Review: Volt can be a fun journey with green driving

2011-10-16T00:00:00Z 2011-10-19T17:40:50Z Review: Volt can be a fun journey with green drivingBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

There was something that tugged at my heartstrings -- like I was doing something good for the environment.

That's how I felt behind the wheel of a 2012 Chevrolet Volt. The Volt will be available for test drives or purchase at Chevrolet dealerships in the area in the coming weeks, but The Times allowed me to take one around the region for a day.

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can run at least 35 miles gasoline-free on a charged battery, then it seamlessly switches to a gas-powered generator that powers the electric motor.

The Volt's ride is quiet since it doesn't have a large, gas-sucking internal combustion engine, and the 149-horsepower compact sedan has some giddyup accelerating from low speeds.

The sleek exterior and interior styling makes the Volt attractive to buyers who may be turned off by the aesthetics of other electric vehicles. The variety of graphic displays and buttons may seem imposing, but are beneficial once understood. Just avoid the temptation to press the vehicle start button when attempting to control the radio.

Even though the Volt's frame is small, it can comfortably seat four people and has a decent amount of trunk space.

For a small car, stiff winds don't carry it into adjacent driving lanes. That may be because high-strength steel products make up nearly 80 percent of the vehicle's structure, according to General Motors' website.

The automaker's slogan for the Volt, "It's more car than electric," often bounced through my head because I liked that I wasn't always using gas but wanted to continue my "green" journey. Being able to use gas does help "range anxiety," or my fear of being stuck on U.S. 30 near Interstate 65 because the vehicle ran out of juice before I could plug it in for a recharge. The Volt can travel an average of 37 miles per gallon on streets and highways using gasoline, but in the electric mode, it can travel the equivalent of 94 miles per gallon, according to federal fuel economy estimates.

The vehicle has to stay connected to a 120-volt outlet for up to 12 hours to fully charge the battery, but only about four hours at a 240-volt outlet, the same used for electric clothes dryers.

At a base price that approaches $40,000, the automaker may be attempting to set the market for plug-in hybrid vehicles while capturing a premium for the product. The Volt doesn't cheat drivers or passengers on the ride, and it could change attitudes about electric vehicle driving. The downside is that the price may shock some buyers as they wait for it to fall and the electric range to go up.

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