Engineering Explained Tests To See If 2016 Chevrolet Volt Can Really Go 53 Miles On Electricity – Video

2 years ago by Eric Loveday 48

2016 Volt

2016 Volt

Most Chevrolet Volt owners (both Gen 1 and Gen2) are able to easily exceed the electric range rating for the plug-in car, provided that conditions (temperature, lack of precipitation, etc.) are acceptable, but can Volt newbies beat the rating too?

To find out, Engineering Explained tested a 2016 Volt to see just how far it can go on electricity alone.

Video description:

“2016 Chevy Volt Review – Can It Go 53 Electric Miles?”

“The second generation Chevy Volt features a larger battery and greater efficiency, yielding an all electric range of 53 miles before the engine has to kick on. Under the hood is a 1.5L I4 gasoline engine, which is used purely as a generator, and a 111 kW two-motor system is responsible for driving the front wheels. An 18.4 kW battery on board stores the electric juice. The question is, can the 2016 Volt make it 53 miles without the engine coming on? I put it to the test to find out!”

“MSRP As Tested: $40,225”

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48 responses to "Engineering Explained Tests To See If 2016 Chevrolet Volt Can Really Go 53 Miles On Electricity – Video"

  1. Bevo says:

    I’ve gone 55 miles in the summer in my 2012 Volt, on a battery that is rated at 38 miles. I would hope with a 15 mile bump on the new batteries that folks would easily get into the high 50’s…

    1. mo says:

      I don’t understand why the guy didn’t just use EV until the gas engine kicked in and get an actual real life EV range….What kind of test is this lol.

  2. pjwood1 says:

    GM deserves credit for putting up some of the most conservative range numbers among EVs.

    1. +1 for them using the under sell and over deliver math on it.

      1. Alpha777 says:

        Exactly. Not inflated Ford numbers.
        That’s classy.

    2. bro1999 says:

      Yeah, unlike Ford who overstates fuel mileage numbers, gets caught, then reissues reduced numbers, then reduces numbers a SECOND time after “discovering” an error in their fuel economy calculations. *rolls eyes*

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        That, and Ford counts ALL miles with the engine off as EV miles, even miles derived from burning gasoline. Shady metrics for sure.

        1. bro1999 says:

          It is entirely possible to do 100 miles worth of city driving starting with a completely depleted battery and still have 30%+ EV miles counted, due to the way Ford counts EV miles (Which is ANY time the engine is off).

        2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          ClarksonCote said:

          “That, and Ford counts ALL miles with the engine off as EV miles, even miles derived from burning gasoline.”

          I thought that’s how the Volt counts EV miles, too. I’d be grateful if someone would please explain how the Volt counts EV miles differently.

          1. Stephen says:

            When the Volt is in charge sustaining mode any energy stored in the battery is not counted as EV miles when used. Even though the engine switches off it is acting as a hybrid not an EV.

          2. Spider-Dan says:

            The Volt computer only counts miles as “electric” if the energy was sourced from a plug (or, regenerated during battery-only mode). Let me give an example (apologies for length).

            You may be familiar with the Volt’s Mountain Mode, during which the engine will over-rev to generate an extra ~20% buffer in the battery (to be used for extra power-on-demand when climbing grades); in the Gen1 Volt, this is about a 12-mile buffer.

            So let’s suppose I drive a Gen1 Volt from a full 38 miles of AER down to 5 miles AER displayed as remaining; at this point, the Volt computer says that I have traveled 33 electric miles. If I turn on Mountain Mode at that point and continue driving, the engine will run at high revs until my AER is back up to 12 miles remaining; during this time, all miles are logged as “gas miles.” We’ll say it takes me 10 miles of driving time to charge back up to 12 AER, so at that point, the computer will read 33 electric miles, 10 gas miles.

            Now I switch the car back to Normal mode. The engine turns off and I’m running on battery, but the Volt will continue to log distance as “gas miles” until I get back to the original 5 miles of AER that I had back when I turned Mountain mode on. So I will continue to log gas miles until I am at 33 electric miles & 17 gas miles, at which point it will start logging electric miles again.

            In summary, the Volt tracks the source of energy into the battery and allocates the type of miles accordingly.

            1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              Thanks for your detailed explanation, Spider-Dan. Muchly appreciated!

              1. Spider-Dan says:

                Happy to help.

                It bears mentioning that if GM tracked miles in the same manner that Ford does, it would be possible for a Volt to get hundreds, even thousands, of “electric” miles on one charge:

                1. Drive on battery until ~1 mile of electric range remains
                2. Pull over and switch to Mountain mode
                3. Stay parked while engine recharges battery
                4. After extra buffer has been refilled, switch back to Normal mode
                5. Repeat from step 1

            2. ModernMarvelFan says:

              +53

              =)

        3. jdbob says:

          Seems like a reasonable way to do it. Subtracting EV miles from total miles gives you the number of miles with the engine running. Which from an engine maintenance perspective is what you want.

  3. Lou says:

    I am with Bevo. 2012 that always gets 50+ in the spring/summer/fall on my work commute, averaging about 40 mph up and down moderate hilly roads. My sense is that the 2016-7 would probably get 70-75 or close to that in the same conditions. A/C reduces my numbers but not too much.

  4. SparkEV says:

    He didn’t mention SparkEV!

    There’s not magic to electric range, newbie or experienced engineer. Find out how much power is used for some conditions (ie, speed, grade, comfort, etc), and you can extrapolate the range for other power conditions. I did just that in my blog post using limited data (and meta analysis) to find out how to optimize. If the link doesn’t show, look for “range-polynomial” in my blog; it’s got lots of “pretty” pictures. 🙂

    http://sparkev.blogspot.com/2016/03/range-polynomial.html

  5. Alpha777 says:

    To be fair to the Volt and rear seat headroom.
    This is only an issue if you have kids 6′ tall or taller.
    Or, you plan to carpool on a regular basis with tall people.

    For 90% of the population this isn’t an issue.

    But, It kills me from buying probably the Best Plugin on the Planet.

    -Good wheelbase for highway cruising.
    -Excellent fuel economy, and EV range.
    -Wide stance, and good handling, it’s like the Camaro of EV’s.
    -High speed collision prevention, up to 70 mph, is an option.
    -Really nice design.
    -Very good aerodynamics.

    Envy. Yeah, I’ve got it, for you folks who can buy this car.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Why don’t you teach your kids to drive and you sit in the back? If you’re also tall, how about surgery to reduce your height? j/k! LOL! 😉

    2. ziv says:

      Alpha, I am 6’4″ and the back seat is tight when the person back there is over 5’2″ not 6′. When I have the drivers seat set comfortably, there is about 2″ between the back of my seat and the front lip of the back seat.
      That is ridiculous for a car that is 177″ long.

  6. Jeff N says:

    “Under the hood is a 1.5L I4 gasoline engine, which is used purely as a generator, and a 111 kW two-motor system is responsible for driving the front wheels.”

    That is totally false for the second generation 2016 Volt and that’s not even an accurate description of the original generation cars.

    During all 3 of its gas engine modes the 2016 Volt’s engine always has a mechanical path to the wheels. The only time the engine acts purely as a generator is when the vehicle is stopped and the driver is fully apply the brakes (as is also true for the Prius). In one of those 3 modes the engine even has a direct fixed gear connection to the wheels.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Before GM started selling the Volt, they claimed it was a pure serial hybrid. Later, about the time they actually started selling the car, they admitted that wasn’t entirely true, claiming that the lie was “to protect patents”, which sounds like total B.S. to me. And even then, they falsely claimed that there was “no direct mechanical connection” between the gas engine and the drivetrain.

      Sad to see that GM is still lying about how Voltec works. I can’t see that they get any advantage from it, at all. I guess marketing reps are so used to lying that it doesn’t even occur to them that the truth would serve their company’s image better.

      That situation isn’t unique to GM, of course. From my experience, all corporations bigger than a small “family company” regularly lie to the public, to their customers, and to their employees. It’s pretty sad that Truth is valued so little.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        “they falsely claimed that there was “no direct mechanical connection” between the gas engine and the drivetrain.”

        What is the definition of “direct mechanical connection”? =)

        If by “direct” we mean the “only direct” then it isn’t true. Because it requires the electric motor to spin before it can turn the wheel mechanically.

        “claiming that the lie was “to protect patents””

        Well, I don’t know if it is true in this case. But I wouldn’t be surprised. If you analyze the powertrain of Synergy, Accord’s PHEV, Ford’s energi and Honda’s PHEV system, there are lots of “similarities” in them. It all depends on how each company write their respective “patent filing”, part of the each design can potentially violate each other’s design. So, I wouldn’t be surprised that Gen I Voltec was designed or modified to specifically avoid what Toyota or Ford has in terms of patents in their hybrid powertrain.

        Now, also remember that Gen II Voltec came out just in time for the original Synergy patents to expire (about 20 years into it). That is probably why we see more parallel configuration in the Voltec now for REx mode gas efficiency improvement.

        Then again, we will never know for sure unless we have some “insider information”.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Oh, I am not implying that GM violated any patents here.

          I am only suggesting that company are often design cars slightly differently to avoid violating other people’s patent. And sometimes they do it by sacrificing efficiency, cost or packaging size.

          Eventually over protecting patents start to become an obstacle to progress.

        2. Bill Howland says:

          The Gen2 Volt has a direct geared connection from the engine to the wheels at all times. Differential gearing (intrinsic in the way a planetary gearset works) in the first gear box allows the tires to spin while the engine is stationary. There are at times a reverse torque on the engine shaft, but there is a ‘coaster brake clutch’ on the shaft to prevent an actual reversal.

          The gen1 has a clutched arrangement that may drive the car at times without sending all the energy through the generator/rectifier/inverter. It was THIS fact that they lied about for the first 2 years until someone at NY State Dept of Motor Vehicles told them they weren’t fooling anyone. GM was fibbing because they were trying to get a HOL sticker or some trivial thing like that, and finally dropped the lies since it was hurting the image of the car.

          1. Jeff N says:

            “The gen1 has a clutched arrangement that may drive the car at times without sending all the energy through the generator/rectifier/inverter. It was THIS fact that they lied about for the first 2 years until someone at NY State Dept of Motor Vehicles told them they weren’t fooling anyone. GM was fibbing because they were trying to get a HOL sticker or some trivial thing like that, and finally dropped the lies since it was hurting the image of the car.”

            Why would anyone at NY DMV care about whether the Volt had clutches to switch between series and series/parallel mode?

            I suspect you are really thinking of the Volt’s failure to meet the CARB state requirements for super ultra-low emissions (SULEV) during the 2011 and part of the 2012 model years. Beginning in the mid-2012 model year GM added a low emissions option which could be ordered by dealers in California. This spread to other CARB states in the 2013 and later model years. This is what actually enabled the Volt to achieve High Occupancy Lane criteria in New York.

            From NY DOTs website FAQ:

            “Eligible Vehicle Criteria:
            • Vehicles which are certified to the California Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) standard and achieve a United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) highway fuel economy rating of 45 miles per gallon or more….”

            The Volt and other listed eligible cars do not get 45+ mpg on their EPA window sticker estimates so this requirement presumably involves other criteria (unadjusted CAFE, etc.).

            2013 and later model year Volts only qualify in New York if the have certain letters in their VIN which indicate they were built with the required SULEV factory option.

  7. George Parrott says:

    I have owned a

    2011 Nissan Leaf
    2011 Chevy Volt
    2013 Tesla Model S85
    2014 Chevy Volt
    2015 Tesla Model S P85D(L)

    And I still think the newest Volt is simply”the Best Engineering” in the auto world. Sure I am now only a 1-car household and that is the P85D(L), but if I or anyone I know needs a new and affordable car…..I always suggest the newest VOLT!

  8. Fool Cells says:

    I just got my 2017 volt last Saturday. Yesterday, i drove 53 miles. My dash was showing 12 miles of EV range left when i got home.

    1. Bevo says:

      That’s awesome!

      1. Fail Cells says:

        i am in love with this car. Wish it was a little bit bigger and wish GM did not cheap out on the backseat door plastic. The car rides nice, handles better than i thought it would, and wow…EV driving is quiet and smooth as silk.

    2. Philip d says:

      I just picked mine up on Sunday as well. I owned a 2014 before. The 17 is more than just an incremental improvement it is a far better car all around and it beat my expectations.

      I’ve been driving mine pretty aggressively during mild weather here in GA and have been hitting around 53 miles pretty consistently.

      The other night I went on an errand for about 10 miles driving fairly conservatively to see what it would do and I got 5.2 miles per kWh!

      It also handles around bends and corners now without digging in or wallowing. It feels like it shed much more than the 230 or so pounds it actually lost. I would almost say it is nimble.

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Where’s the problem? Just tell the newbie driver not to exceed 35 MPH, and I’m sure he’ll comfortably exceed 53 miles of all-electric range.

    1. Jychevyvolt says:

      Don’t hate on the volt. It’s a nice car. I get 41 miles on 10.4kwh.

    2. SparkEV says:

      53 miles at 35 MPH is probably true. But to maximize range over some power use (ie, heater/AC), 35 MPH may not be best. For example, SparkEV would do better at 45 MPH with 3 kW additional use and at 60 MPH with 9 kW additional use.

      1. MTN Ranger says:

        For my 2012 Volt with 37 EPA EV miles, driving 35MPH or slower gained the best EV mileage. I could get up to 48 miles driving in the 35-40MPH range. That’s with the first generation battery with only 9.8kWh available. Going 35MPH in the 2016/17 Volt should easily give 68+ miles.

        1. Philip d says:

          That’s actually a fact. I just got my 2017 this last Saturday and I’ve been hitting around 53 miles consistently, driving fairly aggressively in mild weather. The other night I did an errand that was about 10 miles driving conservatively and got 5.2 miles per kWh.

        2. SparkEV says:

          I have no doubt Volt will make the AER at 35 MPH, but probably not at 80 MPH. The point I’m making is that speed of maximum efficiency changes depending on load. Using AC/heat/climbing will shift that point.

    3. Jychevyvolt says:

      My commute this morning. 41.8 miles 10.2kwh used and 2 miles remaining. 9 miles city at 45mph and freeway at 65mph. That’s pretty good.

  10. jsmay311 says:

    Is that super slow startup (shown at 0:34) normal for Gen 2 Volts? In the video, there’s an 11 second delay between pressing the Power button and the DIC screen coming on.

    My Gen 1 boots up within a couple seconds or so.

    1. Spider-Dan says:

      My Gen1 usually boots up quickly. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t.

      I have a friend with a 2016 Volt and in my limited experience with that car, the Infotainment system generally seems faster and more responsive than the one in my 2013 Volt.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        I have timed my boot up time few times…

        I think it varies from as quickly as 3 seconds to as long as 7-8 seconds. (from the time I press the button to the time all warning lights off)

        I think if I get into the car first and wait a few seconds (the car already detect me and wait for me to press on) and then start the car will be slightly quicker than I get in the car and press on immediately.

        I think the “self test” sequence has a different time to complete based on conditions and state of the system at various times.

        Of course, this is based on my personal Gen I experience. I have seen some of my co worker’s Volt booting quicker or slower in various state/conditions…

        1. Bill Howland says:

          My initialization time in the 2011 volt is dependent on whether it is starting the engine or not.

    2. Fail Cells says:

      my 2017 boots up in about three seconds

    3. ClarksonCote says:

      He sat in the car for a while before pressing start. I think that’s the cause here, for whatever reason. (likely having to boot systems that were put back to sleep when he didn’t press start after initially getting in)

  11. Fail Cells says:

    anyone with a 2017 volt gotten volt stats to link their car? I have been trying since Saturday and it fails each time

    1. Philip d says:

      I haven’t yet. I’ll try tonight.

  12. KenC says:

    I got my 16 Volt in January in Maine, and today, I drove 58 miles with 5 miles remaining, so as long as you don’t hit the interstate, it’s pretty easy to exceed the estimated EV range.

  13. Ambulator says:

    I only seem to get 35 mpg in my 2013 Volt, and that’s even when keeping the speed down under 75 mph on the freeway. Even taking surface roads doesn’t seem to help, as the constant acceleration up to 55 mph and then stopping for red lights seems to be just as bad for the mileage.