Hybrid cars have exploded in popularity over the past few years. It’s to the point where you can’t always get one right away from a dealer and have to place your order and wait.
But what about used?
Hybrids with a few kilometres on them are making their way onto the used car market and a little judicious shopping may get you something half decent at a reasonable price.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt was introduced in 2010 and went on sale in 2011. Officially classed as a hybrid vehicle, it was a breed apart from conventional hybrid and electrical vehicles.
Supplementing the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack is a 1.4-litre gasoline engine. But unlike other hybrid cars – the Toyota Prius, for example – the Volt is designed to run on battery power alone for 60 km before the auxiliary gas engine cuts in.
Those initial 60 km are emission-free, regardless of the conditions. City or highway driving, it makes no difference, although the harder you drive it, the sooner the batteries discharge. When that happens, the gas engine comes into play and continuously recharges the battery pack while giving the car a purported driving range of some 640 km.
It takes from three to eight hours to recharge the car, depending on the power source.
Like virtually all hybrids, the Volt features regenerative braking and when it decelerates, energy is captured and fed back into the batteries. There’s also a Sport setting that gives the car an extra shot of performance when climbing hills or overtaking, for example.
The Volt provides reasonable power and acceleration, but is definitely not a performance car.
There was just one safety recall from Transport Canada to report in 2011 and it’s a fairly minor one. Apparently, with some vehicles, the daytime running lights can be manually switched off and a new ignition key reprogrammed. These issues can be easily remedied by dealers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. conducted a barrage of crash tests on the first Volts manufactured for the 2011 model year –14,735 in all – and found that in certain crash situations (side impact with a utility pole and vehicle rollover), a fire was possible.
To quote NHTSA: “coolant leakage, and subsequent rollover that saturates electronic components, were the only test conditions which resulted in a subject vehicle HV battery fire.” This was one of the most extensive investigations in NHTSA’s history.
NHTSA also has at least 40 technical service bulletins on file for the 2011 Volt and they run the gamut from non-charging issues, to problems with the engine starting itself and running during a plug-in recharge, to a myriad of electrical and computer-related issues.
Suffice to say, the Volt has been under a microscope since its introduction and the reports are still coming in.
Consumer Reports staff seem to like the idea behind the Volt but just couldn’t bring themselves to fully endorse it. While praising its low operating costs and fundamentally sound design, CR criticized its peripheral visibility and practicality.
Still, it received top marks and a “better than average” used car prediction. Said CR: “We expect reliability of new models will be 36 per cent above average.”
Some comments from owners, courtesy of CR:
- “Look Ma, no gas!”
- “Pleasantly surprised at how much we liked the Volt.”
- “Feels more German than U.S.”
- “GM catapults from last to first in green technology.”
Marketing researcher J.D. Power made the 2011 Volt a recipient of its performance award, with a top rating for overall performance and design, and a “better than most” grade for overall quality. However, the Volt is only rated “about average” for predicted reliability by this organization.
While not in abundant supply, Volts of this vintage are priced from $13,000 to $17,000 these days.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
Original base price: $41,545
Engine: Twin electric motors with supplemental 1.4-litre gas engine
Horsepower/torque: 149/273 foot pounds
Transmission: Electric drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 6.7 city, 5.9 highway, with regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Mitsubishi i-Miev, Nissan Leaf, Honda Insight.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).