2016 Chevrolet Volt: EV Life, Part 2
by Dan Frio, Automotive Editor on February 24, 2017
A couple of readers called me out in one of my last posts about trying out the EV life with the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. They argued that my meager attempt at lunch-break recharging didn't constitute real EV living; to do it right, I'd need to try some overnight home charging. Since I don't have a Level 2 charger at home, I'd be stuck with the trickle-charge economics of a 120-volt outlet.
A Volt-owning friend does this, plugging his car into a 120-volt outlet via extension cord at around 7 p.m. He's got a full charge (about 53 miles) when he leaves for work at 5:30 the next morning.
Now it was my turn.
At home, I plugged in the Volt around 10:30 p.m. By 9:30 a.m., the battery had filled to about 60 percent, storing 33 miles of EV range. The Volt indicated it wouldn't be full until 5 p.m. Not quite the outcome I'd hoped for after 11 charging hours, and decidedly behind my friend's typical 10.5-hour pace.
Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds and I hashed out a few ideas. For one, I'd charged on the 8-amp draw, not the higher 12-amp draw that you can enable using location-based charging. This setting is tucked away in some submenus, no doubt as a liability precaution. By enabling the 12-amp charge, you're telling the Volt that your house or building wiring can handle the higher load without bursting into flames. This likely plays a role in how my friend tops up his battery every night.
Second, the extension cord is a simple and obvious bottleneck in the chain. The Volt's charging cable doesn't want to be on an extension cord (the owner's manual cautions against it), but possibly makes allowances for it based on heat and resistance.
Third, the run between my garage outlet and the house's electrical panel has an effect on charge time and losses. My panel isn't too far from the outlet, separated by a couple of bedrooms, maybe 30 feet.
So we have couple of variables left to test, primarily to see how much more juice we can extract from a 12-amp charge.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 20,850 miles