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Chevrolet, Drives, Hybrid/EV — August 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm

2012 Chevrolet Volt: First Look


Here’s a first look at the latest Ride of the Week, the 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt is not a huge-volume seller, but unless you’re a Chinese Olympic athlete who’s been sequestered away, training for London 2012 over the past four years, you’ve almost certainly heard of it. That’s because the car has received plenty of attention for its high-tech drivetrain. The Volt is an EV, or electric vehicle. Well, mostly. Unlike the Nissan Leaf which is fully electric, the Volt is a actually a plug-in hybrid or PHEV. It’s like the Fisker Karma in that it can store enough energy in its batteries to provide considerable electric-only range, but it also has a gasoline engine and generator to generate electricity when the batteries are depleted.

If you’re still unclear on exactly how the Volt works, blame Chevy. The automaker is responsible for some of the confusion because it first described the vehicle as “all-electric,” then later called it “more car than electric.” Huh?

To be clear, the Chevy Volt is a gasoline-electric hybrid that can be plugged in. It’s that simple. So, here are the details on the test car.

The 2012 Chevy Volt is a four-passenger, five-door hatchback with a starting MSRP of $39,145. The front-wheel drive vehicle is powered by a 149-horsepower electric motor, bolstered by an 84-horsepower, 1.4-liter gasoline engine to generate electricity. Fully charging the Volt’s lithium ion batteries from empty with a 240v charger takes about 4 hours, or 10-12 hours with a standard 120v household source. With a fully charged battery and a full tank of gas, the Volt can travel about 35 miles on electricity alone or a total of about 379 miles on a combination of electricity and gasoline. The EPA rates fuel economy for EVs using MPGe, or equivalent miles per gallon. The Volt is rated at 94 MPGe when running solely on electric power. Running on gasoline only, it’s rated at 37 mpg.

The base price may seem steep, but plug-in vehicles are extremely inexpensive to operate. The EPA estimates annual fuel cost of $1,000 for the Volt and, according to the window sticker, a Volt driver would save $7,600 on fuel over 5 years, compared with the average new vehicle. Plus, Chevrolet offers a list of standard features one might expect on a Buick or Cadillac, like a proximity key with push-button start, auto headlights, power outside mirrors, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen audio system with auxiliary inputs, and Bluetooth. The test car packs a in navigation, a 30-GB hard drive and DVD audio for $1,995, plus the $1,395 premium trim package that adds perforated leather seats (heated in front) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Bose speakers tack another $495 to the bottom line.

Quick Specs: 2012 Chevrolet Volt

body type4-passenger, 5-door hatchback
as-tested price$43,880
engine size/configuration1.4-liter inline-4; 111-kW electric drive motor; 55-kW electric generator motor
horsepower/torque (hp/lb-ft)149/368
fuelpremium unleaded
EPA fuel economy rating - combined city/highway electric only (MPGe)94
EPA fuel economy rating - combined city/highway gasoline only (mpg)37
option packagesaudio/navigation, premium trim package, Bose speakers