MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Chevy's Volt: Finally A Practical, Affordable Electric Car
Phil Baker decides to replace his BMW X3 SUV and after doing his research opts to buy the Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid.
Petergreenberg.com 27 Feb 2014
Electric cars used to be a punchline, but in 2013, the market shifted. It’s not just Teslas taking over the luxury sector, but the Chevrolet Volt’s electric-gas combination is providing interesting competition to the Toyota Prius and hybrid markets. Product tester Phil Baker invested in the Chevy Volt and doesn’t appear to be looking back. Here’s how the electric car has started to compete.
When the Chevy Volt first came out in 2011, I imagined it might be a vehicle I could consider owning, assuming it lived up to expectations. That was a big “if,” considering GM was in deep financial trouble and had a checkered past supporting its other initiatives (Saab, Saturn, etc.).
But this first-of-its-kind, range-extended, plug-in electric vehicle seemed to make a lot of practical sense, and I thought it might be important to GM if the company was to make a comeback. In the intervening three years they have, fully supported the Volt and are now bringing this technology to a new Cadillac.
I found the design approach to be very clever. Unlike electric-only cars, you never suffer from range anxiety and are always able to travel using the gasoline generator when the batteries become depleted. Plus, unlike hybrid cars such as the original Toyota Prius, you can operate in an all-electric mode. That means it’s possible never to need gas, if you use it for local commuting.
So, when it came time to replace my BMW X3 SUV in October, I did a lot of online research, looking for a car that was technologically advanced, moderately priced, and something fun to drive. I also admired the Tesla, a car well beyond my price range, but one that allows owners to make a statement about never needing to buy gas again. Even if I could afford a Tesla, I would have been discouraged from doing so after a friend came to visit from Los Angeles and the charger he had thought would be available down here was not. He had to limp from one short-term charger to another all the way home. The Volt seemed like a good compromise.
Upon first researching the Volt, I found that it had the highest satisfaction level of any American car. More than 90 percent of all Volt owners say they would buy one again. (In this month’s Consumer Reports, that honor now goes to the Tesla at 99 percent, with the Volt second at 91 percent.)
mm_gal_item_c2_10.img_resize.img_stage._3Unlike electric-only cars, you never suffer from range anxiety with the Chevy Volt and are always able to travel using the gasoline generator when the batteries become depleted.
With a recent $5,000 reduction, plus a $7,500 federal tax credit and $1,500 state credit, its effective cost seemed a bargain at about $31,000 (for a fully loaded model). In fact, it came with more equipment than I had on my BMW, including keyless entry, and lane departure and collision-avoidance cameras. Most of all, though, I loved the idea of reducing my dependency on foreign oil. I also liked the idea of buying an American car, the first time in over 30 years.
After 60 days, I’m more enamored of the Volt than ever. The car handles well, its fit and finish are excellent, service and support are very good, and I’ve discovered a lot more features.
While rated at 35 miles per charge, I’m getting from 39 to 42 miles. With my driving pattern, I’ve gotten 165 mpg over the first 1,700 miles. I’m using the car to go to the airport almost weekly, to offices downtown, or to meetings all over San Diego County and a few in Orange County. Most of my trips have been less than 50 miles round trip; several have been up to 120 miles. In more than two months of use, I’ve bought about 12 gallons of gas. My gas mileage has averaged about 40 mpg.
mm_gal_item_c2_13.img_resize.img_stage._1 One of the first things I did after buying the car was to install a 240V charger in my garage. The Bosch-made charger cost $450 and adding a 240-volt line cost $150. Charging now takes about 3.5 hours instead of 11 with the supplied portable 110-volt charger. The car even sends me a text message or email when the charging is complete. To conserve electricity, I was able to enter information into the car’s display about the timing of the tiered electric rates I pay SDG&E. I can then choose whether the car is charged immediately upon plugging in, based on the time I want to leave, or at the time the rates drop.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that one of my hesitations was buying an American car after driving imports for so many years — Saabs, BMWs, Acuras and a Lexus. But I’ve come to realize that this car is as well finished both inside and out as any car I’ve owned. The large hi-res display in the center stack provides access to many features, using both the touch display and capacitive buttons.
The GPS with traffic is excellent and the integration of XM Sirius, with AM and FM options, lets me select 30 preset stations completely intermixed directly from the steering wheel. I also can display weather, local businesses, local gas station prices, and automatic weather alerts.
My iPhone 5S paired easily with the car’s Bluetooth, uploaded my address book, and played any music or Internet radio that was running on my phone without needing to change any of the car’s settings.
mm_gal_item_c2_11.img_resize.img_stage._3The driver’s speed display is all-digital with no circular dials. That works fine and provides plenty of room for other indicators, including miles left in the battery and gasoline tank, GPS turn instructions, driver feedback, and even a message if, for example, I forget to close the charger door.
The Volt comes with three years of OnStar and three months of XM/Sirius, and they are all well-integrated. I’ve called OnStar many times specifying where I want to go, using an address or name of the business, and the GPS provides directions to the new destination a few seconds later. An OnStar app for the iPhone allows me to start, stop, and check on my charging state remotely, as well as control other functions, such as locking and unlocking the car.
One of the questions I’m asked is how much money I save and how much higher my electric bill is now. So far, I’ve received only one month’s electric bill and my electricity has actually dropped a whopping 30 percent. SDG&E offers a lower rate to electric-vehicle owners, which I believe accounts for much of the drop, but I need to see a few more months of billing before a final conclusion. I’ve estimated a monthly savings of about $100 to $200 on gasoline usage.
One of other questions I get is how well Volt rides and handles. I’ve found it to handle very well, even compared to other cars I’ve owned that excelled in handling, such as Saabs and BMWs. Plus, the Volt is incredibly quiet. It’s also a very safe car. With its eight airbags and cage construction, it’s one of the top-rated cars in the government’s crash testing. As the battery becomes depleted and the car shifts from battery to gas mode, there is no indication it has occurred, other then a change in the display.
So, what are the negatives?mm_gal_item_c2_3.img_resize.img_stage._3
The sound system is adequate, but not as good as a premium sound system, perhaps a result of using especially efficient Bose speakers to reduce power consumption. I’ve encountered a couple of minor software glitches: On two occasions, the display showed I used gas for 0.1 miles while the battery was full, and another displayed the backup camera image for a short time when I was driving with the display set to navigation. All self-corrected. Lastly, the Volt doesn’t have a hard drive to store multiple CDs and doesn’t have power seats.
So, after 60 days, I’m certainly pleased with the Volt. It’s a very comfortable car to drive, provides all of the gadgetry I could want, saves some money, and also provides another benefit: It qualifies me to use the carpool lanes without a second person in the car.
Chevrolet Volt: Landmark Car of This Generation
Mark Kennedy takes Chevy Volt electric hybrid for spin around Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee and concludes that one day it will be 'considered one of the true landmark automobiles of this generation.'
Times Free Press 06 Jan 2014
Any discussion of the new breed of plug-in hybrid cars such as the Chevy Volt starts with the bottom line.
Chevrolet's hatchback returns the equivalent of 98 miles per gallon in all-electric mode according to government tests, saving the average driver a cool $6,850 in fuel costs over a five-year span (when compared to a mid-size, gasoline-powered automobile).
The Volt accomplishes this other-worldly mileage while delivering a spirited driving experience. Although its lithium-ion battery-powered motor makes only 149 horsepower, it delivers 273 pound-feet of torque. In the parlance of human athletes, the Volt has an incredibly quick first step.
But it's the Volt's auxiliary 1.4-liter, range-extending gas engine that makes it a practical choice for commuters who occasionally need to travel several hundred miles between charges. The Volt can travel about 38 miles on electric power only, while the gas engine sits in reserve to generate juice in a pinch, extending the range to about 300 miles.
To compute the true cost of owning a Volt requires a little math. Consider the MRSP, in the case of our top-of-the-line test car $42,780, minus the five-year fuel savings ($6,850) and a federal credit you may recoup at tax time ($7,500), and you come up with $28,430 (more or less) to compare against traditional, mid-sized cars. You'll have to assign your own bonus for saving the planet.
Integrity Chevrolet sales consultant Aaron Knight noted an average commuter might spend about $1.60 a day to keep a Volt charged, and might go about 900 miles between fill-ups.
STYLING AND FEATURES
Two things jump out at you about the Volt.
A.) It's a nice looking ride. Our black test car from Integrity looked especially aggressive when compared to most hybrids which -- let's face it -- suffer from rather pronounced wimp factor.
B.) The interior is vastly more upscale that other high-mileage champs -- save perhaps the electric Tesla Model S which costs about twice as much and exists in a luxury league of its own. (Can't wait to see the new Cadillac ELR which should give Tesla some competition among luxury electric cars.)
The cockpit of our Volt tester is well furnished, with firm, leather-covered seats, a futuristic dash and gauge cluster and high-quality materials. Fit and finish inside and out is first rate.
As an accommodation to the T-shaped battery pack, the back seat is built for two passengers and leg room for back-seat passengers is consequently modest.
The Volt does offer flexible storage options however, with about 10.6 cubic feet of space available with the back seats up -- enough for a family trip to BiLo and a side trip to Home Depot thrown in for good measure. Folding the rear seats down introduces even more options.
Standard equipment includes key-less entry and ignition, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, GM's MyLink infotainment interface, OnStar emergency system and LED daytime lights.
Our test car added the ($1,395) Premium Trim Pack: leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and rear-seat arm-rests. A premium speaker package from Bose ($495) and navigation ($895), pushes the price up a bit more.
Driving the Volt on a test loop around Chickamauga Lake, it was easy to imagine a comfortable daily commute, punctuated by short bursts of acceleration. There's something about an electric car, with its instant torque, that never fails to make me smile.
Finding a good driving position is easy and outward visibility is impressive (although the A-pillars are a bit large). The whisper-quiet operation of the electric motor would be a joy after a stressful day at work. The only noise you hear is the rush of pavement under the tires.
The four-cylinder gas engine engages seamlessly when the batteries are about 70 percent discharged, according to GM. Recharging after an average commute takes about 10 hours in your garage.
No matter what you hear about fuel cells and other exotic energy sources, plug-in electric hybrids with their vast fuel economy and low-maintenance drive systems are definitely here to stay. A test drive in the Volt reminds you that it will one day be considered one of the true landmark automobiles of this generation.
And that alone is enough to earn it a look.
Motor Trend Pits Chevy Volt Against Toyota Prius PHV
In head-to-head competition of plug-in hybrids, Motor Trend ranks Chevrolet Volt in first place ahead of Toyota's Prius PHV
Motor Trend 28 Nov 2012
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about comparing the Chevrolet Volt with the new Toyota Prius Plug-In is what it says about us. Before explaining what I mean by that, let me back up a bit. Well, actually, a lot.
In the broadest terms, the Volt and the Prius are two peas in a pod. You plug them in before driving, and then travel a meaningful distance as an electric car before their batteries are spent. After that, their gas engines seamlessly start, and they carry on like familiar hybrids.
To do this, they need bigger batteries than hybrids. And right now, before we go another inch, let's be sure we're all thumbs-up with the idea that the language for battery size is "kW-hrs." Yes, it looks alien. But it's just another unit of energy, like the BTU or calorie, with "kilo" standing for 1000 "Watts" -- a unit of power honoring (rather oddly) the steam engine innovator, James Watt-- and "hour" meaning the particular size of the time bucket this stream of power is filling: 33.7 of these kW-hr things equals the energy in 1 gallon of good old gasoline. OK. So the standard, non-pluggable Prius carries a 1.6 kW-hr, nickel-metal-hydride battery. The Volt's? It's 10 times larger, a liquid-cooled, 16.0-kW-hr lithium-ion (chemistry by Argonne National Lab and fabrication by LG Chem) carrying the usable equivalent of about 0.4 gallon of gas. That's not much. But with the Volt's 94-mpg-eEPA-rating in EV mode, it winds up traveling a startling 39 miles before the engine starts. Our recent annum of driving our long-term Volt confirmed this, as it often exceeded 40 miles.
The Prius Plug-in follows the Volt's general plug-in hybrid script, but--and here's the nub of the issue -- it has a 73-percent-smaller (and way cheaper), 4.4-kW-hr, actively air-cooled lithium-ion battery sourced from Panasonic. That's a fourfold difference of opinion in battery size. And this matters a lot simply and purely because of these batteries' enormous costs. How much? Bob Lutz, in a recent rebuttal in Forbes to the accusation that GM was losing more than $40,000 per Volt, laid out the car's costs, including the comment that its raw battery is about $350 per kW-hr (er, maybe a little optimistic). Anyhow, that's $5600 for 16 kW-hrs (Lutz rounded up to $6000), to which another $4000 is added for its hardware, cooling system, electronics, and so on -- $600 per kW-hr for a completed battery pack. So figure about $10,000 for the Volt versus $2500 for the Prius Plug-in, a price tag that, you understand, is partly offset by its replacing the non-trivial price of the standard Prius' 1.6-kW-hr nickel-metal-hydride battery already in the car.
So what does that big battery offer -- or the small battery subtract -- from these cars' driving experience? Benson Kong, my accomplice in numerous EV adventures, and I went on a real-world drive to find out. Our start and finish line was a pair of lonely ChargePoint stations near the South Coast Plaza shopping center in Orange County, California. From there, we meandered through the UC Irvine campus 5 miles away, accelerated onto the freeway at the 11-mile mark, turned around in San Clemente, and, after 75 miles, had circled back to where we started. Each car's route, speed, acceleration, and stopping were being data-logged by RacePak GPS units fitted with OBD2 monitoring in order to capture when, and how often, the engines started.
What does the data say? Regardless of its rate of acceleration or speed, the Volt kept its engine cold until 40.8 miles, whereupon its 1.4-liter engine almost imperceptibly fired up. It's a simple story to tell.
The Prius Plug-in's isn't. Yes, it went 10.6 miles (not 15) before it permanently surrendered its electric propulsion to its normal hybrid self. But during those miles, its engine erupted 5 times, or basically whenever the acceleration rate reached a not-particularly-quick 0.13 g at about 30 mph. (Generally, its EV mode can almost keep up with those real-world, green-light jackrabbits.) The first time its engine starts, it runs awhile to bring the catalytic convertor up to temperature. We noted these feather-trigger interruptions to its EV mode with the prototype Prius Plug-In back when we tested it two years ago.
And there are a couple reasons why it's still with us. One is obvious: The car's traction motor is 80 hp. Have you driven a car with 80 hp? (The Volt's traction motor has 149 hp.) But there's another issue: that modest battery size. One reason nickel-metal-hydride batteries have been used in hybrids (besides safety) is because of their nature as "power batteries." And in hybrids, that's what you want -- short bursts of power. Lithium-ion batteries, however, are known as "energy batteries." They store their energy much more densely, but deliver it more slowly. A big Li-ion, like the Volt's, gets around this just by its sheer bigness. But the Prius Plug-in's smallish lithium-ion 4.4-kW-hr battery just isn't suited for acceleration in EV mode. Hence, the engine's frequent starting.
Actually, what we also did was to nicely demonstrate the inside-baseball definitions that technically segregate both vehicles' electrified drivetrains. GM likes to call the Volt an extended-range electric vehicle (or EREV), though it's more commonly labeled a PHEV-40 (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle with a 40-mile range). The Prius Plug-in is a PHEV-15 (I'd call it a PHEV-11), but it sometimes flirts with being a Blended-Mode PHEV, too -- a conventional hybrid that ladles in precharged electrical energy as it goes.
These were the numbers at the end of our drive: Volt, 40.8 miles in EV mode resulting in 106 mpg-e (which means "gas-mpg-equivalent"; the EPA says it's 94) and 34 miles at 33.3 mpg in gas mode. (That's low compared to the EPA's 37, confirmed with our long-term Volt.) The Toyota went 10.6 engine-interrupted EV miles and 65.5 as a gas-sipping hybrid for a 48.9 mpg (gas) result (EPA says 50.)
What do all these numbers mean? That depends on your typical drive. It really, really, depends. Up to that 11 or so miles, their efficiencies are close. Between that and 39, the Volt's extraordinary EV range puts it way ahead. But after that, the gap gradually closes as the Prius' 50-mpg efficiency reels in the Volt's 37. It's an interesting back and forth.
A 2005 EPA study of typical driving distances found that, on average, we travel 37.3 miles per day. Good news for Volt. But it also found that the average daily individual trip distance (defined by turning the engine off) was 11.4 miles. Gee, sounds like the Prius, doesn't it? Particularly if you were to do opportunity charging at standard 120-volt plugs -- and there are lots of those, with recharging taking 3 hours. (Ah, an unexpected benefit of a smaller battery.) For a little perspective on charging, per GM's Pete Savagian: A 240-volt Level 2 charger (like the Volt's) delivers 3.3 kW of power for a rate of 12.3 miles of range gained per hour. An ordinary gasoline dispenser can "recharge" a fuel tank like the Volt's at 10,000 mph. Recently, I attended a Toyota technical program that included preliminary results of a user study of 138 Prius Plug-In-driving households in Boulder, Colorado, conducted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the National Renewable Energy Lab. Boulder was selected because its smart grid can monitor and schedule recharging episodes. But what interested me was that, while the drivers' average trips were even shorter -- 7.5 miles -- 53 percent were either somewhat dissatisfied or dissatisfied with their car's EV range. And now we're starting to edge closer to that fascinating part I mentioned at the outset. Those Boulder Prius Plug-In drivers are getting, on average, 68 mpg (excluding the electricity consumption), largely due to shorter trip distances than is the national average. In any event, that's 18 mpg better than the standard Prius, and using $4/gallon fuel price, the payback period is roughly 2.7 years. That's close to the two-year maximum that most people are willing to consider. So why are those 53 percent of Boulder drivers dissatisfied with Prius Plug-in's EV range? While the Volt's payback period must be enormous, I'm reluctant to even contemplate comparing it to the gas-powered Cruze it's based on. Their experiences are stupefying different; the Volt is substantially quieter, vibration-free, better-riding, and accelerates with an unnaturally crisp and solid rush. The Prius Plug-In drives like the standard car does -- soft, with rather loud road noise, and indifferent steering.
I started out by saying this comparison is really a commentary on us. Our brains are divided into two halves: the right side is dreamy and intuitive, the left is logical and calculating. And these two cars mightily strain the connections between them. The Prius Plug-In is far and away the more rational choice. Toyota has thought this through, and, for where we presently are in terms of battery performance and cost, the automaker is right. It doesn't really require Level 2 charging (wall power is fine), its cost premium is not unreasonable, and it's fabulously efficient. Bingo. Left-brain winner. So what's the problem with those 53 percent? The Volt, despite its sales-crippling price (and lesser faults such as its twin, tiny rear seats), is the plug-in hybrid that appeals to our dreams. Great EV range. An EV mode without engine interruptions. That rush of acceleration.
For its 2013 model, the Volt's Low Emissions Package -- standard in California -- has made it eligible to join the Prius Plug-In in the state's carpool lanes. Although both cars' sales have been slow (16,000 Volts sold year-to-date through September), to me, as I crawl to work in one of those other congested lanes, their numbers seem amplified by how frequently they speed past on the left. If you're one of my creeping-along companions, let me ask you something. When you see a Prius Plug-In whisk past, do you think, "Hmm, if I get one of those, I can get into the carpool lane"? And when a Volt with the green HOV lane sticker passes by, do you fantasize, "Gosh, that car really fascinates me?" Well, we know that both sides of your brain are definitely working.
1st Place: Chevrolet Volt
The good news: It's selling better than the Corvette! But the Volt wins here for its technical supremacy and alluring driving qualities -- though not its payback period.
2nd Place: Toyota Prius Plug-In
If you're not impractical enough to buy a Volt, here's your plug-in hybrid. Its smaller battery means charging is quicker (and you don't need a home charger), but you also have to do it more frequently.
Chevy Volt Drivers Travel 40 Million Miles on Electric Power
Drivers typically getting 900 miles before having to refuel tank, saving 2.1 million gallons of fuel worth nearly $8 million at May 2012 prices of $3.80/gal.
Nitrbahn 22 May 2012
According to an announcement made by General Motors, Chevrolet Volt owners collectively have saved a supertanker of gasoline since the plug-in hybrid went on sale at the end of 2010. Owners of this electric car have driven over 40 million miles on electricity and thus avoiding the use of 2.1million gallons of gasoline. Based on the $3.80 per gallon of gas, the total savings at the pump is almost $8 million.
“With each click of the odometer, Chevrolet Volt owners are measuring their contribution to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and to preserving the environment,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet Volt marketing director. “Volt owners are also saving at the fuel pump with more than $8 million in combined savings.” Chevrolet recently introduced a rolling ticker on its website that provides the real-time daily driving statistics for Volt owners based on OnStar data. The parameters which are viewable include the results in total number of miles driven, electric miles driven and gallons of gas saved.
The Chevrolet Volt has a total driving range of up to 379 miles based on EPA estimates. Volt can drive gas and tailpipe-emissions free using a full charge of electricity stored in its 16 kWh lithium-ion battery in the first 35 miles. When the battery runs low, a gas-powered engine/generator operates to extend the driving range to another 344 miles on full tank. Volt owners typically drive an average of 900 miles between fill ups at the gas station, according to Chevrolet.
Chevy Volt Is a Safe Bet
Jeremy Cato, not always a fan of electric cars, writes 'there is a real environmental reason to buy this car and anything similar: very low greenhouse gas emissions and less fuel used.'
Globe and Mail/Canada 08 Mar 2012
Politicians giveth and they taketh away. At least in the United States, where the politics of blind ideology, division and self-interest trump anything resembling honesty, truth and fairness.
General Motors just learned that in the latest manufactured flap over the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car.
To recap, U.S. regulators took months to reveal then-months-old concerns over fire risks with the Volt that cropped up as a result of nonsensical testing procedures. Eventually the federal probe involving the car’s batteries was closed with no finding of a safety fault.
Just in case, GM said it would install more crash protection for the battery pack. Keep in mind, the so-called “fires” were minor and they only occurred weeks after crash tests that the Volt passed with flying colours.
In other words, U.S. federal regulators crashed the Volt in a side-impact test, then let it sit around for three weeks to see what might happen. Absurd. They didn’t do what you and I would do after a serious crash, which would be to turn the car over to qualified technicians so they could assess any potential safety issue like a leaking battery pack or, in a gas- or diesel-powered car, a leaking fuel tank.
Since then, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said the Volt is safe. Meanwhile, GM CEO Dan Akerson told a U.S. congressional hearing that the Volt has become “a political punching bag” for those opposed to the successful taxpayer bailout that has allowed GM to once again claim the title of one of the world's largest auto makers. Oh, and GM is making billions in profits and employing hundreds of thousands of taxpaying Americans and Canadians.
“We engineered the Volt to show the world the great vehicles we make at General Motors,” Akerson said. “Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag. Sadly, that is what it’s become.”
GM is now doing something of a relaunch of the Volt, Chris Perry, GM’s vice-president for U.S. marketing, told me in Detroit. “It’s still a technological marvel,” Perry said. “We need to remind people of that.”
The politics of it all should not allow us to forget that the Volt represents one technological solution to fuel efficiency and emissions rules growing ever more stringent. I am interested to see if Canada follows the latest trend from California, where regulators issued rules requiring that one in seven cars for sale in 2025 must be zero-emission or a plug-in hybrid.
Vehicles like the Volt are not the only solution to these sorts of rules, but they’re in the mix, and a large part of it. The good news is that I have spent enough time in a Volt to say I could live with it – and any car like it – as an everyday city runabout.
Officially, the Volt has a battery-only range of 40-80 kilometres with another 500 km on tap from the battery-charging gas motor on board. You will not really notice when you’re in battery mode alone, other than the quick acceleration and dead quiet in the car as you zip through traffic.
The technology comes at a cost. The car lists for $41,545. If you buy in Ontario, the province has an $8,230 subsidy for you; in Quebec, it’s $7,769. In return, you should save on fuel costs: for the Volt, GM says they run about 1-2 cents a kilometre versus 6-8 cents a km for a normal gasoline car. That’s with gas selling for $1.10-$1.30 a litre.
Fuel prices and politics aside, the Volt is a completely pleasant four-door hatchback. The electric drive means performance is peppy, the seats are comfy, the instruments and controls are clear and cool, right down to the various performance readouts that fill you in on what’s happening with the electric drive and so on.
No small matter, that. The Volt has two electric motors and one gas engine. One electric motor powers the wheels, the other the generator that recharges the battery – all 400 pounds of it. The gas engine is there to drive the generator that charges the battery, though occasionally it will turn the wheels.
That battery comes with a warranty lasting eight years or 160,000 km. GM expects the battery to be useful for a lot longer than that, though. Why? The lithium-ion battery array has its own cooling system. Heat is the enemy of lithium-ion batteries, so cooling makes all the difference to battery life. That said, this battery is completely recyclable.
The battery recharges in about 10 hours when plugged into a normal wall socket. A 240V quick-charge cuts that time to four hours. The quick-charge hookup costs $490 plus installation.
A recent buyer study found that Volt owners like the image the car portrays to the world. But there is a real environmental reason to buy this car and anything similar: very low greenhouse gas emissions and less fuel used.
Oh, and the Volt is safe, too.
Fox Disses Chevy Volt, Gets Math Wrong
Fox News' Eric Bolling disses Volt and chain letter uses inflated cost of electricity to distort its operating costs.
Extreme Tech 01 Mar 2012
Pity the poor Chevrolet Volt. It’s built by GM, the company that took a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailout. It’s a car that comes with a $7,500 government rebate. Now it’s being dissed by Fox News and chain-mailers for costing more to drive than a gasoline-powered car selling for a third as much. GM got hosed, not so much by Fox News as by a parallel chain letter (“Cost to Operate a Chevy Volt”) that overstated the cost of electricity by a factor of 10. The Volt costs a lot to buy but it’s clearly cheaper to run than a gasoline-only car. Snopes.com did a good job deconstructing the chain mail. On battery power, the Volt costs around 5-7 cents a mile to drive, less not more than a gas-engine car.
Here’s the backstory. Perhaps tired of being dinged by Fox for the bailout thing and for a compact car that costs almost $40,000 after rebate ($46,500 list), GM put a press fleet Chevrolet Volt in the hands of Eric Bolling of Fox’s The Five (video embedded below). Maybe they thought Bolling would feel the same kind of love for the Volt that tree huggers experience upon climbing into their first Toyota Prius. Not quite. Bolling criticized the battery-power performance of the Volt, about 25 miles, when the Nissan Leaf approaches 100 miles. Bolling noted that, two days in a row, “The car ran out of electricity in the Lincoln Tunnel on my way to work,” which prompted a co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle to pipe up and say, “I’d rather roller skate backwards in the Lincoln Tunnel than drive that thing and break down.” Bolling added, “Why would you put out an electric car that gets only 25 miles?”
The show mistook the Volt and Leaf as the same kind of car. The Leaf is an electric-only vehicle, good for 75 miles, maybe 100, then you park it. GM calls the Volt an extended range vehicle; “hybrid with a big battery” would be a good description, too. Where a hybrid might get two miles from its battery, the Volt with its bigger battery pack gets 25 to (on a very good day) 50 miles. When the Volt runs out of battery power, it auto-switches to the small gasoline engine and soldiers on for 300 miles. The reason for the medium-size battery is because most daily driving is less than 25 miles, which means the car can be charged overnight, and for longer trips it switches to gasoline.
The “Cost to Operate a Chevy Volt” chain letter went beyond the Fair and Balanced Network’s opinion that the Volt wasn’t a good deal financially for taxpayer or Volt-owner. Using a figure of $1.16 per kilowatt hour for electricity, the chain letter concluded, “So Obama wants us to pay 3 times as much for a car that costs more than 6 times as much to run and takes 3 times as long to drive across the country.” Electricity actually costs about $.127 per kilowatt hour now; a tenth of what the chain email states. The battery pack stores 16 kWh of energy, but, says GM, not all 16 kWh are used. A full charge adds 9.6 kWh that can be used to move the Volt and another 3-4 kWh are used in charging on a 120-volt system, less with a more efficient 220-volt charger. So a full charge on 120V power consumes 13.4 kWh of electricity, or $1.57. The Fox News 25-mile jaunt thus cost 6.3 cents per mile; if the Volt got 35 miles on a charge (not unusual), it would be 4.5 cents per mile. A compact car getting 35 mpg would cost 10 cents per mile using $3.50-a-gallon gasoline.
The chain letter’s claim that it would take three times as long to cross the US as a gasoline car assumes the Volt owner would stop to refill the gas tank and recharge the battery each time, meaning you’d drive 4.5 hours then stop for 10 hours, drive 4.5, stop for 10, limping across America. That’s absurd but that’s what you expect when you get letters prefaced by “Urgent. You MUST read this and pass it along.” A response on a GM blog was right on target when it started by quoting mathematician and ex-Dartmouth College president John Kemeny: “The man ignorant of mathematics will be increasingly limited in his grasp of the main forces of civilization.”
The GM bailout may or may not have been a good idea. But GM is back now, its new cars range from decent to world-class, and it’s on a pace that might see it earning $10 billion in profits this year.
NYPD Keeps Its 20 Volts on Patrol
The deputized Chevys are used by civilian traffic enforcement agents who patrol for illegally parked cars and assist with directing traffic.
Fox News 13 Dec 2011
The Chevrolet Volt has seen better days.
Detroit’s “Moon Shot” is expected to miss its sales target of 10,000 cars by the end of 2011 as General Motors works with the feds to come up with a solution to prevent the kind of impact-induced fires that have occurred in the plug-in hybrid’s battery pack as a result of crash testing.
To manage the crisis, General Motors has offered to give concerned Volt owners loaner cars until the issue has been resolved, or even buy back their cars outright.
Several dozen people have already accepted automaker's offers, but one very prominent customer will be hanging onto its cars for now.
New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne tells FoxNews.com that the nation’s largest police force is keeping its fleet of 20 Volts in service. (There are currently only 19 on the streets of the Big Apple after one of them was damaged in an accident that did not result in a battery pack fire.) The cars are part of a citywide fleet of 50 Volts serving several government agencies.
The deputized Chevys are used by civilian traffic enforcement agents who patrol for illegally parked cars and assist with directing traffic. The vehicles are part of a larger fleet of hybrids used by the NYPD that includes the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion.
Browne says his department has had no issues with its Volts, but “continues to monitor their performance closely and await the NHTSA’s findings.”
The Volt has an all-electric range of 35 miles, according to the EPA, or until its battery pack has been depleted. A small internal combustion engine then turns on generate electricity for its electric motors and provide some mechanical propulsion, allowing it to be refilled quickly at a gasoline station for longer trips and return a combined fuel economy rating of 37 mpg in this mode.
Baby Boomer Impressed by Chevy Volt
Business page contributor Lu Ann Franklin gets her first ride in the Chevrolet Volt.
NWI Times 01 Nov 2011
I'll admit it right up front. I'm a Baby Boomer whose formative years were shaped by the 1957 Chevy (the first family car I remember) and such high-performance muscle cars as the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger (from my teens and early 20's).
Although I wasn't a soccer mom, I raised three children during the mid-1980s through the first decade of the 21st Century who were involved in a vast array of activities - usually at opposite ends of town on a hair-splitting schedule. A 2000 Nissan Quest is still my ride - primarily because it's paid for, still runs (although it's held together with baling wire and bubble gum), and I still cart around an amazing amount of "stuff".
Despite my vehicle history that screams "gas guzzler", I am more environmentally conscious than ever before. My extended recycling efforts have recently taken my family by surprise, and I strongly believe in donating rather than dumping.
And I'm all for clean air. A native of Northwest Indiana, I can remember the era when the air had an orange tinge if the wind blew from the steel mills. My mother tested the air's direction and color before she put our laundry outside to dry on the clotheslines. Those were the days when the roofs, cars and, of course, clean laundry had a day-glo hue.
So when I was recently asked to ride along with Times Staff Writer Bowdeya Tweh and Staff Photographer John Watkins in the plug-in electric 2012 Chevrolet Volt, the invitation seemed like an opportunity for an environmentally positive experience.
Team Chevrolet in Valparaiso made the four-door sedan available for several days so members of The Times Media Co. could test it out and report on it. The car is one of three types of electric vehicles recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid are examples of the plug-in or extended range electric car. Electricity powers these cars for about 35 miles then shifts automatically to gasoline. (I waited anxiously to hear or feel when the car started using gasoline, but it was as seamless as every other function).
Hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid are powered by an internal combustion engine that can run on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery.
The all-electric car, such as the Think City and Nissan Leaf, use a battery to store the electrical energy that powers the motor. Batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source.
What surprised me about the Volt was its performance and amenities.
Quiet reigned inside and out. I didn't even know the car was turned on until we backed up in The Times parking lot. (The back-up alarm and the rear-facing camera were a bit of a shock, too).
I'm accustomed to driving a mini-van that sounds like a tank. Being in my Quest on the expressway is like riding with all the windows and the sunroof open. Semis sound as though they're right in the van with me instead of beside me on the highway. In the Volt, we could actually hear ourselves talk in normal voice levels no matter what vehicle was beside us.
Because the Volt has no engine sounds, some lawmakers are considering requiring that some noise be built into this kind of car to warn those nearby. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
Despite the quiet, the 149-horsepower compact sedan has real get-up and go. The acceleration was seamless, with no "chugging" between gears. It also stayed on course in the stiff autumn winds that accompanied us on the highway. According to the General Motor's website, 80 percent of the Volt's structure is made of high-strength steel.
In the nation's number one steel-making region, that's certainly a drawing card. The roadway stability is also a major plus in an area with such change-in-a-moment's-notice weather and wind patterns.
A car with sleek lines, the Volt has an interior that's comparable to a conventional compact sedan. There's room for four to ride comfortably, and the trunk has an unexpected amount of space. Of course, the Volt we rode in has all the bells and whistles and costs abut $47,000. The base price approaching $40,000 could cause some sticker shock.
The screens and variety of graphic displays and buttons behind the wheel and above the radio were disconcerting for me, a backseat passenger. Tweh has said the displays may seem imposing, but are beneficial once understood. He also recommends avoiding the temptation to press the vehicle start button when attempting to control the radio.
Miles per gallon on the streets and highways were another epiphany for me.
In the electric mode, the Volt can travel at the equivalent of 94 miles per gallon, according to federal fuel estimates. Even in its gas-powered state, this vehicle gets about 37 miles per gallon. Whatever the price of gas, that's a major savings as well as energy efficiency.
Electric cars will be a definite part of our future. One concern of the driving public is whether they'll get where they're going before the electric charge runs out. With its shift from electricity to gas, the Volt doesn't feed into that "range anxiety".
However, if you are going to use the electric mode, these type of vehicles need to be plugged in. It must stay connected to a 120-volt outlet for up to 12 hours to fully charge the battery, but only about four hours at a 240-volt outlet. That's the same type of outlet used for an electric clothes dryer.
Electric vehicles are still few in number Northwest Indiana perhaps because the charging stations that power them are scarce.
But environmental advocates and the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. are prepping for a time when greener vehicles will be on region roadways.
NIPSCO filed an application with the state's utility regulator in April to provide incentives for early adopters who install residential charging stations, offer free off-peak home charging for three years and install public charging stations around its service territory.
The utility is trying to get a handle on the potential growth of electric vehicles within Northwest Indiana that has already happened in areas in California, Illinois and New York.
"We want to craft and design a program that not only creates stimulus for economic development, but a program that's ultimately going to improve the local environment," says NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer.
Under the initial plan, which is subject to change pending Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approval, vouchers up to $1,650 would be available for the first 250 residential customers to buy and install 240-volt charging stations at their residences. For a period of three years, any customer who installs a separate meter at their home for vehicle charging could power their cars for free between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Without the voucher, NIPSCO says the cost of installing a meter could be about $550.
The Merrillville-based utility wants a third party to complete a study by early 2012 to identify habits of electric vehicle drivers and the best locations for charging stations, Meyer says.
After that, the utility would locate 10 public charging stations that are powered by renewable energy sources around the region. The utility is still determining whether the public stations would be free or have a nominal charge per use.
The second phase of the program could include NIPSCO providing matching grants to encourage public or private entities to install vehicle charging stations or attract green technology businesses to the area. With the utility anticipating spending about $3 million over the two program phases, Meyer says NIPSCO is looking to provide an economic stimulus for the area.
Steve Francis, Indiana chapter chairman of the Sierra Club, praises NIPSCO's leadership in promoting the vehicle infrastructure program.
"The more that we have utilities actually involved in providing these kinds of innovations from a customer or business perspective, the more we will be known for innovative thinking and technology," Francis says. "And that's what's going to be key driving the jobs picture in the industry going forward."
Hollywood Reporter Reviews 'Revenge' Electric Cars
Chevy Volt exudes professionalism, while Nissan LEAF is 'pure George Jetson,' concludes the Hollywood Reporter.
Hollywood Reporter 05 Oct 2011 Cars are like Rorschach ink blots -- evaluating them reveals as much about the reviewer as the vehicle. One can assess some things objectively: Does a car feel peppy on the freeway? Is its regenerative braking firm or vague? But design is subjective -- and often, as The Wall Street Journal car columnist Dan Neil has observed, it plays to unconscious yearnings. For example, some people like the round headlights on, say, a Mini Cooper or a Fiat 500 not because they are retro but because of neoteny: The big lights subliminally suggest an infant's eyes, making the car seem cute, like a puppy.
The Chevy Volt is not cute. It has a powerful, authoritative feel, which apparently is a hit: 90 percent of its sales have been to "conquests," GM's term for defectors from other brands. At first, I felt like I was driving a Sub-Zero refrigerator -- not because the car is large but because I usually drive a Volkswagen Jetta or an Audi TT. (And I missed the front-seat lumbar support that the Jetta, priced far lower than the Volt's $40,280 sticker, possesses.) The Volt exudes professionalism, from its business-suit colors ("Veridian Joule," a metallic gray-green, is most popular) to the two business-class seats in back. (The car's lithium-ion batteries run down its length, splitting the rear seat.) It has a camera to assist in backing out -- essential because of the rear window's limited visibility. And its brakes are magnificent. They slowed me (and a GM rep) from 55 mph to about 5 mph when an ancient Pontiac darted across four freeway lanes in front of us. According to Chevrolet, the Volt charges in 10 hours at 120V -- or as little as four hours with a 240V adapter. It can travel 50 miles on a charge, but its gas engine, which generates electricity, extends the range to about 350 miles.
The bubble-like cabin of the Nissan Leaf is pure George Jetson -- never mind that Nissan's aerocar remains on the ground. Its 107 horsepower feels confident on the freeway. Unlike the Volt, which has a traditional dashboard, the Leaf's driver-interface shouts its uniqueness, beginning with a stubby joystick that you shove forward to reverse and back to drive. With no gas-powered backup, some Leaf owners may experience "range anxiety" -- a fear of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. But when the range of the Leaf that I drove fell to 19 of its purported 100 miles, a polite female voice from the GPS pointed me to a list of nearby charging stations -- of which there are many in Los Angeles. Nissan says the car can be charged at home in four to eight hours or in a half-hour at a quick-charge station. Still, on a hot day, I found myself choosing "eco-mode" (aka no climate control) and rolling down the windows. To conserve battery power, the clever, keyless "Nissan connection" enables you to turn on the climate control from a remote location, so you can adjust temperature while the car is plugged in.
If the Volt is the PC of electric cars, the Tesla Roadster is the Mac. Tesla sells its cars not in dealerships but in its own stores, patterned after those of Apple. The company prioritizes style: The body of its Roadster is a modified Lotus Elise. It also prizes performance: The Roadster can go from zero to 60 in less than four seconds. More astonishing, because it has a direct-drive transmission, anyone can achieve this performance. You don't have to shift like a pro -- or shift at all. In the early 1900s, electric cars proliferated. They were largely marketed to women because they were easy; they didn't need to be cranked to start. This is the dark secret of the mighty Tesla Roadster: It is easy to drive. (No doubt car snobs come around.)
Jason Perlow's Electrifying Weekend with Chevy Volt
ZDNet columnist shares his experiences with the Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid.
ZDNet 22 Aug 2011
Late last year, I had a brief opportunity to test drive the Chevrolet Volt during its “Unplugged” tour.
My test drive, however, amounted to a couple of 30MPH laps around a makeshift driving course inside a parking lot in a large suburban shopping mall. While I did get to observe the technology up close, it was only for about an hour or so and I really didn’t get the comprehensive hands-on experience with GM’s flagship hybrid-electric vehicle that I wanted to.
I had asked GM if it would be possible for me to do a longer-duration test of the Volt, but apparently they were really short on vehicles and the review cars were in heavy demand by other media organizations that were doing long-term evaluations of the vehicle. So I would have to wait.
Last Friday, I finally got my chance. At 9:30 in the morning, a representative from GM handed over the keys to a Chevy Volt, and parked it in my driveway. Unfortunately, a mix up with another journalist who forgot to put the charging cord back in the trunk meant that I only had 14 miles of EV (pure battery power) mode left on the vehicle, and GM’s delivery guy had to go run out get me one so I could charge the car later.
So Friday afternoon I drove it sparingly, because I didn’t want to go to gasoline-assisted “ER” (Extended Range) mode too quickly. I wanted to see how far the car could go on a full charge before hitting the 1.4L gasoline generator which powers the electrical drive system for longer distance driving.
I knew the Volt was a very high-tech car from my short preview back in November. But I really had no idea how sophisticated the electronics on this thing would actually be, in practice.
The first time I took it out for a solo spin was to drive down to my local pizza parlor during my lunch break. Okay, so I took the key-fob (which isn’t actually car keys, it’s just a remote with the security proximity sensor on it) hit the door unlock button, and got into the vehicle.
Let me tell you that from the perspective of someone who drives a 20-year old, nearly analog-everything car — a classic 1990 560 SEL 5.6L Mercedes-Benz, stepping into the Volt was like something out of the Jetsons. Or Star Trek.
I glanced at what was a dizzying array of buttons on the main “center stack” (which has a large multifunction touch screen display at the very top) and the completely digital dash (or “Driver Information Center” as it is officially called) which told me that in order to start the vehicle, I had to hit the brake and then push the lighted blue “Energize” button.
As soon as I did that, the entire car came to life, complete with boot-up sound, which sounded like I had just engaged the warp engines on the Enterprise.
It was… Knight Rider-like. Frankly, I’m surprised with all of the electronic accouterments the car has and for $41,000 MSRP, that they don’t sell one in black with a red Cylon eye scanner in the front. You know, the David Hasselhoff Edition Volt.
So now it’s 90+ degrees out in the middle of August and humid as all heck. Give me air conditioning!
The problem was, my ADD-riddled and low blood sugar brain was utterly stymied by how to turn the damn A/C on. Heck, on my old Mercedes and on virtually every single rental car I get when I travel on business, it’s usually pretty intuitive.
This thing you need a freaking aerospace engineering degree to figure out.
Now, granted, my understanding is that people who purchase a Volt get a comprehensive training session from the dealer, where they explain how to use the ultra-sophisticated multi-function main stack that controls climate, navigation, entertainment, energy efficiency and electrical power plant monitoring, the rear-view camera, the front-mounted .50 calibre machine guns, pop-out bullet-proof shield, oil slick dispenser, smoke grenade launchers and all that cool stuff.
I was also supposed to get one of those, but the screw-up with the missing charger cord and a busy conference call hell-day pretty much deep-sixed any chance I had to get a full run down on the … avionics systems.
By the end of the weekend, I sort of got the thing figured out, but the user interface on the Volt seems ridiculously complicated for what is essentially a family car or a commuter vehicle.
This is not a Gulfstream g650 or even a Bugatti Veyron, for crying out loud.
It’s almost as if GM was thinking “Well, the car is going to end up costing the early adopters over 40 grand before tax incentives, and it’s supposed to be this futuristic hybrid electric vehicle, so let’s fill it with all sorts of really cool looking electronic crap that shows just how sophisticated it really is, even though all the important stuff is under the hood.”
I really do want to emphasize that the user interface on the Center Stack is… well, awful. The buttons themselves on the stack are also of the touch-sensitive variety rather than electro-mechanical, and are the same color as the stack, so it gets confusing.
At night, I found both the main dash and the center stack illumination to be a bit to dim, and it was hard to see the button controls, even with the display lighting sent to max in the vehicle configuration menus.
This may have been due to an ambient light sensor issue, and unfortunately I didn’t drive the vehicle Sunday evening due to heavy rainstorms, so I have no idea if the main stack illumination behaves differently under various lighting conditions or not.
Not to say that the electronic doodads and graphics aren’t cool, because they are, but in my opinion, if it takes more than one or two finger touches to adjust climate control or get into the navigation options, configure Bluetooth or tune your XM Radio, or if the UI flat out stymies the user even if it’s supposed to be one or two touches away because it doesn’t behave as expected, then you pretty much borked the user interface design.
I also want to add that from a purely ergonomic perspective, that the center/main stack itself is not driver optimized for pure touch and quick glance alone. It requires far to much concentration to use, to the point where altering something as simple as a climate control setting could get you in an accident.
I had to appoint my wife as co-pilot in the passenger seat, and even she couldn’t figure most of the stuff out.
This is something that GM really needs to fix on the next version of the car. Hey, why not hire Apple to do the stack UI? That’s an idea.
So, on to the more important things. The main Driver Information Center itself is thankfully easy to understand, even though it is completely digital and equally Star-Trekky as everything else on the car.
The left-hand side of the dash display shows your estimated remaining mileage in both EV mode (electric drive) and ER (extended range) as well as current battery power and gasoline fuel levels. Drive gear modes is the same as on a gasoline vehicle, with the typical “PRNDL” indicator.
Miles per hour is shown in a digital speedometer, and the right hand side shows acceleration or “thrust” power, with a spiffy green orb that floats up or down depending on how efficiently you are driving the car. Ideally, you want the green orb to stay dead-center when you are driving, so it’s kind of like a built-in video game.
The dash is configurable with a number of selectable modes, as shown in the video below.
Unlike other hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius, the Volt uses a purely electrical drive-train virtually all of the time, so there’s no “Tachometer” per se in any of the selected dash modes.
When the 1.4L engine engages in ER mode after the battery runs down, it’s strictly used as a generator for the electrical power system, and it adjusts its cycles depending on whether the electrical drive system needs increased voltage or not, and in an optimized fashion so that fuel isn’t consumed inefficiently.
There are apparently times where the generator can directly assist the drive-train to power the wheels under higher speed conditions, but I’m not sure I ever experienced that when I was evaluating the car.
So only the car’s computer system actually needs to worry about RPMs. Which means you’re essentially driving a computer. It sounds weird, but at the same time, it’s kind of cool.
While GM advertises that the Volt can get up to 50 miles on a full charge, what you really end up getting is actually based upon driver habits and environmental conditions. After a full night’s charge, we noticed that the EV mode range indicator showed us 34 miles, which is really just an estimate.
Charging the car is easy — you simply pop the charging receptacle with either the key-fob or the button on the driver side door, and plug in the over-sized six-pronged cord which is attached to an alignment handle with a lever lock trigger that has a built in LED flashlight so that you can align the connector in low light conditions.
The car beeps to confirm that it is charging, and you get a green light on top of the dash behind the windshield that blinks to confirm charging status.
If you desire, you can set the car to delay charging until such time during the late evening or early morning when your electrical billing rates are optimal. The default charger that comes with the car will do a full charge in about 10 hours. GM also sells an optional 240V fast-charger that will completely charge the batteries in 4 hours, which costs about $1500 to install in a typical home garage.
With a full day’s driving on Saturday, and with the air conditioning on variable modes including econ, auto and comfort, we actually did about 42 miles before ER kicked in and the gasoline generator started. And when it happened, we were doing over 65 miles an hour on the highway, and it was instantaneous and seamless.
As far as audible cues to the driver, the car is pretty much silent in EV mode until ER kicks in, and then the generator revvs as necessary in order to supply electrical power to the drive-train. You do get a slight electric whine from the drive-train, especially when braking or when coasting (which is used to automatically re-charge the batteries via regenerative braking) but it’s a cool science-fictiony car sound.
Other than the overly-complicated user interface and controls for the non-critical entertainment, climate and navigation subsystems, I thought it was a really fun car to drive. By far, however, what impressed me is the underlying Voltec hybrid propulsion system.
How does the car itself drive? All in all I have to say that the 149HP, 273 pound-feet of torque Voltec power-train is extremely smooth and responsive. This is not a sluggish vehicle by any stretch of the imagination.
Handling on the car was excellent. No problems maneuvering around tight turns. When you put your foot to the floor, the car really takes off. That’s because with an electrical motor, you get 100 percent torque pretty much instantly. This came in handy on certain highway ramps where there were very short merges and we needed to accelerate quickly to get into the flow of traffic.
As far as comfort — the Volt doesn’t have electrically powered seats, so that’s a bit annoying for $41,000 car. I’m a big guy, and while I had no problem fitting in the car, it was a bit tight on my shoulders and I didn’t like the fact there weren’t any handles on the roof ceiling to help me pull myself out of the car, which has a very sloping roof.
If you’ve got any kind of back problems whatsoever and you’re six feet tall or more, you’re gonna hate getting in and out of this car. I found myself doing something of a contortionist bit and a neck twist to pull myself in and out.
Additionally, I thought that the visibility in the front and rear windows (the Volt is a hatchback) was less than optimal.
Keep in mind that unlike the major automotive publications which have done very comprehensive reviews of the vehicle which should give you a better idea of whether or not this car is for you and how efficient it really is, my fling with the Volt was short, so I am only going on my limited exposure to the car.
My overall impression is that the Volt is an extremely important milestone in the future of automotive engineering and I think it will change the industry. Would I drive a Volt again? Abso-freakin-lutely. Would I want to pay for and own one? At this point… no.
However, this is not to say that a Voltec-based car isn’t on my close watch list for a future vehicle purchase. It is. But I want to see new cars from GM, including SUVs, luxury vehicles and sports cars, full sized sedans, minivans, and even trucks that use evolved versions of this system.
I also think that GM needs to focus on what’s under the covers in the next car that uses this propulsion system rather than the electronic doodads, and the user interface shouldn’t require an electrical engineering degree or a pilot’s license to understand.
Okay, we get it GM, it’s an advanced hybrid EV. Now If the company keeps their priorities on fuel economy issues, battery technology, and power-train performance, and they can get the manufacturing costs of the core components for this propulsion system reduced by increased efficiency in manufacturing scale, I think Voltec has a formula for success.
Driving the Chevrolet Volt: First Impressions
Rick DeMeis takes Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid for extended test drive from Boston to the mountains of upstate New York.
EE Times 07 Aug 2011
Let's face it, driving a Chevy Volt brings one a lot of attention from those that recognize the car—along with commonly asked questions, "What's the mileage?" and "How does it drive?" One thing I've learned since being able to sample driving in plug-in vehicles such as the Prius Plug-In Hybrid and now the Volt is that the numbers one can achieve in terms of miles per gallon are basically meaningless. Simply dividing the number of miles driven by gallons of gasoline used can vary greatly based on one's driving needs and, most importantly, the opportunity and time available to plug-in and charge the battery, which supplements "hybrid style" battery/engine efficiencies once that reserve is used up.
As for how the Volt drives, it is much like an internal combustion engine car in terms of handling and negotiating hills, but with great low-end torque pickup thanks to the characteristics of its electric motor propulsion (the gas engine charges the battery and "drives" the car as needed via an electric generator without a direct mechanical link).
But impressions of the Volt and its technology begin even before it is driven. When I drove the car home I wanted to start my time with a full tank and charge. I previously noted my troubles with the 110V chargers that came with the Prius Plug-in (above) and the all-electric Nissan Leaf in falling out of the outlet in my decades-old detached garage. The Volt came with a similar unit for overnight charge ups in 10 hours or less (a Volt owner would likely opt to install the 220V charging station to cut that time by more than half). But where the Prius and Leaf chargers came in a bag, the Volt unit snaps neatly into a compartment below the trunk floor (the only problem would be getting it out if the one piece floor is loaded with cargo).
The charger itself has its power electronics not in a rectangular brick, a la the Prius and Leaf, but a rounded shape having a handy handle for carrying, with a molded lip that allows for wrapping the charging cord around, resulting in a non-tangling, compact package. Chevy also supplies a wall mounting plate that easily attaches with screws which the power pack simply snaps into—avoiding the weight of the pack pulling the cord from the socket. At the standard charging plug on the other end, the release lever that allows pushing the plug into the Volt's charging port also turns on an LED flashlight at the tip for better visibility when charging in the dark.
Upon plugging the charger into the garage outlet, the charging electronics ran through a fault-detection routine (and it also has a half-charge rate option), and informed me that charging could not be done because my outlet had a ground fault! Neither the Prius or Leaf chargers detected this and allowed charging. After a wiring attempt to ground the outlet, the result was still not good enough to allow charging—so some car position swapping permitted being able to charge from an adequately grounded outlet on our rear deck.
Volt charging can also be programmed to take advantage of any off-peak electric rate price differentials to save charging costs (Chevy says the electric use is roughly the equivalent of $1.50/gallon gasoline). Programming also allows pre-cooling the car while on the charger to reduce onboard power demands. Thus it is important to read the owners manual! (And there are features such as local weather reports that I found, as well as an "on screen" tutorial programmed into the car's displays.)
When starting the Volt by pushing a glowing blue button, the car comes to life with a whooshing sound like something from Star Wars. I set the center console display to show the energy flow between the battery, electric motor, gas engine, and regenerative brakes. The driver's cluster display shows electric capacity left in battery-only operation, with another a small icon indicating range with the gas engine in operation. Once the EV only capacity runs out, the battery icon goes to zero and shrinks and the gauge indicating range with gas operation (shown as a fuel pump) becomes prominent.
On the road at last
On a full charge I started out on a day in the low 100s F, from Boston to the mountains in New York State. Electric range was given as 40 miles with 315 miles of gasoline-augmented range. During stop-and-go and under highway limit speeds on the Mass Pike (with the air conditioner on), my EV-only range ran out at just under 36 miles. At the end of my trip (with a net elevation change from around 160 ft to 1,875 ft) I had gone 203.4 miles with an indicated 4.5 gallons used, which the onboard computer calculated as 44.6 miles per gallon.
After a full charge overnight, the indicted EV range was back up to 40 miles. But to show how potential and kinetic energy come to play in the Volt, a 1.7 mile drive down a steep hill starting out my trip next day boosted the EV range to 47 miles thanks to regenerative braking. Returning to my start at the end of the day after a hike in the Catskills produced totals of 263.6 miles, 5 gallons used, for a computer number of 52.1 mpg.
The third day, after another full charge to 40 EV miles to go, again demonstrated energy interplay. A morning trip to a nearby town included two long descents and two long ascents, and then the trip was reversed. The 16.5-mile trip was made entirely on battery capacity and at the end the computer said 19 miles of EV range was used. Because no gasoline was consumed, total mileage went up to 55.9 mpg.
The return to Boston the next day (starting on a full charge to 40 miles EV range) had some interesting results. With most of the "descent" to Boston at the start of the trip, I was able to go 48.1 miles in the electric only mode. The trip was made with the air conditioner on for most of the time, and the result was a grand total of 485.1 miles, 9 gallons used, for a computed mileage of 53.3 mpg. (The return trip was 202.4 miles, 4 gallons used, 50.1 mpg computed.)
After a week in the Volt, having put 5½ full charges into the battery, over a total of 621.3 miles, I used 11 gallons of gasoline, for a computed mileage of 56.4 mpg.
Some other touches I notice during my time in the Volt are the attention to cutting aerodynamic drag. For example, there's a low, but flexible, air dam under the nose of the car to direct airflow over the top of the vehicle. The side mirrors are set back and well away from the body to cut interference from the airflow off the windshield and reduce noise.
The car also has Sport and Mountain modes for "quicker" motor response (with a penalty of some economy), but even on my trip to the mountains I didn't feel the need to use them because the normal mode was more than adequate in climbing grades.
My one complaint with the car concerns the pedestrian warning system. Because the Volt is so quiet below 40 mph, a pedestrian warning has been incorporated to work at those speeds. This consists of pulling on the turn signal/high beam switch to flash the lights and emit an abbreviated burst from the horn—which seemed highly annoying to those inside as well as outside the car. (The system also embarrasses the driver when it goes off when simply lowering the high beams below 40 mph!) Better to have used a warning like the Nissan Leaf's with a high pitched sound constantly on that is hard to discern inside the cabin.
The Chevy Volt is no doubt a high tech vehicle. Even the touch switches with aural feedback on the center console (these are "spots" rather than distinct buttons) add to that impression. As to whether it is a practical car would depend on one's driving style and situation to take advantage of the excellent range on battery power alone—thus amortizing any battery cost penalty over a reasonable time.
Chevy Volt: Good Attempt At 'Best of Both Worlds'
Is National Post columnist David Booth's analysis of the Chevrolet Volt after an extended test drive.
National Post/Canada 07 Aug 2011
As those who read my columns well know, I am neither meticulous nor well organized. Indeed, long is the list of disgruntled former significant others who will attest to my lack of attention to detail, their laments ranging from never getting errands done on time (or at all) to paying little attention to life's side dishes while obsessing - often compulsively - on the few tasks I deem important.
My stock retort has always been that I am concentrating on bigger things; I have "people" who take care of such details. No matter that said people don't exist, it's certainly true I rely on instinct instead of planning, think the forest much more important than individual trees and rely on memory rather than notes.
But driving the new Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle - perhaps the most controversial of new "alternative" automobiles - would tolerate no such whimsy. Consumers want specific answers to very specific questions. What are the new Volt's abilities? Exactly how far can it go on its 16 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery? What conditions affect its range? What happens once all those free electrons have migrated polarity? And, perhaps most importantly of all, does it function like a real car?
So, during a recent long weekend road trip (extended by taking the Friday off, all in the name of science, of course), I took notes - copious notes. Distances, instantaneous fuel mileage, overall trip fuel mileage, fuel mileage after the battery pack had been discharged (essentially measuring the Volt's fuel consumption when operating in internal-combustion mode only). Even the amount of fuel burned that coincided with the same mileage the battery attained (trying to find some equivalency between the range a kilowatt-hour of electricity provides compared with a litre of gasoline). This is what I learned:
Friday morning saw me heading to the outskirts of Ottawa for a sombre family obligation - taking care of my elderly parents. Dime-store psychologists will no doubt make much of the doleful nature of my trip and the fact I insisted on maintaining an average speed of just 110 kilometres an hour all the way to the nation's capital, but I swear it was all in a quest for statistical accuracy.
Whatever the motivation, the Volt managed the first 69 kilometres on battery power alone. No gasoline was consumed during this period; no noxious fumes emitted. After the battery had expired, the onboard 1.4-litre gasoline engine kicked in and, again keeping the cruise control set at 110, the Volt averaged 5.7 litres per 100 km for the remaining 366.9 km. Total energy used was 10.3 kWh of electricity (General Motors doesn't allow full discharge of the battery to promote longer life) and 22 litres of regulargrade fuel. The average fuel economy for the entire 435.8-km trip - factoring in both electric and gasoline usage - was 5.0 L/100 km (56.3 miles per gallon).
After tending to family duties, I returned home Monday, this time deciding a more practical 125 km/h would be appropriate on Hwy. 401 (no doubt giving those armchair psychologists all the proof they need). The extra load took its toll on the lithium ions: This time, they were only able to provide 56.2 km of emissions-free motoring before the Ecotec engine starting powering the onboard generator. Keeping my pace steady at 125, fuel trickled into the 1.4L engine at the rate of 7.2 L/100 km. In all, my return trip took 440.3 km and consumed 10.3 kWh of electricity and 27.7 litres of gas for an overall fuel consumption of 6.3 L/100 km (45 mpg).
So, how do we put this all into perspective?
First off, the return voyage from Ottawa was the only time in all my experience in Volts that the battery pack provided less than the 64-km (40mile) range GM originally promised for the Volt. Electric motors are more efficient at lower speeds, so I would expect any electric vehicle to suffer a similar drop. In this one regard at least, EVs and gasoline-fuelled automobiles share a common trait - more speed equals faster consumption.
As for the fuel consumption once the battery's energy was depleted, there's no sense comparing my measured fuel consumption rates with other cars' Transport Canada rates. One represents real-world use by a lead-foot journalist and the other the theoretical best a car might attain in a perfect world. Better then to compare competitive cars under the same intractable pedal.
Here, with a few exceptions, the Volt's numbers prove very competitive. For instance, my recent test of Kia's Optima Hybrid (along with the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, my favourite of the genre) averaged 6.8 L/100 km at 100 km/h. Admittedly, the Vancouver Island route was a little hillier, but not by much. In a previous-generation Toyota Prius, I averaged 6.3 L/100 km at about the same 110 km/h (compared with its wholly optimistic 4.0 L/100 km Transport Canada highway rating). On the other hand, neither can compare with the positively frugal Volkswagen Passat TDI, its 2.0L turbodiesel literally dribbling fuel out at a miserly 5.0 L/100 km when cruising the freeway.
However, where the Volt does fall down is in city fuel economy. After that 64 km of initial gasoline-free electric motoring was over, I averaged about 9.0 L/100 km in urban traffic, worse than any diesel or comparably sized hybrid I have tested and not better than many conventional compact sedans.
A little perspective is necessary here, though. For one thing, like all EVs, the Volt is aimed at the 78% of North Americans whose daily commute is less than 64 km per day. But, even beyond that, an extended-range electric vehicle offers advantages. For instance, if your daily drive takes you 120 km afield, your average consumption would be 4.5 L/100 km in the city (no fuel for the first 60 km and then 9.0 L/100 km thereafter) and about 2.9 L/100 km for the same distance on the highway. Nissan Leaf owners will argue that their EVs could manage all 120 km without any fuel, but, then, they're stranded for the next eight hours as their batteries recharge (on a high-amperage 240-volt circuit, if it's available).
Indeed, in my description of my weekend sojourn, you'll notice there was no mention of my Saturday or Sunday fuel economy. That's because I didn't use any gas. The days were spent doing local errands and ferrying my dear mother and father to their various appointments and assignations. Since I didn't drive more than 60 km either day, the Volt consumed no fuel.
The other interesting tidbit is that every time I put the Volt through its long-distance paces, the first 60 or so kilometres took 10.3 kWh of battery juice and the next 60 km about four litres of fuel. For the Volt, at least, that one litre of gas was equivalent to about 2.5 kWh of lithium ion. Rough calculation though it may be, but it means that if the Volt's range on a single electrical charge were to match the distance it can travel on the 35.2 litres of gasoline it stores on board, it would need 88 kWh of lithium ion. Since the current 16-kWh pack weighs in at 198 kilograms, such a battery would weigh almost 1,100 kg. That's the better part of a Fiat 500.
Unlike my usual road tests, the preceding reads like a Ben Bernanke explanation of the American debt crisis: a lot of numbers and not always a firm conclusion. But, as I said in the beginning, I was determined to be diligent in transcribing the data. As confusing as it all may seem, it is possible to make (or, at least, I will make) the following generalities:
If you are never, ever going to leave the confines of the big city or you are a two-car family and can easily switch cars so that one never has to leave the confines of the big city, then a pure electric vehicle is an excellent alternative to the conventional automobile.
Assuming you will stay within the vehicle's prescribed range, you will never use any gasoline, never directly emit any emissions and, because our Canadian electricity generation is both cheap and relatively pollutant free, you'll save money and dramatically reduce emissions.
At the other extreme, if you're a travelling salesperson who spends most of the day on the highway, a dieselpowered vehicle is the best choice. No matter how hard or fast it is driven, its fuel consumption is amazingly frugal. Its range, the other extreme from EVs, is often better than 1,000 km and its performance - especially the German turbodiesels - is incredible.
Hybrids can't match the Volt's or the Leaf's all-electric range. A few can manage a few scant kilometres on electrical power alone if you feather the pedal just so, but, for all practical purposes, the gas and electric motors are working in tandem all the time. While that means their city fuel economy is better than the Volt's (when its batteries are run down), it also means they can't promise gasoline-free motoring for any significant amount of time. That said, they are cheaper than the 2012 Volt's rather hefty $41,545 price (minus the $8,230 rebate in Ontario and $7,769 in Quebec).
Despite a few weaknesses and a substantial price tag, the Volt's extended-range electric vehicle technology would appear to be the most elegant alternative yet to the conventional automobile. For most daily operations, it offers all the advantages of a pure EV - electric motoring, no consumption of gasoline and no tailpipe emissions. Unlike a pure EV, however, it is not range restricted in any way. If it isn't quite the best of both worlds, it's at least a good attempt at it.
Chevy Volt Could Help Get Price of Gasoline Off Your Mind
News Observer reporter Bruce Siceloff finds himself enjoying driving more and worry about gasoline less during his extended test drive.
News Observer 21 Jul 2011
I used less gas while I drove a Chevy Volt for a few days, but I worried about it more.
There were times, commuting to work in Raleigh or running errands around Chapel Hill, when I managed to forget about the whole oppressive fuel-economy thing. That's when I liked driving the Volt.
You don't buy this kind of car because you like to drive. You buy it mostly because you worry about gas: the reliance on foreign imports, the pollution, the price.
The Chevy Volt is a new kind of gas-electric hybrid, but you can't pick yours from a Triangle showroom just yet. Looks as if they'll be available this fall, ushering in a wave of new plug-in hybrids and all-electrics for sale in the coming year.
I know of a half-dozen local folks who couldn't wait for local dealers to stock the Volt. They bought theirs elsewhere.
And now when they talk about the Chevy Volt, they echo conversations I'd had with friends who drive the old-fashioned kind of hybrid.
You know, the Toyota Prius.
Prius people never seemed quite happy enough after they traded gas-gulping Explorers and Suburbans for a car that easily gets well over 40 mpg. They moaned about the challenge of getting well over 50 mpg. They fantasized about drafting behind tractor-trailer trucks and other silly stunts.
While the old-school hybrids use various combinations of gas and electric power to turn the wheels, the Volt drives everything with an electric motor. It starts by relying entirely on the charge in its big battery, and when that is depleted it starts burning gas from its nine-gallon tank to generate electricity.
(Chevy dealers, please hold your calls. I know that General Motors doesn't call the Volt a plug-in hybrid. But the Environmental Protection Agency does. And so do I. Nobody else cares much about these labels.)
Will Patnaud, 35, remembers how much gas he burned two months ago - about eight gallons - when he drove his Volt home to Morrisville from a dealer in Silver Spring, Md., about 300 miles away.
Now his daily goal is to drive from home to work and home again, without burning any gas at all.
"If I drive conservatively and keep the climate setting on 'ECO,' I can make it on pure electric," Patnaud said. "And as I pull in the driveway, it'll click to zero, and I'll see the blue gas icon appear. That's right around a 44-mile round trip."
6 gallons, 10,000 miles
Progress Energy let me borrow a silver four-door Volt sedan from its fleet of a dozen. When I started driving it Wednesday morning, the info-gauge told me that Progress employees had burned only six gallons of gas while they put more than 10,000 miles on the odometer.
Well, of course they had.
After all, the electric company has 240-volt charging stations in its parking deck. Some Progress employees have them at their homes, too. Imagine what their boss would say if the info-gauge showed they had burned a gallon or two of gas in the company car.
Out in the real world, I had a bit more difficulty keeping the battery charged. The Volt comes with a charger you can plug right into a standard 120-volt outlet at your home - as long as the outlet is within 25 feet of your driveway.
Progress Energy advised against using an extension cord, but what else could I do? I borrowed a 100-foot heavy-gauge drop cord and plugged into an outlet on the front porch, but the Volt balked. The car horn actually bleated in disdain, and the display panel said "Unable to charge."
I drove around Chapel Hill on Saturday with that blue gas-pump icon glowing on my info-gauge display to nag me about me how un-green I was.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned at the outset, the Volt was a good car to drive. Granted, my frame of reference is my own family fleet of four-cylinder Honda Accords - three of them. The Volt had more power, handled better and rode just as smoothly.
I was accosted in shopping center parking lots by curious strangers, including one couple who wanted to know whether the Volt had enough power to accelerate quickly on Interstate 40. Yes, I said. Turned out they were not satisfied on this count with their own car: a Prius.
Finally, at my wife's suggestion, I plugged the drop cord into an outlet in the dining room. For reasons of its own, the Volt accepted the full charge.
On the way to work Monday morning, I stopped to refill the tank with all the 91-octane premium gas (a Volt requirement) I had burned. I was embarrassed to be pumping petroleum into my tank, especially at a price 35 cents higher than for regular gas.
But I drove the whole way to Raleigh basking in the green glow of the dashboard battery icon. With a side trip to drop my cat at the vet, I put 40 miles on the Volt.
I returned it to Progress Energy with an empty battery and a full tank of gas.
Does Chevy's Volt Offer Taste of the Future?
Joe Nocera finds Volt electric hybrid is the right electric vehicle for our moment in time.
NY Times 27 Jun 2011
THE moment I realized that driving the new Chevrolet Volt was fundamentally a new experience was not when I first turned it on and went around the block. Yes, it was whisper-quiet, powered by its 16 kilowatt-hour, 400-pound battery, but it still felt like a “normal” automobile. And it wasn’t when I drove the 100 or so miles from Manhattan to Southampton, N.Y., either. Although the battery’s range is only about 40 miles, the car kept going even after the battery was drained; it just switched to its gasoline engine, in a transition so seamless I barely noticed it. It wasn’t even when I arrived in Southampton that evening and plugged a special cord into an electrical outlet in the garage, to recharge the battery overnight.
No, what made the experience truly different — and what got me thinking about the Volt’s potential to change the way we think about gas consumption — was what happened after that.
You know the story of the Volt, don’t you? As the General Motors entry in the race to build a viable electric car — a race that includes the all-electric Nissan Leaf, a raft of Fords in various stages of development and an electric sedan that Tesla will soon begin selling — it may well be the most hyped American automobile since Lee Iacocca rolled out the Chrysler minivan. Begun four years ago, and championed by the legendary auto executive Bob Lutz, the Volt project managed to survive G.M.’s descent into bankruptcy, and emerge as the company’s great, shining hope, a symbol of what American car manufacturers could accomplish. Or so it’s been claimed.
Cars like the Leaf and the original Tesla — a Roadster that cost more than $100,000 — are “pure” electric vehicles powered solely by their batteries. Classic hybrids like the Toyota Prius use a battery as a kind of add-on, to boost the gas mileage of a combustion engine. The Volt, however, is engineered differently. As long as the battery has juice, the car acts like an electric vehicle. When the battery dies, the combustion engine takes over, and it becomes an old-fashioned gas-consuming car. Once you recharge the battery, electricity takes over again.
The experience of driving it meshes with the way we think about using a car. There is no need to plan ahead, for instance, to make sure the car won’t run out of battery life before we can recharge it. And the gas engine eliminates the dreaded “range anxiety” that prevents most people from embracing an electric vehicle. Indeed, G.M. likes to call the Volt an “extended range vehicle.” Motor Trend, the car enthusiasts’ bible, was so impressed that it named the Volt its 2011 car of the year.
The Volt went on sale last December. But because Chevrolet has been so cautious in rolling it out — dealers in only seven states have gotten cars so far, with fewer than 2,500 sold — it can sometimes seem like the world’s most publicized invisible car. (A bigger rollout is planned for next year.) Which is why I asked G.M. if I could test-drive it over the Memorial Day holiday. I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
For four days, I drove it around town, used it to pick up the groceries, took it to visit friends. Sometimes, when I walked out of a store, someone would be standing next to “my” Volt, wanting to ask me questions about it. Though I am no automotive expert, I was pleasantly surprised by the car’s power, pickup and handling. “People think it’s going to be a dorkmobile,” said Mr. Lutz, who retired last year. “But it’s fun to drive.”
Here’s what really got me, though: on the dashboard, alongside the gauge that measures the battery life, the Volt has another gauge that calculates the vehicle’s miles per gallon. During the two-hour drive to Southampton, I used two gallons of gas, a quarter of the tank. Thus, when I drove into the driveway, it read 50 miles per gallon.
The next day, after the overnight charge, I didn’t use any gas. After driving around 30 miles in the morning, I recharged it for a few hours while I puttered around the house. (It takes 10 hours to fully recharge, unless you buy a special 240-volt recharging unit.) That gave the battery 10 miles, more than enough to get me where I needed to go that evening on battery power alone. Before I knew it, my miles per gallon for that tankful of gas had hit 80. By the next day it had topped 100. I soon found myself obsessed with increasing my miles per gallon — and avoiding having to buy more gas. Whenever I got home from an errand, I would recharge it, even for a few hours, just to grab a few more miles of range. I was actually in control of how much gas I consumed, and it was a powerful feeling. By the time I gave the car back to General Motors, I had driven 300 miles, without using another drop of gas beyond the original two gallons. I’m not what you’d call a Sierra Club kind of guy, but I have to tell you: I was kind of proud of myself.
When I began to describe for Mr. Lutz the psychological effect the Volt had had on me, he chuckled. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s like playing a video game that is constantly giving you back your score.”
PEOPLE who follow the car business like to say that this particular moment in automotive history is the closest we’ll ever come to seeing what the industry was like a century ago. Back then, there were dozens of auto companies, all experimenting with different ways to power a car, a race ultimately won by the gasoline-powered combustible engine. For good reason: nothing else provided more power, more efficiently.
Now the race is on to come up with an affordable, mass-market electric car. Everybody in the game has a different theory about how to go about it. Elon Musk, the PayPal co-founder who is the driving force behind Tesla, built his original Roadster by strapping together nearly 7,000 lithium ion cells — essentially laptop batteries — that consume the bulk of the car’s mass. (It’s a two-seater in part because there is no room for anything else but batteries.) Although his Roadster will never be a mass-market car — in fact, it’s being phased out in favor of Tesla’s new Model S Sedan — Mr. Musk has claimed victory because, he says, the car, with a range of well over 100 miles, offers “proof of concept” that an electric vehicle can be built to go long distances between charges. Starting at $57,400, the Model S is about half the price of the original sports car.
Carlos Ghosn, the flamboyant chief executive of Nissan, has made a different kind of bet, placing his chips — billions of them — on the $32,780 Leaf, which has a 24-kilowatt battery pack that can get 73 miles to the charge. Mr. Ghosn is said to believe that range anxiety is overblown, and that once people become accustomed to an electric car, 73 miles per charge won’t be an issue. Well, maybe in Europe and Japan, but most analysts I spoke to think he’s likely to get his head handed to him in America, and I tend to agree.
“We’ve had 120 years of gasoline dominance,” said Lindsay Brooke, a senior editor of Automotive Engineering International Magazine. “The habits and expectations that have been engendered — How far will the car go? How quickly can you get it refueled? — aren’t going to go away overnight.” Americans like the idea that they can get in their cars and drive halfway across the country — even if they never actually do it.
Besides, nobody yet knows what kind of infrastructure will develop around the electric car. Is lithium ion ultimately the right battery chemistry? How quickly will the cost of the battery — which is the most expensive feature in an electric car — come down? When will the battery size shrink, and its power increase?
ONE of the reasons there is so much experimentation right now is that no one knows how this is all going to play out. Until some answers begin to emerge, it is highly unlikely that any electric car will gain mass acceptance. Early adopters may be willing to give an electric car a chance, but the rest of us won’t. Most people want to drive proven technologies, not roll-of-the-dice bets.
Which is also why the Volt is such an appealing alternative — “the right answer for right now,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with the automotive Web site edmunds.com. It gives people a taste of the electric car experience without sacrificing any of the things we expect in a gas-powered car. In fact, the Volt’s engineering is a direct byproduct of G.M.’s dismal experience with its original electric car, the legendary EV1, which had more or less the same range as the Leaf. Between 1996 and 1999, G.M. leased 800 EV1’s, but faced with mounting costs, they were all repossessed at the end of production.
Chris Paine directed a scathing documentary about G.M.’s decision to kill the EV1, called “Who Killed The Electric Car?,” which blamed the failure on the automaker’s perfidy, but G.M. has always been convinced that the real culprit was range anxiety. “People just weren’t willing to make the compromises you had to make,” said Andrew Farah, the Volt’s chief engineer, “starting with the range.”
Mr. Farah, who worked on the EV1, recalled that G.M. used to attach rolling generators to the outside of the car so that the engineers could keep using it even after the battery died; that became the kernel of the idea behind the Volt. For his part, Mr. Lutz was the one who kept insisting that the battery had to be able to achieve 40 miles per charge, a figure he based on the many studies that showed that the vast majority of Americans drove 40 miles or fewer per day.
(The government officially puts the Volt’s battery range at 35 miles, but in the right conditions — warm weather, flat terrain — the range can go as high as 50 miles. During the time I drove the Volt, the battery range was consistently in the low 40s.)
That insistence gave rise to some inevitable compromises. The battery can’t be under the hood because a combustion engine is still there. So G.M. had to eliminate the middle seat in the back to make space for the big T-shaped battery the Volt required. Its small body, originally modeled on the Camaro, had to be made more aerodynamic because that was the only way to hit the 40 mile-per-charge mark.
And for a car intended for the mass market, it’s awfully expensive. The Volt retails for around $41,000; from what I hear, that’s pretty much what it costs to build. G.M.’s profits on this first iteration of the Volt, in other words, are essentially zero. Though there is currently a $7,500 tax credit on electric car purchases — the first tax incentive for hybrid gas-electric cars was introduced during the presidency of George W. Bush, in case you were wondering — it won’t last forever. Consumer Reports has advised readers to avoid the Volt because it costs too much. G.M. badly needs battery technology to keep improving, both so that it can lower the cost of its electric cars, and begin making Volt-like vehicles in other sizes and shapes, including wagons and S.U.V.’s that will attract families. That’s the only way it will finally reach the mass market.
Having said all that, driving it did convince me of two things. The first is that, Consumer Reports notwithstanding, the Volt has a better chance of success than anything else on the market. Yes, G.M.’s track record for making cars people want has not exactly been inspiring in recent years. But the company has been through hell and back, and a good number of the institutional impediments that prevented it from making good cars are now gone.
Though the Volt has its share of flaws, it is unquestionably a good car. More to the point, as I discovered when I drove it, the Volt makes sense for the economic and cultural moment we’re in now. The psychological grip it held me in, the smugness I felt as I drove past gas stations, the way it implicitly encouraged me to stick with battery power as much as I could — others are going to feel that as well. Somewhat to my surprise, I actually felt a pang of enviro-guilt when I gave the car back and returned to my gas-guzzling ways. Mr. Farah told me that Volt owners often drove 1,000 miles or more before they needed to buy gasoline. I believe it. It has extremely high word-of-mouth potential.
The second thing it convinced me of is that the electric car is no longer some environmental pipe dream. Several years ago, I drove the Tesla, and though it was a wonderful experience, its high price and limited utility did not give me confidence that electric cars were ready for prime time. The Volt has made a believer out of me. At this moment of maximum uncertainty about how the future will play out, the Volt is comforting in its combination of new technology and old. Eventually, we’ll have batteries that can get 300 miles per charge, and an infrastructure solution that will replace gas stations. Eventually.
In the meantime, we’ve got the Volt. It’s a start.
Volt, Leaf Not Panacea People Hoped For
Consumer Reports' David Champion explains his testing organization's critical review of the Chevy Volt.
MLive 03 Mar 2011
The Chevrolet Volt offers excellent acceleration, a quiet cabin and a novel extended-range system allowing a smooth transition from electric to gasoline-powered propulsion. As a result, it's earned rave reviews, year-end awards and celebrity endorsements.
But even with a federal tax credit, the Volt's price "doesn't really make an awful lot of sense" for the average consumer, according to David Champion, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
Champion, speaking Tuesday with host Frank Beckmann on WJR-AM 760, clarified critical remarks he made earlier in the week, praising the Volt's drive while reiterating the cost-dilema.
"We would have loved to have fallen in love with the car," he said. "Because from an environmental point of view and the dependance on foreign oil, to have an electric vehicle with no range anxiety just seemed to be a great compromise and a wonderful way to go."
But Champion said the Volt ultimately disappointed Consumer Reports, as highlighted in the magazine's annual auto issue. Despite the "beautifully smoth acceleration" and quiet ride, the Volt failed to meet lofty performance expectations when tested during the cold New England Winter.
In initial testing, the CR team said five hours of charging typically allowed the Volt to travel between 23 and 28 miles using only electricity in cold conditions, during which the car's heating system left much to be desired.
The Volt costs $41,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, and CR suggested it would cost around 5.7 cents per mile to operate in electric mode and around 10 cents per mile using the gasoline generator. The Toyota Prius hybrid, meanwhile, retails for around $25,000 and costs around 6.8 cents per mile.
"It's going to take you a long time to pay back the extra cost of the Volt compared to the Prius," Champion said.
But for many, the Volt is as much a statement as it is a fiscally-responsible purchase. One need look no further than the locavore movement to realize that many consumers consider social costs alongside the bottom line.
In that respect, the Volt's closest competitor could be the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric offering from Nissan that also is beginning to hit showrooms around the nation.
Champion said CR spent time with the Leaf as well, noting that while its heating system performed better than the Volt, it also drained the battery quickly and led to shorter-than-expected range.
"I hate to be a luddite and sort of cast doom and gloom on this new technology," Champion said. "We've got to move to this new technology and I think it's wonderful that both GM and Nissan are bringing these vehicles in.
"I'm sure people are going to be able to use them and use them effectively in some parts of the country. But they're not the panacea some people were thinking of."
My First Month with the Chevy Volt
Ventura, California resident David Loe shares his experiences with his electric hybrid.
VC Star 21 Feb 2011
Now that I'm the owner of an electric car, I have a new routine to follow each morning. Before driving off in my Chevy Volt, I must unplug the bright orange electric cable from the car and loop it over the 240-volt charger mounted on my garage wall. You see, the Volt feeds off the grid while we humans sleep — and one needs to remember to detach its umbilical cord before motoring off.
Of course you can charge an electric car whenever you want, but I've programmed my Volt to limit its craving for electrons to the overnight hours when there is little demand on the electric grid and Southern California Edison rates are at their lowest. Some nights the Volt is just a little thirsty. However, depending on my previous day's driving, it may be ready to have its battery completely recharged. Either way, it takes about four hours of charging before the beast is fully satisfied.
Oh, by the way, (I knew your were wondering) if one overlooks detaching the cord before driving what happens? Does that mean one makes a fool of themselves by dragging the cord behind mile after mile? No, those engineers in Detroit anticipated the occasional mental lapse. The Volt won't move until it is unplugged. I'm not going to tell you how I happen to know that.
Beyond the issue of feeding it daily, what's it like living with an electric car? It's amazing - and amazingly quiet. I'm still trying to figure out whether the car's Bose sound system is really that good or if it's just because I'm hearing it with so little background noise.
I had driven a Toyota Prius (actually two different models) for the past 10 years, so I was already used to the refreshing sensation of silence and lack of vibration when a car's engine turns itself off at stoplights. But not having any engine noise while driving at freeway speed? Wow! All I can say is keep an eye on the speedometer. It's mighty easy to exceed the speed limit with only the muted feedback of rubber on asphalt. Fortunately, the Volt is governed to go no faster than 100 mph. I'm not going to tell you how I happen to know that.
So how many miles can you drive on a fully charged Volt battery? That is always the first question people ask when they discover I'm driving an electric car. I'll share my personal experience in a moment, but the actual answer is, "it depends." There are three key variables: technique (heavy footed or light) terrain (hills or flatland) and the most important of all temperature (is it 20 degrees or 70 outside?).
In reading the blogs of Volt drivers around the county, one fact becomes abundantly clear; Ventura County is the perfect place to own an electric vehicle. Last month Volt owners in the Midwest and east reported getting 30 percent fewer miles per charge than those in Southern California. Keeping passengers warm when it's below freezing outside is a battery zapper. Surprisingly, it takes as much juice to warm an electric car's interior in cold climates as it does to propel it.
Air conditioning is a similar, if not as serious, an issue. So again, the moderate climate of Ventura County assures maximum driving range. So far, all I usually need is the fan blowing in outside air to be perfectly comfortable, and that's a minuscule drain on the battery.
Surveys show that the biggest stumbling block to getting Americans to embrace the idea of owning an electric car is their fear of getting stuck somewhere with a dead battery. It is because of this range anxiety that the Chevy Volt seems like the perfect car during America's transition to electric driving. Some day recharging stations will be everywhere fast food restaurants shopping malls your doctor's office basically anywhere you might spend thirty minutes to a couple of hours while your car is getting charged. But, as of today, it is nearly impossible to find a public charging station in Ventura County, although there is one at Camarillo Premium Outlets.
What makes the Chevy Volt unique is there is a Plan B when the battery is depleted. A gasoline-powered engine is built in to act as a generator to pump electricity into the battery when necessary. My experience in my first month of ownership is that 80 percent of my daily driving around Ventura County is strictly off the battery using the overnight charge and no gasoline. But the vehicle carries enough fuel to power the battery for more than 300 extra miles, which would come in handy for a serious road trip.
I'm averaging 35-40 miles of driving range on each battery charge. That will handle a round-trip from Ventura to Camarillo or Ojai to Ventura. When I need to go from one end of the county to the other, I'm on battery one-way and thankful for the generator on the way back.
Most commuters in our area could drive entirely on battery power. A longer commute would still be battery-only if you could recharge where you work. The Volt comes with a plug-in cable for any wall socket. At 110 volts, recharging is slower, but the battery would be mostly, if not entirely, recharged during an average workday.
How about oomph? I find the electric motor has no challenge powering the Volt up the Conejo Grade at 65 mph. The battery drains quickly going up a steep incline like that, but you get some of that back. On the way down the grade it regains battery power through regenerative braking when the vehicle is coasting. A process you can actually monitor from the dashboard.
Three weeks into my ownership of the Volt, but still with a mostly full gas tank, I visited a service station. The only thing I had missed about gas stations was that my windshield wasn't getting clean by itself. Besides using their squeegee, what I wanted to do was verify the crazy numbers my dashboard display was telling me. I had driven a little over 600 miles and the Volt was insisting I was getting close to 200 miles per gallon. The onboard computer was technically correct. I could only nudge a little more than three gallons into its tank.
Great for bragging rights, but of course that it is a wee-bit deceptive. One has to figure in the cost of the electricity used over most of those 600 miles to get a more reasonable gauge of just how much energy is being consumed. Those mathematical calculations bedeviled the EPA, which took a long time to figure out how to quantify the estimated mileage of electric cars.
The vehicle's window sticker displays EPA's final resolution; something it calls a "miles per gallon equivalent." The Volt's equivalent is 93 mpg when operating on battery power; a number still well worth bragging about.
And speaking of the sticker, the bottom line on mine, with a couple of extra features was $42,205. The federal government, in an attempt to jump-start America's electric car conversion, gives buyers a $7,500 tax credit. Even with that help, the Volt is expensive.
At least for now, GM is advertising a $350 per month lease. That's an amazing bargain, even in California — where with fees and taxes it really works out closer to $400. I found the credit check painstaking to the extreme, which led me to believe that either someone is not anxious to write a lot of these leases, or my personal credit rating is a total embarrassment.
After a month of living with the Chevy Volt, I would describe it as an engineering marvel. The car is a significant technological leap over any other vehicle out there.
Chevrolet has gotten drivers like me excited about driving an American-made car again.
And that extra daily step of dealing with electrical cables before pulling out of my garage, is it a nuisance? Quite the contrary, I find it a thrill. I can't believe I'm driving a car that doesn't rely on gasoline. Unplugging each morning, for me, represents freedom from reliance on foreign oil and its effect on our nation's trade deficit. And I love the fact that when I'm chugging along on battery power absolutely no emissions are coming out of my car's tail pipe.
I feel like I'm riding the wave of the future.
Volt Buyer Pleased with Vehicle's Advanced Features
Chuck Alldrin isn't new to alternative energy, but the technology level of the Volt comes as a pleasant surprise.
Mercury-Register 14 Feb 2011
There's no vroom-vroom, just a quiet whir as the batteries kick in. There's a button to turn it on and the dashboard console looks like more like a video game than the dash of any other car on the road.
As owner Chuck Alldrin likes to say of his new Chevrolet Volt, "The only thing you have to do yourself is turn the steering wheel."
But that's expected, because the Volt isn't like any other vehicle on the road. The hybrid is the most fuel-efficient car sold in the United States, recently won the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year award and is currently only sold in seven states. Alldrin is the first person in Chico to own one.
Alldrin isn't new to electric cars. The retired owner of an alternative energy company has 64 panels on his roof which supplies his house and electric cars with power. He's driven converted Fiats, Ford Escorts and a Chevy S10 to run on electricity, and owned an all-electric Toyota RAV4, of which only 300 were made.
"They stopped making them because they didn't think it was a feasible product," he explained.
While other hybrids can also work on electric-gas motors, the Volt can run for nearly 50 miles before converting to its gas engine.
"Unless you're looking at the panel, you can't feel (the switch)," he said.
This is not a limited vehicle, he said. Alldrin said he took it to Redding this weekend and the car got to Red Bluff before the electric charge ran out.
He and his wife will never have to buy gas for in-town trips and charging it at home is free, thanks to the already-installed solar panels. Without them, the Alldrins would still only be paying about $1.50 per charge.
"I like that it's two-in-one: It replaces two cars for me," he said.
The car is almost completely computer-controlled. Sensors on the dash tell the driver of remaining oil, tire pressure, driving efficiency and a tutorial mode (only accessible in park, Alldrin joked).
The car also comes with OnStar capabilities, can tell how much more time it needs for a complete charge and the driver can make a phone call through the car's speakers by plugging in his or her iPhone. Perhaps coolest of all is that the car has a push-button start.
The batteries for the car are located under the center console and the back seats and it takes about 13 kilowatts to completely charge the car, Alldrin said. His 64 solar panels put out about 6 or 7 per hour.
The car's dashboard shows a symbol of a small rotating ball that dips or rises with deceleration or acceleration and keeps the driver driving efficiently.
"I'm a freak like that, I'm always trying to get better efficiency," Alldrin said. "It's a completely easy car to drive; it does everything for you."
And as Alldrin pointed out on a test drive, a lot of people think electric cars are wimpy, but not his Volt.
"It handles like a sports car, very, very precise," he said. The electric car is electronically stopped from going faster than 100 mph, but can get there faster than most sports cars.
"It will definitely get out and move without any problem," he said with a smile.
Alldrin said he "likes to keep it close to home and as local as I can."
Owning an electric car not only helps the environment and reduces our dependency on foreign oil, he said; it's also "the thing to do."
Chevy Volt: Ready for Winter?
Benjamin Hunting finds Volt electric hybrid offers 'fully winterized' driving experience.
Autotropolis 18 Jan 2011 Cold weather performance is an issue that has dogged many hybrid cars in the United States, and the Chevrolet Volt is no exception. Before plunking down their hard earned dollars on new technology, many winter belt new car buyers seek some form of reassurance that the gasoline / electric drivetrain – and important accessories such as heating systems – are capable of matching the ferocity of winter storms and the extreme cold weather that are a daily reality in the northern half of the United States.
Chevrolet has made it a point to highlight the winter capabilities of the brand new 2011 Chevrolet Volt in order to help reassure potential customers that the plug-in sedan is up to withstanding the rigors of cold temperature driving. The “winterization” of the Chevrolet Volt includes design allowances that take into account the extra burden an electric battery must bear when asked to perform in the dual role of motivating and heating an automobile.
With no traditional gasoline engine generating waste heat that can be harnessed by the Chevrolet Volt’s climate control system (the internal combustion engine in the Volt is designed to charge the battery, not power the vehicle’s wheels), Chevrolet engineers were required to introduce several innovative systems to help improve passenger comfort during the winter months. The OnStar MyLink app allows Volt owners with smartphones to start the sedan prior to their departure time, allowing the car to warm up while still plugged into the wall. This helps to preserve a full battery charge to be used during driving.
Furthermore, by incorporating heated seats into the Chevrolet Volt’s feature list driver and passenger can be kept warm more effectively than if the sedan’s cabin air was the sole source of climate control. In addition, the Chevrolet Volt’s gasoline engine features a special start / stop cycle for extreme cold operation, which enables the vehicle to burn just enough fuel to heat a small amount of coolant which is then used to regulate passenger compartment temperatures. From a safety perspective, this feature also allows for more effective defrosting of the Volt’s windows and windshield.
Increased winter comfort does come at a price, however, and during very low temperature operation the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will display the same type of battery range penalty seen in all hybrids or full electric automobiles. Not only does it take more effort for the Volt to plunge through snow and ice on the road, but the extra electrical demands of its heating system divert energy from reserves which would typically be used to move the sedan forward.
Despite these caveats, General Motors claims that the Volt’s backup gasoline engine, which activates to charge the battery once it reaches a certain level of depletion, removes any “range anxiety” worries for Chevrolet Volt drivers, as they will never be stranded in search of an electrical charging station. Extensive cold weather testing in some of the most demanding climates in the world have allowed Chevrolet to design a power management system that is not only effective at squeezing as many miles as possible out of the vehicle’s battery, but one which is also capable of maintaining traditional levels of warmth and comfort in the process.
Chevy Volt: An Electric Car with Backup
Associated Press reporter Ann Job shares her impressions of the Chevy Volt electric hybrid.
Washington Post 14 Jan 2011
The innovative Chevrolet Volt is getting lots of attention. But in my home garage, the car that can travel up to 50 miles on a full electric charge wouldn't charge at all when I plugged it in.
It wouldn't charge at a California airport, either, where special parking spaces have been set aside for years to charge electric vehicles.
And because an extension cord is a no-no with the Volt and the power cord that came with the car was too short, I was unable to charge the car from power outlets in my home.
Thank goodness the five-door, five-passenger Volt hatchback has an onboard, four-cylinder, gasoline engine that kicks in to power the battery pack and provides ample mileage.
As a result, I was never stranded by the Volt, though I only traveled for 33 miles on the initial electric power that came in the battery pack. The car was flat-bedded to my home, so it arrived fully charged.
Virtually all of the other 300 miles I put on the Volt came from power generated by the Volt's gasoline engine.
While not exactly the kind of test drive I anticipated, the fact that I never worried about being stranded by an electric car illustrates the thinking that General Motors put into engineering the Volt: It's an electric car with a backup plan.
The Volt, however, is expensive for a compact hatchback that runs most of its miles via a gasoline engine. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $41,000.
Some of the cost can be offset by state incentives and rebates as well as a $7,500 federal tax credit that may lower a buyer's tax bill.
There are no direct competitors to the Volt. Nissan's 2011 Leaf, which has a starting retail price of $33,600, is all electric and doesn't have an onboard gasoline engine. It also can go more than 100 miles on electric power when fully charged. The sporty, two-seat Tesla roadster whose starting price is more than $100,000 is estimated to have a range of more than 200 miles.
Conventional gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles - such as the Toyota Prius, which starts at just over $22,000 for a 2011 model - have an electric motor and gas engine and don't plug in at all. But a hybrid's gas engine is used to drive the car's wheels directly, and hybrids operate on all-electric power only for short spurts, not 40 miles at high speeds.
In the Volt, the 1.4-liter, double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine functions as an onboard generator to produce power that the electric motor uses to drive the car's wheels.
The goal, of course, is top fuel economy. But the Volt's federal government fuel economy ratings of 93 miles per gallon in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway are surpassed by the Nissan Leaf's 106/92 mpg rating.
Note that these are equivalent mileage ratings, meaning they are based on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formula that seeks to translate the full charge of the Volt's 16-kilowatt lithium ion battery pack and the power supplied by the gas engine into a comparison with a conventional, gasoline-powered car.
In my test drive, I averaged a ho-hum 34 mpg, taking into account the first 33 electric miles and the rest gasoline miles.
No one noticed the Volt for its styling during the test drive. They were interested in the technology.
I liked its compact size, tidy, 36-foot turning circle and easy handling. Dynamically, it felt like a regular car, and the engine was peppy. But there's a good amount of road noise, and I had to adjust to the artificial feel of the regenerative brakes. It also seemed odd that the radio had to be turned on for the energy displays to be visible in the middle of the dashboard.
Buying a Volt isn't like buying a conventional car. I learned from my electric utility that I should have provided the Volt's electrical power needs to a licensed electrician, who would have come and inspected my garage, at my cost, ahead of time.
The electrician would have told me that my circa mid-1970s garage needed a separate circuit for the Volt, just to plug it in to a regular, 120-volt outlet.
The reason: The circuit in the garage got too warm as the Volt drew on the electricity, and this turned off the car's power converter as a safety precaution.
So, I couldn't charge the Volt there. Even if it had worked, I would have needed 10 to 12 hours for a full charge at 120 volts. A 240-volt charger kit for the Volt, which could cost $2,000, could fully charge the Volt faster, in four hours.
The odd thing is, just a month before, I had tested a Nissan Leaf in this same garage, using the same 120-volt power outlet that the Volt rejected, and the Leaf charged just fine.
GM officials said they thought that the Volt's power converter was perhaps more safety conscious and sensitive to heat developing in the circuit.
The Volt wouldn't charge at the Sacramento airport because the electric car parking spots had two older versions of electric chargers that weren't compatible with the Volt.
But the Volt charged easily, though slowly, at a Sacramento parking garage where seven parking spaces were set aside for electric vehicles and had dedicated 120-volt electric outlets designed for the loads of electric cars.
Unfortunately, I would have had to stay there a long time - from 10:20 a.m. to 9 p.m. - to get a full charge.
Chevy's Volt Is a 'Jolt'
Andrew Edwards surveys arrival of GM's new electric hybrid car in Southern California's 'Inland Empire'
Daily Bulletin 03 Jan 2011
The silver-gray Chevrolet Volt parked in the showroom at an Ontario car dealership on a rainy Wednesday afternoon was one of the first of the new electric cars to be sold in the Inland Empire.
That specific Volt, with a sticker price of about $40,000, already had a buyer, and Mark Christopher Chevrolet sales manager Karl Scheiffle expected the car to be driven off the lot on New Year's weekend.
The Ontario dealership has presold about a dozen Volts, Scheiffle said, with the first of the bunch leaving the lot about two weeks ago.
"It's going to take off and people are going to have fun with it," Scheiffle predicted.
Waiting for its buyer, the Volt rested in the Ontario showroom alongside two new Corvettes - one a fiery red and the other in metallic gray.
It was like the old Chevrolet meeting the brand's attempt to reinvent itself. The Corvette has always been designed to burn gasoline and go fast.
The Volt, by contrast, is capable of using gasoline but its selling point is the electric "Voltec" power plant that owners can recharge by pugging in to a household socket or by shelling out for a special charging station.
"There's no question it will transform the industry," said Jay Yerman, sales manager at Tom Bell Chevrolet in Redlands. "It's the stepping stone to the next leap electric cars will take."
Yerman's dealership sold its first Volt on Wednesday, he said. The car spent about two hours there before a buyer snagged it.
The Ontario and Redlands dealerships are not the only Inland Empire dealerships that where the Volt is for for sale.
Crest Chevrolet in San Bernardino and Rotolo Chevrolet in Fontana also report having sold a single Volt during the past month.
Chevrolet has also delivered Volts to the M.K. Smith and Mountain View dealerships, respectively in Chino and Upland.
"There are a lot of inquiries about it. We haven't been able to show it yet," sales manager Manuel Chaij said, adding that the car will be ready for display in time for the weekend.
"We'll see what happens then," he said.
And in Claremont, the first Volt to pass through the Richard Hibbard Chevrolet is expected by the end of the week.
The Volt and a competing product, the Nissan Leaf, are both new attempts to put an electric car on the market.
Ward's AutoWorld praised both vehicles when compiling a list of the Top-10 engines for 2011 models, although the publication acknowledged that by honoring the Volt and the Leaf, "Ward's 10 Best Engines" included two entries that could be better described as propulsion systems.
In Ward's evaluation, the Volt's system gives drivers 25 to 40 miles of range on electricity alone. The car can be recharged in 10 hours by plugging in to a 120-volt electric socket.
If the charge runs out before a driver reaches their destination, a more traditional engine takes over to power a generator that keeps the car moving.
The Leaf is purely electric. Nissan reports a Leaf with a new battery can travel as far as 62 to 138 miles, depending on road conditions.
Ward's report described "range anxiety" as a reality for the Leaf but praised the development of an all-electric car that can be powered from a common electrical socket.
GM's Electric Car 'Fantasy' Running Out of Juice?
Conservative columnist George Will takes skeptical view of both Obama Administration's plug-in car plan and GM's Volt.
Times Tribune 15 Nov 2010
WASHINGTON - General Motors, an appendage of the government, which owns 61 percent of it, is spending some of your money, dear reader, on full-page newspaper ads praising a government brainstorm - the Volt, Chevrolet's highly anticipated and prematurely celebrated (sort of) electric car.
Although the situation is murky - GM and its government masters probably prefer it that way - it is unclear in what sense GM has any money that is truly its own. And the Volt is not quite an electric car, or not the sort GM deliberately misled Americans into expecting.
It is another hybrid. GM said the Volt would be an "all electrically driven vehicle" whose gas engine would be a mere range-extender, powering the Volt's generator, not its wheels: The engine just would maintain the charge as the battery ran down. Now GM says that at some point when the battery's charge declines, or when the car is moving near 70 mph, the gas engine will power the wheels.
The newspaper ads proclaim, "Chevrolet Runs Deep." Whatever that means, if anything, it does not mean the Volt runs deep into a commute or the countryside just on electricity. At the bottom of the ads, there is this, in microscopic print: "Volt available in CA, TX, MI, NY, NJ, CT and Washington, DC, at the end of 2010. Quantities limited." Well.
Quantities of everything - except perhaps God's mercy, which is said to be infinite - are limited. But quantities of the Volt are going to be so limited that 44 states can only pine for Volts from afar. Good, because the federal government, which evidently is feeling flush, will give tax credits of up to $7,500 to every Volt purchaser. The Volt was conceived to appease the automotive engineers in Congress, which knows that people will have to be bribed, with other people's money, to buy this $41,000 car that seats only four people (the 435-pound battery eats up space).
Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said in a letter to The Wall Street Journal: "The early enthusiastic consumer response - more than 120,000 potential Volt customers have already signaled interest in the car, and orders have flowed since the summer - give us confidence that the Volt will succeed on its merits."
Disregard the slipperiness ("signaled interest" how?) and telltale reticence (how many orders have "flowed?"). But "on its merits?" Why, then, the tax credits and other subsidies?
The Automotive Engineer in Chief - our polymathic president - says there will be a million plug-in cars in America by 2015. This will require much higher gasoline prices (perhaps $9 a gallon) and much bigger bribes: GM, which originally was expected to produce as many as 60,000 next year, now says 10,000 for all of North America.
GM says that, battery powered, the Volt has a 40-mile range. Popular Mechanics says 33. Thomas R. Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association of the electric utility industry, is, understandably, a Volt enthusiast: This supposedly "green" vehicle will store electric energy - 10 to 12 hours of charging on household current - produced by coal- and gas-fired power plants.
The federal government, although waist-deep in red ink, offers another bribe: Any purchaser can get a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the cost (up to $2,000) of an extra-powerful (240 volt) charger. California, although so strapped it recently issued IOUs to vendors, offers a $5,000 cash rebate for which Volt buyers are not eligible but purchases of Nissan's electric Leaf are. Go figure.
In April, in a television commercial and a Wall Street Journal column headlined "The GM Bailout: Paid Back in Full," GM's then-CEO Ed Whitacre said "we have repaid our government loan, in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule." Rubbish.
GM, which has received almost $50 billion in government subventions, repaid a $6.7 billion loan using other federal funds, a TARP-funded escrow account.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called this a "TARP money shuffle." A commentator compared it to "paying off your Visa credit card with your MasterCard."
Meretricious accounting and deceptive marketing are inevitable when government and its misnamed "private sector" accomplices foist state capitalism on an appalled country. But those who thought the ethanol debacle defined outer limits of government foolishness pertaining to automobiles were, alas, mistaken.
GEORGE WILL writes for The Washington Post. email@example.com.
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