Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Patrick asks: What’s your best recommendation for an American-made hybrid? I’ve been eying the Chevy Malibu to replace my Prius because I want my next purchase to be more local. Thoughts?
My reply: You may be surprised by my answer . . . but here it comes. Buy a Chevy Volt. They’re no longer available new – unfortunately – but late-model used ones are readily available.
Why a Volt?
Because it is objectively the best hybrid ever put on the market. Which is a function of its unique layout.
It is the only hybrid that uses its gas engine almost exclusively as a generator; i.e., the car is propelled almost entirely by an electric motor powered by electricity generated by the gas engine. In all other hybrids, the gas engine is the primary source of propulsion, with the battery/motor(s) providing assist and (to varying degrees) short-range/low-speed propulsion.
Why is the distinction important?
The Volt is functionally an electric car – without range anxiety.
It is uniquely capable of operating entirely on electricity for 50 or so miles at normal road speed – including highway speeds – before the batteries need recharging and when they do need recharging, you don’t have to stop – and wait.
The gas engine generator kicks on automatically and feeds electricity to the battery/motor side and you keep on going.
And if you can plug it in before you go – and when you get back – you’ll use only electricity until and only if you exceed the full-charge range. Many Volt owners report needing to fill up their gas tank so infrequently that using fuel stabilizer is necessary. You might not need gas for a month or two. No kidding.
And even if you do need to burn gas – if you exceed the electric range of about 50 miles – you’ll still burn not much. I’ve test driven several Volts over the years and they consistently average 33-35 MPG, which actually works out to more than that when you factor in the zero gas burned for the first 50 or so miles.
The Volt is also a good-looking car and well-laid out, with pretty good cargo capacity for a car its size. Early models are four seaters – but the latter ones have a three-across back seat.
In re the Malibu hybrid: It’s been discontinued, too. Not a bad car, but the cost-to-benefit ratio isn’t nearly as favorable as the Volt’s. I strongly recommend checking the latter out!
. . .
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