Three More Miles: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Re-Rated at 38 Miles of EV Range, 98 MPGe
The Chevrolet Volt has just been retested by the EPA and has seen an uptick in its all-electric range. The Volt is now rated at 98 MPGe, and can now go up to 38 miles on electric-only power. That’s an increase of 3 miles in EV mode and 4 extra MPGe.
New Hold Mode
Chevrolet also confirmed that North American market cars will come with the “hold” mode already available in Europe. The advantage is that a Volt owner on his or her daily commute can run the gasoline engine at the beginning of a daily commute, and save the electric charge for in-town driving, where range is most efficient.
Hold mode was first developed for Europe because some cities, such as London, require a hefty tax for driving into dense parts of the city, unless the vehicle in question is highly fuel-efficient.
Why did Volt engineers apply the battery density improvement to range, instead of price? Current Volt owners say they “want more EV range,” says the car’s chief engineer, Andrew Farah. “Cost, that’s probably number two or number three, at least from our current customer base.”
Farah says Chevy is continuing to try to improve noise, vibration and harshness characteristics for when the Volt switches between battery and gasoline engine power, especially in cold weather.
In addition to improving the battery’s power density, so it can store 16.5 kWh, up 0.5 kWh, engineers “let a little more out” of the battery reserve. The Volt’s gasoline engine kicks in when the battery charge depletes to the 20-some percent range, mostly for long-term battery life assurance. Farah says tests prove that such battery preservation isn’t as critical as thought, so the ’13 Volt depletes its battery further to help gain range. The change is in the 3 percent range, he says, though Chevy is not specific about the percentage remaining when the engine starts running.
Because of the battery’s larger storage capacity, the Volt is now expected to take 10.5 hours for a full charge on a 120V outlet, or 4.25 hours on a 240V outlet. The new battery cell composition still relies on manganese spinel chemistry, but General Motors’ engineers modified the amount of each material for better battery-life performance and a larger cell.
The Volt’s new 98 MPGe rating brings it closer to the rest of the electrified pack, but the competition still has it beat: the Nissan Leaf is rated at 99 MPGe, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at 112 MPGe, the Ford Focus EV at 105 MPGe, and the Honda Fit EV at 118 MPGe. Its electric-only range also sits at the bottom of the pack at just 38 miles, but it is the only one of its competition to have a range-extending gas engine – the total distance you could drive on a Volt is around 380 miles, according to Chevrolet.
The extended electric driving distance could also help the Volt capture more sales, despite its high price tag. A 2012 Chevrolet Volt starts at $39,995, above the $35,200 Nissan Leaf, the $29,975 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the $36,625 Honda Fit EV. (All prices include destination.), and at the same price as the the $39,995 Ford Focus EV.
When compared to most other range-extended vehicles, the Volt comes in at the top of its class. It handily beats the 52-MPGe Fisker Karma and the 52-plus-MPGe Ford C-Max Energi, and just squeaks out about the 95-MPGe Toyota Prius Plug-in. However, the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi due next year is expected to achieve at least 100 MPGe. We don’t know what the electric-only range will be for either Ford model quite yet, but the Volt continues to beat both the Karma (32 miles) and the Prius (11 miles) with its new 38-mile range.
It should be noted these better ratings come at a price: Chevrolet’s Volt is more expensive than the $32,760 Prius PHEV. Unsurprisingly, the Karma costs more than any other range-extended electric vehicle thanks to its luxury trappings and has a base price of a cool $88,000. Ford has yet to announce Fusion Energi or C-Max Energi pricing, but the base gas-powered 2013 Fusion is expected to start around $23,290, while the base C-Max Hybrid is expected to start around $26,790.
The 2013 Volt will go into production for the 2013 model year in July, with the 2013 cars available at dealerships starting in late August.