The knock against electric cars has been the range anxiety you suffer the entire time you’re driving one. How soon will I use up all the electricity stored in the battery pack? When that happens, will I be able to find an electrical outlet? And if I do, how long will I be stranded there? How long will it take to recharge?
There’s enough to worry about when we drive without the added anxiety of the limited range of an electric vehicle.
Ah, but there is a solution. It’s called the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is the electric car you can drive without experiencing range anxiety.
That’s because the Volt comes with its own electric generator, a 1.5-liter gasoline engine that ignites to immediately start recharging the battery pack when it exhausts its stored power. That means you drive the Volt like any other car, and for pretty much the same distances as any other car, except that you get to choose whether you refuel at a regular gas station, at the electrical outlet in your garage, or as I did, by running an extension cord from an outlet next to my front door out to the driveway.
But I only did that two of the nights I had the car to drive. The other days I simply let the “range-extender” generator/engine power the car. Just like pretty much any other car.
Except for the fact that when driving an electric vehicle, you can take immediate advantage of full torque. You don’t have to wait for the engine to rev up. In the case of the Volt, you can use its 294 pound-feet of torque as soon as the light goes green, or when you need to pass another vehicle.
Sure, such a maneuver uses more of the electric charge, just as putting the pedal to the metal burns more gasoline in the typical automobile. But with the Volt, while you might pay a small penalty in range, you don’t pay a penalty in range anxiety.
Speaking of range, the 2016 Volt is the second-generation of Chevrolet’s electric sedan and the range on a full charge has been extended to 53 miles through advances in motor and battery technology, and in aerodynamic design tweaks. But that’s only the range on a full charge. With the onboard generator kicking in, you can travel something like 420 miles before stopping at a gas station for a refill.
For many people, 53 miles is more than they typically drive in a day back and forth to work, which means they can plug in at home and pretty much avoid gas stations unless then need to stop for coffee or a Slurpie or to use the rest room.
And traveling in the Volt is as comfortable as it is carefree, plus there’s the entertainment factor provided by the 8-inch computer screen on which you can watch the energy flow as you drive, seeing how quickly things happen and how energy otherwise wasted — when coasting or braking — actually flows back into the battery pack in the Volt.
Actually driving the Volt is not different than driving a so-called normal car. In fact, with no range anxiety eating away at your, you might even forget you’re in an EV when you’re driving the Volt.
OK, so when you’re sitting at a stop light and operating only under battery power, the air conditioning doesn’t blow quite a cold as you’re used to, but the seats — front and rear — are heated, the steering column tilts and telescopes to further enhance driver comfort, and there’s Chevy’s MyLink technology with Apple CarPlay capability, Bose audio and even a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot if you need more than the energy screen to keep you entertained and informed as you travel.
And you can travel in a Volt. Not only is there luggage room beneath the long rear hatch, but you can fold down the back seats to extend the cargo floor.
Base price for the 2016 second-generation Volt is $37,520. Standard equipment includes all the usual safety equipment and creature features, plus front and rear parking assist, and in addition to the usual 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery pack and electric motors.
The federal government still offers a tax credit of as much as $7,500 to those who purchase electric vehicles and some states also have their own tax breaks or other benefits, including use of car-pool lanes and not having to pay when using a public parking meter.
The one I drove for a week also was equipped with a $495 driver-confidence 1 package (blink-spot mirrors, lane-departure alert and rear cross-traffic alert), with a $495 driver-confidence 2 package (lane-keep assist, forward collision alert with low-speed automatic braking and “intellibeam” headlamps), and with the $495 MyLink navigation option.
Oh, and one more thing — and it’s huge — the Volt comes with no option for range anxiety.
2016 Chevrolet Volt
Vehicle type: 5-passenger sedan, front-wheel drive
Base price: $37,520 Price as tested: $38,830
Motor: Second-generation Voltec electric drive with 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with Ecotec 1.5-liter gasoline-powered range-extender/generator engine, 111 kW, 294 pound-feet of torque
Wheelbase: 106.1 inches Overall length/width: 180.4 inches / 71.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,543 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 42 mpg (gas only) / 106 mpg overall
Assembled in: Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan