WardsAuto Explains Why 2017 Chevrolet Volt Is Deserving Of “10 Best Engines” Award

10 months ago by Steven Loveday 54

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt is still an unmatched plug-in hybrid vehicle to contend with for several reasons, and sales figures (almost 3,700 sold in December) support that.  And while it’s not an all-electric vehicle, it has more than enough range on battery alone, to satisfy most users’ daily commute. Add the gas engine (range extender) and its total range exceeds many vehicles on the road today.

Chevrolet Volt 1.5-Liter Engine/Range Extender

Chevrolet Volt 1.5-Liter Atkinson DOHC four-cylinder dual-motor EREV

GM estimates that Volt drivers fill up their gas tanks, on average, about every 1,000 miles or so. With range anxiety associated with electric vehicles, concerns about charging locations, and the definite necessity to own a vehicle that will allow for road trips, the Volt is the answer.

The Volt’s 1.5-liter engine functions as a range extender, rather than a traditional gas engine, which would power the wheels. Instead, it generates electricity to power the car’s drive motors, which then powers the wheels. This causes for much more instant torque than a traditional gas car. WardsAuto editor Bob Gritzinger shared:

 “Stunning level of quiet and refined power from 0 rpm and ample power across the range, low, passing and highway cruising … As a de-Volt-ee, I’m already guzzling the Kool-Aid, but a weekend drive in this second-gen makes me want the new powertrain even more.”

This is not the first time a Chevrolet Volt powertrain has made WardsAuto’s esteemed list. Actually, the first-gen Volt engine made the 2011 list, the year it debuted, and the second-gen engine gets the award for the second year in a row this year.

Wards calls the second-generation engine a substantial improvement from its already great predecessor, in many ways. It boasts 20% more horsepower and 10% more torque, and EPA estimates are up from 37 mpg to 42 mpg. This is partly due to the fact that the battery is 30 lbs. lighter and 20% more energy dense. The second-gen Volt also burns regular fuel, which wasn’t the case with the first-gen model.

Wards concludes:

“One of the most significant improvements is the propulsion system’s ability to use both motors in EV or range-extended mode at the same time, which substantially improves launch and low-end acceleration, contributing greatly to the fun factor. The Chevy Volt’s innovative engineering and second-generation advances make its impact on the industry at large undeniable and its encore appearance on the Wards 10 Best Engines list richly deserved.”

WardsAuto editor Dave Zoia said:

“Silent as a submarine; Engine transition (from EV to EREV mode) nearly imperceptible.”

Source: WardsAuto

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54 responses to "WardsAuto Explains Why 2017 Chevrolet Volt Is Deserving Of “10 Best Engines” Award"

  1. Assaf says:

    Awesome. Now please stick a version of this into an SUV, a minivan, and a pickup truck. At least one of each kind.

    Thank you.

    1. unlucky says:

      GM doesn’t make a minivan. I hope we see the rumored Equinox version of this at NAIAS this week.

      1. pjwood1 says:

        They’re goin’ diesel, with urea of course. That makes unlikely an EREV.
        http://www.autoblog.com/2016/09/22/2018-chevy-equinox-turbo-diesel-engine/

      2. Ziv says:

        Either the Equinox, or (less likely) the Envision, would be a great way to spread the use of Voltec technology and really appeal to a lot of people who don’t want/can’t use a compact liftback.
        This is GM, though, so I doubt it will happen soon.

      3. SJC says:

        The Malibu hybrid has a 1.8L GDI, so the Equinox could be that.

    2. Dan says:

      Two seater sports car!

    3. James M says:

      Or at least a Malibu. My kids need more leg room.

    4. TEDFREDRICK says:

      If one of these was in SUV of decent size I would buy it today… What the heck I would buy it in an hour

    5. abc123 says:

      I agree. However, it may not be economical for the company.

      You see, SUV’s come in AWD versions. The Voltec system is FWD ONLY so even if they came out with an SUV voltec, it can only ever be FWD in it’s current version. They’d have to do some re-engineering to support AWD.

      This will be the reason you won’t see a RWD sports car with Voltec either.

      The Voltec is a marvel of engineering, however, it is also an achilles heal.

  2. David Murray says:

    I love my 2017 Volt. I’m not sure there is a car on the road at any price that I’d rather have. However, it would be awesome if they stuck a rear motor with an additional 50KW or so to give it AWD and better launch capabilities.

    1. Bacardi says:

      I would agree but take it a step further…Simply voltec the Cruze hatchback which wouldn’t be much different than a standard Cruze sedan and raise the suspension a few inches…Ultimately what you have is like a Subaru Crosstrek or like a Volvo X60 Cross Country…Sort of a wannabe SUV but you do get AWD and raised ride height unlike the Bolt EV…

  3. speculawyer says:

    The Voltec drivetrain is a marvel. And Assaf is 100%, it needs to be put into an SUV, a minivan, and a pickup truck . . . and I would add a large sedan/hatchback.

    The Volt is great but at this point such small size cars can be handled fine with just batteries as the Bolt has proven. That Voltec drivetrain NEEDs to be put into larger vehicles that are harder to electrify.

    And don’t be discouraged by the ELR failure. Creating a Caddy PHEV for your grandpa that watches Fox News was a BAD IDEA. We need a PHEV for younger practical folk such as soccer moms, environmentally minded outdoorsmen/skiers, environmentally minded rural people, etc.

    1. Could they not put the Battery from the Bolt EV, the Voltec Drivetrain from the Volt up front, and a slightly re-packaged Bolt EV Drivetrain in the rear, add 10 Gallons of Gas, and make an All Whhel Drive EREV with at least 200 miles EV Range, plus about 400 miles reserve range on Gas?!

      That possably even deliver great performance in the basic Silverado sized Pickups, the Suburban, and even the Malibu sized cars! Shoot for under 7 seconds for 0-60; 35-38 Mpg on gas, and 180-200 miles EV Range on all their big car platforms with this mix!

  4. Get Real says:

    Unfortunately, GM is absolutely SQUANDERING its opportunity here to take this class-leading Voltec tech and move it aggressively into SUVs, Trucks and many more bigger vehicles.

    I think that history will show this failure as an amazingly short-sighted move to protect ICE/stealership maintenance profits at the expense of leading the future of light duty transportation.

    1. JeremyK says:

      It can cost up to a billion dollars to develop a new vehicle platform. GM has many more platforms (not to be confused with models) than probably any other auto maker. It is no small task to add a PHEV option for every model in their lineup. A PHEV cannot even be created unless it is planned into the original vehicle architecture, which have a life of 5-10 years.

      I agree that at the very least we should have a PHEV Equinox and Malibu by now, but to expect PHEV options across the board is not realistic.

      1. Get Real says:

        Yes it is difficult, welcome to business.

        I stand by my assertion that GM is squandering an opportunity to seize and even lead the future now and become a dominant PEV manufacturer and one of the surviving auto makers in the next 10 years.

        You can bet when Tesla rolls out its Model Y and pickup truck it will be a-holes and elbows time at GM and the other complacent, laggard OEMs.

        1. Any guesses as to when the first Model Y unveiling will be?

          Using the bssic idea that the Model 3 will get its next reveal about in March 2017, I would Hazard a Guess that the Model Y won’t be revealed until after this next section of the Gigafactory is complte, for sure, and maybe its first reveal will wait until the 3rd phase of the GF is built, but that could be as soon as December, 2017! It might also be waiting to get much of the new Freemont Factory Expansion completed!

    2. speculawyer says:

      I’m wondering if the the failure of the ELR has given them cold feet.

      If so, that is bad analysis. That is was the wrong market. Granpa that watches Fox News is not the PHEV market. Go for the younger people that use their SUV for outdoor adventures.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “I think that history will show this failure as an amazingly short-sighted move to protect ICE/stealership maintenance profits…”

      I think that we don’t need to wait for the judgement of history to note that GM makes a smaller profit margin on the Volt than on its more popular gasmobiles, and that we don’t need to look for any less obvious motive than that for why they haven’t put Voltec into any other car except the initially very overpriced Cadillac ELR.

      If the ELR was not actually designed to fail, at least it looks as if it was.

  5. Jer says:

    Here in the UK it was like they don’t want to sell this car. Now it is unavailable here.

    1. speculawyer says:

      Well . . . they did sell the original Volt and Ampera version there . . . but you guys didn’t buy it. 🙁

  6. Voltage 3 says:

    Hopefully, the alleged earth leakage issue is fake news.

  7. Koenigsegg says:

    Volt is the best EV if you can’t afford a Tesla. Seriously.

    I haven’t filled up in 4 months and have 171 miles of gas range.

    And I start with 51-55 miles of EV range.

    Saving up for my future Tesla!

    1. DA/Volt says:

      I bought my ’17 Volt in early August. It’s never ran on gasoline in over 4000 miles, except a couple of EMM events.

      Still have the full tank from the dealer. 40 mile commute and side trips not an issue. Even made a 100+ mile round trip to Disneyland all EV because I was able to public charge at Disney.

      1. David Murray says:

        I made a 100 mile round trip in my 2017 as well a few weeks ago. Same as you, I was able to charge at my destination. It was absolutely amazing to think about that when I got home, just how far I had driven in a plug-in hybrid without using the gas engine. The Volt really does deliver the EV experience on all but the longest drives.

    2. speculawyer says:

      It is a nice car but I would not call it an “EV”. It is a PHEV. Or “EREV” if you prefer that one (I don’t).

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        So remind us, speculawyer, just what does the “EV” in “PHEV” mean? 🙂

        Let us please remember that a BEV is merely one type of EV; it’s not the only type.

      2. unlucky says:

        I’m with you. If it’s has a tailpipe, it’s not an EV. End of story.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    5 mpg improvement with much cheaper (Octane 87 in the states: not sure what the RON is) gasoline is a dramatic change.

    If it is as reliable as the quite old (even in 2010 GEN 1 4 cylinder), then it truly will be a great engine, although they seem to also be giving this award due to the way the somewhat novel dual motor, dual planetary gearset works.

  9. realistic says:

    “The Volt’s 1.5-liter engine functions as a range extender, rather than a traditional gas engine, which would power the wheels. Instead, it generates electricity to power the car’s drive motors, which then powers the wheels. This causes for much more instant torque than a traditional gas car.”

    Yes, but….

    In Fixed-Ratio Extended Range Mode, the engine is directly coupled to the wheels through the transmission and zero-to-very low electrical conversion takes place. While this mode seems morally wrong to some Volt critics (not accusing you, Mr. Loveday, just some readers/commenters) in some situations it is the best overall way to use the engine. The Volt’s electrical machines and power electronics are excellent but do not match the conversion efficiency of a good gear set when the engine is operated at optimum cruise.

    See this link:
    http://gm-volt.com/2015/02/20/gen-2-volt-transmission-operating-modes-explained/

    1. Ambulator says:

      Yeah, it was rather shocking to see this. It’s unclear if it’s Ward’s Auto that gets this so wrong, but someone sure did.

      1. unlucky says:

        It doesn’t operate in that model most of the time though, even at normal (speed limit) highway speeds.

        But it is still odd to see Wards claim it doesn’t ever do that. It makes me wonder if they really know the technical aspects well enough to make a list at all.

        1. Trollnonymous says:

          I thought this changed at one point and the ICE is no longer coupled direct to drive the wheels.

          I’m probably wrong though.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      realistic said:

      “The Volt’s electrical machines and power electronics are excellent but do not match the conversion efficiency of a good gear set when the engine is operated at optimum cruise.”

      I see your point about the Volt’s complex gearing lowering the maximum efficiency, but I think you’re forgetting that Voltec is designed to allow the gas engine to run unthrottled, which allows it to run at its most efficient speed. Contrast with a typical gasmobile, which spends most of its time with the engine running throttled at a much lower, and significantly less efficient, speed.

      If my understanding is correct, running the Volt gas engine unthrottled gives the powertrain an overall higher efficiency in gas-burning mode than it would with a traditional gasmobile’s transmission.

      Caveat: The above is based on my understanding of Voltec 1.0. I know that some changes were made with Voltec 2.0, and that its operation is more complex. But so far as I know, it still allows the gas motor to run unthrottled.

      1. realistic says:

        I prefer “load following” to “unthrottled” to describe the engine speed/output control strategy, but I understand your point and in fact it is.

        Take a look at the link to see the mode in which the engine output is essentially all going to the wheels. As pointed out by another commenter it doesn’t do this all the time on the highway. But the slightly larger (1.5 vs 1.4L) engine, its lower rpm operation and the change in driveline configuration strategy all contribute to the successful improvements in energy economies (petrol and electrons).

  10. xado says:

    please bring the volt2 to europe,and i sell my leaf

  11. pjwood1 says:

    I think it’s understated how much a few more KWh pay more than just a range dividend. Volts electric performance is also about the difference between <10KWh vs. closer to 20Kwh (er, 18.4). It did a great job, at 16KWh. Even better, now.

  12. Kevin C. says:

    How’s the new Volt handle in the snow?
    Any one out there with a 2017 Volt from a Northern climate?
    It’s definitely on our future purchase list.

    1. unlucky says:

      Ask these folks, they are a group of Volt owners in Ontario, Canada.

      https://www.facebook.com/WRVoltec

      They routinely post links to Volts in deep winter under the hashtag #SnowVolt

      1. Neromanceres says:

        I’m a member of WRVoltec and live in the Waterloo region in Ontario Canada. Both my 2013 and 2017 Volt handle the snow very well and I don’t even use winter tires.

        It’s a fairly heavy FWD car with an excellent traction control system. It does much better than most other cars.

        1. Kevin C. says:

          Cool. Was thinking the extra weight from the battery pack wouldn’t hurt.
          Congratulations on your 2nd Volt, Neromanceres.
          I am green with envy;-)

      2. Kevin C. says:

        Thanks for that link Unlucky.

    2. yves says:

      I dont know but the first generation is a tank in the snow.

    3. Vibranium12 says:

      Hi Kevin I got my 2017 Volt end of July. I live in northern IL with WI boarding my neighbors back yard. It’s an amazing car, I will tell you that the temp does effect the EV mileage from a high of 70mpc in the summer, 45mpc in fall and 36mpc -12°F so far this winter.I had a set of Nitto NT421Q tires on my Hyundai Veracruz great tires in the winter and rain. The stock Michelin Energy don’t compare lots of tire spin, I’m looking to replace the tires before next winter. We were all surprised with a forecast of rain tomorrow and high of 45°F to leaving my office with flurries to now snow on the ground. The brakes work fine and the car was stable. I’m hoping Gen3 pushes the EV mileage to 80,a great car, the most miles between fill-up for me has been 3160, on ave 1000 miles. MPC(miles/charge)

      1. realistic says:

        Vibranium: I’m very close to your neighborhood.

        Mine is a 2013, and I’ve set the Engine Assist temperature low limit at 15degF. You don’t get a choice: the engine starts and runs as often as the car deems becessary. Thus AER in the bitter cold is moot. I have seen AER in 20degF temps as low as 23mi., which still gets me 80-90% of a typical day as all-electric.

        As you’ve experienced we’ve had at least 10 days or so that never saw temps over 15, and this far (including a drive back-and-forth to Grand Rapids) my fuel usage for the 1200 miles since the start of the big early Dec deep freeze has been 48mpg. More or less Prius-ish.

      2. Kevin C. says:

        Vibranium12

        Congratulations on your new Volt!
        I know all about how winter wipes out mpg/mpc.
        Our 2001 Honda Insight will get 60+mpg in pleasant weather. Right now we’re lucky to get 35. In Boise we’ve had so much snow (records broken) it sits buried in a snowbank.
        I look forward to picking up a ’17 Volt to replace our Olds Alero. (daily winter driver) Man, the Volt will make a great roadtrip car for our semianual pilgrimmage to Las Wages, er, Las Vegas.

  13. green car says:

    Make the volt pure electric

    1. David Murray says:

      Not really realistic at this point. The car was designed from ground up to be a PHEV. With the T-shaped battery that the car was designed for, there is no way they’d be able to get enough range out of the car for full electric without making huge sacrifices to cargo area. And seriously, at this point I think pure EVs are going to need to be around 200 miles of range before they are taken seriously.

  14. We have a Volt and it does reasonable in the snow, as good as any FWD car. The only downside is ground clearance is about 5 inches so if the snow is much deeper the Volt acts more like a snow plow.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      The Volt is amazing in the winter with 4 snow tires!

  15. Goaterguy says:

    I own a 2014 Volt and due to the $50 Amazon gift card for a test drive promotion, I test drove a 2017. To nobody’s surprise, the 2017 battery had no charge and the engine was running constantly so I couldn’t enjoy or compare the electric drive. The salesman which had no idea about how the car worked told me some BS of how the battery was empty because the car was used at the city’s auto show three weeks ago. I didn’t tell him but I was at the auto show and they didn’t use that car… He was even exited to tell me that the car had bluetooth! It completely ruined the experience for me. Again, I can see why Tesla fights so hard to never have a franchise dealership.

  16. While the Voltec Drivetrain is in many ways a marvel, let’s do some Tesla Versus math: 1 Tesla 90 has about enough battery power to equal 5 Volts, or 10 Prius Primes, and 1 Volt therefore is about equal to the Battery power of 2 Prius Primes! Based on that, I can see how the Volt should be able to introduce 5X as many people to Electric Drive than a Tesla 90, and the Prius Prime could introduce 10X as many people to Electric Driving than a Tesla 90, assuming the approximate equal kWh where used overal in each case. So there is some value in the PHEV/EREV model still!

  17. realistic says:

    Like others here I wish for this driveline design to find its way to the Crossover/SUV platforms… not because I want one. I find the desire to “sit up high” and drag around a huge and rarely-used cabin to be silly. But this is what many people want. One of the justifications touted by many SUV owners is the need for towing.

    Chevy/GM have a strong brand connection to the rugged, multiuse capability of their truck and SUV platforms, and I’m skeptical that any of the electrified drivetrains have the endurance for confident “recreational” towing. Yes, the Model X is 5000lb rated. But look at the experience of MX owners/testers who tow over any hills at all or try to maintain a reasonably safe speed. The battery is consumed SO fast. That’s not a defect in the MX design; it’s just a fact of the energy storage challenge. There are several MX blog posts that discuss 500-600wh/mi with a modest trailer.

    The 95th %-ile towing case of a 6% interstate grade for several miles at >60 mph is a withering requirement for propulsion. Ditto the high air resistance case. I work with a client who tows a trailer carrying a series hybrid industrial machine prototype. The Buick Enclave that normally gets over 18mpg on the highway consumes at a rate of 8-9 mpg when towing. We have to refill every 200 miles. I don’t think there’s a tolerable electrified solution yet to deal with this kind of challenge.

    Yes, most recreational towing requirements don’t happen nearly as often as some Tahoe owners insist. But they believe they need to meet this kind of coffin-corner use case, so electrification isn’t going to happen in that product range for awhile yet.