I was impressed with the Chevrolet Volt after a recent drive from Cambridge to Milton Keynes in GM’s new range-extended electric vehicle. I say ‘drive’, but it was more of a game of ‘how many miles can you tease out of the battery?’.
Chevrolet claims anywhere between 25-50 miles is possible on electric power alone if you’re starting with a fully charged lithium-ion battery pack.
Our trip followed a 91-mile route on varied roads and included a quick stop for a cuppa and a driver swap. At the start of our journey we made serene, quiet progress using just the Volt’s electric power. To begin with, I tried to drive steadily. The gauge indicating the remaining battery charge decreased encouragingly slowly, with our consumption of power partly offset by the charge recovered by Chevy’s regenerative braking system.
After a few miles, however, I was curious about how rapidly the battery would drain if I drove more aggressively, plus it was great fun to boot the Volt’s accelerator and feel that satisfying surge of instant torque. No prizes for guessing that this kind of behaviour reduces battery life by a fair lick.
We ‘ran out’ of battery charge after 35 miles, at which point the range-extender 1.4-litre petrol engine kicked in to generate more electrical juice. I expected a large ‘boing’ or some kind of klaxon to indicate the activation of the engine. All that happens is that the dashboard graphic changes to indicate the switch to internal combustion engine, and there’s a little bit more noise.