Not Even Close - 2011 Chevrolet Volt Long-Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Volt: Not Even Close

April 26, 2011

high voltage web.jpgDamn. I was pumped to make the drive home last night solely on the Volt's electrons. No one's yet been able to get 50 miles on the spooky stuff alone. I live 46-odd miles from the office, and conditions were pretty optimal. At quittin' time, the freeway was moving well. No accidents or congestion, and ambient temp was low 60s. No need for climate control. Dan Edmunds suggested driving in "L" in Normal mode. "Stay off the brakes as much as possible and just flow."

Piece of cake.

Figured I'd even have enough battery left to pit at the local In-N-Out and planned to bring back a bag of soggy fries for Magrath, my own small Everest totem for being the first to scale 50 e-miles (I'd never consider such a rude gesture towards current record holder Kelly, whose Girl Scout confections help the afternoons pass in a foot-tapping frenzy).

Not even close. Battery checked out just after 41 miles.


Now, a disclaimer. The battery charge appeared full. The transformer-lookin' icon in the display was full green. But no one knows exactly when the Volt last went off the cable. Does the Volt's charge slightly dissipate if it sits uncharged for a short period? I don't have last week's car sign-outs handy, but I believe the Volt sat in the garage untethered this past weekend and all day yesterday.

That's my excuse. I got shorted, man. Dealt an undercharged battery. And it's my own fault for not plugging in the Volt earlier in the afternoon just to be sure. Lesson learned.

I share many of our collective sentiments about the Volt. It feels like a well-built slab of copper and metal. It's comfortable and quiet. The high-cycle e-motor hum might take some getting used to, as would the delay action brakes. The info overload - dual displays and busy center stack - would require some personal editing. But you can't help but feel this is where it's all going.

For my needs, the Volt might make sense. Charge it overnight and get to the office almost entirely on electricity. Even if I couldn't find a way to charge during the day and had to get home on gas, I've effectively reduced my fuel bill by half. What percentage of that gets made up in higher electric bills, I don't know. Haven't done the math. But as the technology takes root and solutions like stand-alone solar chargers become practical and affordable, hard to see how you wouldn't start coming out ahead.

My grandfather owned a service station for most of his working life, first for Standard Oil, then Chevron. Four bays, three lifts, and the old air hose that rang a bell when a car pulled in. Clean the windows, check the oil, pump the gas. Old-school full service. As a kid hanging around, one of the coolest tricks I learned was how to roll a shop rag and zap somebody on the thigh, leaving a welt.

My uncle owns it now. The bays are long gone, just a few pump islands and a mini-mart in their place. Sign of the times. The old Don has long passed, but I can't help wishing I could get his take on all this eee-lectric discomabobble.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Volt Research