2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

2011 Chevy Volt: The Fight For 50

March 23, 2011

volt 46.jpg

50 miles. That's what GM says, under ideal conditions, is the maximum range for the 2011 Chevy Volt under electric power.

Challenge accepted!

I was going to, by any means necessary, hit 50 miles on our Volt on battery alone. Here's what happened...

Attempt 1: Pacific Coast Highway North. Night. Late.

PCH seems like an odd place to do this, but here's what it offers: A REALLY long distance with virtually no traffic and a low-enough speed limit to not get crushed by angry drivers. Very little chance of hitting stops at that time of night.

Here's why it's bad: Cold -- 50 that night. Hills (which can be negated, mostly, by coasting up them.)

Here's how it went down: Hopped in a fully charged Volt and went immediately to the highway --- no stops so far, sweet. I'd done about 5 miles and the trip computer was still estimating my journey at 35 miles on electricity -- 0% decrease. I ignored cruise control and used a steady foot and hovered somewhere around 40-45. No HVAC. No stereo. Nothing charging. No heated seats. Miserable.

Lots of very boring "driving" later, the meter read 20 miles to empty with 39 miles under my belt. Score. I treated myself to a few minutes of the radio. (You can only hum Mephiskapheles' Bumblebee tuna song for so long) Five minutes won't hurt, right?

WRONG! The meter started dropping frantically...20...18...16..15...all in less than 2 miles! Damn. I thought the Volt would accept NPR. Quick, turn that off. Nothing...still dropping...dropping...dropping. I'm at 42.1 miles when the switchover happens.

And that's when I realized what went wrong. When I hit the radio on I brushed ever-so-lightly across the insane, over-complicated and annoying touch-panel CLIMATE button and turned the thing on. I can't get those stupid buttons to work when I want them to, but the minute I don't, all of a sudden my touch works.

Fine. Whatever. Back to the office to charge it. I'll try again in the AM.

So the next day rolled around and, opting for a warmer option, I decided to take the 405 south. Middle of the day would be slow but not stopped and there are no hills. Fine.

Heat OFF. Radio off. Seat heaters off. Go!

I found the first 20-year-old pickup I could with 94 mattresses in the back going 15 under the truck speed, glued myself to his bumper and set forth for the OC. Optimum weather and almost optimum speed. This should do it.

46.2 miles of tedium later, the battery died, I swore and tried to figure out what I could do just south of Irvine to blow off some steam. Plug in my iPod, turn around and drive home was the only option. At least the Volt's a nice place to spend time-- good ride, good seats, quiet enough.

But 46.2 must be the new record, right? Nope. Dan Edmunds got 46.6. I texted him to see what he did. "Just drove it home. Listened to a podcast. Probably used climate control."

"I hate you." was all I could reply.

So try as I might...and I will try again...I wasn't able to hit 50 miles on the Volt's battery. But then again, I've never been able to match GM's claimed numbers.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

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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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