2011 Chevrolet Volt: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt as our editors live with this car for a year.
So how do you break in the engine on your new 2011 Chevrolet Volt? According to the owner's manual, "The vehicle does not require a break-in period. Vehicle break-in is performed during manufacturing." But we are creatures of habit.
For the past week we've been running the Volt on the gasoline engine only. We depleted the battery fully and hit the road. It still isn't only running the engine, though. In some situations, such as accelerating from a stop, the batteries kick in to get you going before the gas engine takes the reins again. At this point, you're finally putting miles on the engine.
Speaking of the engine, you'll know when it's running because the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder is loud. But after a couple of tanks averaging about 39 mpg, it also seems to be efficient. More to come on tracking our fuel economy later.
Don't get all huffy just yet. I actually liked my first few miles in the Volt. Put it in Sport mode and it was surprisingly quick. Seats felt pretty decent too.
But it is a pain to parallel park. Like most hybrids, it's too touchy at slow speeds. In other words, it doesn't like to creep. Don't push enough and it doesn't move. Push a little harder and suddenly it lurches forward. Not exactly what you want when you're trying to be surgical.
On the plus side, it has a rear-view camera so you can see what you're about to run into.
I took my first spin in our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt last night. It was more than a spin really, it was a full 100-mile commute home and back. How did it do?
First, I was impressed with the 37.8 miles I traveled on pure electricity. In a world where manufacturer claims about electric range often have little to do with reality, getting 37.8 miles on a car that's supposed to go 40 miles on a charge was a pleasant surprise. Most of my driving was in stop-and-go traffic for the first 10 miles, followed by more medium speed travel (around 45 mph with occasional stop lights) for the next 15 miles, and then highway speeds for the last 12 miles of electric travel. I feel like that's a pretty realistic mix of conditions, so that 37.8 figure is an honest one in my opinion.
However, I drove the last 12 miles home, and the next 52 miles back to work, on pure gasoline (didn't plug the car in at my house for a variety of reasons). Under those circumstances the Volt averaged 32.3 mpg. Not a terrible figure, but checking our last Fuel Economy Update for the long-term fleets shows the Fusion Hybrid and Mazda 2 at about the same level, and our old 2004 Prius well above it. All for markedly less than the Volt's starting price of $41,000 (and those cars don't require premium, either).
So, to point out the obvious, if you're looking to justify the Volt's hefty MSRP: Keep it charged!
Just in case you happen upon a blind guy and a deaf girl trying to cross the street in front of your brand new 2011 Chevy Volt (in the unlikely chance that the EV power is on and the really loud gas motor is not) Chevy has had the foresight to link flashing the high beam with a really, really annoying horn chirp.
The first time this happened I was certain that there were some wires crossed and that the car would surely electrocute me. I pulled over and called Dan Edmunds while my passenger checked the owner's manual.
Turns out that's just what it does. It's a safety feature. Awesome. Wait, not awesome. Annoying. That's the one.
Came across this 2011 Chevrolet Volt out in the parking lot at a nearby lunchtime spot in Santa Monica. Will the Volt take the place of the Prius as the official car of the Republic of Santa Monica?
I had the Chevrolet Volt this weekend, but since there is no electrical socket near where I park, I had no place to charge it. And although it was a pretty low-key weekend for me, I wondered if I could make the charge last the entire time. I drove the Volt at a leisurely pace and I was able to get by without using the A/C or heater. Though the skies were a bit gloomy, the weather was in the mid to high sixties this weekend.
My total mileage for the weekend was 44 miles, 37.7 of which were on the electric charge. This is pretty consistent with Karl's numbers, except my route consisted of mostly city driving. On Friday night, I took the freeway home and was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic for six miles. The rest of my weekend was spent running errands to the post office, Target and the grocery store. Saturday evening, I drove to the beach to take a photo of the car, but I caught more heavy traffic when I hit Pacific Coast Highway. These short trips in traffic would be less than ideal for a traditional gasoline engine, but they were a perfect fit for the Volt.
The gas engine didn't come on until my drive to work this morning. It was a seamless transition and the only giveaways were the instrument panel switching over to the blue fuel graphic and a slightly louder engine note. I was very impressed with this car and I wouldn't hesitate to take it out for another drive.
My nitpicks are minor. I noticed the same touchiness with parallel parking that Ed pointed out. The spoiler does scrape on almost everything. And the parking assist sensors in the front are a bit annoying. When you are pulling into or out of a tight space, they are constantly beeping and are a distraction from the task at hand.
I like driving the Volt, but is it good looking? I don't think so. Definitely not from the back. Too bulbous, too much going on and I'm not a fan of that huge central reverse light.
I say I fear technology in cars because of my friends 1985(?) Chrysler LeBaron he had many years ago. It was one of those cars that talked. After a while it went a little haywire. It started to speak at random times. Hit the accelerator too hard, "Your door is ajar." Cruising down the freeway, "Please fasten your seat belts." All spoken in a creepy computer voice reminiscent of my Intellivision equipped with Intellivoice. Yes, that reference is going back a ways.
Out Volt is PACKED with technology. Ok, it might not be as gimmicky as a talking car, but the touch sensitive center console does worry me. The Volt isn't the only current vehicle with this feature on the market. It looks as slick as the Enterprise's deck consoles, but I'd rather have the proven durable technology of buttons. If I did want this feature, I think I'd go by the old adage of waiting till the second generation for them to work out the first run kinks.
Do you fear this technology? Or do you think that I'm being irrational?
We crossed the 2,000-mile barrier with our Long-Term 2011 Chevrolet Volt this morning. I was so focused on getting the maximum electric range I missed the official 2,000-mile rollover. But I did have a successful hyper-miling effort.
More details to come shortly, but after 4 days in the Volt I've certainly learned a lot.
Somewhere between one and two years ago (I've honestly lost track) I used some credit card reward points to order two 15-watt solar panels. I ordered them because:
A. They were essentially free, and
B. I was curious to see what, if any, benefit they would deliver
But as I said, I received these panels a while back and had done exactly nothing with them. Then I got the most expensive electric bill I'd ever received and suddenly it seemed foolish to not even give these panels a shot at reducing my electric costs (plus there's that whole carbon footprint thing).
Something about having the Volt in my garage (and sucking up expensive California electricity), along with seeing that monstrous bill convinced me to unpack those panels and let some UV rays hit them. But I needed to confirm what mounting screws to use, which meant taking one of the panels to my local hardware store.
No worries, as the panel fit easily in the Volt's cargo bay and I was able to have a store employee confirm the diameter and length of the screws I'd need to secure them to my roof. And yes, I had fleeting thoughts of strapping them to the top of the Volt in an attempt to improve the pure electric range.
A few hours (and solder burns) later I had both panels mounted and 35 feet of wire running down the side of my house to a couple leftover automotive batteries (yes, I also know deep marine cycle batteries are better for this application). I won't bore you with all the details involving charge controllers and inverters, but I will say I technically watched the second half of the Super Bowl via the power of the sun. Well, almost. The inverter's low-voltage alarm went off at about the two-minute warning, so my football entertainment had to go back "on the grid" for the game finale.
But there's no doubt my experiences with the Volt finally drove me to go solar (on a limited basis). If one of the many points of these cars is to make us more seriously consider our energy usage, mission accomplished.
I'm not a fan of single center-mounted backup lamps like the one found on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Yeah, it looks plenty big from the outside, but I need more illumination to the sides so I can see stuff in my side-view mirrors, too. I leave the house at dark, at 5:00 am, and on Friday mornings three trash cans are hidden in the shadows on the left side of the frame.
Our Chevy Volt's back window does have footprints from a cat or raccoon on it. It does NOT have something rather important. What's missing here?
If you said "Calvin Pissing on Toyota Logo Sticker," you are incorrect. The answer is a rear windshield wiper.
Many of the other cars with this fastback hatchback (fastchback?) body style have one: Prius, Insight, CR-Z. The BMW 5 Series GT and Scion tC do not, however.
Perhaps the rake of the Volt's back window isn't all that different than the increasingly coupe-like greenhouses of many sedans, but rear visibility isn't especially good, and with rain and general schmutz, it gets worse. As such, I think the Volt could benefit from a rear wiper — or at least the option of one like Porsche offers for the 911.
I checked our long term 2011 Chevrolet Volt's tire pressure recently and found both front tires at 32.5 psi, while the rear tires were at 34 and 34.5 psi. The little sticker in the driver's door frame says all four tires should be at 35 psi.
Now although proper tire pressure is important in any vehicle, it's doubly so when you're driving a car with a primary purpose of conserving transportation energy.
I was actually pretty sure the tire pressure was low before I checked it, as steering response and bump reaction in the front felt a bit wallowy compared to the Volt I drove at the press conference in Detroit last October (note: the closest I come to having a Jedi force power is being able to detect low or unever tire pressure).
My portable air compressor had all four tires back up to 35 psi in about 5 minutes, and the Volt did feel a tad sharper afterwards, though we're talking very subtle shades of gray with these kinds of pressure changes.
As with our past Prius long-term car, or any future alternative energy vehicles we pick up (yup, another one is about to arrive in the fleet), we'll work hard to keep the tire pressures at factory spec. When you're talking maximum energy efficiency, this is critical.
Range anxiety is really not an issue in the Volt, since the gasoline engine kicks in when the battery has run its course. Range envy is another matter. I developed a bad case of it over the weekend.
My driving pattern over the last three days — a 28-mile one-way freeway commute, around-town driving to the market and breakfast, the use of climate control and occasional forays into the Volt's sport mode — got me lackluster electric-only range of around 30 miles. Nothing approaching the car's 46.4-mile best.
So for my commute to Santa Monica this morning, I was determined to better my performance. I read the Volt's onboard energy efficiency tips before heading out. The car is most efficient at speeds below 50 mph. I couldn't drive 50 on the 405 without being honked into oblivion, but I kept my speed at 62 or so for most of the drive. The car's climate-control system is most efficient in fan-only mode, and Chevrolet recommends using the Volt's heated seats rather than running the heater itself. Done. It was just 47 degrees outside, but I skipped the heater and turned up the fanny-warming driver's seat.
As you can see from the Volt's energy-information screen at the top of this entry, I was doing pretty well — driving efficiently and making the most (or least) of the climate-control system.
The result: much better range. I arrived at Edmunds' office with 13 miles to spare, meaning I was on track to get 41 miles of electric-only range from the car. The collateral damage: I had no sensation in my fingertips. The next time I drive the Volt on a wintry morning, I'm either bringing along gloves or resigning myself to losing the range war.
Around the time we got our Volt, my father bought this electric bike and left it at my house. I thought that it made an interesting comparison to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. When the Volt's battery is depleted it shifts to the gas engine. When the eZip bike's battery is depleted I shift over to pedaling. The message here is that electricity isn't enough to get the job done — you need a secondary power source.
This isn't all bad. I use the electric bike way more than I thought I would. It extends the range of what I could reach by pedaling. And when I get there I'm not sweaty. In the Volt's case, I was disappointed when the battery was exhausted and it switched over to using the gas-powered engine. Still, getting all the way home and halfway back to work (37 miles) on all-electric was pretty cool.
In my first night in the Volt I liked driving it (except for the odd brake feel). I'll be in it for a week so I'm looking forward to getting to know it in more depth.
I would consider putting a Chevy Volt in my garage, but not at the current price of $43,000. Even after the federal tax credit we're looking at $35,500, and that's too steep. Just think of the cars in that price range.
After a rare trip to our local gas station (our Volt drank only 5.6 gallons after traveling over 500 miles) I found that the average Joe has pretty strong feelings about the price. One guy in particular gave me a piece of his mind.
Here's an interesting conversation I had while pumping $3.95 premium gas into the Volt.
Him: That's going to be my first Chevy? Aren't you lovin' it?
Me: I love it when I'm in all-electric. But the range is a little disappointing. And the price is too high.
Him: Yeah, they're rippin' everyone off.
I loved the way he flipped from one extreme to the other. But it's obvious that the word is out: the price is too high.
I have my opinion. But I'd be interested in hearing what you think the right price is for the Chevy Volt?
Last night I took the Chevrolet Volt to my mother-in-law's house. She lives in the San Fernando Valley, about 21 miles away from where I live. I had already used up six miles of electric charge to drive home from the Edmunds office. In order to get to the Valley, you have to drive up a fairly steep hill. I saw the electric range meter fall quickly as I climbed, and figured I would have a record-low electric-only range when the charge was finally depleted. It turned out to be quite the opposite.
On my way home, the electric range read 16 miles. I wanted to make the charge last, so I drove in the slow lane, going 50-60 mph. By the time I got to the top of the hill (at Skirball Center Drive, for those familiar with the area), the Volt's display said I only had two miles of electric range left. But these would be the longest two miles I had ever driven.
I was now going downhill and was able to coast at 50-55mph without giving any throttle at all. It was nighttime, so there was hardly any traffic. I was almost at my exit and the range was still pegged at 2 miles. I didn’t set out to break the range record that day, but as I passed the 42 mile mark, I thought to myself "I might be able to make a run at this thing!"
In a desperate attempt to conserve energy, I turned off the seat heaters that my wife was using and kept driving as consistently as possible. I exited the 10 Freeway on the Robertson offramp. This is about 10 miles from when the electric range first showed only two miles left. As I continued to drive on the street, the meter fell to one mile and soon after that the gas engine kicked in.
The Volt's display showed that I had driven 45.5 miles on electricity only. This is less than a mile short of the 46.4 record set by Dan Edmunds, but I did tie with Karl Brauer for second place. Looking back I should’ve stayed on the freeway to keep the momentum. But regardless, it was a good run.
Soon-to-be-newlywed James Riswick sent me this photo of our Chevy Volt at a garage sale. How much for the Volt? Just kidding, don't want to get into that argument again.
What is your caption?
We'll post our favorite this afternoon.
I'm not a fan of halogen headlights. They aren’t very bright and they don’t look as good as HID or LED lights. I had driven a few cars with HID and LED lights and I was sold on them immediately. When I bought my car last year, HID lights were a must-have.
Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt has LED daytime running lights. They look great and give a off a nice cool blue light. But when you turn on your low beams, a pair of halogen bulbs comes on instead. This is disappointing because at $44 grand for a fully loaded model, you expect to get some premium features. Cost expectations aside, there are other reasons why the Volt could benefit from LED headlights.
A recent study by Osram Sylvania showed that having LED headlights can potentially extend an electric vehicle's range by up to six miles. I'm pretty sure every Volt owner would love an additional six miles of EV range (and brighter headlights).
You're probably thinking, "LED headlights are more expensive. If the Volt had them, it would cost even more." But for comparison's sake, the base model Nissan Leaf, which starts at $32,780, has LED headlights. Nissan has a partnership with Valeo-Ichikoh to produce a low-cost and energy-efficient headlamp.
General Motors already offers LED headlights in the Cadillac Escalade Platinum. If the tech in those headlights was too big to fit in the Volt, even an HID lighting system would be more energy-efficient than halogen.
What do you think? Should the Volt have LED headlights? What do you prefer on your cars?
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt has this gap between the seats because of the layout of its battery. I actually like it for a couple of reasons. Looking through that gap helps with rearward visibility. And the separation between the seats reminds me of my old 1992 Honda Prelude, which had a storage area that ran down the center of the two seats. But I found out this weekend that this gap could be dangerous in the event of a hard stop.
I was driving back from the grocery store when a car in the opposite direction decided to make a left-hand turn a short distance ahead of me. I had a green light and the right of way, but the man wasn't paying attention and cut me off. I slammed on the brakes, which worked really well, avoided a collision and was able to stop a few feet short of him.
When I arrived at home, I opened up the cargo area and saw that all my grocery bags were smashed up against the seatbacks and a pack of grapes (shown above) was in the back seat. During my hard stop the grapes somehow jumped out of the bag, threaded the gap between the seats and ended up in the back seat.
I pondered what would have happened if someone had been sitting in the backseat. Would they have been hit by flying grapes? What if the flying object had been something heavier? My advice to Volt owners is this: Buy the cargo net! According to the Chevrolet Web site, it is a $45 dollar option, but a small price to pay to keep your cargo from taking flight.
Chevy also sells a cargo organizer for $99, which according to the site "provides a storage compartment between the rear passenger seats, while closing the gap between the rear seats and the cargo area." I wasn't able to find a photo of this of the cargo net.
My apologies for this recreated photo, but I was a bit freaked out that I almost crashed the Volt. Taking a photo then was the last thing on my mind.
I drove the Volt for just over a week and it made a great impression on me. I loved its high- tech feel, quiet ride and the interesting looks I got from Prius owners trying to figure out what I was driving. Our director of vehicle testing, Dan Edmunds, wants each week-long tour of duty in the Volt to end with a trip to the gas station. The Volt wet its whistle with less than a gallon of premium fuel. The total cost was $3.17.
After eight days with the car, here are a few things I liked about it, not ranked in any particular order:
1. Sport Mode: Activating this mode increases the responsiveness of the throttle and gets the car up to speed much quicker. It does drain the charge faster, but it is nice to have if you want more pickup.
2. No Range Anxiety: This isn’t an issue in the Volt. Instead you'll find yourself getting range envy — you want to see how far you can go on an electric charge.
3. Phone and iPod Interface: I like the ability to use either the touch screen or the designated button on the dash. It is very easy to find the song or phone number of the person you want to call.
4. LCD Screens: It may seem gimmicky to some, but I really like how these screens boot up and display information. It looks like the kind of "future car" we all imagined when we were kids.
5. Good Commuter Car: Dan will have more concrete data later, but my 12-mile round-trip commute is perfect for the Volt. The only time I went past the EV range was on the weekend and when I traveled to visit relatives.
One of the most common questions on the 2011 Chevy Volt is, "How does it deal with stale fuel if someone drives mostly in EV mode?" And it was a question even GM asked as they were developing it — gas doesn't like sitting around for a year or so and that's a real possibility with the Volt.
Well, GM has made a video answer. Essentially, there's a fully-sealed fuel system that is vented upon customer activation (there may be a warning light) and two maintenance modes to burn off contaminants and calculates fuel age for controlled burnoffs.
Follow the jump for the full rundown.
As you can see, our Chevrolet Volt gets us some perks. At my local grocery store, there are spaces up front that are reserved for "Electrical Vehicles Only." They're leftover from the EV-1 days, complete with big ol' spider-web-covered paddles for charging.
Clearly they haven't been getting much use in the last decade or so, but now that we have the Volt and the Leaf I plan on taking full advantage of them. I suspect they won't last for long given the fact that "electrical" cars are becoming more mainstream. Then again, I never seen another one parked in either of the three spots available, so it could be some time before I lose my privileges.
The Chevy Volt cames standard with automatic headlights, heated mirrors, remote ignition, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, OnStar, a touchscreen electronics interface, a navigation system, voice control, real-time traffic and a six-speaker Bose stereo with CD/DVD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and 30GB worth of digital music storage. Our car comes with the optional Premium Trim package (leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats) and the Rear Camera and Park Assist package (gee, what does that give you?)
That's a comprehensive and luxury-like amount of equipment, but there are no power seats. I can't comprehend why the Volt isn't offered with them (the damn Cruze has a six-way power driver seat!), but regardless, it should have them. Besides luxury/cost expectations, it would improve the driving position.
I had our Chevrolet Volt for the weekend and by Saturday evening, I had used up all its EV range. I had a lot of driving to do on Sunday and I felt a little irresponsible driving it on gas for the rest of the weekend. Half the fun of this car is driving it on electricity and seeing how far you can go. Since I was planning to see a movie that night, I came up with a plan to stay all electric.
I arrived at the Edmunds offices at around 7pm. I put the Volt on the charger then took the bus into downtown Santa Monica. It was a 15 minute bus ride at one dollar per passenger. I arrived at the movie theater in time to see an 8 p.m. showing of "Sucker Punch".
I caught the bus back to the office and was sitting in the car by 11:05pm. The Volt's charge meter said it would be ready by 11:15pm. I had planned to wait it out, but it actually reached its full charge five minutes early.
As I took the Volt home that night, I wondered if other Volt owners would take such elaborate steps to make sure they drove the car on electricity as much as possible. The best thing about the Volt versus a true EV however, is that I really didn’t have to charge it that night. But it did feel good to conserve fuel and drive the Volt only on electricity.
As for Sucker Punch, anytime you have Dragons, Samurai's with chain guns, Robots and attractive women all in the same movie, it's an automatic two thumbs up from me.
This weekend I took Emma and her 20-inch beach cruiser down to the beach to do some cruising. I was surprised how easily her bike fit in the back of the Chevy Volt, still allowing one seat to remain in an upright position.
After we parked on Ocean Avenue, an older man stopped as I was removing her bike from the car.
"Is that fer when yer car runs outta juice?" he asked.
Seems he knew enough about the Volt to understand the electric part, but not enough to know about the gasoline-engine part.
Now that a 2011 Nissan Leaf has joined our long-term fleet, it has created a small impact on our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt.
We purchased a Coulomb Chargepoint CT2103 charger with the expectation that it could handle two EV vehicles. And it does. Our Coulomb charger supports simultaneous charging of one Level II (240VAC @ 32A) Electric Vehicle and one Level I (120VAC @ 16A) EV (or Plug-in Hybrid EV, PHEV).
Our Nissan Leaf requires a charging time (full charge from depletion) of 8 hrs on Level II and 21 hrs for Level I. The Volt, in contrast, needs only 4 hrs on 240V and 10-12 hrs on 120V.
Because Level I charging takes so long for the Leaf, it generally gets priority on the stronger Level II charger. That leaves the 120V charger for the Volt. And if the Volt's battery is depleted — as it was over the weekend — it results in that 10-12 hr charge to full or a incompletely charged battery. I got the latter last night.
So we may have to allow the Volt to remain parked for the night here and there to get fully charged, or re-visit our charging priorities.
All of this probably won't apply to a Volt owner, unless she, too, has another EV.
But maybe that's our future.
As I alluded to yesterday, I drove a rental Toyota Prius this past weekend while in Indianapolis for a friend's wedding. I was originally given a Mitsubishi Galant. "Oh joy," I thought having never actually driven one before. "I get to see if it really is the worst midsize now that the 200 has replaced the Sebring!" Sadly or happily, the Galant had 40,000 miles, at least nine major exterior scratches and a dent in the driver's door that made the left-rear difficult to open. I tossed the key on the Hertz desk and said, "please try again." The cheerful Hoosier behind the desk gave me a choice and I went with the Prius — cheap on gas I figured.
And cheap on gas it certainly was. But it was also surprisingly noisy, with lots of road noise and a gas engine that sounds like lawn mower. The ride was also harsh, though the tires were also probably overinflated in true rental car tradition (I didn't check as I did a month earlier on Hawai'i). The driving position is still poorly suited to tall people despite the telescoping wheel and height-adjustable seat, the slanted HVAC and stereo displays easily wash out in the sun, the interior materials are quite cheap and I don't care for their rough graining. In other words, I didn't like it.
Contrast that to the Volt. It isn't noisy, even when the engine kicks in. The ride feels more substantial (regardless of tires), handling is better, the seating position is far better and the interior materials are vastly superior. There's also more of an electric-torque kick when accelerating in "gas" mode than you get with the Prius. Sure, the Volt has only two very cramped rear seats and less cargo capacity. Oh, and it costs way more. Regardless, I'd happily drive the Volt ... not so much the Prius.
Last night was the first time I took our long-term Volt home. The day before, I took our Leaf. That makes two days in a row that I didn't use any gasoline, and I'm showing no signs of withdrawal. So far, I'm enjoying both cars equally, so here's my take on the Volt.
The Volt feels solid on the road. It doesn't feel flimsy or like an appliance, and that's reassuring. I'm sure the cabin would've been incredibly quiet had I not been rockin' out (I can't seem to stop listening to Adele's latest album). I think that if I were in the market for an environmentally friendly car, this would be my choice.
On the downside, I found the glossy center stack too shiny and the controls poorly labeled. I like the way it looks, but during daylight hours, the lack of contrast between the type and background make the controls difficult to operate. I recently drove the new Ford Explorer with all of the MyTouch controls, and that seemed to be easier to read and use. The Explorer had a matte-black rubberized panel with legible and bright type.
Despite what Mr. Pearley Huffman thinks, I don't think the Volt is deserving of the "ugly car" label. Among cars in general, I don't find it offensive in any way. Among electric/hybrids like the Prius, Insight and Leaf, I actually think it's the best looking of the bunch.
Yup, I'm a believer. Are you?
The Volt is a quasi-electric car, it's the way of the future, it has a funky touch-sensitive dashboard, blahbity blahbity blah. But it's also a hatchback and hatchbacks are better than sedans because they are more useful when the time comes to carry big bulky things. Things like a ginormous, original Z3/GoldenEye promotional poster from 1995. Picture after the jump.
As I drove down to Los Angeles of Anaheim for the second straight day to watch my Blue Jays lose yet again (could be worse, cough, Red Sox, cough, Devil Rays), I came to a realization about the Volt. Of all my possible expectations for GM's newfangled motor car, the one I wasn't anticipating was how capable it is on the freeway.
The electric drive range was long gone before I even set out for LA of A on Saturday evening, which meant I'd be in hybrid mode the rest of the way. No worries, though, as the Volt does an excellent job of highway cruising. If you need to pass someone quickly, there's plenty of electric-generated torque for a quick acceleration boost. The engine is only rarely noticeable (it's often tough to tell if it's running at all), and when it is, the noise is comparable to that of a more muted CVT-equipped car.
I'd be interested to see how it handles the hilly drive to Vegas, but color me surprised that the Volt handles the highway as well as it does city. I like this car more and more I drive it. Oh, and I achieved 34.5 mpg along the way.
Okay, not all of these buttons. I'm mainly referring to the ones that are flat, hard to push and generally too modern for their own good. You know, like those fan speed buttons on the right or the radio button on the lower left.
I get that the Volt designers were going for something new for their super advanced family sedan. And going for a look that's different than every other midsize four door is perfectly reasonable given all the technology packed into the Volt.
But at the end of the day, design has to be functional and these buttons just plain suck. There's no tactile response when you push them, so all too often you're forced to just keep on pushing until something happens. Some have lights, but most don't. It's simply a case of being too clever when it wasn't really warranted.
Today I'm driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And tomorrow I'll drive it back. Along the way it should reach 5,000 miles on its odometer. I'll let you know how the Volt does as a road tripper on Friday.
We've only been driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt for three months and it has already covered 5,000 miles. Remember our long-term Mini E only covered 7,700 miles in 12 months.
And the Volt has been dead reliable. No issues, problems or busted stuff to report.
I drove my friends around a bit this past weekend in our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt before we took a cruise around the Marina Del Rey harbor. My friends were quite impressed with the Volt and asked me the usual questions: how much does it cost, what's the range, do you like it? Yeah, I do like, including the greeting you get when you enter.
I showed them the displays upon entering, which are accompanied by the soothing sounds of nature: birds, water, new age music. It also reminds me of what you hear when you power up a mobile phone. This gives me a high-tech impression of the Volt.
Can you hear those sounds? Hit the jump to watch and listern.
That is the Volt's top speed. 101 mph. It gets there quickly and feels like it'll stay there all day very happily. Notice the accel meter on the right. It's pinned. Fact is, with its speed limiter removed and different tires I'm sure the Volt could go much faster. Probably north of 125 mph.
Mileage does suffer at this speed however. Significantly.
The Volt's hustle comes from General Motors' Voltec technology, a rechargeable hybrid setup that allows the car to boogie for 20 to 40 miles on an electric charge; beyond this point, an internal combustion engine kicks in power. We think this tech is kinda nifty, so we've decided to recognize it with our 2011 Green Car Breakthrough Award.
Scheduled to be presented at the New York Auto Show, the Green Car Breakthrough Award is given out each year to a "vehicle, technology or program that sets new standards in fuel efficiency, emissions reduction and/or sustainability, or that stands out for promoting public use and acceptance of such a vehicle or technology."
"Voltec is a game changer for the electric vehicle community and it offers a blueprint for commercial manufacturers to build upon as these types of vehicles continue to develop," said John O'Dell, senior editor at Edmunds.com. "Applied to a broader base of vehicles, Voltec and other automakers' versions of the extended-range plug-in hybrid technology can have a tremendous impact on U.S. fuel consumption."
What do you think? Is Voltec a game changer or not?
I've put enough miles on the Volt by now to have a solid impression of the car. Here are my top three hits and misses so far.
1) IP design: I haven't played with all the various gadgets buried within the various menus, but they look impressive. The graphics are sharp, the colors are pleasing and it conveys a sense of technology with being overwhelming.
2) Quiet cabin. Hybrids aren't known for their refinement for a reason. Usually because they have rock hard tires and minimal insulation to keep their weight down. The Volt doesn't feel like it has either.
3) Reasonable performance. Doesn't sound like much of a hit, but my expectations were low. I wouldn't take the Volt on a trip that included more than one mountain pass or any twisty roads. That said, around town and on the highway, it plenty fast.
And the misses...
1) Those dreadful center stack buttons. I've already covered them enough here.
2) The transmission lever. For some reason the designers decided to bury it in the center console. Every time I put it in gear it feels awkward. Can't think of a reason for the design choice.
3) The brakes. Still don't like the way they work at slow speeds. The binders on the Leaf work much better.
Sure, it might be kinda overpriced for what you get, but based on GM's reports, the Volt is doing a great job of introducing the Chevy brand to a different kind of buyer — one with a decidedly green perspective. The manufacturer notes that almost nine of 10 Volt buyers who traded in a vehicle as part of their purchase are brand-new to Chevrolet.
GM hopes to keep this momentum going by tagging hundreds of Volts as demo vehicles, so that curious shoppers can test-drive and hopefully fall in love with the Volt after visiting the dealership.
"The Volt is clearly bringing new customers to our dealership," said Rick Alpern, general manager of Keyes Chevrolet in Van Nuys, California. "We are seeing customers who own competitive brands that have never visited a Chevy dealership before. Now they have a Chevy on their shopping list because of the Volt."
GM notes that Chevrolet dealerships in the initial launch markets of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have added more than 550 dedicated Volt demonstration vehicles, for the purpose of facilitating test drives. The manufacturer expects that there will be Volt demos at more than 2,500 dealerships across the nation by year's end; by this point, the vehicle's availability will have broadened to include 50 states.
"We know the best way to experience the Volt is to get behind the wheel and drive it," said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director. "An added bonus is that our dealers are seeing that the Volt is increasing traffic onto our dealer showroom floors and is exposing consumers to Chevy's line of ‘gas-friendly’ vehicles, including the Cruze, Malibu and Equinox."
With its space-age console design and whatnot, I can certainly see how the Volt would dazzle greenies on the hunt for the newest object of affection — it definitely delivers a unique driving experience, and that can be a selling point with cars like this.
Anyone out there test-driven a Volt? Were you impressed or disappointed?
This is bad. Self-righteousness and infighting is turning green drivers against each other. A green car caste system is taking root on the highways! This must be a plot hatched by Big Oil.
On the drive in this morning in the Volt, I needed to pass some slower traffic that wasn't keeping right. Switched on my left-hand turn signal and waited for Prius Guy to either speed up or roll back and let me in.
Except he didn't. He just hung in the blind spot, trying to appear oblivious. This continued for more than half a mile, even after I telegraphed my intentions with a gradual drift to the lane divider.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to maintain some flow with traffic and not end up in the bumper of a laden Toyota landscaping truck with blown shocks, nor invite my follower into the Volt's back seat.
Finally, I saw a little developing break in the action. The Volt was running on gas by now, so I wasn't concerned about maximizing electric range. I stomped it, then slotted in ahead of Prius Guy. In the rearview mirror, I saw some muttering and exaggerated indignity. Probably a philosophy professor at Long Beach State. Now he's got something to riff on at the next faculty wine-and-cheese mixer.
Easy, Prius Guy. There's room enough for all us Earth-savers (and our Raptors). Your car is no longer the big story. Get over it.
A few weeks ago I drove our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back. In two days I drove the Volt 916 miles nearly all of it on the highway. And, as you can see in the photo, while I was there I took in a Giants game.
The first 30 miles of the trip was on pure electricity. Then I started burning gasoline.
I drove the Volt like I would any other car. I didn't change my driving habits and I certainly wasn't showing off my hypermiling skills. And the results show it.
The first tank full of premium carried the Volt 285.4 miles. Then the Volt took 7.866 gallons. That's an average of 36.2 mpg. Then my right foot got heavier and the Volt got thirsty.
I ran through three more tanks, averaging 30.1 mpg, 27.9 mpg and 28.6 mpg. My average for the entire trip (excluding the first 30 miles on electricity) was 30.7 mpg.
Pretty disappointing. But there are some serious grades between here and The Bay Area, which didn't help.
I should also point out that the Volt was very comfortable on the drive. It hums along nicely at speed and I found its ride and its driver's seat to my liking. But it has a short range because of its small tank, so you'll never really test your bladder when road trippin' a Volt. Heck, the third tank of fuel only lasted 207 miles.
Of the cars in our fleet, the Volt offers one of the smoothest Bluetooth pairings. It's not limited to the Volt; the Cruze and Regal also transmit the voodoo pretty easily. But the Volt's touchscreen lubricates the process by eliminating the dial wheel and keeping commands to a few touches. Hit the Config button, then Phone, and Add New Phone.
From there it's a simple matter of deciding which colleague gets their phone bounced from the queue (Volt can only store five at a time) and entering a pair code. The ease almost makes up for the dopey no-touch center stack.
A small thing for most owners who'll only pair two or three phones, but something most of us notice moving in and out of cars, constantly pairing phones, and interacting with different software. Chevy got this one right, especially with the touchscreen.
I spent some days with the Volt and have some impressions to share in a later post. But here's one quick thing that drove me bonkers. This Volvo-esque floating bridge piece might impress a conference of interior design Poindexters, but it's a pain in the knee. The cascading plastic pillar looks as hard as it is, and I found myself constantly shifting my foot around, trying to fit my kneecap in the gap.
And a stupid gap it is, too. Points for creating a storage nook, but it's useless for anything you might want to stash or grab while driving. It's blocked from the front by the shifter, and unless you're double wrist-jointed, good luck reaching in there with your right hand.
A nitpick, for sure. And a passenger might exploit its intended purpose. I just started trying to thread the Volt keys above the shift stalk every day, but most times ended up brickin' it like Bynum.
The single-charge range record for our 2011 Chevrolet Volt has fallen. A group of us with longer commutes have been vying to be the first to crack the 50-mile mark. Now we'll have to pick another goal.
I set the bar early on just after we bought our Volt, going 45.6 miles before the engine kicked on. That stood for a few weeks until Kelly Toepke took the lead with 47.0 miles on her trip home.
Last week, Dan Frio spent a full week driving the Volt, determined to be the first to crack 50 miles. All four of his runs were good, over 45 miles apiece, but he didn't quite get there. He did succeed in besting Kelly, however, inching into the lead with a 47.2-mile best effort.
Today I was in the Volt, and I got a late start, leaving at 4:00 pm. Anything after 3:00 pm sets me up for horrible traffic, as I live over 50 miles away. I usually work an East Coast schedule to get out ahead of everyone else, but a late meeting sealed my fate.
All of this worked in my favor in terms of Volt efficiency. Traffic was slow, but there were no accidents and the freeway never quite stopped.
The predicted range indicator started off at 43 miles, which didn't bode well. I chose to drive the car in "L" the entire time to maximize regenerative braking energy recovery. As in the Nissan Leaf "Bitter End" test, I ran with the AC off and the windows cracked, though I did allow myself the luxury of the lowest fan speed.
For the first 40 miles traffic was dithering between 15 and 45 mph, and I simply went with the flow, trying to stay in lanes that were moving smoothest. The use of "L" range allowed me to bleed off speed without touching the brakes when things bunched up.
Traffic only started to ease up and begin moving at 55 mph in the faster lanes when I got within 10 miles of home, the point at which I was getting close to Frio's record. Not to be denied, I drove those last few miles at 50 mph, running along with a furniture delivery truck and a couple of semis in the right-hand lanes.
You see the result above: 54.3 miles in a real-world situation. Slow-and-go traffic is apparently good for the Volt.
Anyone for 55 miles? How about 60 miles?
My new 2011 Chevrolet Volt electric range record of 54.3 miles on a charge lasted all of 14 hours. This morning I was doing so well that I actually drove past the office to once again see how long I could fend off the dinosaurs. In the end I squeaked 54.6 miles all-electric miles out of our plug-in Chevy, turned around, and drove back to the Edmunds parking garage.
Like yesterday, I left later than I wanted to and caught traffic. And that's the secret to good range: wade out into LA traffic instead of waiting it out or trying to miss it by punching out early. You want a traffic-enforced average speed of around 30 or 35 mph on a long freeway commute with a top speed of no more than 50 mph and no really slow periods or dead stops.
Of course this means out I'm on the road for nearly two hours *each way* instead of the usual hour and fifteen minutes.
It's a real-world situation, but not a tolerable one. I'd go nuts if I did it every day. I'll resume my habit of trying to beat traffic and run with others equally eager to get where they're going, even if it does mean I'll only get 40 electric miles out of the Volt instead. I'm totally fine with burning a little gasoline to preserve my sanity and spend a bit more time kicking back with the family.
Still, I have backed up my record, so I guess it's certifiable. And the very existence of traffic signifies that there are plenty of commuters that are driving the right mode to get decent electric range out of a Volt if they tried. Ironically, single-commuter carpool stickers and the higher speeds they permit could actually reduce a Volt's electrric range.
General Motors announced it's going to increase its production of the Chevrolet Volt next year by 33 percent. So now instead of building 45,000 for 2012, it'll be 60,000. This year production went up from 15,000 to 16,000 Volts.
This is GM's answer to the rising gas prices. According to GM CEO Dan Akerson, the Voltec gas-electric drive system will also be added to more models in preparation of even higher gas prices.
With the talk that crude may increase up to $120 a barrel (last week it was less than $100 a barrel), would that inspire you to buy a Volt soonish?
For 2011, the Chevy Volt was priced at $41,000. For 2012, that number will be $39,995 — $1,005 less than before — or $32,495 with the $7,500 tax credit. This price lowering is possible "in part because of a wider range of options and configurations that come with the expansion of Volt production for sale nationally." There are now seven option packages for the 2012 Volt compared with three for 2011.
The new top-of-the-line Volt with leather, backup camera, nav, premium paint and premium wheels will go for $46,265.
New standard features include: keyless access with passive locking — the car locks/unlocks automatically when the key is close to the car. ( THANK YOU, GM ) OnStar turn-by-turn navigation for three years, Chevy MyLink and available 17-inch sport alloy wheels.
The 2012 Chevy Volt is now available for national pre-order.
At $32,495, the Volt is an enticing possibility if you've got a place to charge it.
I went shopping in the Volt on Saturday and as I closed the hatch, I realized the car lacks a cargo cover. There is no option for one on the Chevy Web site, nor could I find one as an aftermarket piece. There certainly isn't any pre-made "plugs" in the car to add one — just some hook-like things for a cargo net.
By comparison, both the Prius and Insight have similar hatchback/trunk designs yet both offer cargo covers. It would be nice if the Volt had one to keep your valuables away from thieving eyes. But at least there's now a way to plug the trunk hole.
It's not that it's forbidden in any way, but when the sign-out sheet comes around the office, it's generally frowned upon to take the same car night after night after night. It's usually an easy thing to get around, after all, we've got a lot of nice cars in our fleet: BMW 528, Mustang GT, Equus, Optima SX Turbo and more....
But whenever the board comes around, I always hover over the Volt before realizing I'd driven it just the night before. I can't help it. Except for what could be the worst center console design in history (seriously, this thing works less often than teamsters — hey-o ), I love the Volt. The seats are perfect for commuting, cushy but not too soft and not too wide. The iPod interface is bright and clear (though shuffle is best as it doesn't arrange albums correctly all the time), there's good visibility, enough power to pass and most of all, it's super-quiet when in EV mode (i average about 30 miles on battery) and just what I want to get me home after a long day of work.
The only thing that would keep me from owning one is the lack of a charger at my apartment (not looking to own anytime soon) or office. Change that and I'm in. I've never said anything close to that about a Prius.
Had a pretty quiet weekend, logging only 40 miles around town for errands and to go see some live music at a local coffee shop. But since I never drove very far during any one stint, and because I recharged the Volt in my garage, I was able to run all of those miles on electric (not that it's a great feat, mind you).
It's an odd feeling running the Volt in pure electric. On the one hand, it's eerily silent, which is very different than what I'm used to, whether it be with cars or motorcycles.
But I also find that I have this odd desire to go full-throttle from a stop around town, which isn't exactly efficient. I liken it to riding a scooter: The few times I've ridden a scooter, I'm full-throttle all the time, baby. Part of the reason for that is that scooters generally don't have much power and don't go very fast, so you have to get up to speed quickly or you get run over.
It's similar in the Volt: Around town, it's natural for me to want to use all of what little power the Volt has. I know I shouldn't do it, because the Volt is theoretically all about efficiency. But there's something fun about out-dragging a gasoline-powered SUV from a stoplight with an electric car. Even if they might not have been fully aware we were racing.
Call me crazy (go ahead, it's okay. I've been called worse things), but I was a little surprised to find that our $44,695 Chevy Volt doesn't have power front seats. Not even the driver's seat.
I don't really care about the manual fore/aft seat adjustment, but it's nice to have an electrically-operated seatback. I'm kind of a fidgety person, so I usually mess with the seatback several times during my long commute.
If I can't have power operation, I'd at least like a VW-like round knob which gives an infinite amount of adjustment, as opposed to the Volt's lever, which doesn't always leave you in that exact right position.
On the bright side, the front seats are plenty comfortable when I can find that perfect setting.
So the parking attendant at the gym I go to is a pretty casual car guy. He gets cars to some degree, he knows what's special and what's cool and chats me up about what I'm driving every day. He isn't, however, an enthusiast and, until yesterday, had never shown any interest in any green vehicles I may have been driving.
"That's my next car, bro!"
"Oh yeah. I need that."
"Huh, really? I didn't peg you as an electric car type of guy."
"Well, kind of...see it's got....Yes. It is electric."
"Whatever, man, I don't care, that thing is gorgeous and I want it in my garage!"
I was lucky enough to get the Volt two days in a row — seriously, I still love driving this thing — and he said the same thing the next day. "Gorgeous!"
I don't see it, however. Sure, it looks kind of menacing in black and our Volt-specific color is by far the worst, but even in the good colors, gorgeous? A Prius-based design with a bowtie?
Now the first Volt concept? That was a looker.
"We're not parking it, we're abandoning it." - John Winger, Stripes
I had a similar notion as I pulled away from our test track this afternoon, leaving behind the car I brought there. So why have I abandoned our Volt in Fontana? Have Santa Monica utility rates just become too much? Do I think the Volt could be improved by the addition of giant spiders?
Find out tomorrow morning.
I drove the Volt briefly for the first time ever a couple nights ago. It was a bit strange finally driving a car I'd been reading about for months (or years). I enjoyed the seat time. In general, I like the technical aspect of cars that are efficient. So I was pleased to see I went 33 miles on battery power and still had, at least according to the Volt, about another 12 miles left of juice.
The Volt isn't weird to drive, either. It's quiet on the highway, has a nice, compliant ride quality and feels substantial at the wheel. Parking it was trickier than expected, though, due to the touchy brakes, limited visibility and somewhat wide turning circle (36 feet, about 2.5 feet more than the Cruze's circle, even though the Volt is shorter).
I know this drive was just a taste, so I'm looking forward to spending more time with our Volt in a couple of weeks.
To Mountain Mode or not to Mountain Mode, that is the question. The Volt's Mountain Mode essentially stores up electricity so that you can apparently climb any grade in the United States at 70 mph. Trouble is, it hurts your electric range (should you be in electric-only mode) or your fuel economy. This was my quandery last week during leg 1 of the Fuel-Sipper Smackdown.
As this was a fuel economy test, I decided to leave the Volt in Normal. Even with the plug-in electric charge depleted, the powertrain had no trouble getting up the rather steep Cajon Pass on Interstate 15. Other grades were dispatched without issue, including one ascending Panamint Valley. However, as I made the long climb up the mountain leading into Death Valley, the Volt doth protested.
As the above photo shows, I got a warning saying "Propulsion Power is Reduced," and my speed quickly declined. By this time it was too late to engage Mountain Mode. Eventually, I had my foot planted to the floor, the engine was whirring like a lawn mower and the Volt was dawdling up the mountain at an embarrasing 35 mph. The other fuel-sipper cars formed a parade behind me, wondering why I decided to drive like Ma and Pa RV Owner.
Had this not been a fuel economy test, I almost certainly would've seen the big scary mountain ahead and gone "duh, Mountain Mode." But at least I now have a good idea of the rather extreme circumstances in which the Volt's gasoline engine is overwhelmed when in Normal Mode. (There's also the matter of whether drivers will even know there's a Mountain Mode there).
So how did fuel economy fair in this scenario? Curiously, the Volt still managed to achieve 39 mpg (subtracting its E range) on this more vigorous portion of the Death Valley leg, whereas it only managed 31 on the less mountainous second portion. I have no idea why. Beyond Fuel-Sipping, Death Valley was definitely an interesting test for the Volt.
For more fuel economy numbers from Fuel-Sipper Smackdown 4, you'll have to wait a few weeks, however. Stay tuned, but at the very least I can say I once again walked away impressed with this nifty car.
I drove our Chevy Volt A LOT last week. To be precise, 420.5 miles over the course of 12 hours through the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. That's a long time to be in any car and given my proclivities for more sporting, involving cars, you'd think that would be more than enough eco car for me. Yet here I am this week driving the Volt every single night.
Why? Because although it's definitely not sporting, I've discovered that the Volt is redefining what I consider an "involving" car.
Yesterday, one of our commenters asked what the little green dot does in the instrument screen. It essentially tells you when you are maximizing the battery's range and regeneration. In fact, while I make my daily slogs through traffic, that little green dot helps me to be an intricate and involved part of the Volt's efficiency. I find myself looking even further ahead and gently applying the brakes to gradually bring the car to a stop using regenerative braking rather than the traditional clampers. I take great concentration in accelerating in a smooth, efficient manner. In other words, it gives me something to do.
It's not the same as perfectly executing a downshift or feeling the road through especially good steering, but in a high-congested urban environment, the Volt keeps me involved like few other cars can. And in that way, it's made me realize that it's not just performance that makes me connect with a car, it's that amount of involvement. I want to feel like a part of the machine, not just a passive operator along for the ride.
True, the Prius and other hybrids have similar high-tech read-outs and the ability to maximize battery life. However, they don't share or match the Volt's many other car benefits that go beyond its powertrain (not to mention its ability to go further under electric power when in gasoline/hybrid mode). There's just no way in hell I'd be driving a Prius this week after 420.5 miles through the desert. Actually, there's a good chance I would've pulled off the road and just taken my chances walking through Death Valley.
My commute is conducive to owning a Chevy Volt. I only go about 8 miles each way in traffic, so I'd theoretically be one of those people who could go months without ever tapping the gasoline engine. Since my wife rarely drives her car other than during her similar commute, that would go double for her.
As such, I decided to take the Volt every night this week to see what type of electric range I would get and over how many days the charge would last. As I described yesterday, I was trying to be as efficient as possible without being a hypermiling road block.
The result is I went 43.4 total miles on electricity, which was good for four "legs" from my house to the office or vice versa. However, the Volt switched over to gasoline with about 1 mile left to go on my fifth "leg" driving home last night. In other words, I was using electricity for 2 and a half days. Of course, I could've recharged each day, but I probably wouldn't bother. Why? Laziness partly, a lack of need would be another, but think about it from a futurist perspective. If you owned two Volts or cars similar to the Volt, you could plug in one car at a time rather than having two giant electricity vampires suckling on your house.
The more time I spend with the Volt, the more I'm convinced that it's a fantastic model for future cars. The price will go down over time, battery capacity will go up and there theoretically will be a wider variety of vehicle body types available for those who find its packaging limited. My week in the Volt points to the way of the future.
This parking lot is at Helms Bakery in Culver City, which is not actually a bakery any more, but rather a group of furniture-selling outlets. More importantly, this parking lot has a pair of electric vehicle parking spaces with a charger hooked up to solar panels on the roof. Great concept ... if it's 1997 and you have a GM EV1. Or one of the few surviving RAV4's.
Perhaps there's a household-style plug on there somewhere, but for our Volt and Leaf, chargers like these are otherwise useless. They have the old EV car plug, which looks like a black paddle and can be used for the 1990s-era EVs. With only those surviving RAV4s, these chargers (which can be found throughout Southern California) have only been collecting dust over the years while the spots they occupy have been conquered by drivers smart enough to realize that there's a greater chance of a unicorn dropping a deuce on their hood than an electric car stopping by to angrily discover some gasoline-swilling knob in their designated space.
Yet, electric cars are back. Or rather, electric cars and super hybridy plug-in cars like the Volt. As such, it's been fun parking the Volt in these old spots whenever I can as a symbolic gesture. Sure, I can't actually plug in, but then it's not like I'd extract much juice while popping in to look at an ottoman for 20 minutes anyway. It's the thought that counts.
As you're all pretty tired of reading, I like our Chevy Volt quite a bit. So much so in fact, that I've decided to burn some CD's into its 30gig HDD so that I
don't have to bother with an iPod cable or carry CDs
can test the system.
Someone had already tried this with "Something for the rest of" but I didn't want to hear that, I was going to record Flogging Molly's "Speed of Darkness." So I popped it in and drove home and then, before apparently it was done recording, turned the car off.
When I got back in the car the following day (yes, I did this back in July), the recording continued from the same track, but placed it in a different folder. Part of this, I think, is because the Volt had no idea what this CD was, unlike say my computer which figured out the tracks no problem. So now I have two folders for one album, tracks 1-8 in one and 9-12 in the other. Still, I've never seen it handled this way.
I guess I'll have to commit to driving for an entire CD-length should I want to load anything else in and then keep a handy notebook of which dates correspond to which albums. Still, this might be better than the Volt's normal habit of pointlessly alphabetizing album tracks.
The Chevrolet Volt made a lot of sense when I lived about six miles from work. But now I live much further, and the last time I took Volt home, it was only 75 percent charged, so I wasn't able to get an accurate representation of its range.
I now have an 18.5 mile commute that goes up a hill before a drop into the San Fernando Valley. I catch a fair amount of traffic on both ends of the commute, which actually helps out the Volt by keeping the average speed down. Going up the hill at full highway speeds would significantly deplete the charge.
When I left the office, the Volt estimated that I had 39 miles of range on the fully charged battery. I drove home calmly and frequently used the "L" gear when I was in traffic to take advantage of the more aggressive regenerative braking. I alternated between "D" and "L" as if the Volt had a manual two-speed transmission. This kept me off the brakes and kept the eco ball centered in the gauge cluster. The weather was mild, so I didn’t have use the A/C. I drove with the general flow of traffic and the fastest I went was about 65 mph.
I was able to make the 37-mile round trip and still have 14 miles left on the estimated electric range. This was impressive, given that the Volt went up a hill twice. If you add up the figures, the car theoretically could have gone about 51 miles. This would've been a record for me, but still short of Dan's impressive 54.6 miles. I don’t have any kilowatt numbers or utility bills to back this up, but given that I can make my commute both ways without using gas, I'd say the Volt still makes sense for my commute.
I just spend the better part of the weekend driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt. Sometime last evening, Volt packed with my offspring, I decided I could happily own one.
Fact is, I like driving the Volt. Another fact is that I don't like driving a Prius. And another is that I would never hem myself in with the limited driving range of a Leaf.
Meanwhile, I drive just 9 miles to work each morning. And my wife spends most of her days well within the Volt's 40 miles electric range.
For us, the Volt makes a lot of sense. It would be used as an electric vehicle most of the time. But my wife could also drive it to grandma's house (either 75 miles or 135 miles away depending on which grandma) without breaking a sweat.
I left the Volt with my wife today. I wanted her to use it. I'll report her reactions tomorrow.
Yesterday I gave my wife our long-term Volt to drive. And she liked it.
I gave her the Volt with 27 miles worth of electricity and a full tank of gas. She ran her planned errands with the kids (bank, Home Depot, etc.) and used up the 27 miles in a couple of hours. Then she called me. Her sister wanted to take the kids to Disneyland. Disneyland is about 50 miles from our house. A Nissan Leaf ain't making the round trip. "Have fun," I said.
"But I'm already out of juice," she replied.
I of course explained to her how the car worked and she hit the road worry free.
As I said, she liked the Volt. She liked the freedom from range anxiety. She liked the way it drove. She said the seat is comfortable. And she said it felt peppy. She also said it felt good whether the engine was running or not. But there were two problems. And one is a dealbreaker.
The first problem is visibility. She didn't like the split rear glass and the huge A-pillars. But the dealbreaker is the rear bucket seats. With only room for four she says no to the Volt. Gotta have room for five in a pinch.
Hard to argue with.
...because it's going to be.
Meet the Cadillac ELR, currently in development.
One thing I've noticed when driving our Chevrolet Volt for a short trip or errand is that my conscience doesn't gnaw at me as much as if I had driven a regular car instead. It can be something as simple as backing the Volt out of my driveway to unblock a car in the garage — there's no fretting about cold-start emissions or needless wear-and-tear on the engine. Instead all I did was use a bit of electricity. It's a similar experience if I have to make a quick trip to something like a grocery store. There's no wasted gas at startup or waiting at stop lights.
Of course I'm still using energy for such things. But the Volt is much better suited.
Since I was driving the Volt for a few days, I decided to poll some friends and family to find out how many knew what the Volt was. Not very many, I found.
Most didn't know what it was at all. One knew what it was but thought it was "an electric car." Of about 10 people I asked (an admittedly small sample), only one really knew the deal. And I'd consider him a car enthusiast.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. But I'd be happier if more people knew about it, if for no other reason that it's an American car the general public can actually be proud of.
I may live on Electric Avenue, but I can't charge the Chevy Volt here. With no power to my personal garage, I can drive the car home from the office on a full charge, but it switches to gas just six miles into my morning commute back to the office.
If you knew you would have access to a charging station at work, but never be able to charge at home, would you still consider a plug-in hybrid?
A Volt sighting is far from an everyday occurrence in these parts but I can't think of a place more likely to harbor a nest of Volts than the Co-Op — a grocery store deep in the heart of Santa Monica where the produce is organic and the shoppers come in an instantly recognizable shade of green.
This rather fetching red number was parked just outside, by the curb. Right now, the Prius is the model most seen in the Co-Op's parking lot. Maybe one day the upstart Volt will snatch that crown.
"These aren't the droids you're looking for ..."
That is all.
If you were to ask GM's marketing gurus who their target buyer of the Chevrolet Volt would be, it'd probably be somebody similar to me. I own a house in California suburbia that has both a garage and solar panels (the panels aren't currently operational, but that's another story.) I'm interested in alternative energy, both for vehicles and in general. Finally, my total household income is enough to theoretically support the purchase of a $35,000 new car.
OK, so I'm not actually in need of a Volt as I already have other vehicles and working for Edmunds/Inside Line dictates otherwise. But I find the idea interesting. So for this week and part of next week, I'll be trying to emulate a Volt buyer. My general plan will be to drive the Volt as if I was a stay-at-home parent and see how it works out. I'll be running errands, taking kids to school, visiting friends and doing whatever else I can think of. I'll be looking out for how much electricity and gas I use, charging issues and general interest.
Enlightening or boring, I'm not sure how it will play out. But I'm curious.
For the first week I had our Chevrolet Volt, I drove it as if it had the equivalent of electric gold in its battery pack. I employed pretty much every easy trick I could think of for improved efficiency — maximum use of the regenerative brakes, no excessive speeding, coasting up hills, predictive approaches to stop lights. Mostly, this is because I wanted to. Chevrolet designed the Volt to be efficient, so I figured I'd return the favor by driving efficiently.
But then I thought: does it really matter? Is my driving style really making a difference? So I devised a test to find out.
Since I'd been taking my daughter to school every day as part of my stay-at-home parent emulation, I had a repeatable route of about 17 miles of city driving. For two days I drove the route with efficiently in mind using the techniques noted above. Then for two more days I drove "normally," which was basically driving like everybody else on the road.
After each trip I recharged the Volt (on the 120V charger) and used our Kill-A-Watt meter to determine the amount of electricity used (in kilowatt hours) for the drive.
Efficient Driving: 29.4 kwh/100 miles average
Normal Driving: 33.9 kwh/100 miles average
(I wasn't driving 100 miles, but I converted the figures so that they're the same style that we've been reporting in the fuel economy updates. Remember that the lower the number, the better)
So the Volt became 13.3 percent more efficient in my limited testing. And driving this way hardly made any difference in terms of when I got to my destination — there was no cost to me in terms of time. But I will say it does take more mental energy to drive this way. Sometimes it's kind of fun to test yourself, but other times you'll just want to just drive and not think about every little energy savings.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit I haven't driven our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt until now. It wasn't personal; there was just always a three-pedal car that I figured would be more interesting to drive when the end of the day came around.
After one evening I've yet to cross into the Volt's gasoline-engine mode, but that will come later today. One thing I hadn't counted on is just how normal the car would feel in electric mode, and by that I mean it's not like a regular hybrid where the combustion engine interrupts your all-electric zen 15 seconds into the driving experience, and it's not like our Mini E or Nissan Leaf where you have to map out your itinerary every time you leave the house. The Volt comes across as the logical middle ground.
Another thing I've noticed is the electric power steering. I think it might be the best EPS I've experienced to date in a GM vehicle. It has more weight to it at low speeds than I'd expected, and it's actually kinda precise. Presumably, I'll have more substantive thoughts about the Volt over the weekend.
The Chevy Volt has a wacky wipers. You know, the ones that are pretty much equal in size and work in opposite directions as if in mirror image of each other. These used to be common in minivans and many GM cars in the '90s had them, but they are pretty rare today. Amongst cars I can think of the Honda Civic and the Volt — though there's almost certainly something I've forgotten. It would seem that they are a good solution for cars with broad windshields.
For some other interesting windshield wipers, see the old Mercedes-Benz uniwiper, the Toyota FJ Cruiser triad and the drunk Dodge Viper ones that went in opposite directions like the Volt but not at the same time.
Hm...where have I seen this not-very-good backup light before?
Ahhh, right, there it is.
Am I late to the party noticing that the Volt has the same backup lamp as the Saturn Sky?
Mark invites me over to play the super-top-secret sneak preview of Forza 4. I want to play and establish the slowest time, proving once again I'm crap at video games. Pizza has also been promised.
However, there is not one but two baseball playoff games on that I really want to watch. Oh the decisions that plague me. In the end, I chose cake and eating it.
I bundled up by surprisingly lightweight 32-inch LCD TV in a beach towel and carried it down to my garage where it sandwiched perfectly inbetween the front and back seats of the Chevy Volt. Arriving at Mark's, I was laughed at, but soon we had his DirecTV plugged into my TV sitting on a chair and Forza playing on his ginormous 3D flatscreen. Totally doing this again sometime.
Who says you need to compromise?
The plastic trim piece that covers our Volt's shifter is cracked. It's pretty significant too, since the lower side of the crack is slightly higher than the other creating an edge. It looks like a fault. I'm not sure what caused it, but I see two possibilities: 1) Some sort of weird heat/cold expansion situation or 2) Someone accidentally dropped something heavy on the shifter. Do we have any bowlers?
If it's the latter, they would've had to do it with the car in gear since when in park the shifter is tucked into its cave under the center stack.
Since last Friday, I travelled 72.5 miles in our Chevy Volt. I went 35.5 miles on an electric charge, then 37 miles on 1 gallon of gasoline. My driving environment was a mixture of highway and hybrid-friendly stop-and-go traffic. My driving style was somewhere in between normal and thrifty, though I was definitely trying to maximize electric motivation when in gasoline-burning hybrid mode.
Based on our local Exxon station, it cost me $4.059 to go 37 miles
Based on our electricity bill, it cost me about $1.75 to go 35.5 miles.
Could the gasoline engine be more efficient? Maybe, but if your commute is like mine, it would absolutely be cheaper to run the Volt than any gasoline-powered car since you'd almost always be running on electricity. Once it becomes cheaper to produce the car itself and its various components, I truly believe this is the recipe for future commuter cars.
P.S. Yes, I realize the screen says 0.99 gal used, but the gallons used read-out in the gauge cluster I was looking at said 1 gal when this photo was taken. I guess it rounds up. Maybe I got 37.1 miles or something, but I'll never know. Oh well.
A week ago, Al blogged about the Volt's gas gauge, noting that it was difficult to tell how much gas you had when running on electricity. Given the gas icon's design, it's tough to tell if it's indicating full or if it's simply indicating it's existance.
Since I burned some gasoline the last two days, I thought I'd follow up on this topic. The gas gauge went down and the above photo shows what the gauge looks like when you press "Config" and ditch the floating efficiency ball. It's a little more obvious and you can definitely tell how much gas you have, but as Al originally noted, the grey bars are hardly eye-catching.
This is the IP housing for our 2011 Chevy Volt. After some 11,000 miles, it has started to squeak like a trapped mouse every time the car rolls over any rough pavement. So, in LA, all the time.
You can hold down the left side (pictured here) and make it stop for a little while, but within a few minutes of letting go the squeak returns.
Traditionally for little things like this we wait until the car needs service, but our Volt's oil change schedule is something like every 24 months. I'm thinking of making a special trip for this. We'll see if anyone else is as bothered by it as I am.
If it was yours: Wait or take it in?
I'm not feeling the love for the brakes in the Chevy Volt.
The pedal has a firm feel that doesn't seem to move much when you put your foot down. I like to feel like I'm actually participating in the stopping of a car. The pedal feels like the buttonless buttons in the center stack. It goes something like this:
Put your foot down.
The car seems to be stopping...
Maybe I should stomp on it.
The brakes do stop the car but not confidently. I'm sure the eco-friendly tires contribute to this lack of conviction.
I wouldn't know the Volt has a regenerative braking system if I didn't read it. It doesn't feel like it. I enjoyed the aggressive braking of our Mini E and the subtly assertive style of our Nissan Leaf. And I was often able to gain some driving time back in those cars. Since the Volt becomes fairly inefficient when it switches over to the gasoline engine, any regenerative help would be appreciated.
We already made our point that the front airdam on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt is too low. Just in case we needed more supporting evidence, take a look at the picture. No matter how sharp of an angle we entered the driveway and no matter how slowly we went over speed bumps, this was inevitable.
The center portion of the 3-piece airdam popped out. Almost as if Chevy expected this to happen, the exposed tab tucks right back into place with minimal effort. All it cost to repair was a couple of minutes and little dust on my collar. Sure it was easy, but it was also annoying.
Well, it is fixed, until the next time.
GM had its best month of Volt sales so far in October, with 1,108 models sold. That's a pretty sizable increase over sales in September, which came in at 723 units, and it puts total year-to-date sales for the model at a little over 5,000 units.
Now you may remember that GM projected first-year sales of 10,000 units for the Volt, back when the model was first introduced. With just a couple months left in the year, the manufacturer obviously has some catching up to do if it hopes to meet its forecast.
One approach that GM is taking to boost sales involves shoring up its supply. According to the manufacturer, Volt dealers have complained about having more customers than inventory, and it plans to make more Volts available to customers by allowing dealerships to sell the 2,300 demonstration models that it had been requiring them to keep on the lots. As a result, retail inventory will more than double, from 1,800 to 4,100. GM also plans to grow its Volt dealer network by year's end.
What do you think? Will these efforts enable GM to reach its target? Or is 10,000 units by the end of the year a pipe dream?
There is a power outlet located under the Chevy Volt's dashtop outlet. Gee, what on Earth could you plug into it? Especially with that cut out in the cover pointing at the windshield? Hmm, I can't think of anything at all. Certainly nothing that could possibly be illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for example.
As I can't think of such a thing, I certainly can't say how you'd exactly use this power location to create a less wire-rific set-up for such a hypothetical device, but I also certainly imagine it would help. Our Mustang also has a power outlet located up high on the dash, but not hidden away in such a covert manner. A potentially thoughtful feature though ... if I knew what to do with it of course.
Last month's fire in North Carolina involving a 2011 Chevrolet Volt incited the gas/electricity company, Duke Electric, to ask its customers with electric cars to stop using their homes' charging stations, at least while the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"'Because the early report said the fire started somewhere in the vicinity of the charging station, we suggested they [customers] may not want to use them out of an abundance of caution,' said Duke Energy spokesperson Paige Layne." — from Green Car Reports.
However, fire investigators aren't quick to blame the Volt and instead point to possible faulty wiring leading up to the charging station.
Back in April, the Volt was wrongly accused of causing a garage fire in Connecticut, but then was cleared of blame, even though the true cause was inconclusive.
After these remote fires, I can't help but wonder if it makes Volt/electric car owners a little nervous about charging at home. Anyone care to chime in?
Never underestimate the power of a robust, low-frequency pulse of air, and its resonance on the surrounding sheet metal, when closing a car's door. The Volt has a nice, reassuring thunk that says it's more mid-90's Impala than, well, mid-2000 Malibu.
I think the Chevy marketing people are working the wrong angle here. Instead of playing on the "isn't that an electric?" range-anxiety theme, they should be working the Volt's substantive feel, how it presents itself as more of a solid metal cocoon than the standard go-to hybrids on the road.
Granted, any automaker can layer the doors with sound deadening material and structural reinforcement. Doesn't make it a good car, necessarily. And most car shoppers won't mind the sound of anemic metal-to-metal contact if they think the car will get them 50 mpg. But the Volt is a good car. And the sound it makes when you get in and close the door, and when you step out and do the same, would give it a head-start in most people's minds.
Probably wouldn't hurt if the accounting department shaved $10,000 off the sticker, either.
When we get a new long term car early, we like to lead the mileage pack. Remember the GT-R? We hit every mileage milestone first. We needed an oil change before Nissan America had even figured out how to price them. We got the super-expensive 18,000 mile service first. Hit the 20,000 and 25,000 mile markers, too.
With 12,000 miles on our Volt, we knew we weren't leading the pack, but learning that Jay Leno has put 11,000 miles (the press release said 10,000, but one of GM's guys tells us he's now over 11) on his Volt...on electricity alone. He's never even put gas in it. He's got a 41-mile commute that must be the perfect speed, slow but never stopped.
GM is celebrating this achievement by giving owners a special "10,000 mile Electric Mile" badge. Ours will be sold long before we manage that number. (Will update this post when I figure out how many EV miles ours has. In progress.)
Two things always happen when you're at the grocery store in the Chevrolet Volt:
1) While waiting in line at the outdoor ATM at the bank next door, someone will ask you if the Volt uses gas. (Conversation ensues accompanied by simultaneous patting of head and rubbing of stomach to illustrate the principles of the Volt's gas/electric powertrain.)
2) While driving across the lot to park in front of the grocery store, you nearly run over some really old guy and his grocery cart because the Volt is so quiet in electric mode that he doesn't hear you coming. (Rude gestures are exchanged.)
File this in the Whiny Baby Pants bin.
I'm left-handed. I know it's the (cool! creative!, wonderul!) minority of handedness, but would it kill automakers to put two grab-handles in their rear hatches? Look at all that blank space on the left of our long-term Chevy Volt's rear hatch, doing absolutely nothing but begging for a grab handle. That vast swathe of plastic practically screams, "Ooh, grab me!" doesn't it? (I think it actually said that to me when I was taking this picture.)
This isn't a Volt-specific tragedy, either. It's rampant in the automotive world. My personal car, a Honda CR-V, only caters to the righties, too. I deal with this injustice every. damn. day.
Fine. I learned to use right-handed scissors in kindergarten. I can learn to close a hatch that way, too.
Took the family on a hike last Friday, to work off the stuffing and whatnot and enjoy some nature. The Volt's cargo area served as a convenient post-hike picnic spot, at least for the kiddos. The cargo area is plenty deep for the little ones to sit in, and it's a relatively small surface area to have to deal with. While it isn't as accomodating as a crossover, SUV or minivan would be obviously, it was great to have a contained place to plunk them and feed them. Thankfully, our snacks were non-greasy, non-smushy, non-crumbly and non-sticky, so cleanup was easy, too.
General Motors is offering skittish owners of the Chevrolet Volt loaner cars, while it sorts out what's going on with a couple of Volts that caught fire after crash testing. We thought we'd check the process out and see what some other Volt owners plan on doing.
On the official Volt blog, many owners are deciding to forgo the loaner and remain confident that their vehicle is safe to drive. "Thanks for offering to loan me another vehicle," says Greg Hendrick, a commenter on the blog, "but frankly I would be far more concerned with the gasoline tank exploding in the loaner car than the battery in my Volt."
We're going to keep driving our Volt, but we were curious to see what sort of loaner was being offered.
When we called in, the advisor first assured us that the Volt was still safe to drive and that those fires were isolated incidents. He then said that the loaner would most likely be a Chevy Cruze or Malibu, based on availability. If the local dealership had an in-house rental service like an Enterprise outlet, you would likely get a vehicle from that fleet. Our Volt advisor added that if a consumer had a special request, it would be taken into consideration. If a person chooses to take the loaner, they would have it for about 30 days or until GM resolves the issue.
Is a Cruze or Malibu an acceptable replacement for the Volt? What would you request?
I usually try to avoid installing my son's rear-facing child safety seat behind the driver seat, even in midsize cars like the Volt. But my husband happened to do just that when he graciously installed it in the Volt for me this weekend. We were in a hurry to get where we needed to go, so rather than bothering to reinstall it, I just went with it.
I was happy to discover that the baby's seat didn't impinge on my comfort while driving at all. I am 5'8" tall, and you can see in the picture above, there's plenty of space between the driver seatback and the top of the baby seat.
How does the Volt's ability in this arena stack up with the hybrid/electric competition? With 42.1 inches of front legroom and 34.1 inches of rear legroom, the Volt's legroom is just behind the Prius' 42.5 inches in front and 36 inches in the rear seat. The next time we get a Prius in the office, I'll have to try the kid seat behind that car's driver seat, too.
Last night was my first time getting behind the wheel of our 2011 Chevrolet Volt, and I have to say, I liked it. Decent interior materials and everything feels pretty solid (well, except what's up with that crack in the shifter?). The leather on the seats isn't exactly plush but it doesn't feel cheap either.
We bought our Volt for $44,695, which includes the $1,395 Premium Trim Package with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and premium door trim. Just for comparison's sake, here's the interior of our $41K Volvo S60 T5.
While scanning through the photos of the 2013 Scion FR-S reveal, I came upon a small cache of photos I never posted from the 2011 L.A. Auto Show. Included amongst those photos was this interior shot of a 2012 Chevy Volt.
Check. That. Interior.
This is how I'd equip mine, with the $1,300 "Jet Black seats/Ceramic White accents, Perforated leather-appointed seat trim" option ticked. I would wax it and not let anyone touch it unless they were wearing white gloves. Okay, maybe that's a little far, but still this is super cool and just reaffirms the fact that we got the worst interior AND exterior color. Such is the trade off with getting a car really, really early.
Earlier this year, I wrote about going an entire weekend without having to charge. At the time, I didn't have much of a choice. I had to park in a carport with no electrical sockets nearby. This post didn’t sit well with some of our readers. They said that we weren't using the Volt as a typical owner would. I have a garage now, and this time, I was the typical Volt owner.
This weekend I had dinner with some friends and attended my wife's company holiday brunch, neither of which was close to home. The rest of the weekend I ran errands around my neighborhood. I left the Edmunds' offices with a full charge and then plugged in three times at home. With the battery fully discharged, it takes about 10 hours to get a full charge on 110-volt current. In this sense, I wasn’t the typical Volt owner — he would likely have his own 240-volt charger, which would cut that time in half. Perhaps I was more like a Volt owner who went to a relative's house and borrowed an outlet to plug in overnight.
I drove a total of 208 miles, 116 of which were on electricity. My utility factor was about 56 percent, well above the 40 percent we've been averaging. At home, the Volt consumed 31.64 kWh. At my rate, which is 15 cents per kWh, it cost about $1.88 for a full charge. The total cost for the weekend of charging was $4.75. Not bad for 116 miles of driving. The instrument panel showed that I had consumed about 2.4 gallons of gas. This translated to about 38 miles per gallon.
The Volt and the Leaf are often compared to one another. Initially, I preferred the Leaf. I figured, if you're going to go the EV route, why not go all the way? But now my opinion has changed. When you want to go somewhere in the Volt, you don’t give it a second thought. You just go. And if you run out of (electric) juice along the way, oh well. You have the gas tank, and you still keep going.
The Leaf, on the other hand, requires more planning that I care to do. Los Angeles County is huge. I have friends and family in all its corners. Some of the round trips I take would either not be possible in a Leaf or would be very stressful due to range anxiety. I'm not saying the Leaf is a bad car, but for my needs, the Volt is the best.
The Volt did exceptionally well in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) back when the model was first introduced for the 2011 model year. That organization gave it the highest score possible in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash testing, and named it a Top Safety Pick.
Given the car's troubles with post-crash battery fires, some suspected that the IIHS would perhaps give the car a less glowing rating for 2012, but that isn't the case.
The safety group reports that it found no evidence of damage to the Volt's battery pack during its tests, and the car has retained its Top Safety Pick designation for 2012.
Says IIHS spokesman Russ Rader: "If we had found that the battery pack had been damaged or certainly if we had subsequent concerns about fire risk — that would have raised red flags."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — the federal regulators that launched the investigation into the safety of the Volt's battery pack back on November 25 — also reports that it has no plans to change the Volt's safety rating for 2012. NHTSA currently gives the car a perfect five-star overall safety rating.
GM is reportedly close to a fix that would eliminate the risk of a fire being triggered in the Volt's battery days after a crash. Repairs under discussion involve laminating the circuitry of the car's battery pack and beefing up the case that encloses the lithium-ion battery.
At this point, repairs are expected to run GM about $9 million in total, which works out to about $1,000 per Volt.
This morning it was so cold that there was frost on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Frost! So when I jumped in the car, I immediately set about trying to make it as warm as possible. Seat heater full blast, temperature ratcheted up to 77 degrees, change from Eco to Comfort, Auto.... Yeah, I wasn't going for extending driving range here, which apparently can be helped if you just use the seat heater instead of the actual heater.
Since the car just started the air was still cold so naturally I decided to wait until it warmed up a bit after some driving to turn up the fan. But the thing is that it never warmed up. At least not within the 40 minutes it took for me to drive to work. The seat heater worked just fine but even though my backside was baking I was still shivering. I'm assuming that I must have not pressed the right options in the above screen. Right? (FYI, I pressed "Comfort" and cleared the Auto seat heater button for the passenger seat after I took the photo.)
Watching Chevrolet's How-To video on how to work its climate controls didn't clear things up for me. Any Volt owners care to shed some light on this matter? Did I do it wrong or is the Volt's heater just not very effective?
Our Chevrolet Volt is nearing the end of its long term test. At this time, we typically research a car's value to estimate what we'll get and what we'll sell it for. So far, Edmunds (or any other pricing guides for that matter) does not have any used car pricing data on this car. We were one of the first to buy a Volt, and will probably be one of the first to sell it at the used private party price when the time comes. We are in uncharted waters and we need a point of reference. So we decided to take the Volt to Carmax and see what they offer.
The 2011 Volt presents a few unique challenges when trying to determine its value. As a potential buyer, you'll have to assume that the prior owner has taken the $7,500 tax credit. As a seller, you'll have to realize that this tax credit is still available to new buyers and adjust your price accordingly. Plus, you may have to discount it even further, because not only is the 2012 Volt about $1,000 cheaper, it also now qualifies to travel in California's carpool lanes.
Our Volt has roughly 12,850 miles on it, 40 percent of which have been on the electric engine. This is great information for our fuel economy updates, but can we use that as a selling point for a potential buyer? Would they feel better knowing that although this car has 12,850 miles, only 7,710 have been on the gas engine? For warranty purposes, the only miles that matter are whatever the odometer says.
When we bought the car new, we paid $44,695 (plus tax and title). Subtract the $7,500 federal tax credit and this leaves you at $37,195. But where do you go from there?
We'll have the answer for you tomorrow, but in the meantime, what's your prediction for the Carmax offer?
It had been awhile since I was behind the wheel of our Chevrolet Volt so I signed it out for a nice long drive the other night. Here's what I was reminded of:
- The interior does nothing for me. It's not just the shiny plastic center console or the mediocre seats, it's the whole layout in general. It's just not a very comfortable car to spend time in.
- Our Volt was built well. It has over 13,000 miles on it and I didnt't hear a squeak or rattle the entire trip. Pretty good for a car that was running on batteries much of the time.
- The brakes are awful. They work fine and all, but trying to be smooth about it is nearly pointless.
- The gas engine is noticeable, but not intrusive. Some people say they can't even tell when the gas engine is running. They're nuts. Or legally deaf. That said, the noise it does make is minimal so no matter what you're running on the Volt is a relatively quiet car inside.
You may find this hard to believe but the seat heaters in the Chevy Volt get too hot for me. It has three toasty levels with the highest level getting really hot. I find I have to knock it back to the second level and then it's just fine. Everything in moderation.
I'll be driving the Volt this weekend and plugging it in at home for the first time. Let me know if there is anything you want me to research for you.
In warm weather I can drive the Chevy Volt home and back to the office without recharging. My roundtrip commute is just under 40 miles. But now that the weather is colder, a full charge on the Volt only allows us about 35 miles of electric driving before switching over to the gasoline engine. I'm sure most of you would consider our California weather to be cool rather than cold. So, if any of you have a Volt in a really cold climate, I'd love to hear about your electric range experiences.
After driving home Friday night, I still had about 14 miles of estimated range left. A few errands on Saturday left me with 1 mile left. That's when I plugged in and left it to charge overnight. It sure is nice to be able to "refuel" your car at home instead of going to a gas station — if you've got the time.
The cord from the charging unit to the car is very long, so you don't have to worry about it not reaching your car. But the cord from the unit to the actual plug is very short. You need to have something for the heavy unit to rest on while you charge so it's not dangling in the air. The way my garage is set up I had no problem. I usually park in the driveway though, and leave our other car in the garage. So, this wouldn't work for people who don't have secure parking. I have outdoor electrical sockets but there are too many curious critters wandering around my neighborhood at night, so I wouldn't want to leave it plugged outdoors while I was asleep. Am I being too paranoid? The charging unit gets warm and I can imagine a skunk or raccoon snuggled up to it for warmth. In the words of Kurt Cobain, "just because you're paranoid doesn’t mean they're not after you." The skunks particularly like my house ;)
With holiday celebrations to attend (and gifts to schlep) across the Southland this season, I had plenty of opportunity to put the Volt's cargo area to the test. Size-wise, the cargo area served us pretty well, even during the couple of occasions when our kids' gift haul was on the large size. (We left our enormous stroller at home.)
But we quickly noticed one major flaw: that tiny light in the wall on the driver side is the only light for the cargo area. It's not nearly enough. Need to find something in a fairly packed trunk in the dark of night on Christmas Eve? You best have a flashlight handy, because the built-in light isn't nearly enough, even if it isn't mostly blocked by the cargo itself.
The hatch is nearly all glass, so I guess it's challenging to find a suitable place to tuck an overheard light into; that's the only excuse I can think of for such an inadequate cargo light.
What is the lighting like in your car's cargo area? I used to have a stripper Civic coupe without any cargo light at all. Ended up installing a stick-and-click light to get by.
Here's a close-up of our 2011 Chevrolet Volt's grille. Just curious, as car guys, what's your gut reaction?
Not usually. But in this case, following a barely-muffled v-twin cruiser pop-pop-popping all the way across Santiago Canyon Road with the Volt humming along in whisper-quiet electric mode, maybe yes.
I was wishing I had an engine to at least somewhat drown out the obnoxious clatter coming from this guy's hog (there's good loud and bad loud, and this was the latter). So I did the only thing I could do: I cranked up the radio.
Here's an incendiary name for a congressional hearing: "Volt Vehicle Fire: What did NHTSA know and when did they know it?"
That's the topic on the docket for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Jan. 25. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) also has grilled NHTSA over CAFE standards and Toyota's unintended acceleration incidents.
In this case, Issa says that politics were involved when NHTSA didn't publicly disclose until Nov. 12 that a Chevrolet Volt caught fire while it was stored in a garage at a NHTSA testing center. The fire broke out three weeks after a side-impact crash test in May. GM has made adjustments to the Volt's battery, but NHTSA says its investigation is ongoing.
In an interview with Fox Business Tuesday, Issa called the Volt a "fiery failure" that GM was "coerced" into building because it was a recipient of a federal bailout. He said GM CEO Daniel F. Akerson will testify at the hearing next week.
"Here is one of the big points. This may have been a bridge too far, too quick for General Motors," Issa said in the interview. "If you push a company to make a show car, and you push them from Washington, you're almost inviting these problems and then if in fact you ignore the problems, you invite fires and disasters."
Issa says his committee wants GM — and all automakers — to put safety first.
Take a look at the 4-minute Fox Business interview and let us know what you think — were politics built into the Volt?
Not sure why this catches my eye every time I drive the Volt. Is it the fact that it uses an extra little arrow to point out the somewhat hidden location of the gas door release? Or maybe it's the fact that the gas door release is hidden while the plug-door button gets more prominent placement? Conspiracy theories abound I'm sure.
Then again, if the Volt was a German car the engineers would have said, "Forget the little icon, let them figure out where the button is on their own." Either way, it's one of the odd little quirks about the Volt that reminds you that this is no ordinary car. I'm guessing most owners don't mind being reminded of that every now and again.
Pictured is a 2012 Chevy Volt and not our long term one. You can tell this because a) it's parked at the Detroit Auto Show and b) it has small buttons on the door handles that let you lock/unlock the car without having to touch the key.
Item B is one of my favorite things about the 2012 model. There are few things as annoying as a car with keyless start but no proximity entry. You've already had to take the key out of your pocket, what are you supposed to do with it once you're in the car?!
Anyway, that's not the point here. For most Californians, the point of the 2012 is not the excellent access, but the car's ability to travel in the HOV lanes. For that, a car needs to be AT-PZEV. And the 2012 Volt is, if you get the Low Emissions Package. We've covered this before.
Here's the rub, when Chevy made the announcement back in November, they stated that the low emissions package would be standard on California cars. More recently they've clarified this to note that 2012 AT-PZEV cars will be shipping to California until late Feb and will be arriving at dealers in March. GM has limited non-AT-PZEV 2012 Volt deliveries to California over the last three months, but there are 2012 Volts which are not carpool lane friendly on dealer lots as we speak.
If the carpool lane (or the $1,500 California rebate — not the fed tax credit) doesn't matter to you (carpool lane access wouldn't help my life in the slightest) then any 2012 you find will be just fine. If, however, you're looking for that AT-PZEV rating and the stickers, shop carefully and know what you're looking for.
The Volt's DTE gauge is saying 47 miles. I know I'm definitely not traveling 47 miles, although I'll be in the ballpark. Still, I decide to go for it. Eventually, the low fuel warning comes on around 38 miles to go, but the DTE countdown continues. Then in GM tradition, the countdown stops with about 25 miles left leaving me with the above LOW FUEL warning. I do the math and I should still make it, though as I discover, you can still feel range anxiety in the Volt — it's just the old-fashioned kind.
As the above photo is not of the Volt parked on the side of the Ronald Reagan Freeway, you can guess that I did indeed make it. Actually, I could've made it a lot further as it turns out. I pumped 8.249 gallons of premium into the Volt's 9.3-gallon tank, which is still the most gas anyone has every pumped into the Volt. So there, I'm number 1!
Here's a number that maybe doesn't get enough attention. It makes sense that we'd find it in the Volt's instrument display: gallons used. We've used just less than three gallons to travel 180 miles. Forget for a second that our electric bill, and the real dollars that pay it, helped us travel that distance.
What matters is that gallons used is a number that I can see and relate to. I see them add up every time I stop at the pump. There's a psychological sleight of hand here: the digits rise fast in the pump meter's LCD, yet they tick off much slower here in the Volt. And I tell myself, hey, isn't that nice? I won't have to visit the Shell as often.
It's one of those numbers that sounds pretty fantastic out of context. And like range estimates, who knows really how accurate it is? But GM should call more attention to it. Highlight it. Have some OnStar overlady like Siri whisper it from the headliner every time you park it for the evening.
Or maybe an audio clip of a congressman indignant that GM executives allowed the president to sit in a potentially flammable protoptype wunderwagen. You can take solace knowing you used less fuel over several hundred miles than those gasbags emit in a single day's investigative hearing (Hey Darrell Issa, how about a refund for that lame Viper alarm that never worked in my Integra?)
"This isn't just the car we wanted to build; it's the car America had to build. The extended-range electric Chevy Volt, from the heart of Detroit to the health of the country, Chevy runs deep."
The car America had to build? According to whom? Watch the thankfully-not-a-Super Bowl-ad after the jump and let us know if this one hits the mark or is a misguided attempt to convince a free market to buy a car they don't really want. (Though it is a car I personally want.)
The Chevrolet Volt has been caught in the crossfire recently, as representatives in the government began to question the car's safety and technology. But it wasn't that long ago, that the Volt represented a new direction for General Motors. I watched "Revenge of the Electric Car" this weekend. This documentary is a sequel to "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and gives a lot of background on the creation of the Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla Roadster and the Nissan Leaf. In the film, you get to see the approach and unique challenges that each automaker faced when trying to create an electric vehicle.
Chris Paine, the writer and director of the film, was given unprecedented access to backroom meetings with GM's Bob Lutz, Nissan's Carlos Ghosn and Tesla's Elon Musk. He was also allowed to film on GM's proving grounds. One particular image that stuck with me was seeing a previous generation Chevy Malibu with Volt parts underneath being used as a test mule.
Overall, I really enjoyed the documentary, but I don’t think the title is that descriptive of what actually happens. Much like "Revenge of the Jedi," was renamed "Return of the Jedi" because George Lucas felt that it was out of character for a Jedi to take revenge, "Revenge of the Electric Car" would have been better named "Return of the Electric Car." EVs aren’t really taking revenge on gas cars or anyone else, but rather have returned to the market in different forms that give the consumer more choices.
"Revenge of the Electric Car" is out on video now and is also available on Netflix instant streaming. Take a look at the trailer below. Let us know if you've seen it or plan on watching it.
The last time we took our 2011 Chevrolet Volt for an appraisal at CarMax, the used-car superstore offered us $32,000. It was a solid price, but at the time we just wanted to get an idea of what the car was worth. That was about two months ago and we've put 2,000 more miles on it since. Now we are going to move forward with selling the car and this quote will serve as a reference point for our listing price.
This is the first time that we’ve taken a car for a second appraisal at Carmax and we weren't sure what to expect. Would it drop in price? Would it keep its value? Would the price go up?
"I'm going to have to do some research on this one," the Carmax appraiser said. "This is only the second Volt I've done."
"That other one was ours," I responded. "We brought it a couple of months ago."
My guess was $31,000 and I was right on the money — for about five minutes. The $31K was the price on screen when the Carmax representative showed me the offer. But when he brought back the printout, he said the appraiser had made a mistake, and that the actual offer was $32,000.
The Volt held its value despite the added miles and recent negative publicity. But I wonder if this had more to do with the lack of a sample size of comparable vehicles than the retained value.
We're going to see if we can improve on the $32K and we have seven days to do so.
What would you do? Take the $32K or sell it on your own?
Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt is up for sale now and we decided it would make a great car to offer on eBayMotors. It's only a five-day auction, ending next Tuesday night, so get your bid in quickly. Here's a link to the auction page.
The Chevrolet Volt, and to a greater extent, plug-in hybrids, remind me of the combo VHS/DVD players from over a decade ago. Back then, many people were invested in their VHS tape collection and were hesitant to embrace the better, but more expensive DVD technology. The electronics companies noted this slow adoption rate, and released these VHS/DVD hybrids as a stop-gap measure. They offered the best of both worlds.
One day, we'll look back on plug-in hybrids as the automotive equivalent of the combo media player. We'll tell our grandkids, that back in the day, some people were afraid that their electric car would leave them stranded, so they bought cars with a back-up gas engine to extend the range.
Some people are quick to dismiss the Volt for not being more a pure EV. But the truth is that not everyone is willing to go all-electric. I wonder if having a gas station on every corner is the equivalent of having a big VHS collection — it reinforces a fear of taking a risk on a new format.
We need stop-gap technology like the Volt to bridge the gap until we have a more extensive charging infrastructure — or until more people can get past their range anxiety.
What are your thoughts on the future of plug-in hybrids and EVs?
The eBay auction on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt ended last night and while we got eight bids, none were high enough to meet the reserve. We started the bidding at $27,500 and after a few days it had gone up to $30,001.99. With about a day left in the auction, we slightly lowered the reserve and the "buy it now," price, hoping it would generate some last- minute bidding.
The top bidder had e-mailed us to ask what our reserve price was. This was like asking someone to show their hand in poker. That's not information you reveal to your opponent in cards, or in this case, a potential buyer in an auction.
The top bidder told us he had wanted a Volt ever since it was announced back in 2007, and added that his Prius was getting old. But the bids never moved from $30K. That seemed to be the most that he — and other bidders — were willing to pay for our Volt.
It's a shame we couldn't sell the car to this guy. He wanted the car so bad that he was willing to put $10K on a credit card, $10K in cash, and pay the rest via wire transfer. Much like giving away a pet you care about, you want your car to go to a new owner who will appreciate it and take good care of it. But that three-pronged payment would have been a big hassle for us. And, more to the point, there's a check waiting for us at Carmax for $2,000 more.
If eBay bidders are only willing to pay $30K for a 2011 Volt with 15,000 miles, Carmax is going to have a tough time selling it. My guess is that Carmax probably will list it for $35,000. I'll head to Carmax later today to finalize the transaction.
I'm really going to miss the Volt. Unlike many of my colleagues, I'm more of a green-car enthusiast than a performance enthusiast, so the Volt was right up my alley. It was my favorite long-term car and it helped me change my outlook on EVs and PHEVs.
It's been a mixed bag for Volt lovers in recent days. The good news is that our former long-term greenmobile (which is sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera) was named "European Car of the Year" earlier this week at the Geneva Auto Show. The voting committee called the Volt/Ampera "a mature product, after years of development and perfectioning [sic] by General Motors, and the first example of an electric vehicle with extended range." Okay, then — thanks.
The not-so-good news concerns GM's announcement last week that it plans to halt Volt production for five weeks. GM has attributed the temporary suspension to inventory concerns.
Can't win 'em all, apparently.