By Peter Gorrie Special to the Toronto Star
For 2016, Chevrolet recreated its plug-in hybrid Volt.
Friday, it was rewarded: the second-generation Volt – with its battery-powered range extended to 85 kilometres from 60, better fuel economy when the gasoline engine runs, and improved engineering and features – won the fourth annual Canadian Green Car Award.
A panel of leading Canadian automotive journalists selected the Volt over five other finalists – the Nissan LEAF, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Mazda3 GS, Volvo XC90 T6 and Tesla Model S P90D – after all had won their own categories.
The award, presented at the Green Living Show in Toronto, recognizes the vehicle, of any technology, that best combines environmental benefits with mass-market appeal. The judges based their decisions on road tests, product specifications and other sources of information.
The 2016 Volt, a five-seat compact sedan, previously was named Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show and Canadian Green Car of the Year in a competition run by the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada.
The Volt’s triple win is a benefit for car buyers, says Eric Novak, of the three-member Canadian Green Car Award steering committee. “Each award has a different emphasis – ours is environment-first, while the others are more automotive focused. That all reached the same verdict should be seen as a good indication for consumers and source of pride for Chevrolet.”
Consumers are already responding: During the first quarter of this year, Volt sales nearly tripled here and more than doubled in the U.S. compared with the same period in 2015.
The award was presented by Tim Gray, executive-director of Environmental Defence, who noted the radical changes coming to the automotive industry, including transportation services offered by manufacturers that“will show up at your house with the model you need that day and take it away when you are done,” and autonomous automobiles “with the possibility of making the car a shared appliance rather than a personal possession.”
Still, Gray said, “our car is going to be with us for quite a while. That is why I am so excited to see the exciting innovation that is underway, including continuous improvement in fuel efficiency for internal combustion vehicles … as well as the success of electric propulsion in hybrids, plug-ins or full EVs.”
“Chevrolet is honoured to receive the award, as it reinforces our leadership commitment in electrification of the automobile,” said Nicolas Longpre, assistant brand manager at Chevrolet Canada. “With up to 85 kilometres of EV range, the second-generation Volt is a no-compromise electric vehicle that eliminates range anxiety with its on-board generator, making it the most innovative plug-in vehicle in the industry.”
The Canadian Green Car Award is open to any vehicles that meet basic criteria for one of six categories – battery power, plug-in hybrid, conventional hybrid, efficient internal combustion, three-row family hauler and“fun car.” The last two categories include any powertrain, as long as those propelled by internal combustion meet minimum fuel consumption standards and, for the “fun car,” can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 7.5 seconds or less.
The fuel economy criteria are tightened each year, to reflect federal standards requiring annual improvements until 2025.
The competition has three stages: first, the judges select five favourites among all the vehicles eligible in each category. Second, the three vehicles with the most support in each group progress to the next round, in which the judges select the category winners. Finally, the judges pick the overall winner from among those six finalists.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid won the inaugural award in 2013, followed by the Honda Accord Hybrid in 2014 and, last year, the Kia Soul EV.
Peter Gorrie is a member of the Canadian Green Car Award steering committee, with Eric Novak and Michael Bettencourt.