The electric Holden Volt goes further, but at a price

Australian motorists can now seriously consider buying an electric car. The Holden Volt went on sale as the first realistic EV (Electric Vehicle) alternative to conventional petrol, diesel or hybrid power.

Pure electric cars have been here already in the form of Mitsubishi’s iMiEV and Nissan’s Leaf, but battery capacity effectively limits them to urban use. Hybrids also use battery-electric power, but in tandem with a regular engine. They are more economical than ordinary cars, but have the same fuel range. The Holden Volt takes another twist that cracks the problem of so-called range anxiety, making the electric car “normal” for the first time. On a full charge taken in less than six hours from a household outlet, for what Holden says can be as little as $2.50, the Volt can travel up to 87km on its lithium-ion battery. When the battery is depleted, a 1.4 litre petrol generator under the bonnet kicks in automatically to maintain the electricity supply. Cumulatively, the two electricity sources drive the Volt more than 600km in suitable conditions. What does this mean? If your daily urban use totals less than 87km, you can – depending on driving conditions – travel all the way, silently and pollution-free, on battery power without needing to swerve into a petrol station.

Out of town, there’s ample range with the booster generator to reach a convenient re-charging point. The inherent strong pulling power of an electric motor is a bonus. Like throwing a switch, the Volt’s 370 Newtonmetres of torque is all available from rest and the Volt pulls literally like an electric train to overcome a portly 1721kg kerb weight.

It’s a strong performer around town, although I sense its highway response might fade quickly above a certain speed. Propulsion system aside, the small-medium size hatchback is conventional in style. Only an electric socket in the left-front wing and some garish white interior styling are clues to the high-tech nature.

The biggest downside is the Volt’s list price of $59,990 (plus on-roads), although it is well-equipped. While that is expensive, it won’t deter drivers who want to leave a smaller environmental tyre-print. And nothing is surer than that future EV prices will fall with improving technology and growing sales.

Prices quoted do not include statutory and dealer on-road charges unless otherwise stated. Prices correct at time of writing.