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GALLERY: Holden Volt

Holden's Volt has a 1.4-litre petrol engine, a big, T-shaped lithium ion battery pack and two electric motors. If you use petrol/electric power, by selecting Hold drive mode, the Volt has a range of up to 600km. Holden claims a range for the Volt of up to 87km on the battery. Unlike other hybrids, the battery is not charged by the engine; it has to be plugged in to a normal 240-volt power point. So the Volt gives you the best of both alternative worlds: hybrid and electric. And it really does work. The 87km electric-only range is achievable, but an average of 50km to 60km is more realistic. You may well be able to drive it every day - to work, the shops, the school run and other short suburban trips - without ever going near a petrol station. A solid body and big-carstyle ride/handling compromise delivers secure, confident open road dynamics, albeit with plenty of understeer in tight corners, and a compliant, controlled, quiet ride. Up front it's comfortable, spacious and sort of logical once you get the hang of the two information screens and the touch controls. Rear seat space is tight, but there's reasonable boot space. Resale values are higher than pure electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, but lower than other hybrids, such as the Prius, and lower than conventional petrol or diesel cars. So you will tear up 60-75 per cent of your $59,990 over three to five years of ownership. THINGS WE LIKE

  • Electric, petrol or both. Your choice
  • Smooth, quiet and comfortable
  • Endless amusement from the two information screens
  • Solid and safe

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE
  • Weak resale values
  • Questionable reliability and durability Interior fit and finish quality is ordinary
  • Tight rear seat space

SPEX
  • Made in the USA
  • 1.4-litre petrol/electric plug in hybrid/continuously variable transmission/front-wheel drive
  • 63kW of power at 4800rpm (engine); 111kW/370Nm of torque from 250-2800rpm (electric drive motor)
  • 0-100km/h in 9.0 seconds (claimed)
  • Test vehicle figures, in Hold mode: 6-7L/100km highway; 95 octane premium
  • Warranty: Three years/100,000km
  • Standard: Eight airbags, stability control, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, navigation, tyre pressure monitoring, rear camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming, voice recognition, Bose audio, forward collision alert
  • Redbook future values: 3yr: 38%; 5yr: 26%
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Most of the Volt initial design parameters defined for the development of the concept car, then referred as the "iCar" in homage to the iPod, were kept throughout the process up to the final production version. A key design parameter was a target of 40 miles (64 km) for the all-electric range, selected to keep the battery size small and lower costs, and mainly because research showed that in the U. S. 78 percent of daily commuters travel 40 miles or less. This target range would allow most travel to be accomplished electrically driven and the assumption was made that charging will take place at home overnight. This requirement translated using a lithium-ion battery pack with an energy storage capacity of 16 kWh considering that the battery would be used until the state of charge (SOC) of the battery reached 30%. This limit to the SOC was necessary in order to maintain operational performance under a wide range of environments, and to minimize the battery degradation to allow at least a ten-year life span. The initial target range for the gasoline engine/generator was set between 250 to 300 miles (400 to 480 km) and the vehicle had to be family size for four or five passengers.

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