Volt to jolt electric motoring
Volt to jolt electric motoring

So it's official: the amazing Holden Volt is nearly upon us, with seven WA dealers busily planning their showroom spaces.

And what a jolt the Volt will give to our view of electric motoring.

The car's go-anywhere-anytime mobility is what distinguishes it from purely electric cars.

So impressive is the Volt's powertrain, it has just won the green category at the International Engine of the Year Awards.

Purely electric cars definitely have a place but can give you range anxiety.

They need to be recharged every 80-160km - and you can't carry a jerry can of electricity with you in the boot.

But the Volt's unique technology overcomes most objections to going electric, apart from an expected $60,000 price.

Like other plug-in electric cars, such as the $48,000 Mitsubishi iMiEV and $51,500 Nissan Leaf, the Volt has a battery pack (lithium-ion) that can be charged via a power socket for about $3.

That's good for about 80km.

The Volt's vital addition is its 1.4-litre petrol engine, which only comes into play when the electric charge is spent.

But the engine doesn't drive the car. It acts as a generator to charge the T-shaped battery pack, which extends range by about 500km.

So, if setting out on an outback drive, provided there's petrol available within 500km, you should be OK.

This provides the flexibility we car-wedded Australians like.

Even the Nullarbor would be doable. If you instead opted for a Leaf or an I-MiEV, you might need to own an additional vehicle.

That decision would have cost, parking space and green penalties.

So you could say the Volt's two cars in one.

Petro-electric hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, which now has an enticing $23,990 model, operate differently.

They are driven by a petrol engine with electric support and have a good overall range but an electric-only limit of just 2km.

Many future hybrids will have a plug-in feature, providing similar versatility and economy as the Volt.

I've had a drive of the Volt.

It looks smart inside and out, managing to meld sporty, luxury and high-tech elements.

It doesn't at all look odd or drive unusually.

Eerie silence is the main difference from a conventional car.


LOWDOWN

Model: Holden Volt
Price: $60,000 (predicted)
Place of manufacture: US
Maker: Chevrolet
Release: Late spring
Power sources: Lithium-ion batteries and a 1.4-litre petrol generator
Range: 80km (plug-in power) plus 500km (petrol generator)
Recharging: Four hours from a household socket

The car's go-anywhere-anytime mobility is what distinguishes it from purely electric cars.

The West Australian

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