Chevrolet Volt Plug-In Hybrid 2016 (Future Vehicle Preview)

Written By: EightySix

2016 Chevy Volt PHEV

Chevrolet has been listening to Volt owners. And watching them. And using OnStar to monitor their charging habits.

They learned what they loved about the first generation Volt and what they wanted to see in the new model. The 2016 Volt revealed in January 2015 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit could make many wishes come true. Number one on the wish list was range.

How Far Can You Go?

Chevy says the new Volt can go fifty miles on a charge without burning any gas. A new battery pack built by South Korea's LG Chem is a primary reason. It's 21 pounds lighter yet more powerful. Capacity has increased from 17.1 to 18.4 kWh. It retains the T shape from the older version, but is mounted lower. The tunnel hump in the back is reduced, allowing for a fifth seat. Also the car's center of gravity is lower, creating more balanced handling.

Another reason for the increased range is the new two motor system. The previous electric plant has been replaced with a tandem. The first motor powers the front wheels during low-speed driving. The second kicks in for quick acceleration, high speeds or hill climbing. The pair weighs 100 pounds less than the old single motor. Almost no rare earth metals are used in their construction.

The chassis has also lost weight. The Volt is no longer built on the same platform as the Cruze. For 2016, it gets is own lightened frame.

The Range Extender

GM has a brand new family of Ecotec engines designed with efficiency and light weight in mind. The 1.5 liter 4 cylinder in the Volt is the first member of this family to appear in the US. In Europe and Asia, these engines power the Cruze, Sonic and Opel Adam.

The gas “range-extender” provides 101 horsepower and enables a total range of about 400 miles. And unlike its predecessor, which required premium fuel, the new engine will run just fine on regular unleaded. Running on gas, the Volt achieves 41 MPG.

But Is It Fun?

Acceleration from 0-30 has improved from 3.1 to 2.6 seconds. 0-60 is now 8.4 rather than 8.8. Horsepower is still 149, but the torque has increased 21 pound-feet to 294. Chevy has included four different driving modes to suit the driver's needs.

In addition to Normal, which uses the twin electric motors in tandem, there's a Sport mode which sharpens the response of the accelerator. Mountain mode uses more of the gas engine to help the car climb grades. Hold mode uses gas only, charging the battery and saving it for later in the trip.

The Regen On Demand feature is also new. Using a paddle mounted on the steering wheel, the driver can increase the regenerative braking to maximize kinetic energy capturing and recharge the battery. The driver can use less traditional braking and more of the regen-braking one pedal technique.

Quieter and More Refined

First generation Volt owners also asked for less noise and vibration. They got it. The new motors are quieter. Occupants can scarcely hear the gas engine when it engages. The new chassis reduces road noise. The cabin is insulated to keep the outside out better than before.

The shape is distinctly less quirky. From front to back, the lines are smoother and more muscular. Because of the leaner power-plant, the hood is lower. Everything is more sculpted and less angular.

The interior is also less funky. The climate control and other buttons are similar to those found in the Cruze or Malibu. The driver gets an eight inch customizable display. Another eight inch touch screen connects to the MyLink infotainment system. GM says a new generation of MyLInk will be unveiled at the New York auto show.

The rear bench does now include a third middle seat, but the rider will still straddle the hump. It's a cramped back seat and is more suitable for three kids than adults, yet it is an improvement on the twin buckets in the back of the old Volt.

Charging Up

GM used surveys and OnStar to discover more than 50% of Volt owners mostly use 120 volts to charge. The cord is now above the floor on the left side of the cargo area. The 3.3 kW charger is GPS enabled to recognize your home base. It will remember your personal settings so you can charge at off-peak hours.

Charge time with 120 volts is thirteen hours. 240 volts will take around four and a half. DC fast charging is not enabled, but Chevy engineers hint that it could be made into an after-market option.

When and Where Can You Get One?

The Volt will be available in the third quarter of 2015. The first generation, along with most green cars, sold primarily on the West Coast and in the North East. It was, and will be, sold in all fifty states, although it may take some work in some places to find a knowledgeable dealer prepared to talk about it.

Knowing the market, Chevy will be pushing the car most heavily in the places it expects success. It is also trying to revamp its advertising style. Commercials involving a Volt driver parking at the gas station only to buy a beverage led consumers to believe it was a pure electric car. Few realized it was a range-extended plug-in or fully understood what that was.

Since Volt owners have the highest rate of owner satisfaction of anything GM has ever sold, Chevy will use them to evangelize the car’s virtues. A real car experience from a real owner will banish misconceptions about the vehicle.

And how much will it cost? The number won't be revealed until closer to the launch date, but it will need to be $30,000 or less to compete with the Leaf and Prius.

Chevrolet delivered a solid second generation Volt. The look is more lovely and the fifty mile range is a big improvement over 38.