It Really Is the Game Changer GM Proclaimed
Now there’s an all-new 2017 Chevrolet Volt. It is better in nearly every way than the first one—more electric driving range, more hybrid fuel efficiency, more comfortable, more attractive and even more affordable.
Will Chevrolet make a genuine effort to sell the Volt this time around?
The First Round
The leader in plug-in hybrids from the start
As one observer commented, the Chevrolet Volt is one of the most politically “charged” cars ever produced. Politics aside, the Volt is a remarkable automobile that delivered exactly what General Motors said it would when the concept was introduced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
While the Volt has been the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid since it was introduced in late 2010, sales haven’t set off any fireworks at GM’s Detroit headquarters. The electrified plug-in that paved the way for others to follow finally reached the 100,000 U.S. sales mark less than 30 days ago (this was written in August 2016).
Why hasn’t the Chevrolet Volt sold well? Why not more?
The Volt’s main nemesis is the technology under the hood; it’s more complicated than a five-word headline. As the driving public attempted to understand planetary gear sets (hint, the sun gear is in the middle) and high-speed generator motors, the Volt got parked in a confused haze of what percentage of torque from the gas engine turned the wheel. The Volt represented a major change in the automobile, and lots of people find change frightening.
Yet, here we are today and many potential buyers still don’t understand that you can plug a Volt into an ordinary home socket outlet to charge the battery or that the car’s gas engine will take over when the battery’s electrons are gone thus, eliminating the dreaded EV “range anxiety.”
This deficit of knowledge is squarely on the back of Chevrolet, who failed to properly market the Volt or train its dealers properly. Of course, this can be said about all car companies who sell plug-in hybrids (as well as pure EVs).
Enter the 2017 Chevrolet Volt
There are two trim levels available. A base 2017 Volt LT starts at $34,095 including destination charges, while the Premier has a sticker price starting at $38,445. Neither price reflects any Federal, state, or local incentives that may apply to a purchase.
Our Premier test car arrived sporting a Heather Gray Metallic exterior and Jet Black interior. An Safety Package added $1485, which gave a total vehicle price of $39,930.
All-New Voltec Electric Drive System
Under the hood–some petrol to go with the electrons
Chevrolet doesn’t position the Volt as a plug-in hybrid, but as an “extended range electric vehicle” (EREL). In practice, this means it falls somewhere between an electric car and a standard gasoline-powered car.
The Volt operates entirely as an electric car for its first 52 miles after a full charge of the battery. In some driving situations—accelerating with a depleted battery, passing and climbing steep hills—the engine chips in to assist the electric motors.
The engine’s main purpose is to power a generator motor that produces electricity to sustain a battery charge, which is then directed to an electric motor that powers the front wheels. Once the battery is depleted, the 8.9-gallon fuel tank adds an additional 367 miles of total range.
Chevrolet has dubbed the electric system “Voltec.” It has changed significantly from the original version and consists of the battery, electric drive unit, range-extending gasoline engine and power electronics. Here’s a quick look at what’s new.
Externally, the new liquid-cooled and heated lithium-ion battery pack appears to be no different than the first one; it is still T-shaped. Internally it is a different story.
A new lithium-ion chemistry formula increases the battery’s storage capacity by 20 percent compared to the original Volt. Additionally, the number of cells has been reduced to 192, down from 288, decreasing the weight by 30 pounds. Total battery capacity jumps from 17.1 kilowatt-hours to 18.4 kWh.
To fully recharge a depleted battery, budget about four and half hours for a 240-volt home charging station; double the time using a standard 120-volt outlet.
Two smaller electric motors replace a single large motor and can work individually or together to drive the front wheels. One can act as generator, and at times both can sleep while the engine
Volt 2.0 takes the battle up a notch
locks into an efficient single-gear ratio connected with the wheels.
Electric motor output is increased from 111 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque to 149 horses and 294 pounds feet. The ability to use both motors helps deliver acceleration from zero to 30 mph in 2.6 seconds, which is Tesla territory. Chevrolet says the run from stop to 60 mph is 8.7 seconds; however, a couple of automotive publications have posted 7.1 seconds.
A new direct injection 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine adds 101 horsepower. It serves as the generator to keep the battery charged and powers the electric drive unit. In other words, the Volt operates as an electric car all of the time. To save a few dollars, premium gasoline is no longer required (as was the case on Volt 1.0).
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) directs all the energy to the front wheels.
While computer programming decides the powertrain’s most efficient operation, the driver can play a role with four different driving modes: Normal, Sport, Mountain and Hold.
Paddle shifters borrowed from the ELR operate “on demand” regenerative braking. Rather than the standard brakes, this system slows the car by using the electric motor and captures braking energy normally lost as friction heat to add electricity to the battery.
So what does all this electrical and mechanical wizardry mean to a Volt owner? Here are the official EPA numbers:
- Electric only driving range is 53 miles, up from 38 miles.
- Gasoline fuel economy is now 42 mpg, increased from 37 mpg.
- MPGe is 106 versus 62 MPGe.
- Energy Impact Score is just 2.0-barrels of oil used yearly.
- CO2 emissions of 0.8 tons is close to paradise.
What these numbers say is—this is General Motors at its best engineering.
Chevrolet Volt—New Insides
Volts gets classy inside
While the first generation Volt resembled Honda’s previous Insight hybrid and the Toyota Prius, the 2017 edition is more akin to the 2017 Chevy Cruze. While it’s not a daring design, I like its
clean shape and balanced proportions. Carved body sides and fenders blend into the hood, and up front a revised split-faux grill sits lower to the ground.
For 2017, the car continues with a hatchback body style, which made for easy loading and unloading. The cargo area has 10.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up; the rear seatbacks fold down to give the Volt substantially more cargo space than any sedan in its class.
The first thing I noticed when sliding into the driver’s seat was the generous helping of refinement to the cabin. Tossed was the swath of white plastic on the center console along with the touch sensitive center screen, which, without intimate familiarity, could result in driving down the road like a drunken sailor.
Everything in the interior is new: seats, steering wheel, door panels, headliner and refined materials. The new eight-inch screen features Chevrolet’s MyLink system, one of the best in the auto industry, and the dash layout is more pedestrian with easy-to-use controls.
One thing is a carry over—no power seats. But, a manual height-adjustable driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel make it easy to adjust for a good driving position. Plus, heated seats are available whether they are fabric or leather.
The 2017 Chevrolet Volt on the Road
Ready to roll–beyond EV range
The Volt whirred to life when I pushed its start button to pull away from our driveway. The instrument panel glowed, and a meter promised I could cover 53 miles on the battery’s charge.
After more than an hour of stop-and-go driving city streets and the rolling rural countryside, the car’s onboard generator switched on. I’d driven almost exactly the 53 miles Chevy says a full charge should cover.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Volt ride is how quiet it is. When the gas engine kicks on, it purrs only so slightly. The stop-start system on the gas engine is flawless, making it difficult to tell when exactly the engine has turned over.
The Volt didn’t major in driving excitement, but it is surprisingly fun to drive and dispenses predictable front-wheel drive handling. It scoots quickly when merging on to freeways, and once up to highway speed it is nearly as silent as a Lexus ES 300 luxury sedan.
Like a good conventional automobile, the Volt steered nicely with decent on-center feel and some driver feedback. It rounded corners with sufficient agility to satisfy drivers whose other car isn’t a Mazda Miata or Corvette. It stopped promptly, the new regenerative brake system feeling more like a standard car.
Engineers have tuned the independent strut-type front and a semi-independent torsion beam rear axle with soft spring rates and matching shock rates for good comfort and control. The setup absorbs the bumps and potholes of everyday driving quite well.
The Volt isn’t without flaws. The snug interior and very large front A-pillars can cause difficult visibility for some drivers. Also, the rear bench seat is really only adequate for two adults and a car seat or small child.
Your Fuel Economy May Vary
Every window sticker label pasted on new vehicles reminds us that fuel economy may vary depending on a number of variables. With the Volt, I think, if you drive reasonably it will vary upwards.
Getting those 53 miles of EV range is no quip. I drove the Volt like I would any other car, accelerating quickly when necessary and slipping through traffic when called for.
On one reasonably flat driving route of 78 miles I achieved 61 miles of EV driving before the engine kicked in. During our week with the Volt we drove 396 miles—40 percent in town, 30 percent in the countryside on moderate speed roads and 30 percent on freeways, Our gasoline fuel economy was 42.3 mpg, three-tenths above the EPA estimate and our MPGe was 104, two less than the government’s rating. I call those numbers dang good.
After six years–an established brand
Since its introduction the Chevrolet Volt has been a party of one. It was and is the plug-in hybrid standard. Almost six years later the best the competition can muster is 27 miles of electric driving range—and that’s not the new Toyota Prius Prime plug-in, it’s the Hyundai Sonata plug-in, which starts at $34,600.
If the new 2017 Volt is something you would consider purchasing—you are taking it for a test drive, aren’t you—comparing the price of the Volt with other plug-in hybrids will be a deceptive activity. Because of its large battery size, the Volt is eligible for the full $7,500 federal plug-in tax credit. All of the other plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries are capped at a $4,200 incentive or less.
Chevrolet got it right the first time and the 2017 Volt is even better. The Voltec powertrain system is an innovative engineering design that provides drivers with an all-electric car to use for city driving that will function as a normal economy car when the battery runs out of electricity.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Are They Expensive To Replace?
Most gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle drivers will at some point ask these questions: How long do hybrid batteries last? Are they expensive to replace?
Short Answer: It depends on the make and model of your car, whether you have a warranty, whether you can get cash or credit for recycling your hybrid battery and, importantly, what type of hybrid battery is it—nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion?
Nickel-Metal Hydride Hybrid Batteries
When hybrids appeared most used nickel-metal-hydride batteries
Hybrid vehicles have been on American roads since 1999, and early adopters took a risk with the new technology. The lifetime of the new nickel-metal hydride batteries (the standard battery for the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight that introduced hybrid technology the U.S.) and their replacement cost was unknown. After all, standard car batteries only last a few years at best.
Although hybrid cars have been breathtakingly dependable, there is a limit to the life of nickel-metal hydride battery packs. While some hybrid vehicle owners had to replace batteries at 70,000 miles, others have gotten as much as 200,000 miles out of their original units. Toyota has said even 300,000 or 400,000 miles on one set of Prius batteries is possible.
Consumer Reports has also tested to see if Prius batteries degraded and lost effectiveness over a long period of time.
In 2011 their editors said, “We hooked up a 2002 Toyota Prius with nearly 208,000 miles on the clock to our testing instruments and compared the results to the nearly identical 2001 Prius we tested 10 years ago.”
“We found very little difference in performance when we tested fuel economy and acceleration,” they concluded. “Our testers were also amazed how much the car drove like the new one we tested 10 years ago. We were also surprised to learn that the engine, transmission, and even shocks were all original.”
“So is an old Prius a still a good value?” asked the editors. “We think so.”
OK, What’s The Replacement Cost?
Depending how long you’ve owned or how many miles you driven your hybrid vehicle, you may have to pay nothing or very little to replace a defective battery. That’s because car manufacturers provide a generous hybrid battery warranty of eight years or 80,000 miles.
California residents and those who live in states that have signed on to follow that state’s emissions mandates get an even better deal — a battery warranty of 10 years or 150,000 miles.
Just because instrument panel warning lights indicate battery failure doesn’t necessarily mean the battery has died. There’s the possibility that a simple fix to the battery pack is all that’s needed, such as cleaning corrosion on a few internal connectors.
If your hybrid is outside the warranty and the battery is indeed dead, the replacement cost isn’t as daunting as was first thought back in the early days. Depending on the vehicle, expect a replacement cost of $1,500 to $3,500.
For example, Toyota is currently charging $3,650 for a new first- or second-generation Prius battery pack. However a $1,350 “core credit” for the old battery reduces the cost to a more reasonable $2,300. For the 2006 to 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid, owners should expect to pay around $2,000 for a replacement pack.
There are less expensive options for hybrid battery replacement. In markets with high hybrid vehicle penetration, reputable independent shops can install reconditioned batteries for about half the above costs. Most of these small businesses will warrant these replacements from six to 18 months, and many will come to your home for the switch.
The last avenue for battery replacement is looking at automotive recyclers or Ebay for battery packs pulled from salvaged vehicles. While the cost may be as low as $500, you will need a professional to do the swap and you will have no guarantee of its reliability.
Lithium-Ion Hybrid Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries have become the new standard.
Over the past decade and a half, consumers have overcome unfounded fears about the longevity of batteries in their hybrid cars. But the newly trusted battery technology, nickel-metal hydride, is being replaced by lithium-ion. Some auto companies employed lithium batteries from the very beginning of their hybrid vehicles, pointing to the advantages of more energy and power in a smaller package.
Tesla Motors brought some awareness of using lithium-ion batteries in a vehicle with its 2007 battery electric Roadster model. The big breakthrough for lithium was the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid with a T-shaped battery pack.
The Volt’s battery pack is comprised of three lithium-ion modules that can be serviced individually. Module replacement costs range from $2,900 to $4,900. The good news is modules rarely need replacement.
The bad news is other components of the Volt’s battery pack can fail, and, while most parts are inexpensive, the pack needs to be dropped, which is a big labor cost.
It appears that lithium-ion battery packs for hybrid cars are as reliable as the nickel-metal hydride packs. What’s unknown at this time is how long will they last, but those numbers are starting to come in.
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Electric Vehicle Day brings out 15 different models for test drives
PG&E employees got a chance to try out pure EVs and plug-in hybrids
If one of the 20,000 employees of the giant Northern California utility, PG&E, was interested in taking advantage of the federal, state and company incentives to buy a plug-in vehicle, a recent program gave them a chance to have some hands-on experience to figure out which vehicle they might want. A recent Electric Vehicle Day program drew representatives from almost all of the companies with pure electrics and plug-in hybrids on the market, giving employees a chance to test drive vehicles and learn more about how they work.
A PG&E spokesman said more than 1,000 employees had already taken advantage of the company’s vehicle purchase incentive program and 315 had booked appointments midday on a Friday to take a look at the more than a dozen different vehicles, either as a new buy or replacement.
Almost all EVs where there
At the Fair, in alphabetical order, were the:
Tesla was out in force, bringing eight vehicles, while other manufacturers brought one to four models to drive or display. The program was busy for its duration of almost four hours. PG&E holds several similar events each year as it encourages its employees to “walk the walk” of automotive energy consciousness.
PG&E has a plug-in truck
PG&E brought its own portable charger
PG&E also brought out one of their own electric vehicles, a modified Ford F-550 heavy-duty work truck that had been converted into a plug-in hybrid by Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated (EDI) of Dixon, CA. PG&E has added 10 of those trucks to its fleet, using them most recently when supporting communities affected by forest fires, where it was used to power evacuation camps.
The truck, which retains its powerful diesel engine to keep things charged up, is capable of supplying enough electrical power to keep the lights on in 100 homes. In addition, it has charge ports so electric vehicles can use it for Level II (240-volt) charging and also has ports to charge personal electronics. The truck itself can also plug in to recharge its battery, which is capable of exporting 120 kW of power to the grid. It’s also capable of running more than 30 miles on EV power only. The company also has deployed similar hybrids that use electric power to run auxiliary operations like buckets and booms.
In recognition of its far-flung service territory (PG&E’s area of service covers 70,000 square miles, a land area larger than all but 16 states), PG&E is in the process of changing out its CNG-
The Tesla Model X continues to draw a crowd
powered light-duty vehicles for plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Ford C-Max Energi. The company also offers charging at most of its facilities (it has installed 451 charging points at company sites according to its spokesman) for what it says is the equivalent of $1/gallon gasoline.
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Clean Fleet Report has driven and tested most of the vehicles mentioned in this article and will be updating many of those tests soon.
Road Test: Audi A3 e-tron
Road Test: BMW i3
Road Test: Cadillac ELR
Road Test: Chevrolet Volt
Road Test: Fiat 500e
Road Test: Ford Focus Electric
Road Test: Ford Fusion Energi
First Drive: Kia Soul
Road Test: Nissan Leaf
Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf
Looking at the choice between current and coming electric cars
We have owned electric cars since 2011. My wife and I loved our 2011 Nissan Leaf and now love our 2016 Chevrolet Volt. We were our dealer’s first delivery of a LEAF and our dealer’s first delivery of the 2016 Volt. Now that there are choices with over 200-mile range, we’re tempted to order either the new Tesla Model 3 or the Chevrolet Bolt.
Option 1: 2018 Tesla Model 3
All (well, some) was revealed–and 300,000+ signed up
In the first 24 hours, 180,000 people made refundable deposits of $1,000 to reserve the new Tesla Model 3. Within a few days there were more than 325,000 reservations and the list continues to grow. Reserve one today and you will likely wait three years for delivery. For many, the wait will be worth it. For others, there are other excellent electric car choices that may better meet needs: driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you can plug-in the car daily.
The Tesla Model 3 has a base price of $35,000 for an electric car with 215 mile-range, yet retains many of the features of an $80,000 Model S. The new Model 3 will be a compact sedan about the size of a BMW 3-Series instead of the 20 percent larger Model S, which is closer to the size of a BMW 7-Series.
I deliberately call the car a 2018 Tesla Model 3, because you won’t get one in 2017. You can reserve the car now, get more details soon, and test drive some day. Although first delivers of the Tesla 3 are targeted for late 2017, there are 300,000 people ahead of you and Tesla has a history of being late with new models. Delivery priorities likely will be existing Tesla owners, more expensive models, and then your queue location.
Today, Tesla has more 3,600 Superchargers and more than 3,600 destination chargers, allowing owners to fully charge in 30 to 60 minutes for free. Many are located near restaurants and Starbucks. By the time you get delivery of the Model 3, Tesla will triple its Supercharger locations. Tesla altered its description of the Model 3’s Supercharger connection from initially describing it as having access to the network to being capable of access to the network, which looks like Model 3 owners may find that coming as an upcharge on the base price. Like other EVs, Tesla 3s can also use the tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, many parking lots and public spaces. Using apps like Google Maps or Plug Share, they are easy to find.
Starting at $35,000, the Tesla Model 3 will come standard with Supercharging capability and Autopilot self-driving technology, according to Elon Musk. Some consider Tesla to have the safest cars on the road. Musk initially assured that the Model 3 will have 5-star safety ratings in every category, but then changed that promise being “designed to achieve” that rating, a much safer promise for a car still two years from production.
The Tax Break–That May Not Be There
Just as I have received $7,500 off my taxes for buying an electric car, you have the potential to bring your Tesla cost down to $27,500 and lower in the many states that add incentives. Six months after an automaker has a cumulative 200,000 customers claim tax credits, the credits phase out. FYI, Tesla hit 100,000 units of global sales (most in the U.S.) in December 2015 and aims to ramp up Model X production during 2016, though first quarter deliveries were below expectations. By the time you can get delivery of the Model 3, the Tesla credits will likely be gone.
Although Tesla has provided few details about the Model 3, industry speculation is extensive:
- There will be several versions of the Model 3.
- The base model will have a battery about 50 percent bigger than the Nissan Leaf, but perhaps half the 90 kWh of the high-end Model S versions.
- Being smaller and lighter, the 215-mile range will be achievable under many driving conditions. Like all electric cars, range will be reduced by driving speed, hills and cold weather.
Do you have a place at home or work to plug-in your vehicle? My former condo neighbor returned from a two-week trip to find her Tesla’s battery pack permanently dead. She had failed to leave the Tesla plugged in, which is recommended to keep the battery pack’s thousands of cells balanced. In my years of owning a Nissan Leaf and a Chevrolet Volt, I have been able to leave the cars unplugged for three weeks, and then start them with no hassle. Like most modern EVs, they use large-form automotive lithium cells.
In the months ahead, Tesla needs to provide detailed specs for charging the Model 3. If you don’t have regular access to an electric outlet, discuss the issue with Tesla, and get the answer in writing. For you, a Bolt, Volt, Leaf or even a Prius may be better choices.
The uni-dash appears
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pricey version of the Model 3 with a 300-mile range, besting the 270-mile Model S. More expensive versions of the Model 3 are also likely to include AWD, advanced safety features, valet parking, premium interior and exterior, much like was shown on the demo models shown at the reveal.
The Tesla Model 3 is likely to be an amazing car for $35,000, even if tax incentives are gone. Many buyers are likely to pay $40,000 to $60,000 to get the range and options that they desire.
Even if you don’t order a Tesla, you have to admire their innovation. Continually updating software, including Autopilot, makes their cars safer and better. Many of their owners charge with solar energy, some with grid power, but none with petroleum (assuming they aren’t using diesel generators for their electricity). More than 300,000 deposits for the new Model 3 is a wake-up call to every executive at GM, Toyota, Ford, VW and the rest.
Option 2: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
With a 200-mile minimum electric range, the new Chevrolet Bolt has almost identical range to the entry level Tesla 3. The Bolt will have a 60 kWh battery pack. The Bolt has a base price of
The Chevy Bolt EV hits the ground first
$37,500. If you order one later this year, you are likely to take delivery of the Bolt two years sooner than the Tesla 3.
The Bolt is a stylish crossover, similar to a sport SUV. With a liftback, you should be able to lower the back seats and put a couple of bicycles inside as I do in my Volt. With Tesla you would likely need a third-party bike rack. But with both front and rear trunks, the Tesla 3 will meet most cargo needs.
GM has sold more than 90,000 plug-in vehicles at this point, so, if you order a Bolt, you would likely have a good chance to receive a $7,500 IRS credit, making the entry Bolt at least $5,000 less expensive than the Tesla 3 after federal and state incentives.
I paid an extra $5,000 for the advanced driver safety (ADAS) features in our Chevrolet Volt, which uses radar and two high-resolution cameras to give us a back-up camera, lane keep assist, forward collision and pedestrian alerts with automatic braking, and side blind spot alerts. The new Bolt will be even better with four cameras to support all those safety features plus 360-degree surround vision. While the new Bolt will lack Tesla’s self-driving abilities, it will be impressively safe.
Charging on the Level
A more conventional interior
Tesla’s network of Superchargers will be greater than the network of DC fast chargers available for Bolts (DC fast charge may be optional; that hasn’t been announced), but tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, parking lots and public spaces are available for all plug-in vehicles. Both Tesla and Chevrolet are claiming a range increase of 25 miles for each hour of Level 2 charging, much faster than I see with my 2016 Volt.
Tesla also has the advantage with over-the-air software updates; just as the apps on your phone update themselves, a Tesla network updates automatically to keep getting smarter and better. With my Chevrolet, I have been promised Android Auto for a year, yet every time I call the dealer to make an appointment to upgrade, they are still waiting for a DVD from the factory.
When you finally get a chance to test drive both the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, you may decide that you prefer the Tesla 15-inch touchscreen and drive-by-wire, or you may prefer the Bolt’s 10-inch touchscreen and traditional instrument panel. You are likely to prefer both over your present car and most alternatives on the market.
Although Tesla has a head start of more than 300,000 reservations, Chevrolet dealers should start delivering the Bolt a year sooner than the first Tesla 3 and two years sooner than most since GM has a long track record of mass-producing vehicles, something that still presents Tesla with a steep learning curve.
Option 3: Get a Plug-in Electric Today
The Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are the two best selling electric cars starting below $35,000 with deliveries today.
With our 2016 Chevrolet Volt, we have driven more than its rated 53-mile electric range. When driving locally, we fill-up less than once a month. We have driven 500 miles to see family without worrying about finding charging spots, because the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that also includes a nine-gallon gas tank to give us 420-mile total range.
Some friends are surprised that we sold our electric Nissan Leaf and replaced it with a Volt plug-in hybrid. We are no longer driving pure electric and feel a bit guilty when adding gasoline. Although we experienced occasional range anxiety, my wife and I drove the Leaf for three and a half years without ever running empty.
We switched to the Volt because we went from two cars to one. In fact, we now have one Volt and two electric bicycles. Living in San Francisco, it all works. We can walk to grocery stores and restaurants. If the walk is too long, we can bike or take nearby transit. If we are in a hurry, Uber and Lyft are omnipresent.
If you need one car to meet all your needs, including a fair amount of long distance, you might prefer a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt. If you have no place to charge, the Toyota Prius or one of the other 36 non plug-in hybrids might be even better.
Two bikes or two people in back; a plus for the Volt
The Leaf worked beautifully during the three-and-a-half years that we drove it. We purchased the Leaf for $33,000, took advantage of tax credits, and sold it on Craigslist (in four days) for $12,700. Ownership cost us $225 per month, plus an average of $35 monthly to keep it charged.
The 2016 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,000 for a complete electric car with the same 24-kWh battery that served us well for 3.5 years. For $34,200, you can now get the Leaf SV with a 32-kWh battery for a 107-mile range. On a flat road driving 40 mph, you might go 140 miles; on a freeway with heater and headlights on, you might have a range of 80 miles. For most, especially those with work and public space charging, this is more than enough range.
What we learned is that if you share two cars, one can be electric with far less range than offered from Tesla and the Bolt. If you are in a household with two or more vehicles, you can be driving great electric cars today.
You can now order plug-in cars from almost all automakers. There are some interesting choices from Audi, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota, VW and others. We’ve reviewed most of them on this site. Tesla, Nissan and Chevrolet are the sales leaders. Customers evaluate, test drive, and make good choices in all-electric and plug-in hybrids.
You may want to eagerly await a beautifully designed 200-mile electric range cars like the Tesla Model 3 or Chevrolet Bolt. Speaking as a five-year plug-in car driver, do not forget to consider the practical issues like your driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you have a place to charge the electric car. For many, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf and their counterparts are ideal, affordable, and you can drive one today.
More than one million electric cars have been sold worldwide in the past five years and a third of them are in the U.S. With one announcement, another 300,000 have lined-up to get outstanding performance, styling and safety. Electric cars have an enormous future. Are you in?
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GM Applies For ‘Corvette E-Ray’ Trademark
Will Chevy plug in a future Corvette?
What do automotive spy photographers do when they’re not scouring the countryside or peeking over fences at proving grounds to grab an illicit photo of a future car? Apparently, Detroit-based spy guy Chris Doane scours the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. In doing so he stumbled across a nugget—the hint of a potential Electric Corvette.
Buried in the pages were two trademark applications filed by General Motors on December 16, 2015—numbers 86850510 and 86850500. One was for “Corvette E-Ray,” the other for “E-Ray.”
Of course, most everyone assumed that this was a confirmation that Corvette is planning an electric model, which sent Vette fan forums into frenzy overnight.
However, I wouldn’t place too much stock into GM’s application. Car companies are awarded dozens of trademarks and patents every year. Everything from almost production-ready concept vehicles to flying cars are locked down, just in case it becomes useful in the future. Or, perhaps the company is merely protecting the E-Ray name before someone else claims it.
Case in point; this past summer GM registered “Corvette Manta Ray.” When that was revealed, speculation was immediate that the name was verification that the decades-old rumors of a mid-engine Corvette would be a reality. I’ve heard no mention of it since, have you? Most likely it is just a name that GM wants to protect.
Perhaps more revealing that Chevy has its eyes on an electrified Corvette is a November 16, 2015, patent filling. It details a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that relates to a similar “Hybrid Powertrain and Modular Rear Drive Unit For Same” that GM has had for some time.
More Questions Than Answers
Odds are pretty good that the “E” in “E-Ray” does stand for electricity. But that just leads to plenty of questions. Will the Corvette go pure electric? Will it be a standard hybrid or plug-in hybrid? When, with whatever powertrain is selected, will it arrive? And the list goes on.
But the notion of a Corvette Sting Ray with electric motors did get me wondering.
The current C7 (seventh generation) model doesn’t seem to be a candidate for hybridization. It’s packaged extremely tight with little wiggle room for bulky batteries and electric motors.
No room for electrics this time around
Car and Driver’s technical director, Don Sherman, did throw out a possible solution. He suggested, “hanging a motor/generator onto the rear of the differential,” while also adding a compact lithium-ion battery in the trunk. But that would require major changes to the exhaust system, as well as eating into the car’s already small 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
A long shot option for the C7 is to gut the innards, replace them with a battery-electric drivetrain and present it as a concept. Sounds easy but the platform wasn’t engineered with that in mind.
The next-generation C8 is already in the works and this gives engineers the leeway to fashion a new Corvette with a variety of powertrains, gasoline as well hybrid and electric. That seems logical, but then again, this is the auto industry. Perhaps an electrified Vette would be a stand-alone model. How about an all-wheel drive E-Ray with 400 horsepower in-wheel electric motors on all four corners?
It’s Gonna Happen
The Corvette has been lauded as a supercar for half the price or less, and Chevrolet is not about to abandon its legacy of screaming V-8 performance. But a hybrid or all-electric model will help to meet upcoming emissions and fuel economy standards. Plus, it will add some topical green cachet to a marque known for consuming large amounts of gasoline.
Throwing some electrons at the Vette wouldn’t break new ground. Tesla produced its electric Roadster starting in 2008 and sold around 2,000 units by the end of production in 2012. And with the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercars making huge waves, it is no wonder Chevrolet is considering dipping the Corvette’s toe into the electrified realm.
Further validation that motors and batteries are here to stay are in evidence with Acura’s new NSX hybrid with three electric motors, Audi’s all-electric R8 E-Tron Quattro, Aston Martin’s production-possible RapidE pure-EV concept and Porsche’s nod of approval for the 600 horsepower Mission E electric sports sedan.
And it’s not as if Chevrolet lacks electric vehicle experience, The second-generation Volt extended-range hybrid has already garnered high praise, while the all-electric Chevy Bolt EV with a “200 miles or more” driving range was shown in production form at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show and a week later at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
While it may or may not use the E-Ray name, an electrified Corvette will happen. What type of powertrain and when will it arrive are the unanswered questions for now.
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