Wouldn't it be excellent never to enter a service station again to buy fuel? To never pay the extortionate government taxes and oil company gouge at the bowser. If you could cut emissions to near zero, well, that would be icing on the cake.
It sounds like a pipe dream but is now entirely achievable if you have a lazy 60,000 bucks to spend on Holden's new Volt extended range electric vehicle.
Is it worth the dosh? Depends on your thinking. An "early adopter" or anyone with a green tinge is a potential buyer. More pragmatic types will say it's better spending that sort of coin on something like the super frugal diesel-powered BMW 318d.
Explore the 2012 Holden Volt range
But the point about Volt is that it ushers in totally new technology in a quest to cut fuel use and reduce emissions. It is part of our driving future, here, now.
Fully electric cars are practically useless because of extremely limited range and something like a Prius is just a petrol powered car with an electric helper engine. Volt is something else altogether.
The US-made, four seat, five-door hatch drives solely on its electric engine(s). Yes there are two of them mounted concentrically, one inside the other, to one side of the engine bay. For the first 50-90km (depending on how you drive), Volt is on pure electricity from its lithium ion battery pack mounted under the rear passenger compartment floor.
After that, the 1.4-litre Holden Cruze petrol engine generates electricity to pump into the battery and then into the electric motor(s) to drive the car. The second, smaller electric motor is engaged at higher speeds to take the load off the larger unit and to alter gearing through a simple gear set for more efficient operation. There are no gears to change and the petrol engine is not connected directly to Volt's drive system.
The generator engine will not re-charge the battery once it's depleted. That has to be done by plugging Volt into a (domestic) or dedicated "charge point" electric power outlet. At home, Volt will take about six hours to fully recharge, possibly less and it can be set to only recharge during off peak times. There's a small petrol tank at the rear of the car to feed the 1.4-litre generator engine. Got all that?
What's it like?
What you need to know is it all works seamlessly offering similar performance to a 2.0-litre petrol four cylinder car with Lexus like silence and smoothness - or better. If you live within say 30km of work or drive less than say 60km a day, recharge, and you won't need petrol. Drive further and you will - eventually.
An unofficial competition among US Volt owners to see who can go without petrol for the longest time is attracting attention with some owners clicking over a petrol free year. But if you don't use the petrol in the tank or if the engine doesn't start once a month, Volt starts the engine itself in maintenance mode.
It needs to run occasionally. The drive experience is one of a luxury medium size sedan. It has a sporty feel, plenty of acceleration and thanks to the low centre of gravity, excellent cornering characteristics.
Volt is “fully loaded” with luxury kit that includes a centre stack with numerous iPod style controls. The audio is Bose, there's cruise control, full connectivity but no audio streaming. The interior is funky/modern with two-tone leather and looks nothing like any other car currently available. Just like the outside - an elegant looker, distinctive and functional with a five star crash rating.