Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top Five Insights from Our First Drive of Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt Test Drive, San Francisco

General Motors yesterday gave electric car enthusiasts and a handful of journalists an opportunity to spin the Chevy Volt around a parking lot next to San Francisco�"s AT&T Park. had its first two or three minutes behind the wheel, spoke with the Volt team, and came away with these insights.

1The EV miles are the easy ones. Charge sustaining mode is the tough part.

Tony Posawatz, Volt vehicle line director

Tony Posawatz, Volt vehicle line director. (Photos: Bradley Berman. All rights reserved.)

The most widely known fact about the Volt is that it can travel for up to 40 miles using only electricity, before the engine comes on to maintain the battery pack�"s state of charge. During those first 40 miles, the Volt behaves just like a pure electric car. There�"s simply not much more to say about the driving experience and handling than it drives like an electric car: speedy, smooth, and whisper-quiet. (It will take some more time behind the wheel to determine if we like the dashboard instrumentation, which at first blush seemed slightly overwhelming.)

So, the unique proposition, and technical challenge, of the Volt is what happens after those 40 electric miles. �SThe EV mode was the easy thing,⬝ said Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Chevy Volt. The hard part, according to Posawatz, was using the vehicle�"s sophisticated software to �Sblend and smooth out⬝ how and when the engine is employed to extend the driving range.

�SAt low speeds, the engine almost never comes on in charge sustaining mode. At high speeds, we take advantage of running the RPMs a little bit higher, but never to a point where it affects the pleasability of the car. The engine is never roaring.⬝

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