NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's being called "the world's best car" by many people who drive it -- including me -- but can it handle a 1,100 mile high-speed dash through the deserts and mountains of the American West? I'm writing about the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car with a gasoline engine as range-extender.
I'm one of the still relatively few people who have put thousands of miles in the all-new Chevrolet Volt, and people often ask me: Can it handle going at a steady 73 miles per hour for over one thousand miles, up and down the hills? So I set out to prove it.
The Volt is driven primarily by a combination of two electric motors, but when the battery charge has come down to 25% and you're driving fairly fast and at a steady speed, the 1.4 liter four-cylinder gasoline engine can also help provide some power, apart from its function to charge the battery. The question is whether this arrangement is enough to drive the Volt comfortably at high speeds for long periods of time, sometimes heading up mountains.
I had the Volt's tires inflated to the factory-prescribed 35 psi, charged the battery to full, filled up the gas tank, and headed out to tackle the long stretches of deserts, farm lands and mountains of the American West. I had taken the exact same route at least three times before in a 2008 Toyota Prius Touring, so I had a good object of comparison.
To further clarify the driving conditions, there was only one person in the car, two small suitcases, and the air conditioning was running at a medium level. The speed was kept by the excellent cruise control to 73 and 68 MPH most of the time, but a few slower passages took the average down to 65 MPH. In addition, I stopped for a break on average every two hours, causing the 1,100 mile test to take 19 hours in total. With those parameters in mind, the Volt consumed 29 gallons of premium gasoline over the 1,100 miles. That would imply 37.9 MPG, but considering that the first 35 miles were driven on electricity obtained from a free public charging station, the "real" MPG for the 1,065 remaining miles was 36.7.