Priced from $59,990, Holden's new Volt runs on a combination of electric and petrol power.
Priced from $59,990, Holden's new Volt runs on a combination of electric and petrol power.

Atmosphere is electric

WHAT do you call a car that has a bank of batteries, a plug, two electric motors and a petrol engine?

Well most of us would call it a plug-in hybrid. But not Holden.

It said the new Volt is a "long-range electric car", in that you can take the car away for the weekend and not have to worry about running out of charge just a hundred kilometres down the road.

The catch is that the long range comes courtesy of petrol rather than electricity.

You can still plug the car in at a regular powerpoint to recharge the batteries in between six and 10 hours from a standard powerpoint, but on longer journeys, the petrol engine under the bonnet kicks in to act as a "generator" for the batteries, meaning it can run until you're out of both battery charge and petrol - which is after about 600 kilometres.

And after 300 kilometres behind the wheel of the Volt, 60km of which didn't use a drop of fuel, we'd suggest that it indeed offers the best of both worlds. Unfortunately it comes at a price - $59,990 to be exact.

So what's it like to drive?

Push the start button and you're greeted by an artificial, almost cartoonish sound that lets you know the electric motor is up and running - that chime is a good thing, because you wouldn't otherwise be able to tell that the virtually-silent car is ready to roll.

There are two iPad-like display screens.

One sits behind the steering wheel rather than a set of dials.

It offers the usual information you'd expect such as a digital speedometer and trip computer, as well as technical stuff like a range meter for the battery and petrol "generator".

It also acts as a menu screen for driving modes.

The second screen sits atop a centre stack that doesn't have the usual array of push buttons, but rather has a touch-pad-style feel.

It looks modern, and the screen acts as a display for those touch-controls, including a high-tech single zone climate control system with three distinct modes available - one for full power, one for less power, one for ultimate fuel saving.

Plant the accelerator pedal and there's a good amount of push from the 111kW/370Nm electric motor.

Selecting Sport mode - even the eco-conscious like to have fun - makes the throttle more sensitive and the drivetrain's 370Nm of instantaneous torque come on more quickly.

It'll sprint from 0-100kmh in a little more than nine seconds, Holden said.

 

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