The 2016 Chevy Volt: An energy-efficient car that doesn’t drive like one

The 2016 Chevy Volt during a Bay Area test drive. (Yep, this is what it looks like in California all the time.) (credit: Tiffany Kelly)

Chevrolet’s Volt is a significant car. When the first-generation Volt went on sale in 2010, it was the first plug-in series hybrid—previous hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight used their electric motors to supplement the internal combustion engine, but the Volt was primarily an electric vehicle (EV) that used the onboard gasoline engine to charge its battery.

The Volt underwent a lengthy development process. We first saw it in the flesh in 2008 at a time when GM was heavily playing up the fact that the car was an EV, not a hybrid (in fact, there are some circumstances when the gasoline engine can send drive to the wheels). It would be another two years before the car went on sale and another year after that until Ars got some time behind the wheel.

If the first Volt was revolutionary, the second-generation car is a more evolutionary design. We got our first look at the car at this year’s New York auto show, where Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin came away impressed. The new car has a significantly increased range—over 400 miles (644km) compared to 300 (483km) on the older model—with up to 53 miles (86km) on battery power alone. The electric motor is 100lbs (45kg) lighter than before and 12 percent more efficient.

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