Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Oct 12

Will Gen-two Volt compete more effectively with Tesla Model S?


Could the Volt “spark competition” with the Tesla Model S?

Are they competitors, complementary, or in completely different segments?


In common obviously enough is they both plug in.

The Volt’s an extended range EV, and the Tesla is a pure EV. Ostensibly they are in different segments and if we had a diverse market of electrified cars, this rhetorical question might seem as relevant as asking if a Cadillac XTS competes with a Toyota Camry.

But at this juncture, these are the kinds of questions we are getting. Nor is it the first time, but that may be OK if it gets more people thinking.

In any case, different people will draw different perspectives to come up with an answer, but the two cars are similar enough that The Street says competition is possible, and accompanies the headline with a video.

The video shows Executive Chief Engineer Pam Fletcher driving around Sausalito and surrounding areas fielding questions.

“GM’s 2016 Chevy Volt is all-new and will hit showrooms in 11 states across the country at the end of October and at a fraction of the cost of a Tesla Model S it will likely give electric car enthusiasts another option to consider,” says the caption posted in USA Today.

What do you think? What is the real world effective range of Model S? Is it a plus to pay for that big battery – and get a large, fast luxury performance car (also made in USA)?

Volt’s 53 mile range-extended approach may work for a lot more people. If the “40” mile range target of gen one met the needs of over three-quarters of Americans, won’t gen two be so much better for most?

What else can be said for competitive pros and cons between the Volt (aside from the Volt stickers for less than half a $76,000 Model S)?


Oct 09

Why the ’16 Malibu Hybrid Gets Better MPG Than The ’16 Volt




A mystery has been solved.

What mystery? How the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid gets an estimated 5 mpg better fuel economy than the 2016 Volt when running in gas-burning hybrid mode even though both use the same essential “drive unit,” or gas-electric transaxle.

The 1.5-liter compact-class Volt is a 53-mile extended-range EV, but in gas operation after the battery is depleted, it essentially morphs back to a 42 mpg hybrid. The 1.8-liter midsized Malibu is a full time hybrid with preliminary mpg estimated at 47 mpg, has more power and is physically larger as well.

To observant readers, something did not check this spring when the hybrid Malibu was introduced. The Volt had been revealed with fanfare in January, and General Motors made quite the to-do about the Malibu being co-developed with the Volt to set a new benchmark in efficiency.


But, some reasoned, if the Volt was the new “halo” eco car for General Motors, how was it being trumped by the Malibu in any of its operation modes? Its EV range is class leading, but why should its mpg be less than a bigger sibling using its own powertrain? As it is, this is the case.

At the time, people speculated why this could be. Chevrolet did not provide the answer to us upon request, and that was a recipe to stir the pot more.

SEE ALSO Why Does Chevrolet’s New Volt Get Worse Fuel Economy Than The Malibu Hybrid?
After all, think about it. The 1.8-liter engine in the Malibu Hybrid could burn more fuel than a 1.5 liter in a Volt. A larger car as the Malibu is presents a broader frontal profile so that could add to mpg-sapping wind drag. Higher system power derived more from the gas engine in the Malibu over the Volt led common sense to conjecture if anything, the Volt should get better mpg. The Malibu has slightly wider tires too.

Some people took to guessing. Perhaps, some offered, because the Volt has a big 18.4-kilowatt-hour battery it’s much heavier than the Malibu with its small 1.5 kwh pack.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Review – First Drive
Nope. The cars are within 86 pounds of each other. The Malibu is 3,457 pounds, the Volt 3,543, and the weight of one half-grown kid is not enough to cause a 5 mpg disparity.

So What is the Answer?

It’s all attributable to differences in the two cars’ powertrain, and trade-offs were made.

In short, the Volt is optimized to operate as an EV with gas backup, and the Malibu Hybrid is simply a regular full hybrid.

Since the Malibu Hybrid always uses gas, like a Toyota Prius or other hybrid would, it was optimized for maximum fuel efficiency.

It also when launched will enter the hotly contested mid-sized hybrid sedan space presently dominated by the 40/41 mpg Toyota Camry Hybrid, 42 mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid, 41/42 mpg Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and best of all – 47 mpg Honda Accord Hybrid.

Volt drive unit.

Volt drive unit.

A Volt-like 42 mpg would have made the Malibu Hybrid just average when General Motors is coming from behind into a market in which its eAssist mild hybrid had been its only offering.

The Volt on the other hand is meant to avoid using gas altogether. It already was in a class by itself above blended plug-in hybrids with 38 miles EV range. Its new 53 miles is now nearly double the next-nearest 27-mile EV range Hyundai Sonata PHEV, so that is its primary competitive advantage.

A weak point had been the Volt’s 37 mpg in premium-gas operation, and the 2016 now runs on regular returning 5 mph better economy, so that is a plus.

Click to enlarge. This image was shown last week to analysts by GM while touting its profitability, and investment potential.

Click to enlarge. This image was shown last week to analysts by GM while touting its profitability, and investment potential.

Engineers had also been tasked to cut costs from the Volt and Malibu and this they have. Last week during its Global Business Conference, the company said it has increased Volt profit potential by $3,500 per unit.

In reality, automakers have to pick their priorities on what they can profitably deliver at a price point.

Other items not on the Volt include an independent rear suspension that the Cruze gets, and unavailable is a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger, even as an option, and despite owner requests. The Volt is altogether improved, but a few things had to give.

With that as background, the Malibu Hybrid is different in three fundamental ways, according to Greg Hubbard, chief engineer, Electric and Hybrid Propulsion Systems. These roughly add up to the missing 5 mpg estimated as follows.


The Malibu Hybrid is the first Chevrolet to utilize Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery (EGHR) but the Volt does not have it.

This innovation uses heat that would otherwise go to waste to warm the cabin interior as needed and the engine.


This engine heating lets the car warm to peak efficiency faster. In a hybrid that does not have the Volt’s luxury of running very far with gas engine off, this is a priority.

The Volt on the other hand caters to people who want to stay off gas. Its engine might have gotten EGHR, and all the thought behind the decision was not explained, but it would have added more cost to a car in which hybrid mode is a secondary operation.

SEE ALSO: What Makes More Sense – 2016 Prius or 2016 Volt?
At least the argument can be made to that effect. The top-mpg hybrid, the Prius, may get 55 mpg or better, so the 13 mpg disparity has remained the same from 2015 to 2016 between the two loosely compared rivals. Where mpg in gas operation matters for the Volt is when people want to travel farther than EV range.

High-mileage drivers have to weigh this when considering a Volt. If the Volt got up to 50 mpg, it would have been less of a head-scratching moment, but this is what we have. EGHR would not in itself have added to that much, but it is part of the formula of why the bigger Malibu nets better gas mileage.

2 MPG – Permanent Magnet Motor

The Malibu utilizes two permanent magnet motors, both utilizing rare earth materials. The Volt utilizes a ferrite magnet design in its smaller of two electric motors.

Hitachi-supplied Volt motor.

Hitachi-supplied Volt motor.

Sometimes people get confused about rare earth permanent magnet motors versus GM’s ferrite motor and they think the ferrite motor is an induction motor. Actually, the ferrite motor is still a permanent magnet motor. Its permanent magnets are just made from ferrite (iron) instead of from a fancier mix of magnetic metals that include rare earth metals.

The Volt’s design is actually a benefit in that it cuts cost, does away with rare earth materials often sourced from China and with potential supply and cost instability. It does save on production costs in the Volt but is fine for EV mode, less ideal in hybrid mode.

On the other hand, the Malibu Hybrid’s motors have better suited torque and electrical efficiency characteristics for hybrid operation.

1 MPG – Performance Tuning

The Malibu upon acceleration leads with power from its gas engine, but the Volt leads with its electric motors.

This gives the Volt a more fluid, instant torque EV feel even in hybrid mode and is easier for the Volt to do with power in reserve in its large li-ion battery – even when it is “depleted” it has usable energy.


The Volt favors immediate use of the battery to provide fast reaction to driver demand and then the gas engine follows along later.

The Malibu Hybrid however has a smaller battery, so makes more immediate use of its gas engine during acceleration.

This avoids conversion losses the Volt experiences from using the battery and then recharging it from the gas engine in the Volt.

Two Different Solutions

If GM had told bean counters to take a hike, might it have pulled off 50 mpg for the Volt?

That’s not known, but more certain is human psychology tends to desire more of everything. Realities however more often dictate a different outcome.


The Volt as mentioned, is meant to run as an EV with gas backup in charge-sustaining mode. It does things the Malibu cannot like avoid gas for months on end.

SEE ALSO: Here’s Why The 2016 Malibu Hybrid Could Launch GM’s New Hybrid Era
The Malibu Hybrid is to be competitive in its market segment.

One might speculate still more could have been done, but GM has engineered both vehicles to the best they can be within constraints.


Improvements are ongoing, and not out of the question is whether the Volt in a couple years might see a bump in its battery capacity, as was the case in 2013 and 2015. A 0.5 and 0.6 kwh increase came in two year intervals after the 2011 introduction and Volt gen-one had a 16.0, 16.5 and 17.1 kwh pack during its life.

What else might we see? No doubt customers will keep providing feedback which was used to redesign the gen-two Volt.

After speaking with executives and engineers, it is plain GM knows what its customers have asked for and will keep working to improve its products.


While we both quizzed GM’s engineers, thanks to Jeff N who got further clarity on some of the info in this article.

This article also appears at


Oct 08

Spy Photos reveal Chevy Bolt interior


While we’ve seen GM-presented pics of the outside of the Bolt, inside has been undisclosed.


Spy photos posted to AutoGuide show a series of angles of a partially masked EV unofficially expected to debut as a 2017 model year.

Central is a big LCD touchscreen which, while not as gargantuan as the one in a Tesla Model S, is bigger looking than the 8-inch screen in a 2016 Volt.

Other buttons for climate and infotainment are found below.

The concept Bolt was rather minimalist, but this one has vents along the dash from the instrument cluster.

The LCD gauges also looks techie and undoubtedly GM aims to please.

Since the pictures are copyrighted, we can’t display them.

Photos of the outside of the car are also there.



Oct 07

GM to start testing self-driving Volts next year


Things are developing fast …


By Jason Siu

GM has announced that it will be testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Volts late next year.

The fleet of 2017 Chevrolet Volts will be seen roaming around the American automaker’s Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich., and employees there will be able to summon one of the Volts and select their destination through an app, much like Uber but without a driver. The program will serve as a rapid-development laboratory aimed to provide data and lessons to help expedite GM’s technical capabilities in autonomous vehicles. According to GM, it has been testing the “Super Cruise” autonomous driving technology since 2012 and confirmed that the feature will be available on the 2017 Cadillac CT6.

The company also announced two new car- and ride-sharing projects, one in New York City operating today and another that will come in the first quarter of 2016 in another U.S. city. These projects will further expand GM’s participation in alternate transportation models, helping generate additional revenue and profits.

“The convergence of rapidly improving technology and changing consumer preferences is creating an inflection point for the transportation industry not seen in decades,” said GM CEO Mary Barra. “Some might find this massive change to be daunting, but we look at it and see the opportunity to be a disruptor. We believe our decades of leadership in vehicle connectivity is fundamental to our quest to redefine the future of personal mobility.”

Source: GM Outlines Plans to Capitalize on Future of Personal Mobility

This article originally appeared at


Oct 06

GM confirms 2016 Chevy Bolt production



As has been unofficially reported until now, last week General Motors confirmed it will begin production of the 200-plus-mile range Chevy Bolt next year.

The occasion for the disclosure was a presentation by Executive Vice President and President, North America Alan Batey speaking to analysts at GM’s annual Global Business Conference in Michigan.

The Bolt is expected to be priced in the upper 30s, and net at around $30,000 after federal subsidy. It is being seen as a general response to Tesla which aims to reveal a similarly priced and range Model 3 next spring. How similar the two cars will be beyond range and price remains to be seen, but this is a key common denominator.

A document released by GM hints what Batey stated.

A document released by GM hints what Batey stated. Bolt EV is shown in the back of the row.

Batey however did not confirm what month the Bolt will begin production, or its model year. Aforementioned prior unofficial reports have said it would be a 2017 model, and that appears reasonable. Michigan analyst Alan Baum has projected production for fall 2016, though again, GM is not saying yet.

SEE ALSO: What We Know About The Chevy Bolt

The revelation was thus not a normal general public announcement, but came in the course of General Motors saying how far it is in its advanced-technological pursuits.

Bolt production for 2016 was confirmed again by Chevrolet media representative Michelle Malcho.

Along with the disclosure by Batey, a pdf provided says GM will be paying $145 per kilowatt-hour for li-ion cells entering 2016, and by the end of 2021, and a forward looking statement says $100 per kwh.


Chevrolet says it’s aggressively pushing the Bolt into production-ready status. It has said it has 55 mules, and 1,000 engineers at work on the EV.

The pdf is further good news, because it shows 2016 costs for LG Chem cells are quite competitive with price ranges reported for Tesla, which itself is seen as ahead on the EV curve. GM is making it cost effective using LG Chem cells and this supplier is accessible to the entire industry.

SEE ALSO: Chevy Bolt is Sharp End of the Spear For GM’s Push Toward Electrification

Tesla has said a goal of its Gigafactory is to also hit that $100 price point as soon as 2020 to enable it to transform itself from a relative boutique maker to mass production enterprise. It has said the Gigafactory was needed in part to achieve economies of scale, but GM’s disclosure indicates the industry will be in step anyway.

Such costs are a positive portent for electric cars as batteries have been a hurdle. Just a few years ago they were believed triple the cost, in the $400-500 range for a Chevy Volt, for example, though this was also not from an official GM public statement.

Now that the cat is out of the bag however, EV fans can only hope GM will now say more, such as a more-certain date for Bolt, more specifications, whether the range could be significantly more than 200, and so forth.

Ahead of Tesla

If Tesla comes through and reveals the design of the Model 3 next March like Elon Musk has said, it will be 1.25 years after GM showed the Bolt.

Tesla says it will have it for sale just one fast year later or so — some time in 2017 anyway, so maybe as much as 1.75 years later.

As it is, GM will have its Bolt already in place. Will Model 3 actually be a like competitor? It’s been suggested it could be an alternative to a BMW 3 Series, etc. That’s not Bolt-like.

Tesla says it will start at $35,000. To date, the company has been late on predictions before, and Model S was once promised at $57,400 (just under $50k with federal credit).

Does anyone think it will find a way to up-sell Model 3 customers to the 40s and 50s? And how then is that a “mass market” car?

Then again, with battery costs dropping, maybe Tesla can do it. Thoughts?


And while often we hear of Tesla as a competitor, the BEV to be reckoned with may be the Leaf. Carlos Ghosn has said it will be competitive with the Bolt, and they have a head start in the modern li-ion electric car arena.

They have already demonstrated a mule with 250 miles range and there have been several reports that 200-plus is in the works for 2017.

Leaf is priced in the Bolt’s ballpark, and won’t make pretensions as a Euro sedan beater. It will be there.

How do you think the Bolt will fare?


Oct 05

2016 Volt first drive



General Motors has a secret new car called the 2016 Chevy Volt.

It can run 53 miles solely on battery power before a gas engine takes over for 420 total miles, is more fun than an “eco” car has any right to be, and we’re here to tell you about it.

What? You say you already know about the Volt? You say it was first introduced late 2010 and is the first plug-in car to receive a full redesign after a full product life cycle?

OK, so you are one who knows, but apparently a lot of people do not know in this country of 320 million. Although analyses have shown the subsidized and cheap-to-fuel Volt could pencil out better than a Prius, its annual sales have never matched a good sales quarter for the Toyota.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Review – Video

Reasons for this are many, nuanced, and could fill their own article. In brief, the Volt still has critics, surveys and anecdotes show many people still don’t: 1) understand what it can do for them, or 2) see the value, or 3) even know it exists.

2011 Volt.

2011 Volt.

Part of this is because Chevrolet stopped marketing it outside of California and tech fairs at least as far back as some time in 2013. GM quit making sales projections after 2011, its former CEO called it a “political football” in April 2012, and the company nearly tucked its tail between its legs, relegating it into a “niche” product.

Well, no more, says the automaker. Product Manager Darin Gesse says its continuation to a second generation proves the company believes in the car. It benefits from generation-one Volt owners’ feedback, he says, and with the redesign Chevrolet hopes this will be a new beginning.

Steve Majoros, Chevrolet director of car marketing, says they will now advertise gen two as it rolls out this year and next, and if they do it right, this new Volt could experience a turnaround. If any car could be said to deserve it, this underappreciated one does.

Media Intro

As the first Volts are shipping to dealers in California and 10 states that follow its emission rules, Chevrolet invited media to the town of Sausalito just north of San Francisco to put the compact car through its paces.

Before we hit the road, however, its lead engineers were on hand to discuss what is the single most distinguishing characteristic about the Volt – its powertrain – which has been called by some who understand its inner workings “truly a work of art.”


The Volt is by definition a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) but Chevrolet distinguishes it as an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) because unlike blended PHEVs, it can stay in the e-zone all the way till the battery depletes. It’s also unique in that its 53-miles electric range is more than double the next-nearest 19-mile Ford Energis, and pending 27-mile Hyundai Sonata PHEV.

The Volt’s “53” is actually combined. The EPA rates it for 57 all-electric miles in the city, and 49 all-electric miles highway. Efficiency has also been improved in gas operation to 43 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 42 mpg combined on regular gas from a former 37 mpg combined on premium, and “miles per gallon equivalent” (MPGe) is 113 city, 99 highway, and 106 combined. To qualify this a bit, sometimes “combined” MPGe is calculated as a combined gas-plus-electric efficiency using a Utility Factor that estimates a typical driver’s daily drive and that would result in a different and lower number.

Aside from the Volt-powered Cadillac ELR – which does not get the updated EREV platform by the way – the 2016 Volt is in a class of one; there’s nothing else like it.

Among new features is an integrated inverter eliminating heavy orange cables. The new transmission offers increased efficiency, more flexible operating modes, and does not significantly increase parts count.

Among new features is an integrated inverter eliminating heavy orange cables. The new transmission offers increased efficiency, more flexible operating modes, and does not significantly increase parts count.

For 2016, the “drive unit” – the gas-electric transaxle – was redesigned. It’s 100-pounds lighter, and shed rare earth magnets in the smaller of its two motors and reduced them by 40 percent in the larger. It delivers more torque at 298 pounds-feet over the former 273, and the same 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts).

Inside the drive unit now are two connected planetary gearsets. One motor is 117 horsepower (87 kilowatts), the other is 64 horsepower (48 kilowatts). They are connected by a sophisticated traction power inverter module (TPIM) and merged with a new all-aluminum 1.5-liter Ecotec. It features direct injection, 12.5:1 compression ratio, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and a variable displacement oil pump, and is rated for 101 horsepower at 5,600 rpm.

Formerly, the 2011-2015 Volt used a single planetary gearset and more powerful motors, at 74 horsepower (55 kilowatts) and 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts) respectively. The larger of two motors did most of the heavy lifting. The new design lets both lighter motors work together or singly.

TPIM and motors.

TPIM and motors.

The drive unit is different from generation one, but the EREV principle is retained. In EV driving, it’s a new feature that the two motors can work together so – despite smaller motors – total power is actually higher than in the original Volt. This allows the 243-pound lighter, 3,543-pound 2016 Volt to accelerate from 0-30 mph in 2.6 seconds – within realm of what a 60-kwh Tesla Model S can do, give or take a tenth of a second.

This new drive unit was also designed from its inception to enable GM to spin off hybrids at will, and the 2016 Malibu Hybrid was co-developed with a similar drive unit, but only 1.5-kwh battery, and no plug.

So, in the course of building the new Volt, GM may finally become competitive with Toyota in the regular hybrid space as well. The pending Malibu Hybrid is rated 6-mpg higher than the Camry Hybrid, thus the Volt is paying dividends before the first example is even delivered to a customer.

Power for the Volt is supplied by a new 18.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery replacing the former 17.1. Fewer and larger LG Chem cells are used, and the T-pack sheds 20 pounds.

SEE ALSO: 6 Way The 2016 Chevy Volt Has Been Improved

When the battery is depleted – actually when the computer tells it to stop delivering power after about 14.0 kwh used – the gas engine kicks on. This is about 76 percent usable power of the nominal 18.4 total kilowatts, and GM upped it from about 65 percent of the battery used on gen-one.

With an exemplary reliability record, the decision was made to use more of the battery. It is warranted, and ought to last a normal consumer lifetime’s usage, barring complications.


Recharging takes about 4.5 hours on 240-volt level two power, or 13 hours for 120-volt house current. Many Volt owners don’t opt for level two, but some do. Some also wanted a bigger on-board charger, and it is, 3.6-kw instead of 3.3 which makes charge times comparable when charging at 240 volts. But not available is a 6.6-kw charger as some requested. This would have enabled quicker recharging, and some said they’d have paid extra for it, but this is one of the cost-reducing compromises GM settled upon.

Aside from those looking to charge intraday, or simply faster, most will be fine with this, however, as overnight charging on wall current is still all many will do.

Per normal electrified vehicle practice, the electric motors also generate power back to the battery, and serve in regenerative braking.

If you want a technical deep dive, here’s a great one from February.

With one of the authors, Jeff Nisewanger, along for our drive, we were told by GM engineer Tim Grewe “it’s correct” as he talked rocket science (Volt engineering) with us.

But for now here’s what you need to know: the powertrain works well.


The new Volt’s body is supposed to have been inspired both by endurance athletes, and windblown sand. In the event you are not up on subtleties of quasi-abstract notions from the world of art and design language, we’ll just note it’s more swoopy and retains certain cues from gen-one.


It also fits into the Chevy family line, echoing the new Cruze, with a dash of Honda Civic and pinch of Kia Forte thrown in for flavor to its three-box design. It looks like a sedan, but is actually a hatchback.

Inside, another facelift took place. Gone are haptic feedback controls, in place are very tasteful and functional knobs and buttons. A nice high-resolution 8-in touchscreen is reminiscent of an iPad Mini, and Apple CarPlay is one of numerous apps and functionalities.

Next year when the 2017 arrives early spring for the 39 states not getting it this year, Android Auto will be an option. Those with 2016 Volts will get a free software update for Android Auto at that time. Reports of self-driving Volts, if you heard any, were of a test fleet being developed, not an option for production vehicles. Yet.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

An issue for some will be GM’s compact Delta II platform. While room is great up front, even for long-legged folk wearing a cowboy hat, in back it’s only adequate. The rear legroom grew 0.6 inches, headroom shrunk 0.2 inches, and a mid seating section added at driver request is OK for kids, or other lithe people for short hops.

Front seat adjusted for driver with 34-inch inseam.

Front seat adjusted for driver with 34-inch inseam.

Asked why Chevrolet went with a compact, Gesse said they mulled the options, and chose it as it’s a hot class of car for eco. And realistically, while everyone wants more of everything – including interior space – a whole lot of people actually commute solo or maybe with one passenger.

The Drive

Chevrolet already had the longest EV-range for a gas-electric car on the market, short of a BMW i3 REx – which has less utility potential due to its 1.9-gallon gas tank.

The new Volt widens its pre-existing advantage with 13 more miles over an effective 40 miles the 17.1-kwh Volt could muster unofficially.

If you’re new to this, and say big deal to 13 miles EV range, that is enough to put many more people over the top and keep them in battery only for daily driving.

Based on OnStar data, Chevrolet expects an average 1,000 miles between fill-ups to its 8.9-gallon tank, which could work out to close to 120 mpg plus cost of electricity.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

Many will do much more than this, and the car has been known to go for months without turning the gas engine on aside from it briefly automatically running to maintain engine lubrication every six weeks.

On our drive, we saw 54 miles range alternately pushing it and nursing it by using the paddle on the left backside of the steering wheel for regenerative braking. In gas operation, we averaged 40 mpg though depending on conditions, this will vary above or below several mpg.

The regenerative braking paddle – the right-side paddle is a split multi-function switch –was adopted from the Cadillac ELR, and every electrified vehicle ought to have one. It significantly increases battery replenishing energy up to 60 kw, or about half of max output. It feels like brakes, but it works a bit more abruptly. The driver is not able to lightly feather or modulate it like friction brakes, but it’s definitely better to have than not, and the brake pedal still lets you feather regenerative braking.

Inside, comfort is great. This could be a road trip car, especially for two in the spacious front, or with kids in back in the just-OK rear seat room.

Sight lines are improved, the A-pillar is not as obtrusive as in gen-one, but still beefy for rollover safety. Manually adjustable seats to save weight don’t seem like much of an inconvenience, but we hear people say they wish they had the option for power seats.

The new gauges, and controls are attractively laid out following cues from the new Chevy family. The new touchscreen works nicely with a smartphone – we used an iPhone 5S with CarPlay – and experienced no wonkiness.

But while cars are morphing into rolling desktops and phone booths, they are still meant for driving, and our route could not have been better to test handling, highway, and around town.

A claim to fame is the Volt is fun, and that it was – on curve after curve of surreal tight twisties on a long stretch of Route 1 above San Francisco.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

The Volt doesn’t protest when pushed, though tire scrubbing could be heard as we challenged the low rolling resistance Michelin tires built for Volt fitment.

Doing ham-fisted moves like braking with the paddle regen into tight slow corners made the front tread scuff more, but overall, this is a decent handling car.

Product Manager Gesse estimated if you switched to summer rubber, you’d get better grip but maybe lose a couple miles range, and a mpg or two in gas operation. Most won’t feel the need.

It is no Subaru WRX, but definitely beats a 2015 Prius and some other ordinary cars in its class. Toyota is saying the new 2016 Prius now handles better, so we’ll see when we drive it in mid November, but really, the Prius is only loosely a competitor.

Augmenting the Volt experience is the famed “instant torque.” Push the accelerator and it goes. We were not confused that we’d taken out a Camaro Z28 by mistake, but it will be satisfying for most drivers.

On the highway, it’s smooth and with plenty of passing power. One thing still present is a “thrumming” noise of reverberation in the ears can occur when a window is lowered, particularly in the back.

Gone however is a polite pedestrian warning honk sound button on the left stalk. Instead the car emits a sort of fan-like sound at speeds below 19 mph. It can’t be heard inside the car, but people outside can hear it.

Incidentally, quickest acceleration according to Greg Hubbard, chief engineer, Electric and Hybrid Propulsion Systems, is from the motors operated by the battery, not the internal combustion engine.

The gas engine, not incidentally, may run in battery preserving Hold mode which suspends EV operation, saving it for later, or Charge Sustaining mode – the phase that takes over when the battery is depleted. Both Hold and CS do the same thing, but Hold sustains the battery’s state of charge while there is enough energy left to run in EV mode, and CS is a default state when propulsion energy is no longer available.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

The difference between gas or electric operation will be imperceptible to most anyone, but on paper, a smidgeon more propulsion energy is available in EV mode. So, to settle some misinformation we’ve seen on the forums, quickest 0-30, 0-60 etc, is with gas engine off, says Chevrolet. Unfortunately we were unable to run our own track tests during this drive event.

On our drive, once the juice ran out, the Ecotec engine seamlessly came on in CS mode as per normal Volt practice. Noise, vibration and harshness are muted better than the kind-of grindy 1.4-liter iron block mill that came before.

At odd intervals, the TPIM may decide to opportunity charge and rev the engine without actually applying that energy to the front wheels to accelerate, of course. We heard this a few times on rolling terrain, after cresting a rise.

Bear in mind, this is an extremely sophisticated managed powertrain.

According to Grewe, a dedicated system optimizer computer takes into account recent driving behavior. Five different computers cooperate to control the powertrain. If one computer decides to emulate the computer named Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey, and go off the deep end, the other computers can veto its commands to ensure redundant safety.


Chevrolet’s powertrain makes it hands-down the most effective gas-saving hybrid on average-length daily trips in the world. This is fact. A study presented to SAE showed it outdoes all other plug-in hybrids. And, U.S. Energy Department-run Idaho National Lab has shown it goes nearly as far on electricity as pure EVs.

Qualifiers to its gas-saving include on longer trips, perhaps over 100 miles, the Volt’s EV advantage averaged in with 42 mpg gas operation diminishes next to superior fuel sippers such as regular hybrids.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Chevy Volt Can Burn Less Gas Than Any Other PHEV

The preeminent regular hybrid, a 2016 Prius, may get 55 mpg and on long trips it would be superior. Also, emissions advantages are a toss-up depending on upstream emissions, if applicable. Renewable electricity magnifies the Volt’s environmental potential significantly. More info can be seen at


In any case, the Volt stands to help American manufacturing, the environment, and energy security. The 2017 will rise to 70-percent U.S. content when the Flint engine plant comes online and Mexican engines are switched out sometime into the model year.

The new Volt is furthermore evolved, so it benefits from lessons learned from the first round of buyers.

As for looks, the move to “mainstream” aspirations, has the Volt blending in, and odd “eco” car design was never the Volt’s thing, but it did previously stand out more.

Frankly, until now, General Motors has been said to be sending mixed messages with the Volt. Former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz once said it might “leapfrog” the Prius, its history never bore that out, and Chevrolet’s present lead marketer literally said he was not in on that conversation, and finds it irrelevant to what the Volt has become.

SEE ALSO: Can the 2016 Volt Break Beyond ‘Niche’ And Go ‘Mainstream?’

So the Volt wants to be mainstream, but it’s been a niche. Is that an oxymoron? A mainstream niche product? And plug-in car watchers are still scratching their head, looking for a congruent message this time. Chevrolet is working to spread excitement, but changed plans in September so 39 states will not receive 2016s. It says it wants to nail down the 11 states, get set up, and move forward. Observers are hoping this won’t be mixed messages round two.

But if something about the Volt is a deal breaker for you, there’s always the Ford Fusion Energi, 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV, others in this class, or whatever else works for you.

The well-balanced fun-yet-frugal Volt should however please more people than not.

Price starts at $33,995 including $825 destination. An upscale LTZ trim starts at $38,345.

Eligible for a full $7,500 federal tax credit – a couple thousand more than the PHEVs – and state subsidies where applicable, its total cost of ownership can prove amazingly good.


How good? Edmunds True Cost To Own calculator has shown last year’s 2015 model priced at $32,500 after dealer discounts could earn back the difference and then save an average driver in Southern California $6,000 in five years compared to a $21,400 Chevy Cruze.

The 2016 ought to do better, and it should sell better.

In question is whether Volt sales will surprise analysts who predict the 200-mile range 2017 Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 will steal sales after the first year.

SEE ALSO: Is the 2016 Volt Worth Buying?

Maybe, maybe not. That there’s upward potential is clear. This Volt has been reinvented, and we think it has paid dues, not all of them justified. Perhaps it’s due for a rebound?

We certainly hope so. For all the fair and unfair observations focused on this Chevy over the last half decade, it is a winner and the new one is better.

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