I was recently given the opportunity to experience a full-fledged electric automobile… well, actually a car with an electric motor and a small gasoline engine; or what Chevy calls an “extended-range electric vehicle.”

Chevy Volt: Passenger Side View

The Chevrolet Volt is not a pure electric vehicle (EV); however, it’s far from a standard gas-electric hybrid.  Living up to the tagline on Chevy’s website, the Volt offers the efficiency of “electric when you want it” and the peace of mind of “gas when you need it.”  If charged sufficiently, the Volt can run solely on its 149 horsepower, 273 lb.-ft. of torque electric motor for up to 35 miles of gas-free driving (which can increase or decrease depending on temperature, driving style, and road conditions).  For 2013, the Volt’s range has increased due to a reduction of the “buffer space.”

This is a beautiful thing-so why isn’t the Volt (and electric vehicles in general) selling nearly as well as it should be?  Well there are myriad reasons for the slow sales, none more significant than this stagnant economy, which we have yet to kickstart.  The Chevy starts at roughly $40,000, before incentives, or twice as much as the 40-mpg Chevy Cruze Eco sedan.  As Jonathan Welsh states in his article Chevy Volt: Why Isn’t it Selling Well?, “When it comes to curbing consumption, people like to feel they are saving money while saving the earth.  If green technology costs more, consumers want to ‘break even’  on overall savings within a reasonable period.”  If return on investment is your only incentive to buy a Volt, then you’re better off with a Cruze or Civic.  However, if you believe in fostering a sense of environmental awareness while simultaneously investing in the future of transportation, then step inside-it’s going to be a quiet ride.

Chevy Volt: Interior

The Volt looks unlike any Chevy sedan on the market: sharp lines, an aggressive grill, raked windshield, and sporty 17″ wheels make for a beautiful car regardless of the drivetrain.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that the dual interior screens and touch-sensitive center controls conjure up images of Blade Runner for the lucky driver.  My greatest praise for this Chevy is that it doesn’t feel like a Chevy; the car is brilliantly designed, with careful consideration going into every aspect of its layout.  The Volt also seamlessly balances efficiency with performance, aided in part by the massive torque the car puts down to the front wheels.  Although electric vehicles are not often associated with blisteringly fast speed and go-cart handling, it’s a pleasure to drive a car that integrates some sportiness into the mix.

Unfortunately, sales of the Volt have been less than favorable.  Welsh believes that even though gas prices have elevated and the “green” revolution is picking up speed, “electric and plug-in cars won’t follow until they can compete more evenly on price and practicality.”  Eventually electric cars should be more practical and less-expensive; but you can’t expect competitive offerings overnight.

Chevy Volt Cost of Operation (numbers will vary)

Similar to electric cars, Plasma and LCD TV’s were expensive and bulky when they were first offered.  Fortunately, as consumers, we didn’t let these minor quibbles keep us from investing in the technology; as a result, flat-screen TV’s improved both in quality and price.  The same is true for EV’s; but without unwavering support for the electric revolution we won’t be able to reap the benefits of these great vehicles on a widespread scale.

Great car Joe.