Though the Chevrolet Volt may not be a pure electric vehicle, statistics show drivers make 80% of trips in this hybrid without the use of gasoline. When the 2016 model debuts with more range later this year, the percentage of gas-free miles will go up while the MSRP comes down. Sizing up the next-generation Volt on paper, it is hard to find a greener, more useful car for the money.
We’ll start with the improvements over the outgoing model. Though the current edition features the greatest range for any plug-in hybrid (38 miles), the 2016 Volt will be able to cover 50 miles on its 18.4 kWh battery before switching over to the gas engine. Advances in technology allowed Chevy engineers to deliver more concentrated energy density (by 7%) while dropping the weight of the battery pack by 21 pounds (2015 Volts feature a 17.1 kWh battery).
As a result, the total range capability in a Volt will grow from 360 miles to about 420 miles in the 2016 model while fuel economy improves from 37 miles per gallon (gasoline only) to 41 miles per gallon. Gas-electric economy jumps to 102 miles per gallon combined. The two-plus-two seating design also gets an improvement in the new model, as Chevy says there will be three seats in the back of the 2016 Volt, though the middle spot will likely prove uncomfortable for most adults.
Now on to the muscle: Volt drivers aren’t expecting Tesla-style performance out of this plug-in, but acceleration and overall power specs improve in the new edition. Along with the added battery juice, the gas engine shifts from the 1.4-liter (83 horsepower) snoozer to a slightly more potent 1.5-liter, four-cylinder range extender capable of 101 horsepower. Combined, the 2016 can generate almost 150 horsepower and nearly 300 pounds-feet of torque. Since it has dropped almost 250 pounds total, acceleration improves by half a second, to 8.4 for a zero to 60 sprint.
The upgrades are considerable, but they become truly appealing with the price set to drop almost $1,200 for the 2016 model.
The 2016 Chevy Volt will cost $33,995 after the destination charge of $825, which makes it $1,175 cheaper than the current model ($35,170). Then you start factoring in available electric vehicle incentives on federal and state levels. Because the Volt straddles the border between EV and plug-in hybrid with its large battery pack, it qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit and most of the highest state incentives.
California, where the Volt sells best, offers another $1,500 off, while Pennsylvania offers $2,000 off in state incentives. Playing the East Coast-West Coast game, Volt drivers win on both sides. Post-incentive pricing in California ($24,995) will be almost as juicy as that in the Keystone State ($24,495, barring a change in state laws prior to the Volt’s release).
Looking at the field, plug-in hybrid drivers will not find a competitor with even half the electric range of the 2016 Volt. The 2016 Fusion Energi offers 19 miles of electric range and a starting price of $33,900 before incentives. While its attractive sedan package and large rear seating will appeal to some buyers, there is no contest as far as range and overall green specs.
Similarly, the limitations of an all-electric Nissan Leaf (84 miles total range) and other pure EVs on the market continue to inspire what is known as “range anxiety.” To eliminate this concern, drivers are likely to experience another form of anxiety — the sort that forces you to figure out how to finance a Tesla Model S (over $75,000 before incentives) for its 200-plus miles of range.
According to a Chevy spokesperson, over 80% of trips in a Volt come off without the use of gasoline. With the added electric range, that number is likely to go beyond 90% in the 2016 model. So you won’t be using much gasoline and you can score a 2016 Volt for around $25,000? Once upon a time, the Volt was expensive and not terribly impressive with all specs considered. Nowadays, it’s hard to see a more complete package on the horizon for green car consumers on a budget.