Multimedia

Chicago Auto Show Blog

Bow-Tie Brand Delivers on Promise

Posted by: Mark Bilek

Chevrolet made good on a three-year-old promise last month by starting production of the world's first electric vehicle with extended-range capability, a.k.a. the Chevy Volt. Regardless of your political, environmental or manufacturer views, the Volt is a truly revolutionary vehicle. No it's not a pure electric, but it does fundamentally change the game much like the internal-combustion engine revolutionized transportation more than 100 years ago.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Chevrolet Volt

For all practical purposes, the Volt is driven by electricity. For the first 40 miles or so the batteries do all the work, providing power to the Volt's 111 kW electric motor to drive the wheels. Once the battery charge dips below a set threshold, a gasoline engine kicks on and spins a generator which provides charge to the batteries, extending range an additional 300 miles.

Like all of today's hybrids, there are certain times when the Volt's gasoline engine is directly connected to the drive wheels. That occurs at highway speeds when it's the most efficient solution. Directly coupling the wheels to the gas engine makes the Volt more efficient than having the gas engine turn a generator to supply electricity to the battery, which would then power the electric motor.

Another neat thing about the Volt is the fact that the gas engine doesn't increase the charge in the batteries, it just maintains charge. When the battery needs a boost to keep the Volt going, the gas engine provides power on demand, as needed, with no loss in acceleration. The reasoning behind this is that using grid electricity is the most efficient way to charge the battery, so the gas engine only keeps the Volt going until it can be plugged in.

A few weeks ago, the Volt's media team was in Chicago giving journalists a brief opportunity to drive the vehicle. During that drive, the first thing I noticed was how "normal" the experience was. Simply put, the Volt drives like any other production automobile. Put the selector in drive and press the gas--or should I say accelerator--and the Volt moves out as commanded.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
Volt batteries can be recharged with standard 110-volt current.

Yes, it's nearly silent in electric mode and there's no traditional drivetrain vibration. The Volt accelerates smoothly and, dare I say, smartly away from stoplights. Highway passing power is just average, but adequate for this class of car.

As the miles accumulate and battery charge drops, a computer kicks on the gasoline engine/generator combo to provide additional charge. While you can hear and feel the engine come on, it runs at a constant speed regardless of how fast you are driving so it quickly becomes background noise. All of this happens without any driver interaction.

Consequently, driving the Volt is little different that piloting a Chevy Cruze or Toyota Corolla--and that's a very good thing. While most hybrids come with a compromised powertrain, one that's either down on power or noticeably different when operating in different modes, the Volt just cruises along like a regular car. Conversely, the Volt's range-extending gasoline engine eliminates any anxiety that might be caused when the batteries run out of juice.

Now before this rant becomes too long winded or compromised, we have to take into account the Volt's $40,280 sticker. That's $20,000 more than a similarly sized compact--a difference that you would certainly never make up in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.

But the Volt isn't about saving owners money. It's about changing perceptions and breaking new ground. It's about a fundamental shift in the way we power our vehicles. And, it's likely a sign of things to come.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
Interior of the Chevrolet Volt

Unfortunately, Chicagoans will have to wait for the Volt, as we're not one of the initial launch markets. The earliest Volts will start charging into Chicago Chevy dealerships in the first part of 2012. Still, we might have a surprise opportunity for you get seat time in Volt about 12 months sooner . . . at the Chevrolet Volt Test Track at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show this February!

« Last Post Next Post »

View all Posts from this Blog

Follow Us Socially Using #CAS16

Blog

More

Friday, June, 24, 2016

A Day at the Park, Ridgeline Style

  Honda introduced Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) members to the new 2017 Ridgeline truck ...

Thursday, June, 02, 2016

MAMA Spring Rally Roundup

Each spring, car manufacturers and auto writers flock to Elkhart Lake, Wis. to partake in the annual, ...

Friday, May, 27, 2016

Racing's Greatest Weekend

Memorial Day, time to sit back, enjoy the smell of new-mown grass, remember those who fought so hard to protect our ...

Thursday, May, 19, 2016

Nissan Leaf Charged Up for 2016

While the completely redesigned Chevrolet Volt and soon-to-be produced Bolt garner most of the electric-car media ...

Friday, May, 13, 2016

Ford GT a Sellout!

Ford received 6,506 fully completed applications from people around the world in the one-month window to apply to ...

Wednesday, April, 20, 2016

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Honda is encouraging safer driving habits with a social media campaign titled #PhoneDownEyesUp. The campaign ...

Wednesday, April, 13, 2016

Ford Now Accepting Applications for GT Supercar

For the first time, 2015 Chicago Auto Show goers were able to see the Ford GT supercar in person at the show and ...

Wednesday, March, 30, 2016

Cars are the Star of the Big Apple

Automakers lit up the Big Apple last week with an assortment of flashy vehicles that debuted during the New York ...

Monday, March, 14, 2016

Buick Presents Cascada to Midwest Automotive Media Association

Buick Vice President of Marketing Tony DiSalle spotlighted the all-new Buick Cascada during the Midwest Automotive ...

Monday, February, 29, 2016

Chevy Inspires Kindness in #DayItForward

Today is a unique day in history, one that does not come around often but has inspired goodness throughout ...

More

6/24/2016 3:35:13 PM

A day at the park...Honda Ridgeline style. #UltimateTailgate

6/24/2016 11:31:25 AM

I think we can all agree that The Chicago Auto Show is the best in the nation! Let's show our support by voting

6/24/2016 11:31:04 AM

#FanFriday! Great photo via @chicagoland_cruisers

6/22/2016 11:13:18 AM

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, July 16. Chicagoland car dealers are on a summertime mission to help raise money for the USO of Illinois and our local troops! Visit www.DriveChicago.com for more details and learn how you can help. #BBQ4Troops

6/21/2016 2:48:00 PM

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, that debuted at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, gets a "totally tubular" review

6/21/2016 11:09:03 AM

#TakeMeBackTuesday! The Chevrolet Camaro 1967 was revealed at the 59th Chicago Auto Show

6/21/2016 9:12:47 AM

Acura's NSX concept more advanced than a Tesla? - via Mashable

6/20/2016 1:15:11 PM

The Chicago Auto Show Changed their cover photo.

6/20/2016 12:17:58 PM

Vote for The Chicago Auto Show

6/20/2016 12:00:18 PM

Fans: we were hand-picked by a panel of automotive experts as a Best Car Show nominee in USA TODAY's 10Best Readers' Choice Travel Awards. Cast your vote now

More

6/24/2016 7:54:12 PM

The Frank's Bar In Lincoln Park Daily is out! https://t.co/thljLJrEDp Stories via @MightyVine @ChiAutoShow @RLCarriers #chicago

6/24/2016 3:36:17 PM

A day at the park... @Honda Ridgeline style. https://t.co/iP0Z2gNT1Z #UltimateTailgate #HappyFriday

6/24/2016 11:34:11 AM

#FanFriday! Thx to @chicagoland_cruisers for this great photo. https://t.co/p51ccfkw9W

6/23/2016 6:25:53 PM

RT @tweetAprilRose: Promise I'll be good if I get one of these! The new Ford GT ?? 600hp @ChiAutoShow @979TheLoop https://t.co/iRdNSmv9Ey

6/22/2016 1:48:00 PM

Save the Date: 7/16. Help us support local #troops at @USO_of_Illinois #BBQ4Troops events! Visit https://t.co/I8YFZZ217r.

6/21/2016 6:35:13 PM

It's not too soon to start planning for next year's @ChiAutoShow! Check out these reasons to attend: https://t.co/xOikaepF2Y #auto #CAS17

6/21/2016 2:21:10 PM

RT @craftymomof3: Thanks for the recent follow @ChiAutoShow @Authoramp @PinzonRobert Happy to connect :) have a great Tuesday. >> https://t

6/21/2016 2:18:12 PM

Thanks for the recent follow @ChiAutoShow @Authoramp @PinzonRobert Happy to connect :) have a great Tuesday. >> https://t.co/dBs4gLaGmw

6/21/2016 1:32:23 PM

RT @ChiAutoShow: #TakeMeBackTuesday! The Chevrolet Camaro 1967 was revealed at the 59th Chicago Auto Show! https://t.co/mqgBhzlqAp

6/21/2016 11:09:02 AM

#TakeMeBackTuesday! The Chevrolet Camaro 1967 was revealed at the 59th Chicago Auto Show! https://t.co/mqgBhzlqAp