The 2011 Chevrolet Volt electric car qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, effectively reducing the net base price from $41,000 to $33,500. Some states offer additional purchase incentives that can be combined with the federal credit. Other electric vehicle-related perks that vary by city or state include single-occupant access to carpool lanes, free metered parking and significantly reduced vehicle registration fees. Home charging stations, which cut charging times in half compared to standard wall outlets, are also eligible for attractive incentives. You can find more incentive information at fueleconomy.gov and pluginamerica.com.
By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.6
With its unique Voltec propulsion system that combines a powerful electric motor and an internal-combustion engine/generator, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt establishes a new class of high-efficiency/low-emission production car that overcomes the single most critical real-world shortcoming of pure electric models: Range anxiety. This stylish four-door compact hatch can travel an average of 35 miles on pure electric power from a Lithium-ion battery pack before its gasoline-fueled "range extender" transparently kicks in to directly generate electric power for another 344 miles. Loaded with technology and creature comforts, Chevy is betting the Volt will outpoint its eco-oriented challengers in the Great Green Derby – especially the equally new Nissan LEAF EV and the reigning conventional hybrid champ, the Toyota Prius.
If you are intrigued by the idea of an electric car but feel like their limited mileage range won't fit your needs, the extended-range 2011 Chevy Volt is a perfect compromise between the EV you want and the gasoline-powered vehicle that more practically fits into your daily routine.
Even sweetened with potential federal and state tax advantages, the 2011 Chevy Volt remains a relatively pricey pick and enjoying the full benefits of its green potential will require recharging it regularly. For some, alternatives like the Nissan LEAF EV, Toyota Prius Hybrid, Volkswagen Golf TDI or even a Honda Fit may make more bottom-line sense.
Beyond eliminating the dreaded range anxiety limitation that impacts all pure electric vehicles, the Volt's "Voltec" propulsion system will serve as the basis for a number of other General Motors extended-range vehicle offerings in the coming years.
Driving Impressions Built on a bespoke version of GM's global small car architecture that also underpins the Chevy Cruze, the Volt offers a decidedly conventional basic driving experience overlaid with a few...unique Voltec-specific wrinkles. The biggest difference can be felt in the immediate torque provided by its electric motor as well as the complete (or relative) absence of engine noise in its well-isolated passenger compartment. The Volt's well-tuned suspension is ably complemented by quick and decently-weighted energy-saving electric power steering while super-efficient regenerative circuitry on its four-wheel disc brakes is noticeable but far from intrusive. Transitioning from pure-electric to range-extended mode is virtually transparent save for a faint engine sound accompanied by a dash icon that changes from a battery to a fuel pump. Although the EPA estimates that you'll see about 35 miles of electric range, how you drive, interior climate settings and road conditions do make a difference. In fact, trying to keep the car in EV mode is part of the fun of driving the Volt - almost like trying to top your best score at Pac-Man.
Delayed Start and Departure Time Mode
Using information supplied by your local electricity provider, the Volt can be programmed to commence recharging its battery pack when rates are at their lowest to help save money. Tell it when you plan to leave in the morning or evening, and it will automatically schedule the charging process to ensure that the battery is full in time for your commute.
Volt Smartphone App
Have a smartphone? By utilizing the OnStar MyLink app, you can check your Volt's battery level, tire pressure, available electric range, lock/unlock the doors and even start the A/C system so the interior is at a comfortable level when you're ready to leave. You can even control the Volt's charging rate from your phone and get a text or an e-mail when the battery is topped off.
The interior of the 2011 Chevy Volt echoes the car's futuristic vibe. The center stack is covered in touch-sensitive controls for the audio and climate control systems instead of buttons and knobs. In place of gauges, two seven-inch LCD screens - one mounted in the gauge cluster and another in the center of the dash – display vehicle speed, battery state of charge, electric range, fuel level and driving efficiency. Black cloth seats and white interior accents come standard, but leather seats are available with green, black or light gold-colored accents. The 5.5-foot, 435-pound, T-shaped battery that's nestled underneath the center of the vehicle makes having a bench seat in the back row impossible, but the end result is two buckets that are quite comfortable - once you get situated in them. Thanks to the aerodynamic sloping roofline, rear seat ingress and egress are not exactly the Volt's strongest points.Exterior
To optimize its total operating efficiency, the Volt's exterior design team spared no effort in creating a shape that could slice through the air with the greatest of ease. Every element, from its rounded front fascia, closed-off grille and aggressively raked windshield to the crisp trailing edges on its rear fenders and a functional hatch spoiler were meticulously matched to yield the most aerodynamic production that GM has ever created. To wring the most extra miles-per-gallon out of the vehicle's design, the Volt rolls on 17-inch Goodyear Fuel Max low-rolling resistance lightweight wheels, which weigh 17.8 pounds each.
In base form, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt comes with a more comprehensive feature set than any other Chevy currently on the market. It's also the recipient of all of Chevy's latest and greatest technology and features, including touch-sensitive climate, audio and drive controls, an energy-saving Bose sound system (it's 40 percent lighter and uses 50 percent less energy than a conventional sound system) and an eight-year 100,000-mile warranty on its battery pack and associated electrics. You'll also get standard navigation, a 60 MB hard drive with 30 MB of space for music, five years of OnStar and USB connectivity.
It's hard to call an options list a list when there are only two on offer: a Premium Trim Package and Rear Camera and Park Assist Package. The Premium Trim Package adds heated front seats, leather seating surfaces and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the Rear Camera and Park Assist Package includes - as you'd expect - a rear-view camera and front/rear parking sensors. If you're going to spring for any options on the Volt, we'd recommend the park assist package; the Volt's low-slung and very easily scraped front air dam makes parking sensors particularly helpful when you're not quite sure where the curb starts. Finally, bling fans can choose to have their Volt's aluminum wheels done in a bright-polished rather than the standard satin finish.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt's propulsion system consists of an electric drive unit that makes 149 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, a 16kWh liquid-cooled Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack and a 1.4-liter/84-horsepower in-line four internal-combustion "range-extender." The latter takes over when battery charge decreases to a certain level – normally after 25-50 miles of driving – and generates on-the-fly electricity for another 344 miles. Replenishing the battery pack takes 10-12 hours using a standard 110V outlet or three-four on a 240V dedicated unit. The Volt has three operating modes. "Normal" is the most efficient, "Sport" provides more direct accelerator response and "Mountain," which requires 10-15 minutes of advance engagement but optimizes the battery to cope with increased energy demands caused by extended steep grades. The Volt has earned a 93 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) combined city/highway EPA rating in pure EV mode and returns 37 mpg when the range-extender kicks in.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator
16kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.4-liter in-line four
111kW/149-horsepower @ 4800 rpm
273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 0-4800 rpm
Projected per-charge range: 35 miles (all-electric), 344 miles (gasoline range-extender only)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 93 MPGe (when in all-electric mode, miles per gallon equivalent), 37 MPG (when the range-extender motor/generator is running)
By Willy on Friday, February 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Impressive engineering & creature comforts"
Cons: "Access & egress somewhat difficult for older folks"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Very impressive engineering. Very comfortable with only two things missing: grab bar over the front passenger seat & quite low for access & egress. My wife has osteoarthritis & this makes it difficult for her to get in & out. The car handles very well in icy conditions & no problems in snow-packed roads. Still averaging over 60 mpg even though the gas engine runs frequently when the temps are colder than 32°. Back seat is a little short on leg room."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Tominftl on Saturday, February 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,450overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great gas mileage uses mostly electric"
Cons: "Cramped interior, no air AC vents for rear seats."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Love the ride. Handles wonderfully. The major drawback that I see is that the headroom is lacking especially entering and exiting the car. I wish it had a little bit more interior room and I would also like to see it seat five people. No airconditioning vents in the rear which is a major drawback on a hot summers day. I use very little gas driving locally. I do love the hold feature which allows me to drive across alligator Alley to Naples on gas and then go back to electric. Despite having no lumbar feature or power seats most people can get pretty comfortable in this car. Would also like to see it have a little bit larger gas tank so if I decided to take a vacation out of the state I wouldn't have to fill up so many times. I'm leasing this car and my lease is up in September 2015 so I can't wait to see with the new Volt looks like, if it's a bigger version I will definitely lease or buy another one."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By havityourway2 on Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, excellent build quality, energy efficiency"
Cons: "Can't think of any..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Chevy Volt is a well built American made car that has exceeded our expectations for performance (its quick and extremely energy efficient), comfort and build quality. Our Volt has used about one gallon of gas and 12 dollars in electricity over the first month of ownership. We drive the car just about every day. Kudos to the GM engineers and auto workers of Michigan for building one of the most fuel efficient, fun and reliable vehicles available in America!"
By superborg on Saturday, February 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great car to drive and safe"
Cons: "charging stations are not in the GUI gas is"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Why do you buy a car? How does it preform? What it is or will be worth investment? Fun or pleasure or work? If these are your desires do not ever buy a car. Cars are not an investment and will never bring back what you paid for it. Cars ware out some quicker than others even the best car. Now about my Volt, I did not buy it for an investment but what a car should be bought for is how much will it cost me to keep it up for the time I will own it. Thus far over 100 miles to a gallon of gas and yes I expect to buy gas as needed. Comfortable to drive, easy on the eyes and the Voice Commands keep me from touching the Stack buttons. Change a radio station by voice only, make a call and many other things without taking my eyes of the road. your old style changing station the one you plug up will be in the past soon check out http://web.ornl.gov EV wireless charging. I commend GM for the first and only car of its kind as in anything new there will be problems, but in time it will get better. meanwhile I will enjoy this car as it is."
By Mothergoose on Saturday, January 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, quiet, luxurious, electric/gas, sustainable"
Cons: "Would like a rear wiper on the hatch"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I honestly am excited every day when it's time to drive my Volt. To cruise around on pure electric -- QUIETLY -- is a feeling like none other. It feels as though it is floating down the road. The Volt is a solid, heavy car. When in the midst of violent winds in storms, the car holds its own without deviating from the road (unlike smaller, lighter-weight cars that get battered side to side from the winds). Its weight has also proven to be good in snowy conditions, which makes a difference in retaining control. The interior is very comfortable. Love the heated seats! They are activated by the external temperature but can easily be controlled and adjusted. People who have ridden in the back seat have been surprised at the roominess and leg room. Having a hatchback is wonderful for loading groceries, and the ability to fold down the back seats to accommodate larger items makes this car so much more versatile than a regular sedan. Plugging the car in for charging is a no-brainer. It works completely on my 110 outdoor outlet. The mileage obtained on one charge is relevant to outdoor temperatures. In the summer, I'm able to get between 46-50 miles on one charge. However, the winter charge rate drops to between 28-32 -- dependent on if it is zero degrees or 32 and also whether the heated seats, heater, rear defroster, front defroster, etc. are all activated. That being said, I typically use my car the most for around town driving, which allows me to drive on all-electric. I've currently owned the car now for almost 2 years with 6,200 miles on it -- and have only used 18 gallons of gasoline! That makes my MPG over 250 mpg. But what I DO love is when I drive out of town with it, I have gasoline that powers the generator that powers the battery. So, I'm able to drive completely across the U.S. if I want and not have battery range anxiety as people with all-electric cars do. Or better yet, come to a complete stop because they've run out of battery and cannot find a charger in their vicinity. It's the only completely versatile car made so far, and I would urge everyone to try it. Its luxury rivals any other car on the highway today, as does the smooth ride. Bose makes a wonderful sound system for music and Sirius, and of course the automatic telephone answering system and calling system is great. Navigation system is a bonus, as is the back-up camera and the car sensors that beep to tell you that you are too close to an object. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that especially when parallel parking. A jack accomodates an M3P player. The side mirrors are heated, too, and THAT makes life wonderful in the winter. Are there any downsides, you wonder? There is only one item I would request of GM: I would like a rear windshield wiper on the hatchback window just to make my vision clearer in the rain and snow. The bottom line for me is that I am now NOT contributing to all the nastiness being spewed into the air from traditional gasoline engine cars with exhaust, and I feel I am doing my part in caring for our Earth's atmosphere. Running on electric is much cheaper than gasoline. I've seen an increase of only $5-10 on my monthly electric bill. If you convert that into gasoline, we're talking maybe 3 gallons at today's prices. Can you drive a month on 3 gallons? Ummm, no. Oh -- I forgot to mention that it has lots of get-up and go!!! The initial price seems high, but remember that you receive a federal tax credit which is helpful at the year's end. But you are also receiving a lot of car for that price. I urge you to test-drive a Volt and see for yourself."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By DaveConnor on Thursday, January 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Completely thrilled with this vehicle. Bought gas last JUNE. Getting well over 200mpg. Stealth quiet drive. Absolutely zero problems with this vehicle."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful