CleanMPG Reviews the 2011 Chevrolet VOLT

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by xcel, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG]The premiere_PHEV proves to be “Best in Class” when it comes to bypassing the pump while still allowing a little fun behind the wheel.

    [fflash=left][/fflash] Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - June 20, 2011

    2011 Chevrolet Volt - $41,000 to start (not incl. tax credit), 35 miles AER and 37 mpgUS combined per the EPA.

    The Volt, named after Alessandro Volta, is a unit of electromotive force and is defined by the difference of potential that would carry one ampere of current against one ohm resistance. And while 99.97% of the world could care less what a volt actually is, those same 99.97% of the world population would love to own one.

    The Volt, a newcomer that we have been watching with great interest since the Concept debut on a cold January day in Detroit back in 2007 is finally here. Any number of CleanMPG members have done short hops in one with preliminary optimistic results (A Volt in Milwaukee) and it is about time we discover more about the Volt with a full week behind the wheel. Let me add that so far, the Volt’s design and capability is thus far proving it to be a lot better from behind the wheel than what we have come to understand from our reads online.

    With over one-hundred Volt stories from the initial concept release (GM’s Chevrolet “VOLT” shocks the industry) to minute detail on everything from pricing and tires to battery warranty and awards, is there much more that needs to be written up?

    The Volt is the car that is supposed change the transportation landscape. While it is unique, its high upfront price will preclude it from being a choice for the majority. That said, will the Lexus HS250h or CT 200h, BMW 3-series, Audi A3 TDI or Fusion/MKZ Hybrid when equipped similarly make sense by comparison to the Volt? Any vehicle that can save gasoline by the hundreds to thousands of gallons per year when compared to another is worth the price of admission. Especially when it saves fuel like the Volt can.

    2011 Chevrolet Volt

    The five-door, four-passenger Volt is designed to provide the benefits of a BEV without the range limitations associated with BEVs currently or soon-to-be available.

    Designed, engineered, built and delivered to customers over an extremely short 29 month development period, the Volt is offered in one well-equipped standard trim level, along with two option packages: a Premium Package and a Rear Camera and Park Assist Package.

    Regarding if the Chevrolet Volt is a hybrid or not, who cares. My experience with the Volt proves that the EPA rated 35-mile all-electric range (AER) is only a number on a sticker and that can be bested without breaking a sweat. The same holds true of the 37 mpgUS EPA rating. Even at 37 mpgUS combined, it will best most everything on the market including the Prius due to the fact it will rarely run on gasoline. Even when it does consume gasoline, is Fusion, Sonata and Insight-II Hybrid like fuel economy a bad thing?


    The 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be available in one trim level with two options packages. Standard appointments include an exceptional mix of features not found in lesser makes including the PHEV based drivetrain. For 2012, you have the ability to order a Volt with 7-option packages although pricing has increased from 2011 when similarly equipped. Full specification detail can be found on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt - Specifications page.

    Powertrain Overview

    The Volt is powered by GM’s Voltec propulsion system consisting of a 16-kWh Li-Ion battery and electric drive with up to .2 g’s of regenerative braking providing an all-electric range (AER) of 35-miles per the EPA. An 84 HP, 1.4L gasoline-powered engine provides an additional 344 miles of range from the onboard 9.3 gallon fuel tank until the car can be plugged in and recharged or refueled.

    Wheels and Tires

    The Volt rides on lightweight ALCOA sourced forged aluminum alloy wheels that weigh just 17.8 pounds each. The Volt arrives equipped with Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max all-season, low-rolling resistance tires optimized for electric vehicle range, noise, feel and performance.

    Battery Details

    The Volt incorporates an LG Chem sourced, 435-pound T-shaped, 288-cell liquid cooled 16-kWh prismatic Li-Ion battery pack manufactured in Brownstown Township, MI. It supplies energy to a 149 HP MGSet (Motor-Generator) to propel the vehicle.


    First impressions regarding appearance are always “in the eye of the beholder” and the Volt provides a good balance between an all-out aerodynamic engineering study and a combination of a practical, utility oriented hatchback mated to a sedan form factor.

    While some may think Prius, the one piece front fascia incorporating an almost enclosed grille seamlessly flowing into thin lenses spells aggressive. The chrome accent strip running the length of the doors adds luxurious appeal. The short rear overhang, attractive 17” wheels that fill the wheel wells, wrap around LED light bars, pronounced rear spoiler and the lower off-black plastic chin spoiler and sill guard say “sports car”.

    As a package, the Volt is unusually attractive for a compact platform and carries a profile that will age gracefully over time.


    Inside the Volt, a futuristic layout greets the driver. The front seats can be adjusted manually fore and aft, up and down and recline. Like the Cruze, heavily side bolstered front seats can be confining. Over longer stints behind the wheel, initial perceived discomfort proved to be a non-issue.


    Two, seven-inch, high-resolution and beautifully rendered full-color screens are included: One is a reconfigurable graphic cluster display that shows electric-only range, fuel economy, trip information, tire pressure information and other vehicle messages.

    Front and Rear Seating.​

    The rear seats are 40/40 split-folding providing a generous 18 + cu. ft. of cargo space when folded down. Regarding rear seat comfort is, they offer little room for passengers much taller than 5 ft. when a 6 ft. driver is behind the wheel.

    Rear seats up and down.​

    The center stack display features a touch screen and touch-control switches allowing control of the infotainment and cabin climate controls. An Efficiency (Leaf) switch accesses energy usage, power flow and charging screens as well. The center stack control layout is “busy” with the touch sensitive controls to small for ease of use. The radio is apparently always on when any screen is displayed on as you can only turn the volume down but not shut it off.

    The proximity key’s included fob has a remote A/C on button with allows drivers to remotely start the vehicle and precondition the cabin based on outside temperatures. You can start the car without removing the keys from your pocket or purse but you cannot unlock and open the doors without the FOB in your hands.

    Standard infotainment features include:
    • Navigation radio with 60-GB (30 GB for music storage) hard disc drive, AM/FM/DVD-Rom/MP3 playback capability, voice recognition, Radio Data System, Bluetooth and pause-and-play radio functions.

    • XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic/Weather, one of the industry’s most advanced, real-time information systems.

    • Premium, energy-saving Bose audio system with six speakers and subwoofer that really sounds good.

    • Five years of OnStar Directions and Connections service.

    The Volt protects occupants before; during and after a crash with crash-avoidance features including standard ABS, traction control and electronic stability control.

    The Volt’s body-frame-integral structure is almost 80 percent high-strength, advanced high-strength or ultra high-strength steel. Active occupant protection features include eight standard air bags and safety belts with dual pretensioners.

    In addition, the Volt has recently been awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick and earned an NHTSA 5-Star crash test rating on what is arguably the toughest crash test regimen in the world!

    IIHS Top Safety Pick


    NHTSA 5-Star Crash Test Rating



    Through a simple menu, you can schedule an immediate charge or delayed one to take advantage of off-peak pricing. You can also manage and monitor the Volt remotely via computer on; or an exclusive smart phone application, Chevrolet Mobile App powered by OnStar MyLink. I have not attempted to use any of the remote apps yet and I do not know if they are available as this is a press fleet Volt and not my own.

    Charging, ingenious LED lighted charging plug, stowed under rear floor and velcro strap attached to mat.​

    The Charging Cord, plug and reel are a true work of art. Not only is there a dedicated storage location under the rear hatch floor for the entire cord, plug and reel, it is also wrapped with a Velcro strap. When you place the reel assembly on the carpeted mat, it will stick as if it were meant to be tossed in the back hatch and forgotten. In addition, there is an LED light on the bottom of the charge plug so that when you are going to plug your vehicle in at night, you have a small light in order to see the port for an easy connection. Both of these features were missing on the Prius PHEV charge cord we drove previously and proves GM was thinking outside the box when they designed the Volt.

    Shelf to lift reel while plugged in.​

    The only item of note is that all PHEV charging cord and reel are heavy and hanging them off a standard outlet is probably not in your home’s best interest long term. Make sure you have a shelf to lay the reel on when charging.

    Charging the Volt’s battery through a 120V conventional household electrical outlet took on average 9.5 hours over the course of three complete charging cycles. 12.9 kWh/Charge was the average power input from empty to full.

    Charging Status Indicator (on the dash)

    A solid green glow and quick horn beep is displayed when charging commences. This takes just a few seconds after plugging everything in.

    When it is flashing green, it is fully charged.

    If there is a long delay between green flashes, it is plugged in, the battery is not charged and you have setup the charging to be delayed to receive off-peak rates. There will be two horn beeps soon after plugging in the charger signaling the delay is active.

    If there is solid or long flashing green and four horn beeps, this indicates there is insufficient time to fully charge the battery per your predetermined and setup charging schedule.

    If the indicator is yellow, the vehicle is plugged in but the charging system has detected a fault and it will not charge.

    2011 Chevrolet Volt Warranties

    Volt owners receive both a a battery and vehicle limited warranty coverage. In addition to the eight-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on the Volt’s 16-kWh Li-Ion battery, Chevrolet will provide:
    • Three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage
    • Five-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation
    • Five-year/100,000-mile limited gas engine coverage
    • Six-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection coverage.
    Drive Impressions

    The Volt’s MacPherson strut-type front suspension, torsion beam rear end and rack-mounted electric power steering system deliver a stiff ride with a particularly solid on-center feel. The low center of gravity provides a confidence inspiring handling solution no matter the conditions experienced. The only area where the Volt felt out of sorts is when running over sharp edged small curb entrances with noticeable noise and harshness intrusion into the cabin and through the wheel.

    The Volt’s top speed is 101 mph with a 0 to 60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds and while we will never test either of those two specs, the VOLT has better straight line performance and cornering attributes under electric mode vs. most other sub-compacts and compact conventional, hybrids and diesels we have driven recently. Simply a very well sorted out electric drivetrain and chassis tuning and my compliments to the engineers that designed it.

    CD Mode (Charge Depletion or EV mode)

    Good acceleration, low noise in a city/suburban environment and plenty of range to make much of even a longer trip comforting knowing little to no fuel will be consumed. At highway speeds, a lack of noise attenuation will be noticeable as your speed climbs.

    During our week, we saw a 71.6 and 75.7 mile all-electric range off a single charge during city/suburban drives and a 50.9 mile all-electric range drive during a 95% all-highway drive with CC set at 55-mph.

    75.7 miles on a single charge.​

    Regarding energy efficiency, the weeks all-electric driving was a well received 195.2 Wh/mile or on an MPGe basis, 172.2 MPGe.

    On an electricity cost basis, 198.2 miles were driven for just $4.25. Compare that to even the most fuel efficient car in America. That being the Toyota Prius at the rated 50 mpg and $4.00 per gallon fuel would have cost you $15.86.

    CS Mode (Charge Sustaining or Hybrid mode)

    The Volt’s 1.4L engine spins up to approximately 1,900 RPM and runs at a heavily loaded 99% for a minute or two before dropping back to a more reasonable 1,400 to 1,500 RPM when driving in CS mode. The engine will then shuts off at which time you transition to CD like EV driving mode. During the engines initial start, you can both feel and hear it ramp up depending on your speed (unless masked by exterior wind noise and high volume stereo). While this would not normally be a problem, the Volt operates under this condition not for just an acceleration to highway speed but a prolonged period and until it settles at a lower RPM, it felt disconcerting to those of us more sensitive to “noise”. Fortunately, the Volt will not continue to drone at that high LOAD, higher RPM area for long although it does repeat.

    Regarding fuel efficiency, the odometer study concluded that the Volt traveled 14.6 miles per Trip A/B when 14.8 miles were actually traveled for a 1.35% under report of actual miles traveled.

    Over a country/suburban drive route of 57.8 miles, 57.8 miles * 1.0135 (from odometer study) = 58.58 miles traveled. 1.086 gallons was consumed from top off to top yielding 53.94 actual mpgUS.

    The Volt’s aFCD displayed 55.4 mpgUS, a 2.7% over report of actual mpg’s received.​

    What should be emphasized here is that to perform this review, CS mode had to be driven for a significant period. If it were not for the review, < 5-miles would have been driven on gasoline and that is what makes the Volt such an interesting vehicle.

    2011 Chevrolet Volt - Conclusions

    [fimg=left][/fimg]While expensive, the Volt is fun to drive. The best description from behind the wheel would be “solid”. From the feel of the wheel to the straight line and cornering stability, the Volt was designed well from the handling perspective.

    The EV range bested my own early expectations with over double the EPA’s stated 35-mile range in a city/suburban environment and almost 50% higher when driving the Interstate with CC set to 55 mph. BEVs are already hyper efficient and the Volt providing what it did proves GM was really pushing the envelope when designing the Volt as an electric car.

    As a fuel consuming hybrid vehicle however, it will not best any of its hybrid rivals from the Prius, Fusion/MKZ or Sonata Hybrid’s. It did provide enough fuel economy so that during the rare instances when you are traveling far beyond the plug, the pain at the pump will be minimal.

    The charging cord reel and plug were over the top in build quality and features and I was really pleased with the thought that went into it.

    On the downside, the initial CS engine run modes was noisy and I could hear MG1 charging the pack. This is something you want to verify before taking possession of your own.

    The Volt’s Mountain Mode is best left for those instances when you know you will need power to climb a 10,000 + foot mountain range up ahead as the high LOAD and RPM during its initiation does not supply a pleasing tone or feel from inside the Volt.

    The shift lever while in Park is located in an opening within the dash and seemed out of place for this otherwise well designed vehicle.

    To say the Volt cannot compete with any number of automobiles in the compact class including the Cruze based on price or size depends on what the buyer is looking for. If it is someone looking at the absolute bottom line total cost of ownership, the Volt is not going to fit his or her needs but for the individual considering a Lexus CT200h, HS 250h, Fusion or MKZ Hybrid, Audi A3 TDI or even a BMW 3-Series, the Volt is something that should be considered. If for nothing else, the ability to make the greenest of statements while enjoying a car with a bit of soul :)

    It may not have the room of competing products in its price range but it certainly has the capability and advanced tech to satisfy just about everyone.

    For the Volt's week long drive with much more detail including a number of sharply contrasting opinions, the CleanMPG reviews the 2011 Chevrolet Volt - Review Blog should prove worthy of your time.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2011
  2. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    Possibly the best pic of a Volt I have seen to date!


    Chevrolet Volt owner Guiseppe Vumbaco III said he snapped this photo of his Volt at the Dunedin Causeway in Florida. Thanks for sharing via FB Guiseppe.

  3. msirach

    msirach Well-Known Member

    That was definitely a "Kodak moment."

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