Well Chevrolet have been threatening to step up to the hybrid market for some time now with some audacious concept designs being released some years back (looking mostly like a futuristic Camaro). The new machine looks starkly different and has placed itself in firm opposition to the Toyota Prius.
A hefty battery
Whilst both pretty similar plug in and drive vehicles (going electric before the battery runs out with the petrol engine kicking in) there are some fundamental key differences. The Volt’s battery is 10 times bigger than the Prius’s, meaning that you can travel a solid 39 miles before the petrol kicks in, which is extremely impressive for a hybrid car. Sometimes you’ll even get over 40 miles out of it.
Costly but effective?
The volts battery is a 16kW-hour battery whilst the standard (non-plugin) Prius’s is a 1.6kW-h battery. What does that mean? Well of course with a larger battery you can go further before the petrol engine kicks in making short journeys much more eco-friendly. The Volt’s huge liquid cooled lithium-ion battery is therefore at an advantage compared to the Prius. Batteries are however expensive to manufacture – volumetrically, the Prius’s Panasonic battery is not only 70% smaller but also a lot cheaper. The Volt’s battery, hardware, cooling system and so on is said to cost in the region of £6000 whilst the plug-in Prius’s larger 4.4kW-hrbattery costs around £1500.
What does this mean in practice?
Well seeing as the Volt can do about 40 miles without the engine coming on, we thought we’d see how long the plug-in Prius would last and found it to go 11 miles instead of the advertised 15. Not only that, but during the ride the engine burst into action 5 times when acceleration was not even that harsh at a paltry 30mpg. Most electric vehicles can keep up with green-light racers due to the electric motor torque. This poor performance can be attributed to three factors – the small battery, and the fact that the electric motor in the Prius is quite frankly too pious with only 80 bhp compared with the volts 149bhp. The third factor is the fact that the prius has a lithium-ion battery which is unsuited to the application due to it releasing energy slowly rather than in short bursts like a nickel-hydride battery. Acceleration is therefore an issue hence the engine starting.
Overall, the Volt did a fantastic 106mpg equivalent (and 33mpg in petrol mode) and the Prius did less at 65mpg. The Prius did triumpg though as its petrol mpg was a respectable 48. Overall, you probably won’t save that much money on these vehicles overall and we think that they’re still hanging off their novelty value – you’ll probably find that car insurance is cheaper though.