvement. Even in electric mode, the car is quick and a significantly better performing vehicle. Overall drivability is terrific, no more shifting down to take on the most challenging hills, even though the Mountain Mode is still offered.
As you would expect, the interior for the Second Gen Volt is a completely fresh take on hybrid vehicle operation. While the original Volt controls were somewhat challenging to figure out when first presented, the new Gen Volt is far more logical and functional.
In addition, to ensure you are clear as whether you are in electric or gasoline power mode, the dashboard monitor actively lets you know. That same display presents a clear depiction of energy regeneration from the braking system to the electric batteries in real time (a paddle behind the steering wheel also allows you to engage regeneration braking when you wish). The display can be tuned to the driver allowing a wide variety of information and news to be available at a glance or by pushing a few of the display-mounted icons.
The seating position and IP visibility are excellent. The Apple Car Play feature was a mixed bag from our experience. While it is great at integrating our Apple iPhone controls, there are times when switching from phone calls to music was not as seamless as desired. More than once, the radio/stereo did not return to play mode after the phone call had muted the sound during the call. Sitting in silence, it took some manipulation to pull sound once again out of the speakers. While it offers more positive than negatives, it is not as intuitive as one might expect.
One other point of order on the Volt: In order to politely bring library quiet to the Volt when making a phone call, the radio automatically mutes when the driver is on a call. In addition, the air conditioning fans also reduce operation. While this is a nice concept in theory, on warm summer days, that also reduces the cooling output of the system. As such, on hot days I found myself cutting more than one phone call short to avoid sweating heavily due to the reduced A/C output.
Adaptive To You
The adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep assist system and front collision alert systems were superb – a word we don’t usually often in most car testing. More than once in highway driving did the adaptive cruise control execute a hard stop to avoid an accident. Adjustable for near and further back margins of distance to the vehicle in front of us, it is great at protecting us from harm. In a car of this caliber, we would expect no less. The Lane Keep Assist is great a keeping you in lane, gently adding input to help you stay on center. The alarm that sounds when you stray out of lane can be a bit disturbing initially, but it can be easily turned off at any time.
The New Volt, now in its second year, it just that much better with every passing cycle. A loyal base of fans who have overcome the high sticker price of the vehicle ensures that Volt will continue to follow in the footsteps of the Prius with improved mileage and electric range. For those folks who hate the Prius stigma, Volt is a great alterative – and the first choice of many consumers looking reduce gasoline consumption. For some, they will visit the gas station so rarely, they may forget how to pump gas. Wouldn’t that be nice?