Retired rock band manager Chris Brown lives in Santa Barbara, California and calls himself an "early adopter" so it was no surprise that his choice of wheels is a Chevy Volt plug in, extended range EV (electric vehicle).
Chris says he has owned plenty of vehicles in his 55 years but the Volt takes the cake. "I though it would be pretty good by the spec' sheet and when I moved to Santa Barbara, I decided to fully embrace my new, more relaxed life and go green with the Volt," he said.
"But the ownership experience has been much better than I expected especially the fuel mileage and performance." "I have put petrol in the tank only twice since buying the Volt in February this year and that was only when I was going down to LA for business."
Chris paid only US$34,500 for his car after the US Government slipped him a $7500 tax break with the purchase. Then on top of that, he says running costs are so negligible that it doesn't even register.
"I plug it into a domestic socket at home in the evening and it's ready to go the next morning." "And besides, if I forget, the petrol engine will kick in if the charge gets low to recharge the lithium ion battery." Chris said service costs are minimal basically because there isn't much to service.
Volt is what is called a "range extender" in which the car runs predominantly on electric power stored in its battery pack with a 1.4-litre petrol engine acting as a generator and acceleration booster if needed.
The petrol engine hardly ever starts in general running around and then only for short bursts. Volt actually has two 55kW permanent magnet electric motors that give a range on electricity alone of up to 80km. Total range is well over 600km when the petrol engine generator kicks in. The available range on stored electricity is registered on a bar graph in the instrument console.
Volt is no slouch and is capable of attaining a top speed of 160kmh and of accelerating from 0-100kmh in 9.0 seconds. It is the most practical electric vehicle currently available and the most fuel efficient with combined consumption of 2.5-litres/100km.
And if you have solar panels on your house, running costs could be zero with minimal greenhouse effect. It looks good too, certainly not like a kooky cockroach as is the case with some other hybrid cars.
Chris Brown invited us to take his car for a drive last week in Santa Barbara and it was a real surprise package. Firstly it has excellent acceleration off the mark right up to freeway speeds and there's only one gear which is eerie especially with no noise. There's plenty of kit inside including leather upholstery, Bluetooth, cruise, climate control, voice control to some functions, Bose audio and a 30 gig music register.
It has a cyber style dash with info' panels in front of the driver and festooned down the centre console. The ride is comfortable and there's room inside for five at a pinch. It has a five star crash rating. Volt won't make it here until the end of 2012 at the earliest.
Local pricing is unavailable but the European Volt (Ampera) goes for the equivalent of $58,000 so expect something similar here pity because Volt is a game changer given accessible pricing. Hopefully the federal government will start offering "carbon" incentives to Volt buyers as they do in all other countries where it's sold.
NEED TO KNOW
- Drives like a 2.0-litre petrol car
- Slightly bigger than Prius
- Looks great on the road
- Two versions likely
- Price is likely to be up around the $60,000 mark