2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Volt: Maximum Motorized Motivation

February 09, 2011

Volt 45.5 on Electric.jpg

After yesterday's post I might not come off as the biggest fan of our Long Term 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Some might even think I've "got it in" for the car and am attempting to portray only its worst-case scenarios.

Well read on my fellow cynics.

In this post I'm going to take you on a journey, literally, from my house to my workspace, located exactly 50.4 miles away. When I entered the Chevrolet Volt for this particular commute the battery was fully charged and read 35 miles of range. I was somewhat dismayed at this number because the car had previously read 40 and 38 miles after being fully charged a few weeks earlier.

Was the battery already showing signs of reduced charge capacity? "Probably not," I told myself. More likely the car's reduced battery range during my previous driving conditions had taught the computer to assume the worst.

So I left my house and traveled at speeds between 20 and 45 mph, with plenty of stop-and-go conditions, for the first 5 miles of my drive. Under these circumstances the battery range didn't drop to 34 miles until I was 5.5 miles into my commute.

"Hmm, I wonder how much I could stretch out the range if I put some serious effort into it?"

It's worth mentioning my commute route this day, unlike my previous drive into work, was along the relatively flat Pacific Coast Highway. At this point in the drive I decided to be very prudent with throttle application and hold my speed along the open stretches of PCH at around 55 mph (the official speed limit).

Driving at that speed effectively turned the Volt into a rolling chicane and had everything from diesel work trucks to the occasional Toyota Prius blasting past me. But I maintained discipline and even let the Volt slow down to the mid-40s on the slight uphill portions of PCH.

I knew I was making progress when my travel distance was at 21 miles and my remaining battery range read 22 miles. Don't forget that over half of my commute on this route (20-plus miles) has ZERO stop signs or stop lights. That means minimal opportunities for brake regeneration, though it also means no coming to a stop and having to get going again.

I didn't get back into heavy traffic unitl the battery range was down to 7 miles and my distance traveled was at 35 miles. This left me with 15 miles to go before reaching work, meaning I wouldn't quite make it on battery alone.

But I did eek out 45.5 miles on pure electricity before the Volt's engine started up, which is a far cry better than the 25.8 miles I'd managed on my previous commute using the 101 freeway and climbing the steep Canejo Grade. Even at the criminal energy rates charged in California, spending $4.16 to go 45.5 miles isn't a bad deal.

But here's the question: Could I conceivably get from my house to Edmunds.com without using any gasoline? I've heard rumors of people going up to 58 miles on the Volt's battery, so theoretically it's possible.

What if I added some personal incentive to the goal? What if I said I have to try to get to Edmunds.com on pure electricity, and whatever distance I fall short I have to cover on foot? In other words, when the engine starts I immediately pull over, park, and start walking.

If nothing else it could make for an interesting blog post.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt in VA is:

$100 per month*
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