The Los Angeles Auto Show is the setting for Green Car Journal’s highly-anticipated Green Car of the Year® award each year, as it has been since its first appearance in car-centric Southern California 11 years ago. This year, following a video intro by celebrity juror Jay Leno and with all five award finalist vehicles flanking the stage, Green Car Journal revealed this year’s winner – the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt.
Chevrolet’s Volt was a milestone vehicle when it debuted in the 2011 model year and then drove away with 2011 Green Car of the Year® honors. In its new generation, it’s clear that Chevrolet listened to its customers – and in particular Volt owners – and implemented improvements across the board to make the 2016 Volt faster, more stylish, and more capable than ever.
Among its important functionality achievements is the expansion from four- to five-passenger seating and a zero-emission battery driving range of up to 53 miles. It’s also packed with advanced electronics including Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity through OnStar, and desired driver assist systems. The Volt offers an entry point of $33,170 with federal and state incentives available.
Called by GM an extended range electric vehicle – technically a series hybrid configuration – the Volt’s gasoline engine powers a generator that both charges the battery and provides electric energy to the motors once the car’s batteries are depleted. Total driving range is 420 miles, 40 miles farther than the previous generation. The new Volt is rated at a combined city/highway 102 MPGe while driving on battery power and a combined 42 mpg in the extended range mode while the engine-generator is operating.
The Volt uses two electric motors but they are now closer in size and share the load more evenly than the Volt’s previous large-and-small motor combination. A new 1.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC direct-injection engine is used to generate electricity. The lighter aluminum-block engine produces 101 horsepower versus the 84 horsepower of its iron-block predecessor. Even though the new engine has a higher 12.5:1 compression ratio, it runs on less expensive regular fuel rather than the premium fuel required in the original Volt.
The number of lithium-ion cells in the Volt’s T-shaped battery pack has decreased from 288 to 192. However, improved chemistry means battery capacity increases from 17.1 to 18.4 kilowatt-hours even as pack weight drops by 31 pounds. In all, the 2016 Volt is about 200 pounds lighter than the earlier generation.
As noted by this year’s finalists, there is no single path to achieving important environmental achievement. Along with the Volt, three other nominees feature electrification but in somewhat different forms. The Audi A3 e-tron champions plug-in hybrid power, as does the Hyundai Sonata with its plug-in hybrid, hybrid, and conventionally-powered variants. The Toyota Prius continues its efficiency leadership as an all-new generation hybrid hatchback. Honda’s new generation Civic illustrates that impressive efficiency can be achieved with advanced internal combustion power.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year® is selected by a jury comprised of environmental and efficiency leaders including Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, chairman emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation. Rounding out the jury is comedian and car aficionado Jay Leno plus Green Car Journal editors.
The all-new Volt has clearly earned its distinction as 2016 Green Car of the Year®. Chevrolet has taken an efficient and award-winning sedan and made it better in virtually every way…a shining example of the environmental leadership the Green Car of the Year® award seeks to honor.