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Felix Kramer's Chevrolet Volt on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Felix Kramer's Chevrolet Volt on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

To Tahoe and Back in My Chevy Volt

Calcar's founder Felix Kramer reports on Lake Tahoe drive.

By Felix Kramer

For the past three weeks, driving in my family's new Chevy Volt, I've had a sense of unreality -- I'm driving an official mass-produced version of the car I've been talking about for almost 10 years. What a welcome sensation! This week, I got around to giving it a workout. We at CalCars have been saying that plug-in hybrids combine the "best of both worlds" in a single car -- it's electric for local and commuter driving, but if you ever need to go a thousand miles, you can do it with no extra planning. (Of course, for two-car families, it's a no-brainer that the second car can be a 100-mile range EV -- that's why we're also getting a Nissan Leaf.) But what's it like to use the Volt to go the distance? I've found out -- and in the process, made a little history.

Plug In Prius in Lake Tahoe

Plug In Prius in Lake Tahoe

I love travelling to Lake Tahoe -- a spectacular four-season destination that's 235 miles from where I live. Since 2006, my converted Prius has made the trip often. Its large 100+MPG signs got lots of attention when the Hyatt at Incline Village rolled out a short red carpet to cover an extension cord so I could park and charge at the front entrance. I was invited to showcase it at the National Cross Country Junior Olympics in 2009 and at Earth Day at Squaw Valley in 2010.

Felix Kramer's Chevy Volt in Lake Tahoe

Among Tahoe residents and visitors, I found a level of interest and enthusiasm as high as I've ever seen in Silicon Valley -- these are people whose SUVs have "Keep Tahoe Blue" stickers. And frustration: everyone asked, "when can I get a four-wheel drive that plugs in?" (More about that later.)

So I couldn't wait to show up with the first Volt. It was only after I got to Northstar-At-Tahoe on Sunday night that I realized I'd made a bit of history. As far as I know, my car became the first-ever mass-produced plug-in vehicle to travel 225 miles from the Bay Area to Tahoe WITHOUT REFUELING along the way. (Though the driver stopped to stretch his legs and refuel his mug.)

I checked around to validate that claim. The most likely predecessor was Tesla, with a 240-mile range -- but that can't include a climb over Donner Pass at 7,085 feet. Distance specialist Chad Schwitters says his Tesla uses about 6.5 miles per thousand feet -- see his informative chart on Tesla's range (which doesn't show elevation effects). And I confirmed that while Roadsters have made the drive, they've all stopped to charge along the way. That infrastructure is still in development, especially for the Sacramento-Reno route.

Felix Kramer's Chevy Volt Mileage Display 1

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