Chevrolet Volt Range-Extended EV Turns Three

Yesterday, Chevrolet’s first mass-produced plug-in car — the Chevrolet Volt — turned three. Or rather yesterday, the Volt celebrated three years of being on sale.

Unlike its closest rival, the Nissan LEAF — whose first customer lived in San Francisco — the Volt’s first retail customer was retired airline pilot Jeffrey Kaffee from Parsippany, New Jersey. Like other first deliveries, Kaffee’s Volt was handed over to him at a heavily-publicized press event at his local Chevrolet dealer, with plenty of local and national media in attendance.

The European version of the Volt  -- called the Ampera -- has helped total sales figures.

The European version of the Volt — called the Ampera — has helped total sales figures.

Since then, Chevrolet’s Volt has not only become a popular plug-in choice for buyers in the U.S. but all around the world. In Europe, where General Motors’ Opel and Vauxhall brands are more popular, the Volt is sold as the Opel (Vauxhall) Ampera. While the Ampera wears slightly different grille and bumpers to the Volt, it is mechanically the same car, albeit without OnStar connectivity.

In total, more than 50,000 Chevrolet Volts/Opel Amperas have been sold worldwide, with 2013 looking to set new sales records for the range-extended EV.

With a 16 kilowatt-hour T-shaped battery pack (16.5 kilowatt-hours for 2013 and newer models) the Chevrolet Volt has an EPA approved range of 35 miles (38 miles for 2013 and newer) in all-electric mode. Defaulting to electric only mode on startup, the Volt’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder range-extending gasoline engine kicks in when the battery pack is empty, powering a small 55 kilowatt generator which then feeds electrical power to the Volt’s 111 kilowatt electric motor.

Under certain circumstances, the Volt’s gasoline engine also drives the wheels directly, although this is a last-resort measure which occurs only when the car needs maximum power and the battery pack is depleted the Volt’s engine helps spin the outer casing of the main motor, helping it run more efficiently but not physically driving the wheels directly.

Because of its ability to drive in both electric and gasoline modes, the Chevrolet Volt has become a great conquest car for Chevrolet, bringing many of its Volt customers to the brand for the very first time. In addition to being a halo car for Chevrolet however, the Volt has become a great ambassador for electric cars among car buyers who don’t feel ready to dump the pump entirely just yet.

People buy the Volt for its range-extended, but often do everything they can to plug in.

People buy the Volt for its range-extended, but often do everything they can to plug in.

And that’s where the fun starts. While most people buy the Volt because they want to benefit from the car’s high combined fuel economy and ability to travel more than 350 miles in range extended mode when needed, the majority of Volt owners find themselves plugging in at every opportunity, going months or even years between visits to the gas station.

In other words, despite the fact that many Volt owners purchased a Volt so they wouldn’t get range anxiety and be stranded somewhere without a plug, most owners have come to learn that they don’t actually need the range-extended engine, opening the door for future all-electric ownership.

For that, and its global popularity, we have to wish the Chevrolet Volt a very happy birthday. Here’s to many more years — and we hope a second generation Volt with a larger battery pack and perhaps a more fuel efficient engine.

Do you have any Chevrolet Volt birthday wishes to share? Do you own one? What do you like best about it? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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