Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Please, please, please, let the Volt be good

November 24, 2009, 8:23 am NYT
Answering Your Questions About the Chevy Volt

Last Friday, we solicited you for questions on the Chevrolet Volt, which is scheduled to be released late next year. We forwarded some of your questions to Lindsay Brooke, who recently drove a preproduction Volt and wrote about his driving impressions for the Automobiles section last Sunday.

Mr. Brooke is a journalist with three decades of experience and is the author of “Triumph Motorcycles in America” (Motorbooks, 1993) and “Ford Model T: The Car That Put the World on Wheels” (Motorbooks, 2008). He has written extensively on hybrid and electric cars for The Times and other publications. His answers to a selection of your Volt questions are below.

Q.How will the batteries react to really cold weather? When it is 20 degrees below zero my iPod only functions for about one-sixth of its normal time between charges.
— Patrick, Minneapolis

A.General Motors recently began an intensive cold-weather testing program for Volt at a dedicated winter-test facility in northern Canada, so there are no definitive answers yet. Stay tuned for more information on this program in the Automobiles section.

Q.Is there a firm retail release date, and if so, what is the true price range?
— M Dickerson

No details yet on the exact start of production, only that it’s later next year. Nor is G.M. yet talking about pricing details.

A.Let’s tackle these questions one at a time. First of all, the words “Volt” and “slug” are incompatible, based on my drive of the prototype. The car proved to be quite sprightly around the Milford course (which would make a fine road-racing circuit). It was genuinely fun to drive in both battery-only and extended-range modes.

Secondly, my test drive covered 27 total miles on the proving ground, including eight miles depleting the battery before the generator kicked in (of course, the generator will continue to provide power to drive the car until the gas tank runs dry). The purpose of my time in the car was not to prove total range, but rather to evaluate the generator’s engagement and related performance and noise, vibration and harshness.

Q.Do you envision the extended-range hybrid as a long-term product or merely a bridge to an all-electric future for passenger cars?
– Dave

A.I’ve been writing about automotive technology for major publications for nearly 30 years, and I’ve become a believer in the progress made by the auto industry in general regarding vehicle electrification. Yes, I think extended-range (also known as series-type) hybrids are an important, viable solution for the short- and mid-term, until an extensive charging network from the grid is established.

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