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Chevrolet Volt: Middle aged but still showing spunk

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As hard as this is to fathom, the Chevy Volt turned 5-years old this year. Now in its mid-season life cycle, there’s serious talk of a more efficient, less expensive model on the horizon, hence why I thought it befitting to profile the 2104 model. Another reason for this timely interest is the debut of the new Cadillac ELR, which is essentially based on the Volt’s PEV technology. No matter how you slice it the Volt is a milestone vehicle, and has every right to be grouped with the Ford Model T, Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Prius as cars that have changed the motoring world.

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The Volt is assembled at GM’s haloed Hamtramck plant, which is also where the Chevrolet Impala, Mailbu, and now Cadillac ELR are assembled. Besides the American-ized Volt, an Aussie version for Holden is built right alongside. Another spinoff, called the Ampera, is also assembled there for Opel and Vauxhall. The main visual difference between the Volt and Ampera are their distinctive front clips. Between these three brands GM’s family of extended-range electric vehicles are exported to 21 countries.

As a result of improved battery chemistry Chevrolet made significant enhancements last year to the 2013 Volt, primarily a larger capacity battery pack with a longer all-electric range. EPA rated all-electric range increased to 38 miles with an energy consumption of 35 kWh per 100 miles, down from 36 kWh in the 2012 model. The total range with a full tank and a fully charged battery is an estimated 380 miles.

For 2014 the Volt carries on status quo except for deletion and addition of paint colors, some significant interior trim revisions and enhancements, and a change to the vehicle’s charge port access. Cyber Gray Metallic and Blue Topaz Metallic have been deleted, as well as Viridian Joule, which was discontinued during the 2013 model run. New colors are Brownstone Metallic and Ashen Gray Metallic.

Interior updates include a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, the discontinuation of the two-tone seat combination of black with white accents, and heated seats, that are now optionally available for the cloth interior and standard on premium trim.

One of the more significant items of note is the charge port door, which now features a simple push-push latch instead of the electronically actuated door release located on the drivers’ inside door panel. Though I prefer the security of an inside latch, I will admit that the previous arrangement was a little cumbersome to get to, even though it was in plain sight.

What use to be a serious downside to the Volt’s appeal, its lofty sticker price, has somewhat been rectified. That is the base MSRP for the 2014 Volt has been lowered to $34,185, an almost $4,000 savings over a 2013 model. So theoretically this reduces my loaded out 2013 Volt down to $40k. When factoring in the Federal Tax rebate of $7,500, the Volt then becomes a $32,500 purchase. In California or any equivalent state there’s an additional $1,500 tax rebate. This is now where the Chevrolet Website it states that the 2014 Volt can be had for as low as $26,685, of course that’s without factoring in any options or designation charges.

The 2013 model I tested had a window stickered of $44,445 with a base price of $39,145.; so based on the above factor an equivalent 2014 model right off the top would sticker closer to $40k. Options included the Premium Trim Package ($1,395), Enhanced Safety Package 1 ($575), Enhanced Safety Package 2 ($595), MyLink Satellite Radio with Nav. ($895) and Bose Premium Sound System ($495). The Crystal Red Tintcoat added an extra $495 along with designation charges of $850.

Although I’ve been around the Volt many times since its coming out party, this was my first opportunity to have one in my possession for an extended period of time. Since I don’t own an electric vehicle, my garage is set up for the normal 110v, not the recommended 220v for faster charges. But overnight charging still got the job done, where I was able to achieve a consistent 38 mile range on pure electric, as long as I didn’t hit anything close to freeway speeds.

And that’s the whole point with the Volt, to do daily commutes without using the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder backup generator, which all intents and purposes is an internal combustion engine, no matter how GM wishes to convince otherwise. Owners are so smug about their ability of going weeks, even months without needing petrol as they post their accomplishments on blogs specifically geared to Volt owners.

The Volt's optimum usable battery capacity is 10.3kWh. Its fuel tank capacity is a minuscule 9.3 gallons. The battery capacity is completely used first, and then the fuel is consumed. In the event the Volt is operated until fuel for the generator is depleted, it will shut down, although the Volt will continue to operate, tapping into a reserve portion of the battery capacity, which is below the regular minimum state-of-charge. The reserve battery capacity provides an extra 3 to 4 miles to hopefully make it to a safe place. If this reserve is exhausted, the Volt will finally come to a rest. 2013 and newer models even feature a switchable mode, which allows the Volt to be driven on gasoline power instead of pure electric, saving the battery for shorter trips

Based on collected data through GM’s OnStar telematics system, Volt owners drive on average 800 miles before they need to fill-up. The analysis also found that the average period between fill-ups is 30 days. According this data more than 63% of the miles driven were in electric mode. The carmaker also reported that Volt owners have driven more than 65% percent of the time in all-electric mode, and on average they drive around 900 miles, or a month and a half, between fill-ups.

The Volt is defiantly one of a kind compared to its immediate competition. Only the Ford C-Max Energi comes close to using similar technology, although its range on pure electric doesn’t even come close. It will be interesting to see the next incarnation of the Volt which is expected to debut as early as 2015, maybe as a 2016 model. In the meantime you can do very little wrong with owning the current-generation model, especially with the upgrades and improvements made within the past couple of years.

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