Armen Hareyan's picture

Is Chevy Volt an EV, Hybrid or Both?

One of the most common (if not the most common) myths held by the public about the Chevy Volt is that it is merely a battery only electric car, and that after 30-50 miles of travel a driver must stop to charge, or worse, run the risk of being stranded.

Here is what a Chevy Volt owner Mark Renburke wrote to TorqueNews, commenting on this myth.

Despite years of accurate media stories and reviews (as well as an arguably lackluster promotional campaign by GM), this pervasive misconception is still carried on into the debut of the 2016 Gen 2 Volt, as you can witness by reading the comments section of a typical new media story about the MY 2016 launch. But a lesser while still quite pervasive misconception held mainly by folks one might describe as "EV purists" is that the Volt is "merely a hybrid", and a vehicle still quite dependent on gasoline... perhaps even a perpetuating tool of the "evil oil industry". Without getting too political, let's just take a look at the basic facts and specs of the Volt itself.

Chevy Volt is a *plug in hybrid electric vehicle* (PHEV), more specifically a subcategory of which, described by the term Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV, a GM term, but also describes the BMW's i3 REX which is not a fully functional range extender). See BMW i3 REx vs. Chevrolet Volt: two different approaches to plug-in hybrids

The Volt operates as a pure EV from 0 to 101 mph when the battery has charge, and will do so for weeks or even a month at time and log thousands of EV only miles. Flooring the accelerator does not make the engine come on to assist, as is the case with hybrids as we all know them, as their is no power need from the engine while the battery has charge. Compared to the Nissan LEAF (Will LEAF copy Tesla's Battery options?), the top selling battery only vehicle, it also has more 100% electric torque, a faster 0-60 time, and better aerodynamics and highway EV only efficiency (in part due to its 2-electric motor mode).

Also See: With seating for five, 2016 Volt may have lost its last excuse to not be a mass-market vehicle

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The GM Volt is a plug-in-hybrid, it is not an Electric vehicle (EV). What type of energy can be put into the vehicle defines what type of vehicle it is, not that it has a some EV guts or can drive electric a short distance. If it can use chemical fuel or be plugged in (like the GM Volt can), then it is not an EV, it is an plug-in-hybrid.

The BWM i3 EV is an EV. But if an i3 has their rex option (a small gasoline generator module), it is no longer an EV, but is a plug-in-hybrid.

There's really no need to make things more complicated than they are, contradict oneself (such as "What type of energy can be put into the vehicle defines what type of vehicle it is an plug-in...") or omit accurate and descriptive parts of of widely accepted terms just to fit some sort of EV purist agenda. The world of plug in cars is not that black and white...and that's a good thing.

The Volt is a type of PHEV (Plug in Hybrid *Electric Vehicle*). More specifically, it is a subtype labeled EREV (Extended Range Electric Vehicle) that unlike virtually all other PHEV classified cars, operates as a fully powered, highway-capable, 40 to 50 mile range daily Electric Vehicle that can switch to an optional gasoline-electric hybrid mode (typically automatically when the battery reaches its "Low" state).

Understanding this simple but accurate description is the key to undertsand not the tech or how it works, but rather how the vehicle can and does "work" for driver and their lifestyle, to provide daily pure electric driving (and the associated huge reduction in personal gasoline consumption), combined with 100% range confidence that drivers are used to, should they ever need to "go farther" for any reason.

These distinctions are important, and labeling the Volt merely "a hybrid" is a disservice to the educating the consumer and really a lie of ommission, and of course just referring to it as an EV simarly perpetautes the myth that it is limited like common BEV (Battery only Electric Vehicle). It's also important, because we need all automakers to make more vehicles like the Volt, that have no dependence on gasoline for daily range and full performance, but can still provide the familar functionality of the legacy gasoline car whenever needed. BEVs may not be for everyone, but the transtition to an PHEV/EREV for a consumer is virtually effortless, assuming they are simply able to plug in to a standard home outlet every night.

That is why it's import to be honest about the car, and take the few extra words to exlain that the Volt is both ands EV and a hybrid, in simple terms. Or as Eric Clapton put it, "It's in the way that you use it." ;)

You are mistaken, there's an extremely important distinction you're failing to make.

Hybrids connect both the engine and the electric motor to the drive train. This makes the drive train expensive, inefficient, and prone to failure. The important distinction between a PHEV and an EREV is whether the fossil fuel engine only charges the battery, or is attached to the drivetrain. BMW i3 Rex is an EREV, not a PHEV, and Toyota Prius C is a PHEV, not an EREV.

An EREV is used just like an EV, except that you don't have to call a taxi or stay home if the range to where you have to go is "close". It makes the EV usable as private transportation. A PHEV is used like a hybrid, plug it in, don't, it'll only change your driving expense by a few cents.

"Chevy Volt is a *plug in hybrid electric vehicle* (PHEV), more specifically a subcategory of which, described by the term Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV, a GM term, but also describes the BMW's i3 REX which is not a fully functional range extender)"

The REX engine is most certainly a Range Extender. It Extends the range of the EV battery, by charging it with a gasoline powered engine, exactly like the current generation Volt does.

You've omitted the critical words "fully functional". Of course the i3 REx extends range...but only an additional ~75 miles for ~150 miles total range before needing to recharge or refuel. Fully functional would be 300-350 more miles range, a standard full car's range, like the Volt. Also, the REx is not powerful enough for the i3 to have the same performance on gas as it does battery only (also, unlike the Volt and therefore not "fully functional") Get it now?

Thanks for all the good information. I learnt a lot.
While I really like my 2013 Volt which has only 60K on it. But the battery is now down to 36 miles after fully charged. Therefore, I am contemplating to get a new car similar to Volt. Unfortunately GM is not making new Volt. WHY? I don't understand. Instead they make Bolt which I don't like.
My question to you guys is - should I keep my 2013 Volt until the battery die (not sure how much longer)? Or, should I sell it and get another car similar to Volt. But so far, I do not know of any except the BMW i3, which I understood it is not as good as the Volt in extended drive on gas.
Any recommendations?