Do people misunderstand the Chevy Volt?

How badly does the public misunderstand the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car? Pretty badly indeed, if the comments received by Volt owners are any indication. The first Volt was revolutionary. Its extended-range technology turns the car from a pure electric vehicle to one that uses fuel to maintain charge in the battery, making range anxiety a thing of the past.


The numbers are impressive: Volt owners have driven more than 700 million pure electric miles since 2010, and the next-generation Volt will only increase that. Chevrolet expects Volt owners to go more than 1,000 miles between fill-ups with regular charging, and with the improved electric range of Volt, 80 percent of Americans can drive their daily commutes without using a drop of gas — because the majority of daily commutes in the U.S. are around 50 miles or less.


Most consumers fail to comprehend how the Volt works, why any car with a 50+ mile electric range could possibly be appealing, and so forth.


(1) "It runs out of charge and dies after 30 to 40 miles, leaving you stranded at the side of the road."

Volt is a plug-in electric vehicle, meaning owners can charge the battery using the standard 120-volt cord that can plug into any outlet or with the available 240-volt home charging station. Volt uses two electric motors that work in unison to operate efficiently: depending on speed, load, and other factors, one or both may kick in to power the car.When the battery depletes, the gas-powered generator kicks in to continuously provide power. If you can’t charge, you can simply go to a gas station and fill up. "Owners can go anywhere, anytime, without having to worry about whether they have enough power to go through the Rocky Mountains or on a spontaneous weekend getaway," says Larry Nitz, executive director of GM Powertrain Electrification and Engineering team. It’s the end of range anxiety.

The Volt battery powers the electric motors. The new generation battery has 192 lithium-ion cells, providing 18.4 kilowatt-hours of energy — enough for up to 53 miles of pure electric driving on a full charge. The battery is larger but lighter than in the previous-generation Volt. That’s because engineers eliminated about a third of the battery’s cells, while also reconfiguring it to produce more energy capacity per cell.

Once the battery gets low, the Volt’s gas-powered generator seamlessly switches on to continuously provide electric power and keep the car going. It runs on regular gasoline and, with a full tank and full charge, Volt has a total range of up to 420 miles. The generator has a cast-aluminum block and cylinder heads, direct fuel injection, and is rated at an EPA-estimated 42 miles per gallon combined city/highway.

A Chevy Volt complements our Nissan LEAF, giving us the best of EV flexibility. Both can share the same Level 2 (240v) charging unit.

A Chevy Volt complements our Nissan LEAF, giving us the best of EV flexibility. Both can share the same Level 2 (240v) charging unit.

The battery delivers electricity to the electric drive unit, and the two electric motors work in tandem to optimize efficiency of the car. This smart technology helps increase the car’s all-electric range. Engineers created a kind of online co-pilot that learns what the driver wants to do and responds in a way to best use the two motors.


(2)" Owners have to replace the battery every three or four years."

Chevy warrants the Volt battery for 8 years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles (depending on the state it was sold in), and early indications seem to be that battery-capacity loss has been almost nonexistent.

It's worth noting here that GM's Voltec engineers took a very, very conservative approach to the battery, using less of its total capacity than in almost any other plug-in car.

They also equipped it with liquid cooling, a step that adds expense and some complication but probably offers the best possible way to keep the battery at the optimal temperature for long life.


(3) "Recharging the battery costs the same as filling a gas tank--but every night--and will bring down the electric grid."

No and no. The average U.S. household pays 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, so recharging a Volt battery costs less than $2 to go 35 or 40 miles--the equivalent of an 80-mpg car if gas costs $3+ a gallon.

And electric utilities are confident in their ability to handle the slowly increasing draw from electric cars, especially if they're recharged overnight when power demand is lowest. They say the effect of electric cars will be far less disruptive to the grid than was the quick adoption of cheap home air-conditioning in the 1960s and 1970s.