• Jan 29, 2011
2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

Gene Weingarten is not an automotive journalist. He is, however, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post. And yet, despite limited automotive knowledge by his own admission, he's written an excellent review of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Weingarten admits he was predisposed to hate the Volt (and American cars in general), but his time behind the wheel didn't jibe with those expectations. And it wasn't even because the car apparently made him more attractive to members of the opposite sex (though we doubt that hurt its chances any).

Trust us on this: Go and read all five pages of Weingarten's review of the Chevy Volt, then come back and tell us what you think.



Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Paukert / AOL

[Source: The Washington Post]


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  • 96 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Pulitzer prize winner and he forgot to say 'neither' instead of 'either.' Damn, I should be a journalist.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @IBx1, coal power plant in NOT 90% efficient (at the least that would violate laws of physics, namely Carnot theorem :)). Real life efficiency is about 40%.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ subaruwrc: If your going to go into a huge rant about other facts and figures being "not quite right and generally misleading (and lacking references)", please don't use wikipedia as your reference. At least do the work of going to look at wikipedia's sources and then link to those.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Also, this guy is a major douch*bag, writing more about how he hates American cars than writing about why he doesn't hate this one.

        What bugged me was his tangent about electricity not being clean, when he forgot to mention that: 1) all electric cars, not just the Volt, are powered by the same electricity, and 2) coal plants are 97% efficient, compared to a gas car which is 15-20% efficient. How is that not clean?
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Typical thermal efficiency for electrical generators in the industry is around 33% for coal and oil-fired plants, and up to 50% for combined-cycle gas-fired plants."

        Nice try.
        • 3 Years Ago
        97% efficient? Try 33-34% for the typical plant. Include transmission, charging, and motor efficiencies and you're down to the middle-high 20s to the wheels. This is not much better (if at all) than gasoline-electric or diesel, but still much better than conventional gasoline. And getting 100% of your electricity from coal is also your worst case scenario, one that is easily improved.

        For comparison with other fossil fuel burners, combined cycle coal plants are around 45 to 50%, gas turbines are middle 30s, combined cycle gas turbines may reach over 50%, very large (building sized) fuel cells are 45-50%, very large (marine) diesels may reach over 50%. Single cycle coal and gas dominate electricity production.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Architeuthis Your numbers and the numbers posted by others are not quite right and generally misleading (and lacking references). Gasolines engines are not always as inefficient as everyone is claiming. Here is some better information:

        "Most steel engines have a thermodynamic limit of 37%. Even when aided with turbochargers and stock efficiency aids, most engines retain an average efficiency of about 18%-20%"

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_combustion_engine

        "Another source of inefficiency is that engines must be optimized for other goals besides efficiency, such as low pollution. The requirements for vehicle engines are particularly stringent: they must be designed for low emissions, adequate acceleration, fast starting, light weight, low noise, etc. These require compromises in design (such as altered valve timing) that reduce efficiency. The average automobile engine is only about 35% efficient, and must also be kept idling at stoplights, wasting an additional 17% of the energy, resulting in an overall efficiency of 18%."

        "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_efficiency"

        Oh, okay, so a gasoline engine is not really that inefficient, on average. It's the sitting in traffic which kills the efficiency. And more reading reveals that turbocharged gasoline engines are very efficient and much more efficient than average. Good to know, I'll stick with my highly efficient (and fun) turbocharged gasoline engine, thanks. I might think about a switch to turbo diesel when I can rev the engine fast enough to match the gasoline engine's performance.

        Here is some additionally important information which nobody seems to talk about.

        "Therefore, replacing internal combustion vehicles with electric vehicles, which run on a battery that is charged with electricity generated by burning fuel in a power plant,has the theoretical potential to increase the thermal efficiency of energy use in transportation, thus decreasing the demand for fossil fuels, although practical problems of energy losses from long transmission lines and the additional multiple energy conversions required between the power plant and the vehicle driving wheels will reduce any potential fuel saving and may even require increased fuel consumption compared to local use of fuel in the more directly coupled powertrains of traditionally engined vehicles.

        When comparing different heat engines as sources of power, such as electric power, the engine efficiency alone is only one factor. To give a meaningful comparison, the overall efficiency of the entire energy supply chain from the fuel source to the consumer must be considered. Although the heat wasted by heat engines is usually the largest source of inefficiency, factors such as the energy cost of fuel refining and transportation, and energy loss in electrical transmission lines to transport it, may offset the advantage of a more efficient heat engine."
      • 3 Years Ago
      reading said article made my day.... may i point out, had he showed up in a lexus hybrid his percentage would have dwindled to zero. if he waits a bit and shows up in say that new porsche or ferrari hybrid his chances would skyrocket.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Mind you, I had an Alfa once where the chick-reaction went into minus quantities.

      I decided they didn't go for yellow paint and bearded me - so away they went.

      Turned out a clean shave and silver Honda did the biz.


      As for the review, it made light reading, and a change from numbers-heavy stuff.



      • 3 Years Ago
      The Volt improves his chances by some 15 percent - not bad at all for a sedan.

      Now, I wonder if it had been a Ferrari...

      Depends on the chick I guess.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have been reading car reviews for most of my life. I am 44 years old and have worshipped at many alters- C&D, R&T, MT, Autoweek, CAR and have switched to Autoblog in the past few years. This was a great review up there with Jeremy Clarkson in the ariel atom. Why? For the opposite reason of the Clarkson review. This was a practical review written for how the car drives everyday -not around Laguna Seca. I have read other reviews of the Volt, but somehow I learned much more from this review by a non-car guy. Yes it was very funny. Plus it had the intrigue of a Bourne movie- hey no retired CIA directors at Road and Track. So thanks autoblog - this was well worth the nod. I read the 5 pages with a grin on my face, and it's still there.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That was a very well written article and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'd consider a Chevy Volt if I wasn't, at 29 years old, planning on my Jeep Cherokee being my last car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bought a Chevy Vega too!! lol. Well done article. Thanks.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That was very well written and entertaining.
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a lot of people seem to be missing in terms of the high price, and this is something the author mentions, is that GM has taken a long term view. As production increases and more of these cars are sold, the price will inevitably drop considerably. I for one am delighted to see an American company displaying the innovation we hear all about (I'm Irsh living here in the US since 2004). I would certainly jump at the chance to buy this car, and support what all Americans need today, a resurgence in the innovative spirit and taking the lead in developing cutting edge technologies. Good for you GM, I hope you show the World that this country is still a great place to live and can still rise to the challenges posed by the 21st century.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just wasted 15 minutes reading it!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Electric cars enjoyed popularity between the mid-19th century and early 20th century, when electricity was among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time. Advances in internal combustion technology soon rendered this advantage moot; the greater range of gasoline cars, quicker refueling times, and growing petroleum infrastructure, along with the mass production of gasoline vehicles by companies such as the Ford Motor Company, which reduced prices of gasoline cars to less than half that of equivalent electric cars, led to a decline in the use of electric propulsion, effectively removing it from important markets such as the United States by the 1930s.
      I fail to see how the Volt can tickle anyone's fancy after knowing cars from 1890's-1920's got far better range and were 100% electric. So personally GM has done nothing but gone backwards if anything. Let's look at some companies and cars that are actually Electric and doing some good for us and the future like Porsche.
        • 3 Years Ago
        """I fail to see how the Volt can tickle anyone's fancy after knowing cars from 1890's-1920's got far better range and were 100% electric. So personally GM has done nothing but gone backwards if anything. Let's look at some companies and cars that are actually Electric and doing some good for us and the future like Porsche."""

        Huh? What exactly is Porsche doing to save the world in your mind? How many electrics are they producing today? Porsche's biggest gamble today is whether to import a diesel.
        With that lame logic:
        Knowing that Ferdinand Porsche built the world's first hybrid back around the '30's, how can a Porsche tickle anyone's fancy after knowing cars from the '30's were already hybrid. So personally Porsche has done nothing but gone backwards if anything.

        Try again with the Detroit loathing.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Tweaker, name an 1800s or 1920s car that had all of the parasitic systems and gadgets that eats energy like a 2011 Chevy Volt.

        Those cars had:

        No heat.
        No AC
        No Radio
        No OnStar
        No GPS
        No OnBoard computers
        Not even sure if they has windshield wipers.

        and a host of other electricity eating devices. Apples to Apples dude, nothing to compare with from that era.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I read it all. An informative, unbiased, believable writer, and I believe he isn't a shill. I would have to admit the Volt is one of the most desirable cars available (if they were really available). Apparently you have to be a rock star to get one. It's still a lot of money, but it is a revolutionary leap forward in automotive design, and I have been taking a very dim view of GM for decades. This car does everything well.
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