3 Days with a 2012 Chevy Volt
I have an awesome job; I get to work with some really great companies and do some cool things. Recently Chevrolet along with the social media analytics gurus at Klout asked if I wanted to spend three days with a Chevy Volt. Being an automotive enthusiast I jumped at the chance. Like just mentioned, I’m into cars, before this experience I already saw reviews of the car on YouTube, read articles about how efficient the Volt is, and even saw one at a car show.
If you don’t know anything about the Volt, let me fill you in and clear up some misconceptions. First the Volt is NOT a hybrid car. Yes, it does have a four cylinder gas motor and a battery pack. The motor does not power the wheels in any way. The motor acts like a generator recharging the batteries, which powers the car. But before the 1.4 liter I4 kicks in, the batteries are good for an average distance of 35 miles.
The average driver commutes 12-15 miles per day according to the last census survey done in 2009. According to those numbers the Volt makes perfect sense, and if you can charge while you work – you just doubled your all electric distance to 70 miles.
The best part of the Volt, and where the Nissan Leaf falls short, is the gas generator allows for a total distance of 375 miles versus the Leaf’s 100 mile average range. Planning a road trip? The Volt lets you travel just as you would with any car getting an equivalent of 93 miles per gallon on the highway & 95 mpg in town.
All those mpg’s come at a cost. The biggest and really the only downside to the Volt I see is the cost. Latha Thomas-Black, VP of Finance at GoAuto states the MSRP starts at $31, 645 but the price of my as tested Volt was north of $45,000 – OUCH. That’s a tough pill to swallow, and while the Volt was named 2011 North American Car of the Year and 2012 European Car of the Year Chevy isn’t exactly selling as many as they hoped.
For those considering a new Chevrolet Volt, it does drive great – actually better than I expected. The steering is crisp and brakes are strong. For those who haven’t driven an electric car, you’re in for a surprise – they are quick. Unlike a traditional gasoline motor that needs to build RPMs to achieve peak power, an electric motor is instantaneous. The Volt unleashes 273 lb-ft of torque making 0-30mph go by quick but then flattens out to about a 9 second 0-60 time.
My favorite part of the Volt was the interior. It features a bright electronic display, keyless operating system, a built-in hard drive, navigation, on-star, and leather with heated seats. The cabin is quiet, I was having a conversation using the built-in Bluetooth and my friend didn’t even know I was driving. In fact the entire car is so quiet that the Volt has a soft pedestrian warning horn which alerts people of the Volt’s presence (and becomes very addicting to press).
Driving the Volt was fun, especially in battery mode, it is whisper quiet – all I could hear were tires on the pavement. Once the battery was depleted I thought I’d try charging it and that is where I ran into my only issue. Electric cars are great and the Volt is awesome, but the electric charging station infrastructure still has a long way to go. There are two major charging companies across the US currently, ChargePoint and Blink. ChargePoint has a great iPhone app that integrates with the map to show exactly where stations are and if they’re available. Since Chevy provided me with credit to use ChargePoint I searched for the nearest station, and lucky me there were plenty of stations in the Seattle area and one right in my neighborhood. But the only one in my neighborhood just happened to be in the parking garage of a software company, which was closed on the weekend- out of luck there. Since that was the only ChargePoint near me and I didn’t want to drive in traffic to downtown Seattle, I searched for a Blink station near me. There were two and the closest was a mile away in a grocery store parking lot, but when I arrived it was off line. Then I drove 2 miles to a station in a Church parking lot, again, off line.
Good thing the Volt uses battery and a generator or I would have been stuck. I would think that most Volt owners would have the ability to charge their vehicle at their home, even if it’s only at 120v, unfortunately my building’s garage doesn’t have any outlets. I think the Volt makes perfect sense for any early adopters who don’t mind the electric charging station’s developing infrastructure and the Volt’s higher cost of entry. I felt special driving the Volt, not only because I was behind the wheel of the latest green automotive technology, but because it’s that cool.
About the author: James Daugherty is an online marketer who loves talking about cars and often partners with Edmonton new car pros GoAuto.
Photo Credit: James Daugherty
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