The Next-Generation Electric Car

Jon Brock (Product Design Engineer)


Not Your Average Hybrid

“Do you like your Volt?”  I’ve been repeatedly asked this questions by people who see me getting in or out of the Chevy Volt that my wife and I drive.  We only got it about nine months ago and I’ve already had more people approach me about this car than I ever would have thought.  I think this shows that people are really quite curious about the partially and fully electric cars that are becoming more and more available. 

What I also have found out through short conversations with these people inquiring about the car is that most people don’t know what kind of “hybrid” the Volt is and the differences between it and say a Toyota Prius.  The majority have thought the Volt is a fully electric car which I believe to be the cause of their inquiry into my thoughts of owning one. 

Less Anxiety, Better Environment

“Range anxiety” – the problem of always having to plan how far you’re going to drive before being able to electrically charge-up again – is a real thing.  People don’t want to have their freedoms and plans limited to a 50 or 100 mile radius, let alone any radius at all.  That is where the Volt shines.  The first generation Volt which I drive has an electric range that averages about 35 miles year round. This number drops to just under 30 in the winter and can stretch to 45-50 miles when city driving in the summer. 

This amount of electric range accounts for a vast majority of the general public’s commute and matches what I drive really well.  You can tell I’m able to take advantage of the range in the graph below which shows the cumulative miles driven under gas and electric propulsion.  When the battery range is used up, the car seamlessly fires up the gas-engine and you continue on your merry way at about 40 mpg which is pretty great all by itself. 

graph

With a full tank the gas range gets you about another 330 miles for a combined total of about 370 miles of range.  With a lifetime MPG of about 160 mpg, we’re definitely saving a lot on gas which also means we’re keeping a lot of CO2 out of the atmosphere.  To date, the OnStar monthly reports we get estimate we’ve saved over 4 tons of CO2.

Not Skimping on Speed

When driving other traditional cars, I’ve found myself missing the quiet, zippy ride of the Volt.  With the Volt, you get all 273 ft-lbs. of torque as soon as you push the pedal in and it’s there until you let off.  It’s similar (though to a lesser extent) to the feeling you get when taking off on a plane:  you feel the acceleration pushing you back into your seat and holding you there as the plane is continually accelerating.  There’s no shifting and no power band to search for.  And with the weight of the battery pack so low to the ground, the overall center of gravity is quite low which means this fairly heavy car handles pretty well.

The Real Fun Car

Do I like my Volt?  Yes.  The car is quite fun to drive.  I didn’t realize my previous cars weren’t that fun until getting to drive the Volt.  And with this being the only car for my wife and I, we’re always bargaining with each other over who gets to drive.

 

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