posted 7 years ago

Chevrolet Volt Plugs Into The Green Market

Milton Keynes was the launch for the new Chevrolet Volt - a car designed to help the environment.

Milton Keynes was the launch for the new Chevrolet Volt - a car designed to help the environment, as Olivia Gauch reports.

With the emphasis more on how we can go green, the automotive industry in recent years has got in on the act by producing cars to reduce carbon emissions. Toyota started with the Prius, Lexus have their Hybrid models, Nissan has its Leaf and now Chevrolet is bringing its version to the European market.

Described as an extended range electric car, the Volt has already been crowned European Car of the Year for 2012. What makes it different from its electric car rivals is that, once the battery has been used up you can carry on driving, as power then comes from the petrol-powered engine. So no worrying about being stranded far from home and realising having a generator in the boot at all times would solve any battery life problems. Imagine plugging in your phone to the mains to give it some charge, well this is what you can do with the Volt.

With Milton Keynes being part of the Plugged In Places scheme, the Mayor of the town kindly let Chevrolet park up their fleet of Volts and plug them in to the charge points.

On first impression it appears that one mould fits all when it comes to these ‘green’ cars. The Volt design team have even made the exterior energy efficient, with sleek lines and the enhanced aerodynamic closed in grille. The front LED lights taper like Cleopatra’s eyeliner and keeping with the Egyptian theme, the rear lights remind me of symbols inspired by hieroglyphics.

Due to the L-shaped battery running down the middle of the car, it has only been made for four people. That’s not a big issue. The majority of cars nowadays cater for five, but often the extra seat would pose a problem for even a stickman.

At first, and the white pearlescent plastic interior mixed with the black leather seats does make you question why the contrast. Wasn’t white and black popular in the eighties? Michael Jackson certainly thought so with his socks. But after spending some time in the car, it actually had grown on me and I was in fact beginning to like it a lot. The cabin is very spacious, as is the boot and the seats are very comfortable and easily adjustable for all sizes.

A nice big blue button on the centre console starts the car and then the fun really starts. With a full-colour interactive screen on the dash overloading you with information on the car, such as what mode to drive in, how far the battery will run, even how much psi in the tyres. There is then a touchscreen in the centre console that tells you how efficiently you’re driving, diagrams showing power flow through the wheels and energy efficiency. The list is endless and very distracting whilst driving. All I wanted to do was get my percentage up in the driving style, which excited me as much as a computer game, but it does get you driving more efficiently.

I started the journey through the Cambridge Fens using the battery, although with the gauge telling me I only had about 29 miles to run, I would be swapping to the 1.4 litre 86hp petrol engine pretty soon. I drove away wondering why it was so noisy. Being electric I expected to be ‘hovering’ along, but after a process of elimination realised where it was coming from. Because of where the battery is situated, there is no arm rest in the middle of the rear, so in effect you could stick your head right into the boot. Similar to removing the parcel shelf and hearing the road noise. Not ideal, but I have been informed there is the option of buying an addition that closes it up.

Driving along the country roads and it feels like a normal passenger car, very responsive in electric mode and it does have a top speed of 99 mph apparently, so don’t let the battery power aspect put you off. Obviously the more acceleration you use, the quicker you will use up the battery. As an automatic I’m used to only applying a bit of brake, but this needed more pressure. There is a an option to put it in Low mode on the automatic shift stick. This is for breaking efficiency, and at times you don’t have to actually put your foot on the break. Switching to the petrol engine automatically when the electric charge is used and it’s something that you don’t notice at all. The only gripe I had, was at around the 55mph mark it was making that sort of high pitched whine when you want the gears to change up. Apart from that, steering is light, it rides the road well, although blind spot visibility is not that great. I’m always turning my head, rather than using mirrors to do this and I couldn’t see out of the rear at all.

The great thing about this car is that depending on your journey you can do part of it using the battery, then switch to the petrol engine at any point. As it’s also exempt from the congestion charge, then it’s likely to appeal to London dwellers. For a quick dash across the city you can use it in electric mode up to 50 miles, thus reducing your carbon emissions, then for longer journeys use the engine. It boasts a combined fuel consumption of 235.4 mpg, but at a price of £28,545 it isn’t cheap and this is with the government reducing Plug-In-Car Grant worth up to £5,000. But in the long-term, especially those living in the capital, with the yearly cost of the congestion charge and the rising price of petrol, it makes for a cost-effective alternative. And it is pretty cool that you can drive home, plug it into the mains and six hours later it’s fully charged using low peak rates. (Contact your utility supplier) Neighbours will be jealous when they’re queuing round the block during the next petrol strike!

Now a few people might think they’ve seen this car before and yes they would be right. Vauxhall’s Ampera is made by GM Motors and jumping in the driving seat its interior is exactly the same. On price the plaudits go to the Volt saving a grand total of £450. Not much you might think, but in this day and age, every little helps.