Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle has become really affordable

The 2014 Chevrolet Volt is one of the best plug-in vehicles on the market, and it costs $5,000 less than it did last

5/25/14 11:13 am chumakdenis 2

Chevrolet Volt has always been a really good car,but price was too high.Fron now on -  it's over.

Chevy Volt prices start at $39,995, including delivery, and can reach more than $45,000 with a full set of options. Most buyers will be eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in car, and there are various state, regional, and corporate incentives - both financial and perks like solo access to California's High-Occupancy Vehicle lane.

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Review

The 2014 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car may be one of the most regional cars sold in the U.S. Volts have become almost common in California and coastal states, just as the Toyota Prius hybrid did a decade ago. But in the Heartland, where more pickup trucks are sold than compact cars, Volts remain rare. They may be stacked two or three at a time at charging ports in Silicon Valley parking lots, but the simple appearance of a Volt is still rare enough in some states to generate questions from bystanders.

That can mean GM's first plug-in car since its EV1 a decade ago isn't widely understood, even after four years on the market. The idea of a vehicle that drivers can plug in and driver electrically for 30 to 40 miles, with the security of a gasoline range extender as a backup for longer distances, is different to the idea of a battery-electric car - closer to that of a hybrid. As always, more education is needed. This year, Volt sales have stagnated in the face of increased competition for plug-in buyers, despite a substantial price cut for 2014. It's looking like that the Volt will be updated for the 2016 model year, with an unveiling come to at next January's Detroit Auto Show.

Aside from a leather-wrapped steering wheel and two new paint colors, the Chevy Volt continues in 2014 largely unchanged from the previous year. The biggest update has been a whopping $5,000 price cut, from $39,995 to $34,995 (before incentives, but including the mandatory delivery fee). The reduction simply keeps the car within range of new lower prices now offered by many other plug-in vehicles.

Charge

GM's most technologically advanced car can be plugged into the electric grid to recharge its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which takes about 8 or 9 hours at 110 Volts and about half that using a 240-Volt, Level 2 charging station. The battery provides electricity to run the motor that actually turns the front wheels. When it's depleted (after an EPA-rated electric range of 38 miles), a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine switches on to generate more electricity to keep it going for another 250-plus miles.

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Chevy marketers tend to recite over and over that more than 75 percent of U.S. vehicles cover less than 40 miles per day. That means that owners who drive less than that each day and recharge their Volts at night may not burn a drop of gasoline for months on end. Indeed, GM says that 62 percent of the hundreds of millions of miles covered by Volts since December 2010 were powered by grid electricity - and that the average Volt owner goes 900 miles and about a month between visits to the gas station.

The Volt's powertrain setup is known either as a range-extended electric or a "series hybrid," though in the Volt's case there's an asterisk: Under some high-speed conditions, the engine can be clutched directly into the transmission to provide torque to assist the electric motor. Drivers will never know that's happening, however; because the main drive is electric, there are no gear changes, just smooth, quiet torque. And unlike pure battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf or even the Tesla Model S, the Volt can be driven all the way across the country if you want, just by filling up the gas tank for 10 minutes every 300 or so miles.

Design

506.jpgThe Volt's five-door hatchback styling is an acquired taste; it shares some understructure with the Cruze compact sedan, but its roof is 4 inches lower, to reduce aerodynamic drag. As a result, it's slab-sided, with small side windows and a Prius-like tailgate whose main rear window is almost horizontal. Inside, it seats four in deeply bucketed seats that are low to the floor, putting the bottom of the side windows almost at neck height for some drivers.

The production car is nothing like the concept design shown, to a rapturous reception, at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. It was longer, leaner, more Camaro-like-and, rumor had it, more aerodynamic running in reverse than forward. The resulting car is smaller, chunkier, and far, far more wind-resistant--all in the service of saving precious electrons by minimizing energy use, especially at speed. The blanked-off front "grille" directs air turbulence around the car, and when the engine switches on, its exhaust exits under the car-underscoring the car's primary electric drive, there's no exhaust-pipe outlet at the rear.

Interior

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The interior is a more futuristic version of the classic Chevy twin-cockpit design, with glossy white plastic offered as one of the dash surface treatments, just like an iPod of old. The graphics on the displays are good, and users can configure the operating information the car delivers both to the center display and the display that replaces old-style gauges in a cluster behind the steering wheel.

511.jpgThe most important information is battery state of charge, the remaining range on electricity and on gasoline, and various other running statistics. The "effective" combined gas mileage maxes out at 250 mpg, though, much to the dismay of Volt drivers who compete to see who can use the least gasoline to cover the most miles.

 

 

 

On the road

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On the road, you won't question whether the Volt is a real car. It accelerates briskly (and quietly), rides and drives well, copes with corners adeptly due to the low position of the heavy battery pack, and offers both standard features and accessories that you'd expect in any car. And this year, it's a slightly better value than it was at a price $5,000 higher.

Volts sold in California and New York are equipped with a special emissions package that allows them to qualify for stickers in those states that permit drivers to use the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lane with just a single occupant. During epic California rush hours, that's a very valuable privilege.

Performance

 

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If electric cars make you think of golf carts, or your idea of a clean, green car is a Prius hybrid, the 2014 Chevrolet Volt will be a pleasant surprise for you. While it's not all that fast on paper, the power delivery is smooth and seamless, and its best performance comes from 0 to 40 mph. Electric motors produce maximum torque from a stop through much of their range, so the Volt will startle many other cars from a standing stop. Its 0-to-60-mph acceleration takes less than 9 seconds - not fast, but fast enough to keep up with traffic. Its speed is electronically limited to 100 mph.

 

 

507.jpgThe Volt's lithium-ion battery pack, a T-shaped box fitted into the wide tunnel between the seats and under the rear seat, holds 16.5 kilowatt-hours of energy (of which only 10.8 kWh is used to power the car - giving the Volt a huge margin for loss of capacity over time). The EPA rates the Volt's electric range at 38 miles.

All Volts are powered by a 111-kilowatt (149-hp) electric motor that drives the front wheels. Once the pack is depleted, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder range-extending engine switches on, to power a 54-kW generator that produces electricity. That electricity continues to run the electric motor that powers the car. If you're not watching the display, that engine switches on so quietly you may not notice it. You'll only hear it under maximum load, when it speeds up to its maximum revs. But it's disconnected from the road speed, so from the driver's seat, the Volt always runs as an electric vehicle - regardless of whether the electricity comes from the battery or the range extender.

Chevy has tuned the Volt so in its normal state, it drives just like a regular car with an automatic transmission. While it's a heavy car for its size, the Volt has its weight mounted low in the car. That gives it good roadholding and flat cornering. The electric power steering, suspension, and braking - both friction and regenerative - all are well integrated.

For the experienced electric-car drivers who want to drive on a "single pedal" with stronger regenerative braking, a "Low" mode on the selector increases regen to the point where lifting off the accelerator produces noticeable slowing - and the brake pedal is needed much less. To mimic a Tesla, drivers can keep the car in Low and punch the Sport mode button, which provides peppier acceleration at the cost of a bit of range. There's also a Mountain Mode, which recharges the battery more aggressively and increases regenerative braking for best performance on hilly routes. Last year, the Volt also added the ability to conserve its battery charge - in the form of a "Hold Drive" button - for later usage. This employs the range extender as the primary power source.

Safety

The 2014 Chevrolet Volt continues to earn high scores on crash tests from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA gives the 2014 Volt five stars, its highest rating, for overall, side crash, and rollover safety, and four stars for frontal crash. The IIHS awarded the Volt its highest rating of Good on all tests - though it has not put the Volt through its newest small-overlap front crash test--though the car is no longer a Top Safety Pick.

The Volt comes with eight airbags: front and side airbags plus knee bolsters and side air curtains that stretch the length of the passenger compartment. Last year, Chevy added both lane-departure warning and forward collision warning systems to the standard electronic stability and traction control systems. Adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, however, are not available. All Volts are fitted with GM's OnStar telecommunications system, which comes with three years of free service for Volt owners.

By now, the echoes of a 2011 media brouhaha over supposed Volt battery fires have died down. They stemmed from a fire in a Volt sitting in a wrecking yard - three weeks after it was destroyed by the NHTSA in a crash test - and led to a Congressional hearing into the car's safety. An NHTSA study concluded that the circumstances surrounding the fire were extremely rare, and that the Volt was as safe as any other vehicle (GM offered a modification to early Volts that few owners took advantage of).

And, indeed, during the Volt design process, GM safety engineers subjected Volts to a variety of crash testing, focusing especially on the T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack under the tunnel and rear seats. That pack in protected in crash situations by beams that transfer crash loads through the pack and into the rest of the car's structure.

It's also worth noting that Volts have a driver-actuated noise generator that pulses the horn rapidly to warn inattentive pedestrians or others of the silent electric car's approach. It's best described as a chirping sound; drivers trigger it by pulling back on the turn-signal lever.

Price

The 2014 Chevy Volt is priced at $34,995, and qualifies for a $7,500 Federal tax credit and a variety of state, local, and corporate incentives as well - including state purchase rebates of $2,500 in California or $5,000 in Georgia. With incentives and the price reduction, a Volt is now squarely comparable to the Toyota Prius hybrid, its new plug-in variant, or any of the other plug-in hybrids from Ford and Honda as well.

Every buyer will need to calculate payback for the specific circumstances, including lower cost of electricity. That averages 12 cents per kWh nationwide, but can be as low as 3 cents or as high as 25 cents depending on location. Running the Volt on grid power generally costs one-fifth to one-third as much per mile as running a conventional car on gasoline.

Fuel economy

The 2014 Chevrolet Volt remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars sold in the world today. Data aggregated from Volt drivers shows that roughly two-thirds of all mileage covered in done using battery energy from charging with grid electricity. When its range extender switches on, the Volt is rated at 37 mpg combined--high for a compact car.

With its 38-mile electric range (as rated by the EPA), Volts that travel less than that distance daily may go for weeks without switching on their gasoline range extenders. And as GM will tell you, repeatedly, just about four out of five U.S. vehicles cover less than 40 miles a day. In fact, Volts have a function built in to ask permission to switch on their gasoline engines every few months, to circulate liquids and keep the system in good running order.

The Chevy Volt is rated at 98 MPGe, a metric that measures how far a car can travel electrically on the amount of energy that's contained in 1 gallon of gasoline. That puts it in the middle of the plug-in pack for efficiency these days. Several vehicles now exceed that number, including Chevy's own Spark EV battery-electric minicar at 199 MPGe, but many of them are far smaller and offer less performance than the Volt.

We continue to rate any vehicle that plugs in and can operate on grid power alone for some distance as a 10 on our Green scale. Battery electric cars would rank higher than any car with a gasoline engine, but the Volt can still be driven with no tailpipe emissions at all for lengthy distances. It all depends on how much the driver exceeds 35 to 40 miles a day, assuming overnight recharges. The highest-mileage drivers may burn less gasoline in a 50-mpg Prius than in a Volt running on relatively little grid power and then at 37 mpg thereafter.

Recharging a Volt battery pack takes 7 to 10 hours using the standard 110-Volt charging cable provided with the car. Level 2 charging stations, which operate at 240 Volts, cut that time in half--but only about half of all Volt owners have one installed at their homes. It's simply not necessary for a Volt used in daily commuting--unlike a battery electric car, for which overnight recharging at 110 Volt may not be enough to replenish the pack fully.

Electricity is virtually always cheaper per mile than gasoline, though its price is far more variable (from 3 to 25 cents per kilowatt-hour) across the country. And as for the "running on coal" assertion, many studies have calculated the environmental impact of driving on electricity produced from dirty coal. A Volt may do marginally worse than a 50-mpg Prius hybrid in a handful of the very dirtiest states. But against an average 25-mpg car, driving a Volt recharged on grid electricity--or any other plug-in car-is always cleaner.

Features

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The Volt comes standard with a few features that are optional on conventional cars its size, but the equipment differences are less pronounced now than they were back in 2011 when the car was launched. Today, many compacts include keyless entry with proximity sensing, automatic climate control, remote starting, and a steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes. They don't have the Volt's range-extended electric powertrain, however, which runs for 38 miles (or so) on the battery and then switches over to the gasoline range extender. And they also don't have a smartphone app that lets an owner monitor the car's charging and various performance metrics.

Unfortunately, the base Volt comes with neither a particularly good audio system - it's simply AM/FM/CD - nor navigation. Those cost extra. The energy-efficient Bose audio system--which includes satellite radio, MP3 playback, Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to show DVDs - plus 30 GB of music storage space on a 60-GB hard drive - costs $495. Worse, the navigation/DVD system adds a whopping $1,995. Other options include quite nice polished alloy wheels and a few special paint colors.

The Volt lacks some of the latest generation of electronic safety systems, however, that have filtered quickly into cars of $35,000 and above. Chevy added forward collision warning and lane-departure warning last year, but radar-based adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring are not offered on the Volt at any price. Nor is the clever "smartphone/dumb screen" display that uses apps on an occupant's mobile phone for navigation, audio streaming, and the like. That system is now confined to the least expensive Chevys - for 2014, the Spark and the Sonic - though we expect it to be added to other models in future. A likely refresh of the Volt in 2015, perhaps as a 2016 model, is likely to add some or all of these features.

The Volt's battery is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles; shoppers who remain concerned about battery life have the option of leasing the Volt rather than buying, which shifts the burden of battery degradation to the next owner. The 2014 Volt carries bumper-to-bumper coverage for three years/36,000 miles, along with a limited engine warranty of five years/100,000 miles. As a bonus, five years or 100,000 miles of roadside assistance comes free as well.

Compared to other models

Volt shoppers are likely to consider the Prius and its plug-in model as well, and indeed Chevy notes that the Prius is the most commonly traded-in car for a new Volt. There is also the Nissan Leaf, which got a price cut last year as manufacturing shifted to the U.S, aand Ford's pair of C-Max and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids.

But meet a group of Volt owners and they may just succeed in selling you one. The Chevy Volt has the highest customer satisfaction rate of any car GM has ever built, and a majority of Volt buyers are new to the Chevrolet brand - a huge win for GM. In the end, the Volt is perhaps the nicest and most sophisticated of the half-dozen plug-in cars that also have engines to give them unlimited range. And it's a much better value this year than it was last year. Score one for General Motors.

Pros and cons

To sum everything up, really like Chevrolet Volt and such benefits as electric drive without range anxiety, good roadholding, silent running,modern interior design and price.

But all cars have drawbacks and Volt is not exception from this rule.

I dislike federal incentive only on tax return,slab-sided styling awkward in places and recommends premium gasoline.

Overall,however,eveything just great and there is really small chance that you'll be dissatisfied with this auto.

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