If GM is to be believed, the Chevrolet Volt is the future of all cars – clean, green, running on cheap fuel, and innovative. But further investigation of what lies under its hood exposed some doubts on the carmaker’s claims, clouding the entry of what is otherwise an exceptional car.
Electric car with Extended Range
Since the beginning, GM touted the car as different from the usual class of hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, and from the purely electric driven cars like the Nissan EV.
The Volt is equipped with a battery-powered electric motor and a gas engine. The car can go for 25 to 50 miles between recharges depending on how it is driven, the terrain, and other environmental factors. But what happens after the battery runs out of juice is the source of the controversy between GM management and car enthusiasts.
Not a Hybrid, Not an Electric Car
Normally, hybrid cars will shift to using the gas-powered engine once the battery runs out of charge, which is the logical solution to avoid getting stranded before the car reaches its destination or the nearest charging station. Toyota Prius relies on this technology, and so do other hybrid cars from other carmakers.
In the case of GM and the Chevrolet Volt, the company loves to give the car an aura of being different by insisting that the car runs on pure electricity. Although the car is equipped with a gas-fed motor, GM points out that it does not directly drive the car engine, but rather supplies electric charge to the car battery after its charge runs low. This distinction is very important to GM because it puts the car in a class of its own.
Careful observations and tests done on the car by different groups exposed this claim as somewhat vague. Results from the test drives done by different groups forced GM to admit that the gas-powered engine directly takes part in driving the car at higher speeds, an admission that is a complete turnaround from GM’s initial position.
Innovations and Awards
For all the controversy and confusion that heralded the arrival of the Chevrolet Volt, it is hard to argue against the advanced technology installed under its hood. It solved the problem that plagued owners of electric cars by placing a gas-powered engine alongside its battery driven motor to extend its driving range to 350 miles.
The car won the Green Car Vision Award of 2009, to which it added the World Green Car award, Green Car of the Year award, and North American Car of the Year, all in 2011. Just recently, the car was recognized as the 2012 European Car of the Year.
These recognitions take away some of the rebukes that GM suffered for withholding important details about the Volt before its official release in 2010. The criticism got so bad that some reputable car magazines accused GM management of lying.
The innovations that GM put into the Volt are not going away, as other car manufacturers are already following the Volt’s design with their own. In the end, GM might have opened a better way for car owners to enjoy their daily drives while saving precious dollars on fuel.
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