The Chevy Volt Punch List
Chevy Volt charging in front of Old Mazda 323 electric conversion
For those of you who are not familiar with a punch list it is a term that normally comes from the construction industry where the owner is allowed to withhold final payment unless the contractor fully completes items in the contract. The owner typically goes through the property inspecting it and pointing out this or that uncompleted item and adds them to a list and once those items are completed payment is made. The punch list I am talking about is different. In my Chevy Volt punch list the items I list are the items that I hope GM will improve in future iterations of the Chevy Volt over what I have in my 2011 Volt. I don’t have access to a 2012 or 2013 model year so some of the suggestions may have been fixed in subsequent model years, however, from my perspective as an owner of a 2011 Chevy Volt, if I were to buy a new Chevy Volt, these are the things I would want changed.
Number one on my list is that GM should offer the Chevy Volt with the shorter version of its front rubber air dam as standard equipment. I don’t know if this is offered in the new version as standard equipment, but when I purchased my Volt there wasn’t a shorter version option and that stupid air dam hits everything. I was told I could get a shorter air dam if I paid some money to have it changed. Pay for something that GM should have figured out was a problem just by driving the car around in normal roads? I don’t think so. The air dams length was a design problem that should have been caught early in the design/testing cycle and I shouldn’t have to pay to have it fixed.
Number two on my punch list is the radio connected to all functions of the car. This leads to this inevitable problem. You had a good night out and your favorite hard rock song comes on the radio, so you crank it up as you pull into the driveway. You turn off the radio before shutting down the car. The next morning you get in the car and begin to drive to work. You realize that the car isn’t heating or cooling so you hit the climate button and BOOM!!! BULLS ON PARADE!!! fires out of the speakers slamming you back in your seat. If you weren’t awake before, you are now. Why the Chevy Volt has every button on the controls made so your radio turns on as well I don’t understand. Whatever the reason for this to happen, it makes driving uncomfortable. They’ve got to fix that.
Number three is the cap over the plug-in socket on the car. The cap on that thing never opens when you push the button on the door, and only opens when, if you have fingernails long enough and strong enough to do this, you push the plug button on your key fob while simultaneously jamming your fingernail or credit card into the edge of the cap and pulling. It seems to stick more when it rains. I said only opens using this technique, however, it also seems to have a nasty habit of opening while driving if regular keys happen to hit the cap open button on the key fob when it is in my pocket. It would be nice if the door were more motorized, then, when you get a charge door open warning on the dash all you should have to do is push the button on the door or your key fob and it will close by its self. Also, figure out what is making it stick and fix it. Please.
Number four on the punch list should be doing something about the traction control computer and its warning to the dash display. I don’t know if everyone experiences this but if my Volt goes over a series of bumps such as rumble strips, a series of painted lines or just a tightly grouped collection of cracks or small pot holes the traction control warning comes on and I loose my braking ability for a split second. This is scary and if GM is listening they should really look into this problem. I don’t believe it is anything serious or even that dangerous, but for driving control comfort it is uncomfortable.
Number five would be for GM to put a light in the charge port. This isn’t a problem that I have encountered often, however I have been in a dark parking lot where the lighting was coming from the other side of the vehicle and I struggled to get the car plugged in. I simple ring of LED lights would do the trick. Something to make the charge port more visible in the dark would be a big help.
Number six would be to add a flexible fuel option or just make all Volts flex fuel vehicles. Ethanol in agricultural regions of the United States are becoming more and more in tune with the idea of producing their own fuel from plant matter or biomass. So you see that more and more stations are dedicating a pump or two to E85, (85% Ethanol, 15% gasoline). I want to use as little petrol as possible and being given the option to have my liquid fuel backup be mostly free from petroleum based product would be something that I as well as many Volt owners or Volt owners to be would like.
Seventh would be to move the inboard internal combustion engine to the Atkinson cycle instead of the Otto cycle. The Otto cycle is the cycle that internal combustion engines use to work best as being a direct power source to the wheels. Non-hybrid cars use the Otto cycle. You press the accelerator and the added gasoline gives you more power and torque. However, the Otto cycle is far less efficient than the Atkinson cycle. The Atkinson cycle is designed for maximum efficiency. The engine would be set to operate at its most efficient cycle to generate electricity and therefore increase the miles per gallon the Volt would get when using the backup engine. The batteries would be used to smooth out the need for greater power when suddenly accelerating. GM said that they chose the Otto cycle instead of the Atkinson cycle because drivers would expect for the engine to change pitch in noise when they depress the accelerator pedal. This doesn’t follow logically since most of the time Volt drivers will be using electricity and they don’t get any audio cues from the nearly silent electric motor. GM, how about you give us the better gas mileage instead. If we needed to hear the roar of the engine we would have bought a car with only an internal combustion engine as its power source.
Eighth would be price. It seems that when GM offers prices on the Volt that are $6 to $10 thousand less than the current sticker price the Volt sells extremely well. I have written about how incorrect GM’s Volt pricing strategy is before in my posts here at EV World. A survey among first adopters put the optimal price at far below what GM set as its actual price. The price to have wide acceptance of the vehicle among general automobile consumers would naturally be lower than that. A price point around $34,000 before any incentives would make the Volt a best seller.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Chevy Volt. I have driven home built and experimental electric vehicles for years before getting my Volt and the difference is amazing. The Volt is an electric car with no drawbacks of an electric car. I fill up for local driving maybe once a year, which makes me very happy. I have been able to take my Volt cross-country without batting an eye. For those not familiar with electric vehicles the idea of getting stuck somewhere without a charge looms large before they actually purchase. Once you get used to driving an electric vehicle range issues largely disappear. The Volt eliminates that barrier to purchase with its configuration. My Volt is fast, quiet and responsive. It meets nearly all of my needs nearly all of the time. It is comfortable, more comfortable than many ICE cars I have owned, and stylish. But my Volt isn’t a person and it can be improved. When I studied Japanese management the word we used to describe this was, “Kaizen.” It means the progressive long-term betterment of something or the continuous improvement of something or some process. As long as the Chevy Volt continues to improve it will have no equals. Thank you GM for taking this all important step in to the future, however, Kaizen.
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