When it arrived on the market for 2011, the game-changing Chevrolet Volt was the industry's first extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). Unlike any other EV or hybrid, its electric drive motor was powered by a battery until that was depleted, then by a gas engine-driven generator.
Because it ran on inexpensive electricity off the grid for the first 35-40 miles, then as far as needed on engine-generated electric power, it was a non-fuel-burning, emissions-free EV for the first part of each day's drive, then a fuel-efficient compact hatchback with no EV 'range anxiety'....that sweaty-palm fear of running out of volts before you run out of trip.
'I think we're at an inflection point in history of our industry,' said then GM Production Development Vice Chairman Tom Stephens (who succeeded the retiring Bob Lutz) at the Volt's media launch. 'The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle that is capable of being your only car,' added then Marketing Director Tony Disalle. 'You have the freedom to 'fuel up' at home, yet you're not tethered to a charge station.'
Based on Chevy's compact Cruze sedan but with a different high-tech interior and a less roomy rear seat due to the centrally located, T-shaped battery pack, the Volt is a nice car and surprisingly fun to drive. Its only major downside is its high ('40,000) price due to its expensive 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, complex powertrain and sophisticated controls.