Car of the future arrives in Clearwater

Clearwater man acquires a Chevy Volt - a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle produced by General Motors

Ken Scheetz kneels beside his new Chevy Volt - a hybrid that is ranked the most fuel-efficient car with a gasoline engine in the U.S.

Ken Scheetz kneels beside his new Chevy Volt - a hybrid that is ranked the most fuel-efficient car with a gasoline engine in the U.S.

Is this the car of the future? Ken Scheetz thinks it is.

The Clearwater resident was referring to his new Chevy Volt – a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle produced by General Motors.

“It’s a little bit more than a glorified golf cart,” he said as a bit of understatement.

He received the car about three weeks ago after spending quite a few months on a waiting list.

It appears to be the only one in the Clearwater area. Two Volts are known to be in Kamloops. One of them belongs to Minister of the Environment Terry Lake.

The Volt is one of several electric hybrid or all-electric vehicles now available.

One of the reasons why Scheetz likes it because it can be plugged into a typical wall socket for recharging. He has found it takes about seven hours to charge the battery if it is dead, using 120 V current. If he were to use 240 V current, the charging time would be cut in abut half.

Charging the Volt costs about 95 cents. It costs even less if Scheetz uses the solar panels he has on the roof of his house.

To enhance the range of its electric motor the car also has a 1.4-liter gasoline engine. The gasoline engine kicks in to drive a small generator that recharges the battery while the vehicle is in motion. It also assists the electric motor if more power is needed.

Regenerative braking enhances the vehicle’s range as well. This means that when the driver steps on the brakes, the energy is routed into the batteries, recharging them.

There is a 10-gallon gas tank. The lithium-ion batteries by themselves only give a range of about 80 km, but the enhancement given by the gasoline motor plus the regenerative braking extends the range to about 600 km, according to the EPA.

The EPA rates the Volt as the most fuel efficient car with a gasoline engine sold in the U.S.

Looking in the engine compartment can be a disappointment.

“I’ve had the hood open a couple of times. What for? There’s nothing to look at,” Scheetz said.

Despite its tiny proportions, the vehicle’s electric motor gives the car plenty of acceleration.

“There’s lots of torque,” said Scheetz. “It pulls hard, all the time.”

The local man said it reaches 137 km/hr within a quarter mile. Top speed is about 160 km/hr (100 mph).

Special features on Scheetz’s Volt include a rear camera that comes on automatically whenever the transmission is put into reverse.

The video display on the console adds lines to the camera’s picture to show where the car will go, depending on the front wheel’s direction.

A pedestrian friendly alert system gives a warning sound to alert walkers that the car is nearby – it’s almost totally quiet otherwise.

Other features include automatic climate control, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, GPS navigation, and On Star.