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.
Neither a conventional Prius-like hybrid, nor a pure electric like the Nissan Leaf, the 2015 Chevrolet Volt tries to be a bit of both. For about 30-40 miles, the Volt will run in a pure-electric mode, even at freeway speeds. That's not a huge range, but Chevrolet insists it's within the average daily driving distance for 80 percent of drivers. Should your battery be depleted, no worries, as there's a gasoline engine under the hood that acts as a generator to keep you going for another 340 miles or so with an EPA-estimated mileage of about 40 mpg. The best news is that, unlike competitors such as the BMW i3, the Chevy Volt isn't awkward or ungainly. In fact, inside and out, it's pretty cool.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you relish the idea of driving an electric car, but fear the idea of being stranded with a dead battery, the Chevy Volt might just be the ideal solution. It even qualifies for high-occupancy vehicle access with a single driver, a big deal for those living in congested areas.
You May Not Like This Car If...
The Chevy Volt isn't exactly cheap, even after factoring in tax incentives. If you regularly drive more than 40 miles each day, you'll frequently wind up using gasoline in your supposed EV. But the biggest drawback may be that the Volt can seat only four people, limiting its usefulness.
The 2015 Chevy Volt sees a few minor changes before an all-new model debuts for the 2016 model year. The battery capacity increases slightly – although the official range remains unchanged – and OnStar gains 4G LTE, allowing the Volt to be a Wi-Fi hot spot with a subscription.
Driving the Volt
Avoiding gas stations is great, but we still think one of the best things about EVs like the Chevrolet Volt is low-end torque you get from a...
... dead stop. The Chevy Volt offers enough thrust to push you into your seat as it silently whisks to 50 mph. In EV mode there's no engine noise, and that takes a bit of getting used to. When it's running, the range-extending engine's revs don't rise and fall relative to the car's speed. That aside, the Volt is otherwise unremarkable behind the wheel. It offers a comfortable ride, and it corners better than you'd think. The electric power steering feels responsive and properly weighted, without being vague on the highway or too heavy in a parking lot. Note that the Volt's claimed 38-mile EV range depends on how lead-footed you are on the gas pedal. Uh, rheostat. You know what we mean.
DELAYED START AND DEPARTURE TIME MODE The Chevy Volt tries to make its charging fit your schedule and budget. You can program the Volt to start recharging its battery pack when rates are at their lowest, and you can also program a departure time, and the Volt ensures it's fully charged by the time you leave.
VOLT SMARTPHONE APP The OnStar MyLink offers myriad remote controls for your Chevy Volt. You can check your Volt's battery level, tire pressure, available electric range, lock/unlock the doors and start the A/C system to pre-cool the interior while it's still plugged in. It'll even email you when it's fully charged.
2015 Chevrolet Volt Details
The 2015 Chevy Volt's interior offers up futuristic-looking controls, arranged conventionally. The bright white or dark-accented plastics boast touch-sensitive controls for the audio and climate-control functions. Two 7-inch LCD screens convey information, with one replacing the instrument cluster (speedometer, fuel and range gauges), and one atop the dash, used for monitoring the electric motor and battery, and the available navigation screen. While the cool-looking touch-sensitive buttons are a little tricky to identify and operate, the layout is conventional, and it's easy to find the various controls. There's good cargo space behind the snug 2-passenger rear seat.
Chevrolet's design team had to create a shape that was at least as aerodynamically efficient as the Toyota Prius – all in the name of better fuel economy – but without aping it outright, as Honda did with the Insight. We'd say, mission accomplished. You'd never mistake a Volt for a Prius, thanks to its Chevy-signature grille design, creased fenders and wide stance. The Volt's sharp-edged rear fenders help it slice through the wind, as does the functional rear hatch spoiler, all of it making the Volt one of the most aerodynamic cars in GM's long and storied history.
The options list for the 2015 Chevrolet Volt isn't particularly long, but that's because so much comes standard. There are the touch-sensitive controls inside for climate, audio and driving, plus an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery pack and associated electrics. It also comes with automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless access, power mirror/locks/windows, 110-volt charge cord, a touch-screen audio system with USB and Bluetooth inputs, and 17-inch wheels. Standard safety features include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes and eight airbags. You also get five years of basic 4G LTE OnStar service.
There are four main option packages for the 2015 Chevy Volt. A Premium Trim package adds heated leather seats and a rear center armrest, while two safety packages add rear-parking assist and a rearview camera, and front-parking assist and collision-warning systems, respectively. A navigation system adds touch-screen navigation, obviously. You can also have a 240-volt charging system added to the cost of the Volt, making quick recharges easier, plus there's a lightweight energy-saving Bose audio system available.
Under the Hood
The primary motivator for the 2015 Chevy Volt is an electric motor making 149 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, supplied by a 17.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. When the battery's depleted, a 1.4-liter, 84-horsepower 4-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in, acting as a "range-extender." It will continue generating electricity until the tank runs dry, around 300-380 miles, depending on how lead-footed you may be. To recharge the battery takes between 10-16 hours on standard 110V house current, or about four hours on a 240V dedicated unit. You can select among four operating modes: Normal for efficiency, Sport for better acceleration, Mountain to help preserve the battery on steep grades, and Hold for when you want to use the gas engine exclusively.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator 17.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack 1.4-liter inline-4 (drives generator only) 111kW/149 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm 273 lb-ft of torque @ 0-4,800 rpm EPA projected full-charge range: 38 miles (all-electric), 380 miles (gasoline range-extender only) EPA city/highway fuel economy: 93 MPGe (all-electric, mpg equivalent), 35 city/40 highway mpg (on gasoline engine/generator)
There's only one 2015 Chevy Volt model to choose from, and its Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $35,000. With leather, navigation, Bose audio and the rearview camera and park-assist package, it climbs to about $40,000. That's pricey, even when you factor in the potential $7,500 federal tax credit and other state and local credits. Of course, the potential savings in fuel could significantly offset that price. Another thing to think about is that, if you fully recharge the Volt each day, it'll cost only about $1.50 per day, helping to offset the $490-plus-installation cost of a dedicated 240V home charger. Be sure to check KBB's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their 2015 Volt, and note that resale will probably be around the same as a Nissan Leaf, but below established players like the Toyota Prius and VW Golf TDI.
Pros: "Savings, comfort, really great driving experience."
Cons: "Rug holds dog hair."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Volt. It's so quiet and mellow to drive it's relaxing. Has great pickup and so you never need to worry about getting around things. I hardly ever buy gas and so have saved about $100 a month since I got it."
Pros: "AMAZING mpg, fun, starts a lot of conversations"
Cons: "Expensive without tax rebates."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought the 2012 Volt. I am at 30,000 miles, and I have used about 135 gallons of gas TOTAL. I'm not even joking. I've had it for about three years. I'm 5'11", and I have plenty of room... but one of my friends is 6'3" and it was too small for him to drive. It has a decent amount of trunk space thanks to a deployable hammock-like sheet that divides it horizontally giving it an extra 50% space (the sheet is incredibly small, elastic, and takes about 5 seconds to deploy/remove). My Volt was essentially loaded lacking only the back up camera, which is pointless since you can see through the trunk.
Pros: I have used 135 gallons of gas going 30,000 miles (see pic). About 25 of those gallons come from days that I forgot to charge it. The MPG calculation the EPA uses is not meant to deal with this scenario - the very scenario that the Volt was designed for! My actual MPGe is around 90 - almost twice what you get in a Prius. It comes with a year of OnStar and has an electric tire pump in a compartment in the trunk. It accelerates and handles surprisingly well. It has a sports mode (which I never use) and a mountain mode (which I also never use). You can set the charger to charge during whatever time the rates are lowest. It also has a divider that basically gives you an extra 50% or so storage space in the trunk, which is great for groceries. It is *extremely* quiet while in electric mode and comes with a built-in driving tutorial teaching you how to increase your gas mileage (without annoying other drivers). I typically get 40-50 miles charge. I have never actually used more than a gallon of gas in any given day, but I based on the mpgs a fuel tank of gas and a charged tank should take you at least 350-400 miles... and you can always stop for gas as needed. There is a secondary 8 year/100k mile 100% warranty covering any and everything relating to the Voltec (electric engine) system.
Cons: The battery takes up the "middle" seat and runs the length of the car, so the Volt will only seat four people. It's expensive, especially if you don't get state or federal rebates. There were several (5ish?) miscellaneous recalls on the 2012 Volt. None were dangerous or problematic, and all of them were quickly resolved but no recalls would've been better.
Quirks: If it's too cold (like 15-20 degrees F), the gas engine has to turn on periodically to keep the battery at optimal temperatures. If you go more than a month or two without using the gas engine it will turn on automatically to run for 5-10 minutes (while you drive). Something about engine maintenance. The area under the spoiler doesn't get any rain so if (like me) you only wash your car once a year or so, that area tends to collect dust.
Conclusion: I absolutely, positively love this car. Love it! Finances permitting (and assuming we don't have a third child) my next car will probably be another Volt."
Pros: "Low maintenance costs, smooth electric drive"
Cons: "Rear vision. Center console controls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"After 15,000 miles this volt delivers around 45 battery miles in our desert climate even with A/C. On long trips it averages about 40MPG. I keep a spare tire in the back for out of town drives, but run flat tires are available for a premium price. In battery mode this vehicle is remarkably quiet. Odd engine revving when the ICE kicks in. Visibility to the rear could be better. Wouldn't own one without a backup camera. No mechanical issues so far. Aftermarket 240V charger works fine and costs me about $1.80 to fully recharge in 4 hours at 11 cents a KWH. Center console not the easiest thing to get used to. Collision alert and lane change warning options work well."