Chevrolet’s Volt continues to be a milestone vehicle in the increasingly crowded plug-in hybrid field. While GM officially calls the Volt an extended range electric car, it’s technically a plug-in series hybrid since it operates with its engine generating electricity rather than powering the drive wheels. It’s distinguished for plenty of reasons, not the least of which is its 53-mile all-electric driving range before reverting to electric power from its 1.5-liter DOHC engine-generator, which delivers a total 420 mile driving range.
That 53-mile battery electric range is just one of the reasons the Volt is a standout. With the exception of Honda’s new Clarity Plug-In that achieves 47 miles on battery power before reverting to hybrid operation, no other plug-in hybrid competitors come close. Before the Clarity, the best PHEV competitors were able to offer 25 to 33 all-electric miles, with most achieving significantly less.
Green Car Journal editors spent a year and just over 20,000 miles behind the wheel of Chevy’s Volt, allowing plenty of time to experience life with this extended range electric under varying driving conditions. One thing continually stood out: Having this kind of battery electric range meant most of our daily drives were spent entirely in electric mode with zero emissions. When heading off to nearby cities beyond the Volt’s battery range or during our numerous road trips, it was comforting to know there was no limit to the distance we could drive with the car’s engine-generator at the ready.
The Volt drives confidently, and silently, with refined road matters and passenger comfort we came to appreciate on drives long and short. The changeover once batteries are depleted does bring a different feel since the engine-generator is more noticeable than engines in a typical plug-in hybrid, but not so much that we gave it a second thought during our drives.
Welcome features are replete in the Volt, from a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, LCD instrument cluster, and 8-inch center touchscreen display to MyLink infotainment and advanced driver assist systems. Thoughtful touches like a heated steering wheel and heated front and rear seats help cinch the deal in cold weather driving.
It’s tough to find fault with the Volt since Chevrolet really did an exceptional job with this car. If we had one wish, it would be for a slightly more accommodating rear seat. The first-generation Volt was a four-seater since the car’s battery storage configuration meant a console was at the center of the rear seat, with batteries beneath. The rear seat in the second-generation Volt left the rear console behind in lieu of a center seat position, although it’s clearly better suited for a child than an adult. No matter…we’re happy with the change.
After 20,000 miles on the road, this was one long-term test car that was hard to give up. Our positive experience over our year of driving remains with us and, like every Volt owner we’ve run across, we can only heartily recommend this car.