2011 Chevrolet Volt: Sorry About That, Socket
July 26, 2011
Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt no longer has a charge cord because, well, the friendly folks at Guaranty Chevrolet wouldn't give it back to me after I brought our Volt in for service this afternoon. "Too dangerous to use," they said.
Our poor Kill-A-Watt socket agrees. I do, too, but I'm a little disappointed because I was looking forward to free airport EV parking tomorrow.
There's nothing wrong with the car itself, so I'm still driving it on gasoline. Turns out the strain relief disentegrated on the Volt's standard charge cord, exposing wires inside and stoppping a recent charge attempt dead in its tracks.
We first noticed this after an overnight charge resulted in just 5 miles of electric driving range -- the charge system had shut itself down overnight, but not before our little friend here got scorched. It seems the wall outlet itself would have been the thing that overheated if I hadn't had this handy kWh measuring device sandwiched in between.
As you can see, the strain relief has broken, allowing the wires to pull tight. No one has been playing jump rope with the thing, and we rarely ever unwind the cord all the way like this.And remember, we use this charger only about 1/4th of the time -- mostly we use our wall-mounted Coulomb unit.
No, the strain relief itself is too weak and soft. I've owned plenty of those orange extension cords and have never pulled the end off one of those.
Aside from weak material, the size and shape of the in-car storage well for the cord may play a role. Unless you re-wind the cord carefully and somewhat tightly around the charger, the wound cord assembly will be too bulky to fit back in. A bit more breathing room in the storage well would allow a loosely-wound cord to still snap into its spot.
Here's the plug-end of the cord. The strain relief hasn't completely broken apart on this end, but it has fractured like this in two places. Bottom line: The standard 120V charging rig is far from robust enough to last the life of the car. Our melted Kill-A-Watt suggests that fire is a possible outcome. This is nothing to fool around with. Time for the "R" word. Forum traffic indicates a lot of other Volt owners have suffered from the same problem. It seems a design change was introduced, but it isn't clear when. Some say only the first 120 Volts were affected, but others with higher VINs have reported the problem. Our car's VIN ends in 340. A design change indicates aknowledgement of a problem. It isn't clear if any Volt owners have been notified. We certainly were not. Either way, the dealer says I'm going to get a replacement charger assembly under warranty, and it'll arrive tomorrow. Let's hope the replacement features a beefed-up strain relief and cord design. The guy at Guaranty Chevrolet didn't know one way or the other. Volt owners on the forums suggest I'll be happier with the new one. We'll see. Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,482 miles.