Chevrolet Volt Test Drive: Video of Driving GM's Electric Car

  • Published on July 9th, 2009 by
 

Editor’s Note: This is a 4-part series covering my trip to Michigan to test-drive the Chevy Volt. See also: 1. LiveBlogging from the opening of GM’s New Battery Lab, 2. Chevy Volt Test Drive: How GM’s Electric Car Works 3. Tour of GM’s New Battery Lab. Disclaimer: GM flew me out for this event.

“Remarkably Unremarkable” has been the phrase of choice when describing how the Chevy Volt prototype drives.

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And that’s really a compliment, since the car was engineered for consumers who won’t accept compromise, even for a an electric car.

I got a chance to drive the Chevy Volt prototype on June 8th, and although the test model was still housed under a Chevrolet Cruze skin, it gave me a good feeling for what the final version will be like.

Chevy Volt Test Drive

The interior of the Cruze doesn’t do the car justice, at least in terms of space and aesthetics. The center divider seemed poorly fitted for the Volt’s T-shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car (which also precludes a 5th seat in the prototype and final versions). Frank Weber, who accompanied me on the the 45-minute drive, said that everything about the interior would change for production.

But I wasn’t there for comfort, and the final “integation” models of the car should be finished now anyway. The real guts of the Volt were all there: a 120 KW three-phase AC induction electric motor, which drives the front wheels, and a substantial amount of battery capacity (400 lbs. worth to be exact).

It’s always exciting to drive a prototype, especially one as widely anticipated as the Volt, and once I got into the driver seat it was immediately clear that GM accomplished their stated goal:  the Volt feels like any other comparably-sized car. The only difference is that it’s silent, which gives it the feeling of a luxury sedan.

Everything else is completely normal—except that it’s an electric car.

See Photos Below or Continue to Page 2.





About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.
  • Jay

    Weird how they keep calling it an electric car. What kind of electric car burns gasoline to be an electric car? Oh yeah, a hybrid.

    This is NOT an electric car by definition. An electric car’s purpose is to NOT produce emissions.

  • Jay

    Weird how they keep calling it an electric car. What kind of electric car burns gasoline to be an electric car? Oh yeah, a hybrid.

    This is NOT an electric car by definition. An electric car’s purpose is to NOT produce emissions.

  • Will

    Great Review. Were you given the opportunity to see how many miles you could drive on pure battery. What was your top speed on battery power? Toyota reports only 13 miles on battery power in their plug in hybrid. I have driven 4 miles on battery before the gas engine kicked in on the 2010 Prius. We will have to see if its hype or reality.

  • Will

    Great Review. Were you given the opportunity to see how many miles you could drive on pure battery. What was your top speed on battery power? Toyota reports only 13 miles on battery power in their plug in hybrid. I have driven 4 miles on battery before the gas engine kicked in on the 2010 Prius. We will have to see if its hype or reality.

  • Tim Cleland

    Personally, I’m glad it “is NOT and electric car”. I have absolutely no interest in an all electric car, but a hybrid that I can drive daily as though it were an all electric car, but also allows me to take it on long trips…I’ll buy one of those.

  • Tim Cleland

    Personally, I’m glad it “is NOT and electric car”. I have absolutely no interest in an all electric car, but a hybrid that I can drive daily as though it were an all electric car, but also allows me to take it on long trips…I’ll buy one of those.

  • Tim Cleland

    Please forgive the typo in my quote above. It should be “an electric car” not “and electric car”.

  • Tim Cleland

    Please forgive the typo in my quote above. It should be “an electric car” not “and electric car”.

  • Blogmeire

    Why post pictures of the exterior if it’s just a cover up?

    Terrible review. No technical details. Just “drives like a regular car”. Whooopie. You really got the scoop there, boy!

    Gas 2.0 is a joke. For kids under 6 who can read a little bit.

  • Blogmeire

    Why post pictures of the exterior if it’s just a cover up?

    Terrible review. No technical details. Just “drives like a regular car”. Whooopie. You really got the scoop there, boy!

    Gas 2.0 is a joke. For kids under 6 who can read a little bit.

  • Hey Jay, it qualifies as an electric car because it doesn’t have to burn gasoline. I’ve said this before– technically it’s a series plug-in hybrid–but I think these distinctions are largely confusing to most people.

  • Hey Jay, it qualifies as an electric car because it doesn’t have to burn gasoline. I’ve said this before– technically it’s a series plug-in hybrid–but I think these distinctions are largely confusing to most people.

  • @Will They didn’t give us enough time to really test that out, although we must have driven it 20 miles or so. I got up to about 55-60mph on battery power.

    Those conversions done by hymotion will kick the battery on whenever there’s a chance. Keep your eye out because we’ll have a story on some alternatives soon.

  • @Will They didn’t give us enough time to really test that out, although we must have driven it 20 miles or so. I got up to about 55-60mph on battery power.

    Those conversions done by hymotion will kick the battery on whenever there’s a chance. Keep your eye out because we’ll have a story on some alternatives soon.

  • @Blogmeire: That’s why I included links to my previous posts. Wonderful how this interweb thing works.

  • @Blogmeire: That’s why I included links to my previous posts. Wonderful how this interweb thing works.

  • David Stone

    This is an electric car.

    The purpose of an electric car is to be propelled by an electric motor, to use electricity only.

    This car does exactly that.

    Electricity is not just there – it has to be generated.

    There are many ways to do this.

    Even if you use it from coal, the ev stays an ev.

    This car has an electricity generating plant on-board, completely independent of the drivetrain.

    It matters not to the battery nor to the electric motor where the power comes from, on-board or off.

  • David Stone

    This is an electric car.

    The purpose of an electric car is to be propelled by an electric motor, to use electricity only.

    This car does exactly that.

    Electricity is not just there – it has to be generated.

    There are many ways to do this.

    Even if you use it from coal, the ev stays an ev.

    This car has an electricity generating plant on-board, completely independent of the drivetrain.

    It matters not to the battery nor to the electric motor where the power comes from, on-board or off.

  • David Stone

    This site would be a joke, unless you consider who it is meant for.

    From what I can see, it is primarily, if not exclusively, for the masses.

    Unfortunately the majority of them have the maturity level and attention span of a six-year-old.

    To change anything, you need to reach these people.

    You can’t do that if you make it too difficult for them.

    Sites such as these are very important.

  • David Stone

    This site would be a joke, unless you consider who it is meant for.

    From what I can see, it is primarily, if not exclusively, for the masses.

    Unfortunately the majority of them have the maturity level and attention span of a six-year-old.

    To change anything, you need to reach these people.

    You can’t do that if you make it too difficult for them.

    Sites such as these are very important.

  • Brian

    I am very happy that the volt seems good. It is about time, rather it is very much past time. In truth, 1960 would have been late. We really need to get away from, or at least reduce as much as possible, oil/gasoline consumption.

    This plug-in hybrid type of technology holds, I think, the most promise as it is so compatable with the infra-structure (electricity, gasoline stations) that exist now.

    Other ideas are great, keep them coming, but most lack the functionality of being able to use an infrastructure that is already mature and widespread.

  • Brian

    I am very happy that the volt seems good. It is about time, rather it is very much past time. In truth, 1960 would have been late. We really need to get away from, or at least reduce as much as possible, oil/gasoline consumption.

    This plug-in hybrid type of technology holds, I think, the most promise as it is so compatable with the infra-structure (electricity, gasoline stations) that exist now.

    Other ideas are great, keep them coming, but most lack the functionality of being able to use an infrastructure that is already mature and widespread.

  • Is it funny that independants with basic tools, 2,800.00 dollars and a donor car can reach 120 miles per charge, (usually six hours per charge), and contain it’s own charger. The big three tell us that to build a car to those specs would take 4 or 5 years to implament! Isn’t that the same mind set that got them in trouble durring the 70’s. The big three should be ashamed of themselfs! Boycott the big three! Hope they all go out of business, like they did to Tucker!

  • Question Geek

    I wish General Motors would stop smoking whatever they’re smokin and stop embarrassing the American public.

    By the time this car is ready for the public it will be almost 10 years behind the competition

    And it doesn’t look good at allthat GM got rid of their EV1s when everyone liked them to introduce this; which should already be on the market by now! What is wrong with this corporation? What are they gonna do next, discontinue the Volt after three and introduce another gas guzzler like the Hummer? Perhaps the next generation Hummer will be called BUMMER.

    Stop using the American public and its streets as your test track GM. It’s not good for PR or business

  • Question Geek

    I wish General Motors would stop smoking whatever they’re smokin and stop embarrassing the American public.

    By the time this car is ready for the public it will be almost 10 years behind the competition

    And it doesn’t look good at allthat GM got rid of their EV1s when everyone liked them to introduce this; which should already be on the market by now! What is wrong with this corporation? What are they gonna do next, discontinue the Volt after three and introduce another gas guzzler like the Hummer? Perhaps the next generation Hummer will be called BUMMER.

    Stop using the American public and its streets as your test track GM. It’s not good for PR or business

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  • Anatole Maher

    I’ve been attempting to obtain details ( facts) of what moves this Chevy Volt so far have read

    1) there is a 400 lb 16kwH capacity lithium ion battery pack that will supply the energy for the first 40 miles

    2) After that a 1.4 litre gasoline (could be any) engine kicks in. This drives a 53 kw Generator

    3) The generator can supply current EITHER to the battery OR to

    4) A (nominal) 150 HP (111 kW), 273 lb-ft torque motor which drives the front wheels, presumably through a (single ratio) gear reducer

    I’m uncertain if this is an EITHER-OR control or if the generator can feed BOTH the battery AND the motor simulataneoulsy

    150 HP, 273 lb-ft torque corresponds to 2885 rpm which would be the speed of a 2 pole asynchronous motor at 50 Hz.

    At the max car speed of 100 mph, the corresponding wheel speed with 22 inch tires is 1527rpm

    This suggests a gear reducer with a 1.88:1 ratio

    5) What I originally thought to be a dc motor might in reality be a 3 phase asynchronous a c motor controlled electronically by PWM inthree phases.Somehow there is regeneration when the car decelerates, (this is obtained through a planetary gear arrangement on the Prius hybrid)

    My old Honda Civic, 1.5 litre gasoline engine, 4 speed AT could give me around 20/22 miles of city driving on a gallon of gasoline, that would correspond to around 0.29 kwH per mile, 11.6 kwh for 40 miles

    if anyone has a confirmation , or otherwise, of the above and further information, this would be much appreciated.

  • Anatole Maher

    I’ve been attempting to obtain details ( facts) of what moves this Chevy Volt so far have read

    1) there is a 400 lb 16kwH capacity lithium ion battery pack that will supply the energy for the first 40 miles

    2) After that a 1.4 litre gasoline (could be any) engine kicks in. This drives a 53 kw Generator

    3) The generator can supply current EITHER to the battery OR to

    4) A (nominal) 150 HP (111 kW), 273 lb-ft torque motor which drives the front wheels, presumably through a (single ratio) gear reducer

    I’m uncertain if this is an EITHER-OR control or if the generator can feed BOTH the battery AND the motor simulataneoulsy

    150 HP, 273 lb-ft torque corresponds to 2885 rpm which would be the speed of a 2 pole asynchronous motor at 50 Hz.

    At the max car speed of 100 mph, the corresponding wheel speed with 22 inch tires is 1527rpm

    This suggests a gear reducer with a 1.88:1 ratio

    5) What I originally thought to be a dc motor might in reality be a 3 phase asynchronous a c motor controlled electronically by PWM inthree phases.Somehow there is regeneration when the car decelerates, (this is obtained through a planetary gear arrangement on the Prius hybrid)

    My old Honda Civic, 1.5 litre gasoline engine, 4 speed AT could give me around 20/22 miles of city driving on a gallon of gasoline, that would correspond to around 0.29 kwH per mile, 11.6 kwh for 40 miles

    if anyone has a confirmation , or otherwise, of the above and further information, this would be much appreciated.

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