Better... EverythingTime flies! I still remember when the original boxy concept version of the Chevy Volt debuted at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. At the time it was quite radical, and with the success of the Prius hybrid, many people were impatient to go to the next level and be able to plug-in to charge the battery and drive more in electric-only mode. The production version of the Volt started rolling off the assembly line in late 2010, and while it wasn't as angular as the 2007 prototype, it did deliver on many fronts, getting a great score in owner surveys. Last summer, Volt owners passed the 500 million electric miles mark, equivalent to not burning about 25 million gallons of gasoline.
But the Volt hasn't changed much during the past 4 years, and it was time for a refresh. The new 2016 Volt was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show by - who else? - GM CEO Mary Barra:
How did GM make the Volt better? Well, they pretty much cranked everything up just a little bit.
For example, there's a new two-motor drive unit that is 12% more efficient and 100lbs lighter, while providing 19% faster zero-to-30 mph acceleration (2.6 seconds) and a 7% improvement from zero-to-60 mph (8.4 seconds). The first motor can generate 149-horsepower and the second 60-hp, for a combined 294 lb-ft of torque.
The battery capacity has also been boosted from 17.1kWh to 18.4kWh (now divided among 192 individual battery cells, which is 96 fewer than the current generation). The chemistry has been revised and the batteries are made by LG Chem. The battery is also lighter by 20lbs, and the warranty on it is an impressive 8 years or 100,000 miles (10 years / 150,000 miles in ARB states).
The gasoline engine that kicks in when the battery is depleted was also upgraded to a new 1.5-liter model that gets 41 MPG when powering the Volt. The overall fuel economy (electric + gasoline combined, using the EPA methodology) is now 102 MPG-equivalent, compared to 98 MPGe for the previous model.
Also quite obvious just from looking at it is the fact that the new Volt was made even more 'slippery' through the air to improve efficiency.
“With electric vehicles, such as the Volt, aerodynamics play a more important role in efficiency than conventional vehicles,” said Nina Tortosa, aerodynamics engineer. “The knowledge we took from the first-generation Volt and other recent Chevrolet cars allowed us greater leverage to work with a more flowing design.”
The car also has a new shutter system behind the front grille that will reduce airflow at higher speed to optimize air drag vs. cooling requirements.
Combine the higher battery capacity with the more efficient drivetrain, air drag and weight reductions and the 2016 Volt can now drive 50 miles in electric mode, compared to 38 miles for the previous model (that's a 31.5% improvement!).
Charging time will be about 4.5 hours at 240v.
The interior is always a matter of taste, but it looks quite good and functional to me.
The thing that I find most exciting about the new Volt is the 50 miles of electric range. That will make a big difference, because as the EV range goes up, the number of people who have regular commutes that would require the gasoline engine to kick-in drops dramatically. This means that most Volt owners will be able to do most of their driving without burning a drop of oil!
Pricing hasn't been announced yet. I would expect it to come out in the coming months, and to be similar to the current-generation Volt.