After months of sneak peaks and an almost continual drip-feed of technical information from parent company General Motors, Chevrolet has officially unveiled the 2016 Volt electric car at the 2015 North American International Show in Detroit.
Following on from the highly-successful first-generation (2011-2015) Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt has been built from the ground-up to be a sleeker, sportier ride, offer a longer range per charge, and a better fuel economy when running in gasoline range-extending mode.
Keeping with automotive industry norms, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will enter production this summer, going on sale in the second part of the year.
Thanks to advances in battery technology, the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt features a larger 18.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack (up from 17.1 kilowatt-hours in the 2015 model year car) which Chevrolet says is 21 pounds (9.8 kilograms) lighter than its predecessor. Developed in conjunction with LG Chem, the battery cells used in the pack are far more energy dense than in previous generation Volt packs, allowing GM to use 192 cells as oppose to 288 cells.
On paper, GM says this should yield a real-world range of 50 miles per charge, although we note that’s an internal range estimate, not the official EPA-approved rating, which will come later this year.
Less, more energy-dense cells means that the physical dimensions of the battery pack have also been reduced, and while the Volt’s liquid-cooled battery pack is still arraigned in a T-shape, Chevrolet says the cells themselves are positioned lower in the battery pack for an improved centre of gravity.
What’s more, the smaller battery pack means that the 2016 Chevrolet Volt gains an extra seat, making it a true five-seat family hatchback for the first time.
As we already knew, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt also comes with an all-new 1.5-litre range-extending gasoline engine. When the electric battery pack is depleted, Chevrolet estimates a combined fuel efficiency of 41 mpg in range-extending mode. That’s admittedly better than the fuel efficiency of the outgoing model, but nowhere near as efficient as we’d hoped it would be.
Given the 2016 Volt is expected to have a much larger range than the outgoing model in all-electric mode however, the effective lifetime fuel efficiency will be far higher assuming owners follow a similar usage pattern to previous generation owners. In fact, GM says, it expects owners to travel more than 1,000 miles between fill ups in ‘normal’ use scenarios.
The increase in all-electric range isn’t just due to the larger battery pack however. In addition to a lighter, more energy-dense battery pack, GM says the 2016 Chevy Volt uses an all-new electric drivetrain which uses far less rare earth metals than its predecessor. Combined, the new two-motor drive unit is twelve percent more efficient than its predecessor, and weighs 100 pounds (45 kilograms) less.
Since both motors can now be used together in electric mode at even low speeds, GM says the new Volt is seven percent faster in the 0-60 mph dash, hitting 60 mph after 8.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 98 mph.
In addition to a lower centre of gravity, which helps the new 2016 Volt hug the road a little more than its predecessor, the inclusion of steering wheel-mounted regenerative braking paddles — originally developed for the 2014 Cadillac ELR range-extended electric coupe — means drivers will be able to dynamically change the amount of regenerative braking on accelerator liftoff.
Along with a more efficient braking system — which GM says has “improved capability and blended Regen feel” –the Volt is capable of recapturing far more energy on braking than its predecessor, and promises a more connected, enthusiastic drive.
As we discussed last week, the front of the new Chevrolet Volt is far more angular and aggressive than its predecessor, with a sporty, low stance accentuated by all-new alloy wheels. At the rear, the all-new wrap-around taillights new taillight are a little evocative of the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic.
While we’ve not seen it in person, the new Volt appears less cumbersome and more everyday than its predecessor. It also looks much more like other compact hatchbacks in the market.
Check the dimensions however, and you’ll be surprised. The new Volt is more than three inches longer lengthwise than its predecessor and only 0.22 inches shorter in height. It is a little narrower however, with a narrower track front and rear.
Internal passenger cabin dimensions aren’t that much different, with a few tenths of an inch here and there in terms of leg, shoulder and hip room for front and rear passengers. It goes as read however that rear seat passengers may find themselves a little more squeezed in the new Volt than the outgoing model: that revised roofline results in slightly less rear headroom, while the addition of that third seat could restrict hip room when occupied.
Those expecting a more cavernous cargo volume will also be disappointed: with seats up, it’s the same as the outgoing model at 10.6 cubic feet.
Inside the cabin, GM has completely refreshed both the look and the feel of the all-new Volt. While there are some similar design cues present from the previous-generation car — including the sweeping lines on the dash which flow into the front doors — the design is less flashy and more functional than its predecessor.
Gone is the strange oversized gear selector, and in its place a conventional automatic selector in the traditional location. Meanwhile, the over-complicated, over-dominating touch-sensitive centre console of the previous-generation Volt has given way to a more intuitive dashboard with far less clutter and a more functional feel to it. Parking assistance and traction control buttons sit below the gear selector next to the hazard warning light switch and driving mode selector, while the electronic parking brake sits to the left of the gear selector.
Above a well-sized storage holder — which we note has two USB connectors — the climate controls are arranged in a logical and aesthetically-pleasing way, with digital rotary knobs providing temperature and fan speed control at either side and directional controls sitting in the middle.
As with the previous Volt, both front seats are heated as standard, and Chevrolet says heated rear seats are also available as an option.
Above the climate controls comes a simple, minimalist set of radio controls featuring a forward and back selector, rotary volume control and eight-inch touch screen. Doubling up as the Chevrolet MyLink control interface, the touch-screen display gives access to the car’s infotainment system, while a second eight-inch reconfigurable screen behind the steering wheel acts as the main instrument cluster.
While Chevrolet has yet to release full specifications for different trim levels or prices, we do know each 2016 Volt will come with a new slimmer 110-volt ’emergency’ charger, complete with a longer cord. Each Volt will also come with GPS-based location charging too, allowing owners greater flexibility of how and when their car charges at home and away from home.
Also included as standard are a rear-view camera and ten airbags, with lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, side blind zone alert with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision alert with following distance indicator, front automatic braking, and park assist with semi-autonomous parallel parking functionality available on some trim levels.
We’ll no double find out more about the Volt as the week progresses, including perhaps a target launch price, so stay tuned for more information as we have it.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.