An electrifying experience

HIGH VOLTAGE: Pioneer staff reporter Jonathan Eppley test drove Mecosta County’s first Chevrolet Volt on Monday. The demo car is on the lot at Gary Trimarco Automotive in hopes that people will order one after taking it for a spin. (Pioneer photos/Laura Sack)

2011 Chevy Volt offers unexpected power while handling like a typical automobile

BIG RAPIDS — I wasn’t sure what to expect on Monday when I test drove the new 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Part of me thought it wouldn’t have the same vigor of the commonplace gas-powered automobile. But in the back of my mind, I knew it would drive and handle like a normal car.

As it turned out, the lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor provided more pick-up than what I’m accustomed to from my 12-year-old Oldsmobile. All the torque of a gas-powered car is there instantaneously — I didn’t have to wait for the car to shift through the gears to get up to speed.

While I did enjoy having that speed at my feet, I quickly learned that I had to keep a close eye on the speedometer. From a dead stop, the Volt quickly met — and sometimes exceeded — the posted speed limits.

ELECTRIC MOTOR: Under the hood of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. The car is powered by a lithium-ion battery.

The Volt is not designed for speed, per se, but rather fuel-efficiency. The electric motor that drives the car’s powertrain is primarily powered by the battery, which can be re-charged daily. A single charge will last between 30 and 40 miles, depending on a driver’s tendencies. It takes about 10 hours to fully charge the car using a standard 120 volt electrical outlet.

General Motors estimates about two-thirds of Americans commute less than 35 miles per day. For those who travel beyond that range and deplete the Volt’s battery, a generator turns on to seamlessly provide up to 340 miles of gasoline-powered mobility, said Blain Adams, resident Volt guru at Gary Trimarco Automotive. Between charges, the Volt can be fueled up at gas stations like a regular car.

I used up most of the battery’s charge by driving on US-131. I found out that the harder you push the motor by driving fast, the more battery power is used.

PLUG IT IN: Blain Adams of Gary Trimarco Automotive demonstrates how to charge the new Chevrolet Volt.

Before I depleted most of the battery, I took the Volt by Ferris State University to have a few auto and energy experts take a look under the hood to talk about the technology behind Chevy’s new eco-friendly flagship.

See more of my test drive, and hear what the experts at Ferris and Trimarco Automotive have to say about the Chevy Volt:

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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