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 Tra-Volt-a (IL) on Thursday, December 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "The car will pay for itself."
Cons: "No "DC fast charge" capability."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Here is the best thing anyone could say: If the car were to get totaled, I would DEFINITELY buy another Volt. After owning the car for 20 months, I have over 41,000 miles, 28k+ on electric. I do a 900 mile trip about every 6 weeks. Did my first oil change at 40k miles. Saved about $2500 on gas the first year. Performs well in snow. Anyone I meet that owns one is absolutely giddy about the car. Electric bill went up about $6-$8 per month utilizing Illinois' "Residential Real-Time Pricing" plan. Cheap overnight charging. Unless on a trip, only use about 2 gallons of gas per month. Being a 2012 model, the usable battery is 10.3 kW (2013/14 models have 10.8kW). After all my use, I still get 10.1 to 10.2 kW of use before the gas engine kicks in. Not much degradation there. In the summer, I average 50 miles to a charge. When the temp is around 40, I average 40 miles to a charge. Below freezing, with the heat and defrosters going, 25-30 miles to a charge. On gas, I get 41-45 MPG hwy and once got 50 MPG while driving super conservatively. I get 39 MPG hwy while towing a small trailer. About 38 MPG city."
By Logical_Thinker (FL) on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Pays you to drive it"
Cons: "Becomes a 40 mpg hybrid for long trips."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"KBB is being unfair to call the Volt expensive. You can get a new Volt for $26,685 with fed tax credit ($34,185 without). That's exactly in line with the average new car sale price in the USA, currently. (google it) I'm literally saving $2,000/year on gas (i.e. $10K in 5yr!). My electric bill went up by $30/mo. The external wall-mounted charger that Chevy offers is not made by Chevy and yes it has issues(that some reviewer below complained about) is NOT the charger that people in the know buy. Everybody is buying the Clipper Creek LCS-25 charger, which is very rugged. I have the LCS-25 and it's awesome. Take other comments (like center console issues) with a big grain of salt: statistically the Volt has proven to be above average reliability. In particular, powertrain problems are very very rare. My Volt has given me zero problems. The only other car I'd buy is a Tesla (but it's out of my price range at present. There was a slightly misfit panel on the car where it met the bumper, when I got it. I got that realigned; all's perfect now."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By RichardnBatonRouge (LA) on Friday, November 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 77,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas savings, assisted parking, rear view camera"
Cons: "center stack is flaky, electronics in general"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"It's obvious in just the first two years, that this car is going to be expensive to maintain as it ages. My biggest problem is with the charger The 240-4 hours charger did not last 9 months. The company did everything they could to not honor the warranty. It was installed by an Electrician, and they wanted an electrician to verify the installation. But after waiting 15 minutes to connect to technical support, the technician didn't want to wait any longer. It was my phone and ended up getting disconnected after 25 minutes. The center console,'the center stack' as they call it, had problems from the beginning, that the dealership was unwilling to replace it. As time went on the center stack failed completely. I had the extended warranty, but there was threats that it might not be covered. Apparently it's so expensive they have to have a techinician from GM headquarters verify it's functioning before replacing the part. The center stack was never put in place correctly. Both the main display (speed and message center) and the Center Stack will complete go haywire and not display the pictures correctly, showing millions of different colored pixels. I do find the rear camera and the assisted parking valuable additions. What would make this the perfect car? Take out all the electronic gizmos and provide manual controls for the ac/heat, radio and CD/MP3 player."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By John (MI) on Friday, November 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I purchased car thinking I could make a difference, boy was I wrong.25 miles on a full charge . That is when it's not to cold or to hot. People talk about the fuel savings but never talk about the cost of the electric. This. Car is and was my worse investment. I was even told by some GM friends that they post great reviews on here to help sales. This it's wrong.don't make the same mistake I did."
7 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By AventineAvenue (CT) on Friday, October 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "little or no gas, ride, handling, quality"
Cons: "seats 4?"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I drive 95% on electric; enjoy the vehicle for both commuting and the occasional long trip. Have saved ~$2500 in gasoline over my previous vehicle, a Toyota Yaris. The quality, ride, handling, acceleration and interior of this vehicle is far superior to the Toyotas, Hondas, and Saturns I have owned over the years. Safety is also excellent, the great handling has helped me avoid two near collisions. Highly recommended, even better deal now with the price drop or to lease."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By pjkPA (PA) on Monday, October 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth Quiet no shifting effortless POWER."
Cons: "Window switches are touchy for my big fingers."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Smooth quiet power no ICE can match. Bought my White Base Volt on Dec 22, 2012 and have not been to a gas station since. The car has been flawless. I now agree with over 128,000 automotive engineers from around the world who voted the Chevy Volt as the best engineered car on the road today. After 3 years I still don't see a real competitor. I hear about a lot of concept cars. I paid $22,900 for my Volt after rebates."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful