Green Car of the Year
The 2017 Chevrolet Volt remains the only range-extended electric car but if you can live with four seats, it's smooth, quiet, comfortable--and one way into the future of cars.
It's what's under the hood that makes the Volt special, of course. The 2017 Volt remains one of a pair of GM vehicles using the Voltec range-extended electric powertrain (the other is the very low-volume Cadillac ELR coupe). Using a gasoline engine as a backup for longer distances makes the Volt different a battery-electric car that can only be "refueled" by plugging it in to recharge--closer to that of a hybrid. And while its 38 miles of rated electric range may seem very low, it's enough for almost 80 percent of the journeys made by Canadian vehicles. For the rest, the engine gives unlimited range at the cost of a 10-minute fill-up. But Volt owners report that they cover 65 to 80 percent of their total miles on grid electricity--and, on average, visit the gas station every 900 miles, or just once a month.
The Volt's lithium-ion battery pack, shaped like a giant T, is mounted in the large tunnel between the front seats and extends underneath the rear seats. For 2017, it holds incrementally more energy--17.1 kilowatt-hours--than last year's 16.5 kWh. While its EPA-rated range of 38 miles remains the same, owners may find it can go slightly further on battery power in real-world use than the previous models. Once that range depletes the battery, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine switches on to power a generator that produces more electricity to keep the Volt going for another 250-plus miles.
But unlike plug-in hybrids, the range-extended electric Volt's battery must be depleted before the engine turns on--its electric motor is powerful enough to run the car under any circumstances until then. That contrasts to plug-in hybrids--including the Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi models and the plug-in Toyota Prius--which turn on their engines under maximum acceleration regardless of battery state.
Owners are so astoundingly passionate about it. Be one of them, own a Volt today.
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