Motoring journalists are guiltier than most of bandying terms like ‘game changer’ but the Chevrolet Volt is exactly that.
While manufacturers of pure electric vehicles may bleat that if you use the Volt as intended, you’re hauling around the unnecessary ballast of an internal combustion engine, most of us will be prepared to do that for the sheer convenience it offers the rest of the time. Green motoring needs to be about mobility rather than restriction and the Volt is a pragmatic solution that leaves many rivals looking decidedly underwhelming.
Via some quite brain-bakingly clever technology, the Volt will run on a battery pack that can be recharged through a mains socket. When that battery runs out, a 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in. If you thought that was the sum of the Volt’s party tricks, however, you’re very much mistaken. Were the Chevrolet to be an electric car until the batteries run out, at which point it became a conventional petrol-powered vehicle, that would be pretty smart. Where the genius lies is that only under extreme demand, such as when accelerating at very high speed up a steep incline, does the petrol engine have anything to do with driving the wheels. The rest of the time, it’s either dormant or driving an electric motor. Therefore, when the Volt ‘runs out’ of battery, it still drives like an electric car with that trademark surge of torque.
With the Volt you won’t have to drive with one panicked eye on the battery level, wondering when you’re going to be left stranded. With a bit of juice in the petrol tank you’ve always got that get out of jail free card. This unlikely vehicle has changed the complexion of green motoring.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: Chevrolet Volt
INSURANCE GROUP: tba
PERFORMANCE: 0-60 8.5s / top speed 100mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 72mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, twin front and side, knee and curtain airbags