2011 Chevy Volt
5:13

2011 Chevy Volt

Automobiles
-Hi, I'm Wayne Cunningham with CNET Car Tech, and this is the 2011 Chevy Volt. We've seen preproduction versions of this car before, but this one has come out of the factory. It's ready to hit the dealer floor. These cars will go on sale in December 2011. They are the electric car we've all been waiting for, sort of. This car has an electric motor powering the front wheels, although it does also have a gas engine for range extended operation. That gas engine generates electricity to turn the front motor when the battery is depleted. Let's take a look under the hood. Under the hood is a gas engine, but that engine just works as a generator. Underneath that is an electric motor which turns the front wheels. Now, there're lithium-ion batteries in here that can supply enough electricity to turn that motor for about 40 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the gas engine kicks in and can run it for another 300 miles before you actually have to refill the gas tank. Why don't you take a drive? So we're driving under electric power in this 2011 Chevy Volt. It has a range of about 40 miles. Now, we're only doing a short drive in this car, but if we drove much longer, the batteries would eventually run out of juice and the gas engine would have to cut in and start supplying electricity directly to the motor to keep the car running. Now, with that motor running, you can go about 300 miles or more. We haven't actually experienced how that will feel. We expect there will be some additional vibrations that might kick in when that engine starts up. But that engine only has to run at a steady speed to provide electricity. So, it's not changing gears or doing any that kind of stuff. The electric traction drive is really providing all your different torque levels you need for driving at different speeds. Even though this car doesn't have an automatic gearbox like you normally see, it does have this big shifter here which is similar to the shifters on cars with automatic transmissions. This is really just a drive mode selector. Right now, we have it in low, which actually gives you extra power. You can go down a big hill and it'll provide a lot of electricity back to battery pack. This thing really could have just been a series of buttons if they wanted to, but this is a very familiar kind of interface for most people driving a car. The Volt actually has different drive modes. This button here lets you switch it between the different modes. It starts out at normal, which is basically eco mode: maximizing use of the battery and limiting use of gas as much as possible. Now, you can also switch---- if you switch that one to go in a sport mode, you get a little more power out of the car, although this is really far from a sports car. And then, there's also a mountain mode. That's kind of a special mode that Chevy put in just in case you're about to approach some serious mountain passes or something like that, and that'll keep as much battery reserve as possible so you can keep under battery power as long as possible. Now, this being an electric car, we're getting a very quiet ride. There's no sound of the engine revving up or kicking up. There's just this very quiet electric motor turning. There's a slight kind of whirring noise, but it's really quiet. And also, the overall cabin is designed for---- seems to keep a lot of the external noise out as well. And this is gonna be the experience that a lot of people have as they move to electric cars initially with this Volt. You got a really interesting and unique stack here with capacitive touch buttons. Now, this actually made it into production from the various preproduction models and concepts we've seen. It's pretty cool. We've got a big screen here and that's gonna be standard with the car; a lot of power displays. We also get navigation and all that stuff, more stuff that will come standard with the car. And then, for an instrument cluster, we actually have a screen showing our speed, different charge levels---- all that information that we'll need to understand how far we can go with this car under electric power. If you have a Volt, you can also get a smart phone app, either for the iPhone or the Android, and that'll show you a lot of the same information you're getting on the screen. It'll show you the charge level of the car. You can also have it turn on charging if you, for example, leave it plugged in. And, it'll also give you maintenance reports and let you do things like remotely unlock the doors if you need to. That app also works with a website called myvolt. You can do a lot of the same stuff or you can at least monitor your car and see some of the information about it via the website. And of course, we only drove this car under electric power. But as you could see, it was a pretty smooth ride. Also, the cabin looks nice in finish. Showing this car, it's definitely ready for sale. It'll hit showrooms in December for a price of about $41,000. That may seem kind of high, but in a lot of states, it'll go for about $32,000 once you factor in tax credits. I'm Wayne Cunningham, and this has been the 2011 Chevy Volt.

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