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.
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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 John (TN) on Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I was dumb enough to buy, 16900 is what they offer on trade, thought it was smart but now I see it was a bad choice. Don't make the same mistake,it's not a green car at all. Anything but."
By lkldtv (FL) on Monday, May 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car has been a great blessing to me. I have enjoyed all of the special features and quiet drives. I drive less than 40 miles a day so I usually drive solely on electric but it is fun to go on road trips. I have been across the country a couple times and I don't feel sorry paying at the pump. I took a test drive just to check the car out and fell in love, I suggest you do the same. I test drove a tesla car recently and I would love to upgrade, but for the price the volt is awesome because it has the best of both worlds."
By Steve-o (IL) on Thursday, May 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The Volt is quite the car. I commute 50 miles per day, round trip. Employer allows me to recharge during the day which worked out great during winter in central IL. Certainly this car's range is reduced in cold (and I am assuming hot) weather. Yet, even in worst of times it would go 25-30 miles on a full charge. Now getting 45+ easily during spring. Handles great, even in snow. Run-and-gunners would not get as much enjoyment from the vehicle but perhaps it may adjust driving habits. Can't think of a better car that I've owned. Now if charging stations would just be a little more popular..."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By GWTX (TX) on Friday, April 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 900overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth. Quiet. Haven't bought gas yet!"
Cons: "Nav system and voice recognition is a disaster"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've had the car for a month and put on about 1,000 miles. I've yet to put gas in the car, so from the EV perspective it works exactly as advertised. I bought it with all the bells and whistles. The interior isn't bad. It's a bit cramped and there isn't a lot of space in the back seat. The lack of electric seat adjustments is a major negative. My wife literally has to get out of the car to adjust the seat. We trade back and forth driving the car, so we're constantly pumping the lever to raise or lower the seat. It's very inconvenient. The other complaint is that the voice recognition and navigation system is a complete train wreck. Simple instructions like "Drive Home" or "Destination Home" are impossible. If you don't know the exact command name in the list, the voice recognition is completely useless. I don't understand why I can tell my phone to "drive to bass hall" and it gives me directions to the door, but the Chevy nav system completely freaks out. Then, when it tries to send you to something ridiculous, like Baskeall, TX, (I don't think such a place exists), canceling the instructions takes several minutes. You have to wait for it to calculate the results and then talk your way through several menus before you can tell it delete the waypoint. Then it asks you which waypoint to delete (of the one available). Chevy could fix this with a software download. Let's hope they do. On the plus side, the car drives very well. It doesn't have 'power' in the traditional sense, but it really takes off. It's very smooth, nimble handling, and--of course--extremely quiet. I'm glad I bought the car and will consider the ELR when it comes out. In the meantime, though, Chevy needs to do some work on the voice commands and nav system."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Jolt (PA) on Monday, April 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great car, nice design, amazing mpg"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The Chevrolet Volt is really a great car! It really does save you money. On average people drive 900 miles in between fill ups. I would highly suggest buying a Chevy Volt!"
By tyme2par4 (NH) on Friday, April 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Silent driving, instant torque, NO MORE GAS!"
Cons: "Some controls could be better designed (climate)"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Volt! The car handles great, it's comfortable, stylish and just all around great. Driving in silence is a welcome change from traditional cars. The Volt has technology no other car has. I drive 95% of the time on electricity. The cost to drive a Volt is a fraction of that of other cars, simply because electricity is so much cheaper than gas."