First Drive: Chevrolet Volt
For fleets looking to source this clever range-extending vehicle, the obvious strategy is to go to Opel/Vauxhall with its well-established fleet credentials and vast dealer network.
But Chevrolet is keen for a slice of the action too. Although specified more towards the tastes of retail buyers, Chevrolet believes it can make in-roads in the European corporate market, because this car is unique – and that’s not a claim manufacturers can often make, even though they try.
Susan Docherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet Europe said: 'The Volt is the first mass-produced car that combines the efficiency and carbon footprint of an electric vehicle with a range and degree of flexibility previously unthinkable in this segment.'
She might be right: the powertrain is certainly very clever. The Volt has a 150bhp electric drive unit consisting of two electric motors, with a 1.4-litre petrol engine that never directly powers the wheels, instead being used to produce electricity for the electric motors when the stored energy in the battery has been used.
What this means in reality is that you have around 40-50 miles of stored energy and another 220 miles using this on-board generator. The clever bit is how strategic you can be, ‘holding’ your stored energy for areas when it can be used at its most effective and cutting the range extending mode in for energy sapping stretches.
We managed a solid 40 miles on battery, which then settled down to an overall 74.3mpg average over 90 miles, which was made up with at least half of the journey with high-speed motorway driving. If a driver’s commute is less than 40 miles, they will hardly use any fuel ever as long as the car is plugged in at home and work.
There are a number of innovations that help economy: the grille has been closed for enhanced aerodynamic efficiency. The car is immensely slippery – as aerodynamic as most sports cars thanks to its sleek body – and by reducing the energy needed to overcome air resistance, Volt aerodynamicists contributed an estimated 8 miles of electric range, and 45 miles of extended range. Even its special lightweight 17-inch wheels are made of forged aluminium. Special low rolling-resistance tyres were developed specifically for the European market to provide optimum electric vehicle range, noise, feel, and dynamic performance.
The electro-hydraulic brake system contributes to recharging the vehicle’s battery pack during braking. It enables 100% regenerative braking, 100% friction braking (traditional disc braking), or any combination of each.
The stationary charging can be done to suit the driver: using a standard power outlet, owners can fully recharge the battery in six hours. The Volt can be charged in three ways. In “immediate” mode, charging begins as soon as the vehicle is connected to an electrical outlet. In “delayed departure time” mode a time is selected via the touch-screen, and charging is automatically completed in time for a scheduled departure.
For the third mode, Volt owners can save money by choosing when the battery is recharged – perhaps at night for example.
The Vauxhall Ampera is fleet’s first port of call, but the Chevrolet Volt is just as refined, just as stylish and just as clever. Don’t forget it.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Range-extended electric vehicle
Price: £29,995 (after £5,000 grant)
Electric range: 50 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 27g/km
Charging port: J1772