We have had a Chevy Volt downstairs for a few days. (Our engineers and editors are doing an in-depth evaluation along with an interesting comparison with a prototype plug-in Prius that is also here.)
I went for a drive with our lead engineer riding shotgun. He was helpfully comparing the engine efficiency, charging efficiency, regenerative braking, etc. of the two vehicles.
In some ways, the comparison is unfair. After all, the Prius is still almost a year away and will be a 3rd generation product. This is obviously a 1st generation Volt.
Two things struck me. The first is that the Volt “feels” very different than the Prius, despite arguably similar approaches.
The second is that discussions about how the Volt could be improved or dissections of its technology miss the key point: The Volt is undeniably cool.
It is not a car for everyone. We could argue whether there are better ways to go green.
But there are few vehicles that offer the levels of engagement of the Volt. In some ways it represents more of a hobby than a mode of transportation. While not required, you can connect to the Volt with your iPhone. In California, you can get a high capacity charger with its own electricity meter. (To lower the rate paid—although you pay more for the privilege.) You can even set a timer to charge the vehicle at lower off-peak rates. While driving, there is plenty of feedback about how to drive more efficiently.
And these are just the features I noted during a brief drive. This is a car that will strongly appeal to a new kind of enthusiast. And for these enthusiasts, value oriented discussions about efficiency or sticker price don't resonate.
The interesting thing to watch is how well the Volt moves beyond this group into the mainstream. We can watch this through shifts in consideration sets. I will report back when we have something.