Chevrolet Volt 2016

The Volt has done fairly well in the USA, but the version badged Vauxhall Ampera flopped here so the Volt’s second generation won’t cross the Atlantic. Shame, as it’s a good car. This is an extended-range electric vehicle, or in some lexicons a series hybrid.

It will go for 50-odd miles in pure electric mode, and then the 1.5-litre petrol engine arrives to charge the batteries. Performance doesn’t change whether or not the engine is on, whereas on other PHEVs the engine chimes up when you floor the accelerator. The Volt’s engine is not connected to the wheels. At least, very seldom, except for certain high-speed cruising.

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To eke out maximum efficiency, there are actually two electric motors which do their best work at different speeds, and are coupled together by different gear ratios at various points in the speed/load map.

Chevrolet’s idea with the Volt is to have a car whose electric range covers the commute of most Americans, a nation that commutes further than we do.

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That way, with nightly home charging, there’ll be no petrol used at all. Like any purpose-designed eco-car, the Volt’s shape is very much beholden to the wind tunnel, but the second generation is far more conventionally attractive than the first.

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