Chevrolet Volt

6 May, 2012 12:00pm James Disdale

Our verdict on the Chevrolet Volt range-extending electric car as it arrives in the UK


Like the Vauxhall Ampera, the Chevrolet Volt delivers the fuel-saving and refinement benefits of an electric car without the fear of being stranded by a flat battery. It’s not cheap and the cabin is a bit cramped, but there’s no doubt that it’s a bold and cost-effective alternative to regular cars.
Chevrolet has just launched its Volt range-extending electric car in the UK. The five-door is mechanically identical to its Vauxhall Ampera sister car. That means it gets the same clever drivetrain, which has an electric motor to drive the wheels and a traditional 1.4-litre petrol engine to keep the lithium-ion batteries at their minimum charge until you can plug in to a power socket.

On the move, the system is very effective. The powerful 148bhp electric motor provides seamless, silent acceleration, and the batteries will last for around 40 miles before the petrol engine fires quietly and unobtrusively into life to add a claimed 250 miles to the range.

Even when the petrol engine is feeding the battery pack, the Volt is a relaxing and refined cruiser, thanks in no small part to the lack of wind and road noise. And while the ride is a little firm, it rarely becomes too uncomfortable.

The Chevrolet also feels composed and predictable through corners, although the brakes could do with having more feel.

The Volt gets the same solidly built and futuristically designed four-seat cabin as the Ampera, while on the outside is Chevy’s trademark grille, plus a contrasting black finish for the roof panel. Our test car benefited from eye-catching £490 chrome alloy wheels.

There’s only one trim, which costs a hefty £29,995 including the £5,000 Government grant. That’s the same as the entry-level version of the Vauxhall, which does without the Chevy’s standard heated leather seats.

However, low CO2 emissions of 27g/km make the Volt a very cheap company car choice. And if you can charge up once a day, it’ll significantly cut fuel bills.

Disqus - noscript

I haven't read a single review on this car that accounted for the cost of electricity. Say, a full charge at x pounds/kW costs y pounds, so if you travel around 30 miles/day your cost is z per month. Is the saving on fuel enough to start considering this car despite its high price? Cause to be honest, Chevrolet or Vauxhall, it is handsome and cool.

Sorry Chevy l find it to bland and boring, l don't do dull & anodyne.
Might have considered it if was more like a BMW 3 or 5 Series came with RWD and had the awesome handling of a Beamer, sorry l don't do FWD but would prefer to buy a Chevy rather than a BMW.

Why can we get some of the good stuff from Chevy like a Via Motors RHD version of the Silverado E-REV, that also runs for 40 miles on an electric charge, and returns an incredible 120 MPG from such a useful bit of pick-up kit. Have enough money sitting on the sidelines doing nothing to pay cash for a Silverado. Pissed of with the Volt it's just not my cup of tea, and have nothing else from Chevy UK worth buying don't do it's brilliant US imports either because they are LHD.

Chevy only have 2 dealers at the moment that can service your Volt, which might be a problem for some, but does not bother me as l would say bugger to it DIY like l always have on all my cars, but it my put a lot off if you have got a150 drive to your nearest dealer to keep your warranty valid.

If GM had sold the Volt as a RWD Cadillac and sold it at this price they would have wiped out BMW and Mercedes worldwide in every country except Germany. As this would have fallen in the Beamer & Merc income buying bracket, GM would have shifted millions but no quality buying will want to buy whilst waiting behind a load of FWD buying Gypsys.

Ok, so the Volt will cover around 45miles on a full charge before the petrol kicks in.

A full charge costs around £1.80 in electric from a domestic socket.

Which will also buy you around 1.3l of petrol. (0.3 ish gallons)

Which would cover around 20 miles in a Prius. (realistic competitor)

So it costs around half the amount in fuel to run than a Prius at current fuel and electric prices, which is excellent....

However on Which? test, once the petrol kick in it used 1.4l of fuel to travel the next 16 miles, (only 51mpg in real world terms)

This means once the initial battery range is reached it is actually less economical than most normal cars and significantly less than the Prius.

Considering the initial outlay of £30k would anyone be able to save enough money on fuel to justify it or are you better with the hybrids that have proven reliability and resale value?

The tank range of a car is normally calculated by multiplying the average mpg figure by the tank capacity. In the case of the Volt, recent TV advertising, claims a total range of 360 miles around 40 of which are done under battery power. Therefore around 320 are done with the petrol engine as the primary power source. The Volt has a tank capacity of 7.7 gallons, which gives an average figure 41.5 mpg. Even if you include the 40 miles of electric travel, the average only rises to 46.8 mpg.
My question is where did the average mpg figure of 235 mpg claimed by the manufacturers come from?
In the current climate of trying to get 'real world' economy figures this must surely be one of the most misleading.

My second question is, what are the performance figures when running on petrol engine generated electricity only? I suspect they will be considerably worse than those quoted which are with a fully charged battery pack.

"...would have wiped out BMW & Mercedes worldwide..."? Mmm, I don't think so.

With the price of electricity as it is it might seem viable to charge the car up everyday depending on the length of your commute, but what happens when the price of electricity goes up which it is planned to...with the government recently pledging support of wind farms etc

how long with the payback become then (assuming it ever does) technology has moved on but not far enough at the minute and only celebrities who want to make it look like they are helping the planet for publicity will buy this car. For the minute around £5-7k too expensive

I can speak from experience as I have been driving a Volt here in Ontario for about a month.

In response to Wheelerdealer - you should understand that a normal day's drive, at least for me, is less than the 70 km. that the battery will take me. What you describe is the absolute worse case, depleting the battery and exhausting the fuel. I can say from experience that driving at a steady 70 mph. (110 kph) will take me 43 miles (70 km.) at which point the engine fires up, and returns 48 mpg. The first gallon of fuel will therefore take you 91 miles, the second to 139. There are diminishing returns, but I calculate that you have to drive more than 150 miles before you start to use more than my TDI VW. Let's guess 140 miles for the Prius, although I have never seen one yet that does 70 mpg on our roads. In your small country I expect this would be a rarer case than it is here.

The purchase price of the car means that you would not buy it to save money. You buy it for the ability to do most of your driving on electricity, and for the comfort, eerie quiet, and real power that it has, unlike any Prius. A Lexus CT200h is a fairer comparison, it was the closest competitor for me, but the drive decided the matter.

As for Spitfire 18's question, I think he misunderstands how the Volt functions. The 'range extender' cuts in when the battery is at about 30% capacity and the car still runs on electricity . At high speed with this depleted battery the engine, turning one of the two motors as a generator, locks it up to the transmission, and is in a sense driving the wheels directly, along with the other, bigger, motor. This is imperceptible, and, as I said above, the car returns about 48 mpg. in that situation.

The financial payback won't come, not with our cheap fuel, and especially if you are comparing it to what I consider are lesser cars, like the Prius. It is enough for me that I can drive something that comes close to, and exceeds in some ways, the refinement of similarly priced Lexus or German cars and do it almost entirely on off-peak hydro and nuclear power.

The Volt had won Diesel Car's Best Eco Car of the Year

Key specs

* Chevrolet Volt
* Price: £29,995
* Engine: Electric motor/1.4-litre range-extending petrol engine
* Power: 148bhp
* Transmission: Single-speed, front-wheel drive
* 0-62/top spd: 9.0 secs/99mph
* Economy: 235mpg
* CO2: 27g/km
* Equipment: Climate control, leather trim, Bluetooth, heated seats, 17-inch alloy wheels
* On sale: Now