General Motors and Nissan are in a tight race that could go down to a photo finish.
No, it's not the Corvette Z06 vs. the Nismo 350z. They're in a race to see who can get the first electric car on the US market -- the Chevrolet Volt or the Nissan Leaf.
The Volt is currently touring the country, stopping in America's major cities so people can test drive these first generation electric rides. Being the opportunists that we are, Hair Balls pounced on the chance to take one on the open road -- or a quick spin around Rice University would suffice.
Navigating this college road trip was Lane Rezek, a power train engineer for the power train system on the Volt -- title that long, the man has to be important. Rezek filled us in on the inner workings of this electric, four-door hatchback, and we came up with five things Houstonians should know about the Chevy Volt
5. This car's motor is all electric and then some
The entire vehicle runs from energy generated from the grid -- your standard electricity. Think of it as a gaming system, just plug and play. The motor, the air conditioning and heating, steering, everything; it all runs from electricity stored in this car's massive battery -- largest in its class. And if you happen to run out of juice while on the go, there's a gas engine on board that generates electricity to keep you running. "It will be able to propel the vehicle kind of like a normal car," Rezek explained. "You can go cross country, take trips and not be limited by the electric range of the car."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
4. How far can she go on electricity?
Rezek explained this by stating the 3 T's -- temperature, driver technique, and terrain. The outside temperature and the terrain will have an effect to some degree on the Volt's range in EV mode. A driver's technique -- whether the driver has a normal acceleration or has a heavy foot, speeds or not -- will also be a variable in the car's range. Chevrolet's stance is that people can go 25 to 50 miles in between charges, although 40 miles is what most people should expect.
3. Takes a bit longer to charge than your cell phone
On your standard 120V electrical socket, the Volt will take about 10 hours to charge. For those who happen to have a 240V socket, the charge time is reduced to four hours. It takes 11 kw/h to charge. To charge the Volt, it comes with a cord that fits neatly in a built in compartment in the trunk. To save battery energy, you can precondition the cabin while plugged into the grid. An example would be on cold mornings; you can preheat the cabin while still plugged in to save energy.
2. Made for Houstonians
"Stop and go traffic is actually the most efficient," Rezek told Hair Balls. "You get the highest range out of [the electric motor], which is good news." You're not wasting more electricity in stop and go traffic, unlike how conventional engines guzzle gas. The car runs from 0-60 mph in about nine seconds, and is whisper quiet while doing so. And for those chilly 30-degree mornings that you don't want to go outside and preheat your car, there's an app for that. GM's OnStar has a mobile app for iPhone and Droid that allows users to turn their car on from anywhere. If you don't have a smartphone, you can go online to boost your ride.
1.When will the Volt be in Houston dearlerships?
GM hopes to release the Chevy Volt to American buyers before the end of the year. Unfortunately, the Volt is already sold out for the first year. The quickest way to get into a Volt is to preorder one, either online or at your local Chevy dealership. The car comes equipped. Bose sound system, 17-inch dubs, leather seating for four, LCD screens for the instrument cluster and the dash. For the price GM is asking for, you're getting a comparable deal to most hybrids on the market. The Volt, however, is quieter and more fuel efficient than hybrids. Not trying to be salesman here, but if you're in the market for hybrid, give the Volt a look.