TEST DRIVE: Inhabitat Lives with the Chevy Volt for a Week
What we noticed first when driving the Chevy Volt is that the range of the battery pack varies from charge to charge. We averaged 37 miles estimated total range (the estimate sinks by up to 3 miles if you suddenly hit the gas), and were a little annoyed at first when we discovered that the Volt couldn’t make it round-trip from our country test site to town and back without engaging the generator – until we realized we were traveling 30-40 miles at a time without using any gas. The thing about the Volt is that it will never leave you stranded, as its gas generator can give you an extra 300 miles of range, so even if you live too far from Trader Joe’s to make the trip without engaging the engine, you’re still doing it with 90% less gas than in your traditional engined car. We got used to the range quirks and found that after a week of driving, we had only used 4 gallons of gas–including during our 24-hour experiment of not charging the car at all.
The Volt is well-built, a nice carryover from other new Chevy models, and it feels well worth the asking price of nearly $40,000 (though $7,500 federal tax credits may still be available in your area to bring that number down). The Volt is quiet, has plenty of power to get you up to speed on the highway, and generally behaves like a hybrid, except for the fact that it has smooth electric power all the time powering the wheels. You occasionally hear the engine turn on and wonder if you’re driving a traditional car, but there is no laggy hybrid switch from EV mode to engine mode since the electric motor is always driving the wheels.
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