A CURRENT AFFAIR
Is now the time to hook up with a Volt?
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Nov 18, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Words and pictures by Roy Nakano The bottom line $28,145. That’s the price we got for a Chevrolet Volt, after factoring in the available rebates and tax credits. And that's not including the additional discount available through AAA (Automobile Club of Southern California for those of us in the Southland) referrals or what dealers may otherwise be willing to further provide. It’s quite a savings compared to the $40,000+ sticker price when the car was introduced. Granted, the federal tax credit was always there, but discounts were few and far between. Some dealers back then even went so far as to purchase the Volt from itself in order to collect the tax credit, and then resell the car as used. Now that the initial frenzy has worn off, that practice is all but gone, and in its place, a number of new incentives to make the car more attractive than ever. For starters, the price of a 2013 Volt as of this writing is now $39,145 (plus destination charges). Moreover, between now and January 2, 2013, General Motors has a $2,000 cash rebate plus 60-month zero percent APR financing program for the 2013 Volt (it’s $3,000 and 72 months zero percent financing for any 2012 Volts still left). California adds a $1,500 cash rebate for new Volt owners. And the big one: The federal tax credit of $7,500 (meaning, whatever you owe the federal government in annual income tax, reduce it by $7,500). That brings the net price down to $28,145 before we even add the AAA referral/dealer discount. The AAA referral seems to be one of the best kept secrets around. The American Automobile Association, known locally as the Automobile Club of Southern California, pre-negotiates with a select group of dealers for a flat discount on behalf of its members. The bargaining power of the AAA is considerable (13.6 million members for the So Cal group), allowing those with AAA referrals to be offered the club discount rate without the need to haggle with the dealer.
General tangibles And then there are the other tangibles associated with a Volt purchase: The availability of single-occupant HOV lane access stickers as a plug-in vehicle (in California – check availability in other jurisdictions), and potential discounts on your electric bill and for converting to 240 volt charging (consult with your utility company to see if they will defray the cost of the conversion). In order to get the price down from the original $40,000+, Chevy made GPS (global positioning system) an option rather than standard equipment. As for the GPS, Chevy says they found many of the Volt purchasers to be techno-geeks who preferred their own smart phone-based GPS. Another reason: The car already comes equipped with three years of the Onstar Directions & Connections Plan. Among other things, the plan provides turn-by-turn navigation service, with visual directions provided right on the standard seven-inch color touch screen. Who needs GPS? The car still comes plenty loaded. Even the base model has Bluetooth streaming audio for music and smart phones, voice recognition for phone, music and radio, compatible with Pandora and Stitcher with Gracenote (playlist and album art) capability, a color touch AM/FM stereo with CD player and MP3 playback, includes seven-inch-diagonal color touch-screen display, USB audio interface port, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with a three-month trial, Bluetooth phone connectivity, automatic climate control, proximity keyless access and ignition, MyVolt.com vehicle connectivity, universal home remote, three years of OnStar directions and connections service, and—get this—a remote vehicle starting system that can either warm up or cool down the car up to ten minutes before entering.
What’s new for 2013 For model year 2013, Chevrolet gave the Volt a minor makeover. Among the changes: The pure electric range is now 38 miles on a single charge, up three miles from the 2012 model. The EPA miles per gallon equivalent rating increases from 94 to 98 MPGe, the total extended range of the vehicle is now 382 miles. Chevy says its engineers were able squeeze more miles with minor changes to the material composition of the battery cell chemistry, resulting in improved performance and durability. “The best way to explain what we’ve done at the cell level is to compare it to a cake batter recipe. Sometimes if you use more sugar and less vanilla you get a better tasting cake. We’ve done some work at the cell level to modify the ‘ingredients’ to make a better end result,” says Bill Wallace, GM director of Global Battery Systems Engineering. “This attention to detail will allow our customers to experience more pure EV range, which is the true benefit of owning a Volt.”
The company confesses that the improved EV range capability will result in slight increases to the Volt’s charge times. A full recharge using a 120 Volt outlet now takes around 10.5 hours and 4.25 hours using a 240V charging unit. On the upside, Chevy says that its tests reveal less battery degradation and the ability to withstand greater temperature extremes. Also new for 2013 is a Hold drive mode (in addition to Normal, Sport and Mountain drive modes), which allows owners to use the pure electric mode when it’s the most efficient to do so (like in city driving). As with the late 2012 model, the 2013 Volt has a low-emissions package (e-AT-PZEV) to make it eligible for single-occupancy HOV-lane access in California and New York. The 2013 model also goes for a body color roof and liftgate over the previous black accents. Pebble Beige seats are another color option. There’s a removable rear center armrest with storage included in a Premium Trim Package, and an available Safety Package 2 includes front park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems.
Is it cost-effective? That’s the wrong question. Right about now is when a reviewer will feel compelled to do a cost-effectiveness analysis whenever it comes to electric cars like the Volt. If you want cost-effectiveness, however, buy a used beater. On the contrary, electric propulsion should be viewed as a luxury or premium—much like ordering a high-output V8 motor or a convertible top. The latter provides a great open sky experience at dawn and dusk, the former a major kick in the pants. Similarly, electric propulsion offers a silent, smooth, and stress-mitigating driving experience unmatched by conventional internal combustion cars. What makes the Volt even more unique is its ability to keep going after its pure electric mode is depleted. Room for Improvement Is there room for improvement in the Volt? Well, we can always hope for even better range in pure electric mode. GM hints strongly that greater range is forthcoming in the next generation Volt, in addition to a significantly lower manufacturer's suggested retail price. Aside from the obvious wish list, we hope the next Volt carries cut lines that aren't so noticeable (particularly on the lighter colored cars). Some of the gaps are big enough to remind one of the plastic-bodied Saturn days. Speaking of gaps, our car was delivered with front end panels that didn't quite line up symmetrically. Initially, we weren't sure if this was par for the Chevrolet fit-and-finish course, or whether the car was bumped before delivery. We brought the car to Sierra Chevrolet in LA Car's hometown of Monrovia. To its credit, the dealership's body shop took the time to fix the front end. Right now, the closest thing to the Volt in its price range is the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which operates for around 13 miles in pure electric mode before it kicks over to hybrid mode. The transition away from pure electric mode in the Volt is actually less noticeable than in hybrids. That's because the main purpose of the gas motor in the Volt is to power the generator, which in turn provides electricity so that the car continues to move on electric propulsion. Having lived with both the Prius Plug-in Hybrid and the Volt, we can tell you that there’s a big difference between 13 miles and 38 miles. Moreover, compared to the Prius, the Volt feels like a sport sedan. Take a corner in the Volt and you can feel its kinship to the Camaro—body lean is minimal and the grip is a cut above most green machines. Put the car in Sport mode, and you’ve got a driving experience that tastes as sweet as anything from Pinkberry. To read about living with the Chevrolet Volt, see "Going Electric - Living in the Electric Car World" To read Doug Stokes' review of the Volt upon its debut, see "Electric Shock Therapy" For more information about Chevrolet products, go to chevrolet.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $39,145 Rebates and tax credits GM cash rebate (through 01/02/2013): $2,000 California cash rebate: $1,500 Federal tax credit: $7,500 Net total: $28,145, plus additional discounts available via Automobile Club referral EPA fuel economy ratings: 98 MPGe combined city/highway (electric mode) 37 MPG combined city/highway (gas mode) 62 mpg-e combined composite Range: 38 miles (pure electric) 382 miles (total) Propulsion: Lithium-ion battery with rechargeable energy storage system and Voltec® electric drive system with 1.4L gasoline powered range extender Chassis: Independent MacPherson struts front, compound crank twist axle rear, four-wheel disc brakes, full regenerative brakes to maximize energy capture, electric power-assist steering Seating capacity: Four Manufacturing location: Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Top speed (mph): 100 Energy (kWh): 16 Electric drive unit Power (kW / hp): 111 / 150 Torque (lb-ft / Nm): 273 / 370 (from zero rpm) Tire and wheel size: Specially developed low rolling-resistance tires on 17-inch forged aluminum wheels Dimensions: Wheelbase (in / mm): 105.7 / 2685 Length (in / mm): 177 / 4404 Width (in / mm): 70.8 / 1798 Height (in / mm): 56.3 / 1430 Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.6 / 301