A throwback to another eraIn 1913, Germany produced the first diesel powered U-boat and the world was forever changed. Just the threat of a submarine would alter the entire plans of a fleet.
The 2013 Chevrolet Volt has received a lot of attention. In part due to the $8500 available to consumers in the form of a tax rebate, and also due to it being the “Green Vehicle” license plate that can adorn the vehicle. Green plate status is important to daily commuters as it allows the driver to occupy the HOV lane without the need of any other passengers.
But why does the Chevy Volt receive that status, whereas other hybrids don’t?
To explain this, one must take a trip back in time to before the First World War. In 1913, Germany produced the first diesel powered U-boat and the world was forever changed. Just the threat of a submarine would alter the entire plans of a fleet. The submarine evolved and eventually became a diesel/electric hybrid driven propulsion system.
When operating on the surface, the submarines operated a diesel engine to drive propulsion and charge the main battery. When submerged, the main battery provided the only means of power for the submarine. It is the battery that drives the submarine; keep this in mind for later.
The combination of diesel/electric in submarines produce a nearly whisper quiet operation that has been a staple in every global conflict since. A character shared with the Volt, necessitating a pedestrian alarm system located on the turn signal stalk that will make every passenger giggle when hearing for the first time.
Although it isn’t diesel powered, the Chevrolet Volt shares a lot of similarities to their submarine counterparts. Unlike hybrids, the Volt when fully charged with drive the vehicle with 100% electric power. It isn’t until that system is depleted that the gasoline generator will kick in. The electric range of the Volt depends on variables such as style of driving, weather, traffic conditions, etc; I observed between 35-45km. Once that happens it begins to operate similarly to a hybrid car and gets similar fuel mileage (I mustered a not-so-impressive 7L/100 combined).
The Volt does not require the gasoline generator to charge the batteries, that’s reserved exclusively for the plug in charger. The larger 240V system is highly recommended. It will take a full charge time from 14 hours down to 4. It turns something completely impractical to doable.
In what used to require an entire crew to manage the change over from diesel to electric, the Volt uses the latest technology to handle it automatically.
As the proliferation of electric charging stations continues it’s rapid expansion, electric vehicles begin to make more sense. Malls, government buildings and educational institutions have begun to outfit chargers. Mapleview Mall in Burlington actually has reserved parking with a charge station. I could conceivably go to the mall, not worry about parking and have a nice quiet ride on the way there. On the downside, there is a charge to using this system.
The combination of the electric driven propulsion with the plug-in charging is what differentiates the Volt over your traditional hybrids and why it features a green plate.
As for the car itself, it takes the technological side and pushes the envelope a bit more. The interior reminds one of a classic iPod. It is all white (available in different trim) and features a pure touch interface rather than traditional buttons in all but a few locations. USB connectivity, air conditioning, and satellite radio are all standard; not too different from a conventional automobile. I did find though that when carrying 4 people, rear-seat legroom is very tight.
Recently CEO Daniel Akerson announced that GM expects the next-generation Volt to be priced on the order of $7,000-10,000 lower than the 2013 model year with the same features. Chevrolet does have a few little issues to work out, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that plug-in automobiles are here to stay, and the world is slowly becoming more and more accepting of this new age of transportation.
2013 Chevrolet Volt Gallery