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Chevy Volt is a unique and high-tech drive

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2013 Chevrolet Volt

Base price: $39,145.
Price as tested: $43,375.
Type: Front engine, front-wheel-drive, four-passenger, all-electric and all-gasoline-powered, four-door hatchback.
Engine: 1.4-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder, 111-kilowatt drive motor and 16-kilowatt lithium ion battery pack.
Mileage: Equivalent to 98 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway).
Electric range: Between 25 and 50 miles from full battery charge after 4 hours at 240 volts.
Top speed: 100 mph.
Options: Premium trim package (includes leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, rear seat removable armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel) $1,395; MyLink radio with navigation system $895; polished, aluminum wheels $595; premium Bose sound system $495.

Goes 50 miles on electricity, but needs 240-volt charging station

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 8:55 am

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt has a lot going for it.

It can travel up to 50 miles on all-electric power and has a backup gasoline engine for longer trips, is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine and adds new features, including a new Hold mode that lets drivers set the Volt for gasoline-engine operation only, thereby saving the electric range for later in the trip, if needed.

For the first time since the Volt's introduction as a 2011 model, the black-colored roof and lift gate are gone. Buyers now can get those parts painted the same color as the rest of the Volt body. And Chevrolet added global positioning satellite-based navigation for 2013.

It's part of an $895 option that also adds $495 in optional stereo sound equipment.

Meanwhile, the 2013 Volt earned top, five out of five stars in overall crash protection for occupants during federal crash tests.

But the Volt's electric plug-in system for charging remains less adaptable to some regular, 120-volt outlets than do the plug-in systems for the all-electric-only Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi MiEV and plug-in hybrid competitors like the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and 2013 Ford C-Max Energi.

Simply, the test 2013 Volt – like the 2011 Volt tester two years earlier – would not charge via the regular 120-volt outlet in my circa 1970s residential garage.

It would only charge at the 240-volt charging stations located at a city-owned, downtown parking structure.

The local public utility said I'd need to install a dedicated charging station for the Volt in my garage, at a cost of more than $1,500. This charging station would ensure the Volt fully recharges in just four hours.

But the Leaf, MiEV, Prius Plug-In and C-Max Energi charged just fine — albeit slowly — at my garage at home, using the regular outlet.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $39,995 for a 2013 Volt is at the high end of non-luxury, plug-in vehicles.

The federal government and some states provide income tax credits of varying amounts for purchases of certain electric and hybrid vehicles.

The federal income tax credit for a Volt is a hefty $7,500.

With a federal government fuel economy rating of 98 miles-per-gallon equivalent in all-electric mode, the Volt is the top Chevrolet in mileage. But when the Volt travels via its 1.4-liter, double overhead cam, four-cylinder gasoline engine, the mileage rating falls to 37 mpg.

The test Volt traveled 30 miles, on average, in all-electric mode before automatically and seamlessly switching to the gas engine.

With this engine power, the tester averaged 35 mpg, which allowed an overall 355-mile range.

In government ratings, the Volt was especially notable in side crash protection and a low tendency to roll over.

Consumer Reports says Volt reliability has been above average.