2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

We've covered the 2011 Chevy Volt a lot here at AllCarsElectric.com, and for good reason. It'll be one of the first affordable and usable EVs to hit the market.

Of course, it isn't just a simple electric vehicle. The Volt uses a small gasoline engine as a range extender to allow the Volt to travel far further than its full-electric competition. Electric only range is around 40 miles, and the gas engine allows another 300 on top of that.

Much has been made of this, but to save us overlooking the fact that the Volt is still an EV, the electric aspect is worth discussing in more detail--especially the details of recharging.

Infrastructure pyramid

Gery Kissel from General Motors told us that EV infrastructure is essentially a pyramid. At the wide base, you have residential charging, accounting for the majority of EV journeys and a great deal of EV charging.

Further up, a smaller proportion of charging will be done at the workplace, in mall parking lots and other destinations. Charging at these places will likely be through a regular 120-volt socket (known as "Level 1") and through "Level 2" 240V charging.

Not fast-charge compatible

At the tip is fast charging, which will likely account for very little EV charging in comparison. The 2011 Volt is not fast-charge compatible, but this isn't likely to be a big issue.

Partly, because the battery capacity is lower than many full-electric cars and therefore charge times are shorter, but mainly because with a range extender, charging probably isn't as high-priority as it might be in something like the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

8 to 10 hours for full recharge

A standard charge through a 120V socket, for which a recharge cord is provided, should take about 8 to 10 hours from empty. At 240V, this is reduced to only 3 or 4 hours.

Chevy will soon be able to help you set up a dedicated charge point at home too. Their partner is yet to be announced, but dialing 888-VOLT-4-ME should put you through to an adviser on home charging.

GM and Chevrolet will also encourage evening, off-peak charging as this reduces any extra loads on the grid that plugging in during peak times might result in. The company is hoping that utility companies will cooperate with home installations, perhaps by providing special rates and easing installation inspections.

Infinite MPG, sometimes

At the Electric Drive Transportation Association's conference last week, GM's Kissel was keen to point out to us that the Volt is an EV, gasoline range extending engine or not.

It can manage 40 miles on electric power alone, and if you only use the car for short trips, the gasoline engine may never need to kick in to boost range (unless you live near a lot of hills), effectively giving you infinite miles per gallon.

The benefit, Chevrolet says, is that the Volt can be used as a household's main car, and used no differently from a conventional gasoline or diesel car.

Why 40 miles?

But why only 40 miles on pure electricity? GM designed the electric drive-train around this range based on a 2003 United States Department of Transport survey into commuting distance.

According to the survey, 78 percent of U.S. vehicles cover less than 40 miles per day, so they decided Volt didn't need to be compromised by heavier batteries and excess charging equipment if the majority of drivers have no need for it.

The Volt's MSRP of $41,000 was announced at the end of last month, and as ever this figure is before any State or Federal tax incentives. Lease price is $350 per month over three years with a $2,500 down payment.

The first Volts will arrive at dealerships in November. Volt-certified dealers are listed on Chevrolet's website.