DETROIT — The 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid will make recharging the car's battery and checking the charge status easier for customers, General Motors says. The updated Volt debuts in January at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.
GM says the 2016 Volt features a 20-percent increase in battery storage capacity, which means that the "typical" Volt driver will be able to travel as many as 1,000 miles between gasoline fill-ups.
That number is based on a recent Department of Energy study of PHEV drivers showing that the average Volt is driven on battery power approximately 66 percent of the time, with the gasoline engine operating to generate electricity only one third of the time.
The new intuitive charging setup is designed to make the Volt more attractive against competitors including the Ford C-Max Energi, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius Plug-in. There's even a new portable cord set with a longer cord (now at 25 feet) and a small padlock to keep away prying hands.
The charging component of plug-in-hybrid and electric vehicles is rapidly becoming a major selling point for automakers and dealers. For example, Nissan has been touting its "No Charge to Charge" or free public charging program for the Nissan Leaf, which recently expanded to Nissan Leaf dealers in the Chicago area.
GM hopes to up the ante in this area with what it says is more "user-friendly charging" for Volt.
Volt owners will be able to set their charging preferences exclusively for their "home" charging location and the car will automatically adjust to that setting when it is at that location. The system uses GPS data to make charging more convenient.
Owners can preset their charging level, set a departure time for each day of the week or set a departure time and a utility rate schedule to charge only at off-peak rates.
In a clever twist for the budget-minded, the next-generation Volt will allow owners to input their local utility's rate schedule into the car to "assure they're charging using the cheapest electricity rates," the automaker said.
"They will only have to program the system once and the Volt will return to these settings every time it is at its home location," GM said.
The Volt's new charging status system features a special tone that indicates when charging has begun, with additional tones for delayed charging. An updated charge status indicator light on the top of the instrument panel will show the approximate charge level through a series of flashes. The indicator light is visible from outside the car, and is redesigned to be flatter and less conspicuous when not in use.
An optional illuminated charge port makes it easier to plug in after dark and there's a new storage bin for the cord that's easier to access. The 2016 Volt's standard 110-volt charging cord system has been redesigned to be more compact, with a longer cord, and has been relocated from under the cargo floor to a concealed storage space on the side of the cargo area. That will make it easier for Volt drivers to reach the cord without having to first remove groceries and other cargo.
While the 2016 Volt still does not have a fast-charging option for 400-volt rapid chargers, its onboard charger has been boosted a bit, from 3.3 kilowatt-hours to 3.6 kWh. That means that despite its increased battery capacity, the latest Volt can be recharged on a 220-volt, Level 2 charger in 4.5 hours — just 15 minutes more than it takes to recharge a first-generation Volt's fully depleted battery.
Edmunds says: Charging the Volt becomes simpler and more intuitive, something that should please prospective buyers.