2016 Chevrolet Volt: Using the Brake Paddle Correctly
by Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor on January 4, 2016
Scroll down and you'll notice a few posts about the curious brake paddle on the steering wheel of our 2016 Chevrolet Volt. I should have read the blog before I signed the Volt out for a week, as I was utterly confounded when I pulled the paddle for the first time and nothing happened. Note that I played with the paddle when the car was stopped and the transmission selector was in the typical "D" drive mode.
I tried it several more times. No lights or messages on the dash. No noticeable difference in the way the car drove. I paged through the owner's manual and read that the paddle activates the "Regen on Demand" feature. I assumed it toggled brake regeneration between unobtrusive and halting, like the menu setting in our old long-term 2013 Tesla Model S.
But the Volt always came to a stop in the same way. Lift off throttle and the car coasted until I hit the brakes. I thought the paddle was broken. Then I tried using it when the car was in motion.
And I instantly flashed back to my first time behind the wheel. The paddle triggers the Volt's most aggressive regenerative braking setting, and it slows the car rapidly. If you make the mistake of using the paddle to slow from a high speed, the driver following better have quick reflexes. I had no intention of starting my Christmas staycation with an accident, so I left it alone.
It wasn't until I read James's post about the multitude of ways to brake that I revisited the paddle, this time with the transmission in "L". Rather than cruising on throttle lift-off like in a normal car in "D," the Volt exhibits the regenerative braking feeling we've all come to know and love in hybrid and electric vehicles. When you pull the paddle in "L" after lifting your foot off the throttle, the slowing effect is much less severe since the car is already slowing. It feels similar to when you press the brake pedal harder in the last few feet of a regular stop.
Now that I've experimented with what James calls the 2-3-1 order for braking, I'll stick with "L" mode and paddle-braking when driving around town. Since minute variations in throttle position produce a profound effect on velocity in that mode, I'll go with "D" for highway driving.