In a bizarre two-pronged attack on the world’s media, while Hilton Holloway was cruising down Michigan Avenue, GM was letting me sample the pioneering Chevrolet Volt range-extender saloon on a closed road near Shanghai.
The Volt goes on sale in China at the end of next year, almost exactly
the same time as we’re going to get it in the UK. However with the
sheer number of cars being sold in the Chinese market, GM China boss,
Kevin Wale, told me that he is confident that he will find plenty of
buyers for it in Asia.
In fact, most industry observers think that Chinese buyers will be far quicker to adapt to forms of electric propulsion than in the US or Europe, For a start, there’s less of a legacy of ‘normal’ car ownership, and crowded mega-cities such as Shanghai really lend themselves to being navigated by battery power.
Frankly though, after my brief stint behind the wheel of the Volt, it deserves to succeed wherever it’s sold. Yes the technology makes it considerably more expensive than a conventional mid-sized saloon, but that technology certainly works well.
It has lovely linear acceleration and well-weighted controls. So much so, that apart from the eerie lack of noise, I soon forgot that I was in anything other than a conventional car. Did I hear the petrol engine come in? Only once when the battery had been completely depleted, it was in range-extender mode and I was piloting up a steep incline and on full-bore acceleration.
In just battery mode you can theoretically get 50 miles out of it, although the reality for anything other than the most careful drivers will be about 40 miles between charges. That would be more than fine for my daily commute.
The rest of the car is thoroughly conventional. It looks and feels, just what it is – an American saloon. So I’d be hoping that the near mechanically identical Vauxhall Ampera has a slightly higher quality interior and a slightly more pliant ride.
That said, it’s hard to imagine the Volt not being the successful start to a whole new breed of car.