Chevrolet's second generation 2016 Volt features sportier styling, better performance, and a lighter and more powerful two-motor drive system than the generation that came before it. The five-passenger, extended range electric now drives up to 53 miles on batteries alone, with its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine-generator creating electricity to deliver an overall 420 mile range. If range anxiety is one of your concerns with electric cars, that needn’t be even a distant thought here.
These are just a few of the many reasons why the 2016 Volt won Green Car Journal’s 2016 Green Car of the Year®, and not coincidentally why we’ve been living with the Volt during a year-long extended test to analyze what it’s like to experience this vehicle on a daily basis. After 8500 miles behind the wheel in urban, rural, and open-road driving, we have to say this is about as ideal an electric vehicle as one could want. Really...it's that good. Anyone who says otherwise has not spent enough time in the second-generation Volt.
During early drives, it was obvious that the all-new Volt would fulfill a diversity of missions without breaking a sweat. Typical commutes and drives around town? No problem, zero emissions all the way. A journey of a thousand miles for work or vacation? Also no issues with the Volt’s overall driving range and the benefit of an EPA estimated 106 MPGe when driving on batteries, and 42 combined mpg while operating on electricity from the Volt’s engine-generator.
While our Volt is typically used for daily zero-emission commuting duty, we’ve now pressed it into service on many extended road trips over the 8,500 miles it’s been in our long-term test fleet. Green Car Journal editors have found it an ideal vehicle for all possible uses.
The 2016 Volt is a pleasure to drive and exhibits satisfying levels of acceleration in both battery and extended-range modes. It’s loaded with advanced electronics and features most desired by drivers today. Among our favorite features is this electric’s adaptive cruise control that keeps pace with the car ahead, a feature used often on shorter hops on the interstate and always during extended journeys. Regen-on-Demand, first used in the Cadillac ELR, is a welcome addition that adds to driving fun and efficiency. Squeezing a steering-wheel paddle instantly engages aggressive regenerative braking that slows the car and generates electricity for the battery, while releasing the paddle immediately returns a normal driving state. Normal regenerative braking always works in the background.
Chevrolet did all this with the 2016 Volt, and more, at an entry point of $33,170 that goes considerably lower with federal and state incentives. We’ll be taking this one out from the test fleet every opportunity we get.
Do extended range electric cars and plug-in hybrids really save energy and make an environmental difference like all-electric vehicles? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ if enough zero-emission miles are driven. To that end, the latest news from Chevrolet is encouraging: Since Chevy’s Volt extended range electric was introduced in 2010, Volt owners have reportedly driven more than a half a billion all-electric miles, resulting in no localized emissions over those miles and a pretty huge petroleum offset. In fact, Volt owners are spending some 63 percent of their time in EV mode.
All electric miles are even higher in an independent study managed by Idaho National Labs and conducted during the last half of 2013. Volt drivers participating in the Department of Energy’s EV Project totaled 1,198,114 vehicle trips during the six month period from July through December, 2013, with 81.4 percent of these trips completed without use of the Volt’s gasoline-powered generator.
Battery-only driving range is also proving to be better than projected. A GM study conducted over 30 months that focused on more than 300 Volts in California shows many Volt owners are exceeding EPA’s estimates of 35 miles of EV range per full charge. About 15 percent are surpassing 40 miles of all-electric range. GM data also illustrates that Volt owners who charge regularly typically drive more than 970 miles between fill-ups and visit the gas station less than once a month. The 2014 Volt features EPA estimated 98 MPGe fuel economy when running in electric mode and 35 city/40 highway on gasoline power.
Some interesting trivia: Since the Volt’s launch in 2010, more than 25 million gallons of gasoline have been saved by Volt drivers. Chevy also likes to point out that 69 percent of those buying a Volt are new to the GM brand and of those trading in a vehicle during purchase, the most frequent trade-in is a Toyota Prius. The Volt was named Green Car Journal’s 2011 Green Car of the Year®.
How to extend the range of battery electric vehicles? A start-up company in Stuttgart, Germany has developed an answer in the form of the ‘ebuggy,’ a trailer carrying a lithium-ion battery designed to be towed behind an EV.
The ebuggy is viewed as an ‘on-demand’ solution since an EV would drive on urban trips without the trailer most of the time. Then, for longer trips, the EV would be driven to a service station where the ebuggy would be hooked up to provide extended range. It would be returned to the same service station or dropped off at another station at the destination.
The ebuggy can be towed at speeds up to 62 mph (100 km/hr) and has a four-hour battery capacity, which provides a range extension of about 240 miles for most electric cars. Add the standard range of the EV itself and trips of 300 miles on electricity alone are quite possible.
Envisioning franchised stations that could be co-located with gas stations, garages, or at highway rest stops, ebuggy GMBH says its system requires a much smaller initial investment compared to other range extension ideas like battery exchange stations. Battery recharging can be done using the same equipment used to recharge batteries in EVs. When an electric car owner signs up for ebuggy service, the user gets a kit for upgrading their car to the ebuggy system. This includes a tow hitch, power socket, and in-car display.