2016 Chevrolet Volt: Mostly "One-Pedal" Driving Figured Out. But Is It Worth It?
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor on September 29, 2016
We've written a few prior updates about the regenerative braking paddle on our 2016 Chevrolet Volt's steering wheel. None of them has been positive. After driving our Volt for about two weeks, though, I've found that using the paddle in conjunction with the "Low" driving mode works pretty well.
But is it worth it?
The problem, as my coworkers pointed out, is that the paddle's regenerative braking level is all or nothing. You can't modulate it. But a workaround, as Cameron touched on a few months ago, is to use the Volt's "Low" driving mode. This switches to a more aggressive level of regenerative braking/coasting than in the normal "Drive" mode.
If you assume coasting while in Drive is regen/deceleration level one, then getting off the accelerator while in Low is like level two. Pulling the regen paddle on the steering wheel is therefore level three, which is the highest level of regen/deceleration without engaging the Volt's traditional friction brakes.
Going from level one to three is jarring. But going from two to three isn't so bad.
If I'm approaching a stop light and need to slow down, I'll just get off the accelerator (while in Low) and eyeball when I need to apply the paddle for even more regen. At level three, the deceleration is pretty similar to what most other drivers are achieving with their brake pedals.
The Volt doesn't come to a complete stop this way, though. It only slows to creep speed (like you get with a regular car with an automatic transmission). You still have to apply the regular brakes right at the end.
Still, I've been pretty pleased with myself and my Low/paddle two-step. Surely I'm being super-efficient — I'm not using the friction brakes at all! I even pointed out my awesomeness to my wife while we were out on a drive. She was not nearly as impressed. "This seems dumb. Why can't you just use the regular brake pedal?"
Erm, well, that's a good point. I've also watched the Volt's battery regen meter while using the regular brake pedal. The Volt automatically applies plenty of regenerative braking all on its own. How much more efficient can the Low/paddle two-step be?
Devising a viable test on my own would be a challenge. But I read a recent press release on the upcoming 2017 Bolt EV. Chevrolet is promising "one pedal" driving, though it sounds suspiciously like what we have on our Volt — the Bolt will also have Drive and Low modes and a regen paddle on the steering wheel.
In that release is this nugget: "The engineers found that the one-pedal driving can add up to 5 percent of range to the Bolt EV."
Supposing the same holds true for the Volt while you're driving it as a pure electric vehicle, all of the shenanigans I described earlier might extend the car's all-electric range by a mile or three.
Everything helps, I suppose. And using the Low/paddle combo sort of forces you to drive more efficiently if you're otherwise the type of driver who likes jackrabbit starts and stops. But there's a valid argument for just driving the Volt in Drive mode and using the brake pedal like a regular car. You'll still have plenty of EV range and save yourself some hassle in the process.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 12,774 miles