Holden Volt Road Test
Review by Tristan Tancredi - 27 February 2013
The Electric Car. The vehicle that can transport you without using a drop of fuel. The vehicle that brings with it a myriad of issues and concerns, none more so than 'Range Anxiety'.
But what if there was a battery powered vehicle that made the range issues disappear? Is The Holden Volt the first battery powered car that eliminates the need to plot your journey so you don't end up stranded on the side of the road with a flat battery?
We've driven the disappointing Mitsubishi i-Miev, so forgive us if we were a little critical of the Electric Car to date. Let's hope the Volt is on the right path to an emissions free future. Let's find out.
To suggest that the Holden Volt is purely a Battery powered vehicle would be incorrect. The car is run at all times by the electric drive unit, however a petrol engine acts as a generator and is necessary to drive the vehicle further and eliminate "range anxiety".
The Volt can deliver between 70-90kms (in our experience) on a fully charged battery. Yet unlike the i-Miev which has an 80-odd km limit before you need to recharge, the Volt has a petrol powered engine that generates power for the electric motors when the battery runs dry. This eliminates one of the major concerns of the Electric Vehicle: Range Anxiety and allows for an extra 600kms!
In saying this, the Holden Volt can be driven purely on the battery (As mentioned for about 70-90kms), without any assistance from the generator. Only when the battery runs dry (or you manually select "hold" mode) does the generator kick in.
Hold mode is one of three driving modes available; Hold, Sport and Normal. Hold, stabilises the battery level and uses the engine to power the electrical components, thus "holding" the battery stable. Sport mode enhances on road performance and you can take a guess what Normal mode does.
Charging the battery is a slow, arduous process and a full charge will take a minimum of 7-8 hours. Typically, drivers of electric vehicles will charge their vehicles overnight so it is ready to go come morning. Unfortunately if you forget, aren't at home (or near a power point) for the night or simply have electricity problems, bad luck. Flat battery for you.
Charging the battery is still THE biggest annoyance to owning an Electric Vehicle. Sure I may need to adapt and get with the times, but I prefer not having to worry about my vehicle making it from A to B. Hence why a Long-Ranged Electric Vehicle, like the Volt, is soooo much better than simply an Electric Vehicle, i-Miev.
Oh, and any power outlet can be used for the Volt, unlike the i-Mievs sole reliance on 15A, Yay!
On road and the Volt is mightily impressive. I admit, I thought the Volt would be gutless, I was glad to be proven wrong. The Volt bursts away from a standing start in astonishing power, it has enough torque and power to easily overtake on freeways and as you would expect, the smooth silence of the Volt is amazing.
Handling is smooth and comfortable. Fuel usage, as you would expect, is ridiculously low. However, there is one issue we encountered and that's a very "rough" braking system. The issue was two-fold, firstly, tapping the brakes would result in jerky sudden movements, and secondly, we often encountered times when you would need to forcibly plant your foot on the brake, simply to bring the car to a standstill. Perhaps it's the regenerative braking system at work. Regardless, it's the cars worst driving aspect.
A 1.4 Litre DOHC 4-Cylinder engine acts as a generator for the battery system of the Holden Volt. The battery system is a rechargeable energy storage pack.
The maximum electric power output is 111kW, whilst the maximum power output of the petrol engine is 63kW @ 4800rpm. Maximum torque figures are at 370Nm @ 250-2800rpm. This is evident with strong performance from a standing start. The Volt reaches decent pace effortlessly. The respectable early speed is somewhat diminished over longer distances as the Volt only reaches 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds.
The engine noise is barely audible inside the cabin. The only times we noticed any noise at all coming from under the hood was climbing an outrageously steep hill. Only then was there an audible strain.
If your travels are limited to the city, say goodbye to frequenting the petrol bowsers. However if you live in the suburbs, you will still visit the local 7/11, just not as often as you used to.
Fuel consumption sat at around 5.0 litres per km with the engine running. However utilising the battery alone, zero fuel is obviously being used.
The Holden Volt is a stylish, futuristic looking vehicle that shares similarities to the Hybrid cars before it.
Visibility is somewhat limited out of the front windscreen due to large A-Pillars. Throughout our week driving the Volt, the pillars did interfere with our views at various stages and can be somewhat dangerous.
Notable exterior features include; 17" Alloy wheels, LED daytime running lamps, Rear fog lamps, projector headlamps, body coloured door handles and the Volt badge with the noticeable lightning bolt sits prominently on the outer of the Volt.
The Volt caused people to stop and stare as it glided past. Now, I wasn't exactly sure if this was because of the distinct lack of noise emitted from the Volt, or because the car stood out. Regardless, people stopped to look.
The Holden Volt was awarded a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating with a total score of 34.56 out of 37.
Dual front airbags, side airbags, head-protecting side curtains and driver and passenger knee airbags are standard. Also standard with the Volt is Antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control. Intelligent seat belt reminders are fitted to all seats. Reversing sensors and a reversing camera are also available.
Unfortunately Holden opted for a Tyre Sealant and Air Compressor Kit ahead of a full sized spare tyre.
All aboard the Holden Volt! Enter a cabin reminiscent of an airline cockpit and enjoy the journey.
The interior of the Holden Volt is best described as ultra-modern, extremely stylish and very comfortable. The main attraction is the white centre console with a 7" Colour LCD Display Screen, Electronic Climate Control and all your media and navigation needs. The white console makes a massive impression inside of the cabin due to the remainder of the interior covered with black. The contrast of dark and light colours, in this instance, works a treat for Holden.
Deep cushioned leather sporting seats occupy the front and rear seating and offer brilliant lumbar support aswell as supreme comfort. There are two seats in the rear, with the centre seat converted into a centre storage compartment with armrests (due to the size of the battery). Space isn't an issue with the Volt and there is plenty of it for all passengers.
For the driver, there is a leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a 7" Colour LCD Instrument Cluster Display Screen (Fuel Consumption, Driving Range, Trip Computer, etc), Front & Rear Park Assist, Heated Front Seats, Automatic headlights, the list goes on.
The navigation system works fine and is easy to use. On the entertainment front, the Volt comes with Wireless Bluetooth, DVD playback, MP3, iPod and AUX playability, 30gb hard disk and a 6 speaker Bose Audio system that rocks.
The modern, fresh interior styling is truly awesome.
'The Conversation' recently ran a very interesting article (http://theconversation.edu.au/electric-vehicles-wont-solve-the-suburbs-transport-woes-12389) concerning the socio-economic stress associated with Electric Cars, "Relying on electric vehicles as a solution to energy and environmental problems may perpetuate suburban social disadvantage in a period of economic and resource insecurity".
In a nutshell, the author Jago Dodson basically says that car drivers from outer suburbia, although travelling greater distances, drive cheaper cars that on average burn through more fuel. "One-third of the most disadvantaged suburbs in greater Brisbane also have the most energy-intensive motor vehicle use".
He summarises by saying that this will create greater social division and that the electric car is not the answer to travelling woes.
The Volt is priced at just under $60,000 and although easing "Range Anxiety" for those people living in the outer suburbs, it's not a well priced vehicle for the small car market. Nonetheless, check one out for the experience, if nothing else.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Holden dealer.
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