My Chevy Volt Experience: First Public Charging Station Visit

I’ve owned my Chevy Volt for about 5 weeks now and just a few days ago, I finally used my first public charging station.  It’s not that I didn’t want to use a public station before now – but my daily travels just never took me near one, so I’ve just been charging in my own garage.

Enter PlugShare.com and a few days off for the holidays, and I tracked down a great local charging station at the Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve.  As an added bonus, this location has some great walking trails and a very friendly staff – what’s not to like?

After about a 15 minute drive to the site, the access road opens to a beautiful field where the main building stands with a GE charging station at the far corner.

Extra-long charging cable!

Check out the extra-long charging cable…

Lucky for me it was no lines & no waiting on the day of my visit so I pulled right into the designated EV parking spot and connected the plug to my Volt’s charging port.

Within a few seconds the charging station recognized the connection and started charging my Volt – how easy is that?!

My dashboard indicated about 1.25 hours to fully recoup the 11 miles of charge, which sounded about right for a Level 2 (15-20AMP / 240V) charging station.

Nice parking spot!

Nice parking spot!

After snapping a few photos and taking a quick look around the building, I headed over to an information kiosk to check out the trail map.  There are about 3 miles of trails at this site – more than enough to keep me busy for an hour or so.

After walking the trails and having a nice chat with the staff inside the center, I headed back to my Volt about an hour after I arrived.  I was happily surprised to see that charging was complete and I was good to go!

The philosophical side of me took a moment to think over the experience:  I arrived quietly in my Volt, charged up using solar-augmented power, had a great hike in the woods and then silently drove away.  Almost no detectable trace was left, and barely any resources had been consumed.  Maybe it was my imagination, but the birds seemed to be chirping a little louder as I eased down the driveway 🙂

Overall, a great experience, and a nice opportunity to check out a local resource that I otherwise might not have taken the time to visit.  I’ll be back soon – probably with a lunch and maybe a book to read while I top off the Volt…

Former Wilkerson farm field - looking back toward the center building

Former Wilkerson farm field – looking back toward the center building and parking lot

Little stream in the woods on the 'hidden rocks' trail

A little stream in the woods on the ‘hidden rocks’ trail

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My Chevy Volt Experience : First Month!

Me and my Volt!

Me and my Volt!

Being the car geek that I am, I’ve followed the whole development cycle of the Volt – even seeing a pre-production model at Disney’s Test Track ride in 2010.  But, finances being what they are, I knew I’d need to wait for used models to become available before taking the plunge.

After about 2 years of researching and waiting for the right deal, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased an off-lease CPO 2012 Volt with 20K miles on the clock last month.  The Viridian Joule Green exterior with black leather interior wasn’t my first choice – but I’ve grown to love it in the last 30 days.  It’s one of those colors that looks different depending on the time of day and lighting etc. – just the sort of thing that car geeks enjoy 🙂

Now the good part – ownership!  What’s it like?  How does it drive?  How far does it go?  Well, I’m here to answer those questions and maybe even a few more.  Since it seems like this car has been reviewed 1000’s of times from about every possible perspective, I’m going to concentrate on what has been surprising to me – both on the plus an minus side.

Good Surprises:

  • Cornering & smoothness – for a small vehicle, this car is incredibly smooth and stable.  It’s been compared to a “monorail” experience, and I’d agree with that – the only difference being, you get to pilot this future-car!
  • Bose stereo – WOW! This unit reportedly uses a fraction of the energy of a normal Bose system, but has amazing fidelity and bass response.  It even gets the teenage-daughter thumbs-up.  Not an easy feat – trust me.
  • Power – mash the pedal, and this car flat-out jumps.  From 10-40 mph, I would be very surprised by any car that could pull away from me.  The 273 lb-ft of torque can really be felt in the mid-range, and will definitely put a smile on your face – honest!
  • Keyless entry – there’s really never a reason to take the key out of your pocket.  Tap the door handle button, hop in, press the power button, and off you go.  I still pull out the key fob when I’m walking up the car, though – old habits die hard.
  • Backup camera and perimeter park sensors – how the heck did I live without these things for so long?!
  • Hatchback – oh, how I’ve missed having a hatchback, and now that I have one again, I may never buy another sedan.  Versatile, easy to open and TONS of storage space.  I even heard of one owner who’s napped in the back of his a few times while charging.  Now that’s versatility.
  • Volt community – I challenge you to find a more welcoming and passionate group of car owners.  Volt drivers LOVE their cars and that’s one of the big reasons I was drawn to this car.
  • Driving stats – I love how driving is a bit like a game now.  My mundane commute is now a challenge to see if I can get a 100% driving score and maybe hit 40+ miles of range for the day.  Don’t knock it ’til you try it – it’s really quite addictive!  (yeah, I know – car geek)

    100% baby - oh yeah!

    100% baby – oh yeah!

Bad surprises:

  • Little noises – this may sound petty, but you can hear every little noise that you couldn’t in your old gas-powered car.  Paint lines, small potholes, other noisy cars, you name it.  Maybe a little more soundproofing would help in the next revision?
  • Climate control power – the climate control REALLY reduces your range if you crank it up.  You learn to pre-heat the car before leaving on chilly mornings, and use the fan-only setting as much as possible.
  • Um – yeah – that’s about it.  Even the first 2 items seem nit-picky now that I re-read them, but, hey – I didn’t want you to think I was biased 🙂

And now my driving stats: How does 715 miles on 2.7 gallons of gas sound?  Right at about 265 MPG, give or take a few tenths.  Take just a moment and read that again.  Two-hundred, sixty-five, miles, per, gallon.  I don’t know about you, but I still have a hard time registering that number.

For the last 30 years or so, I’ve been driving to gas stations every few days and pumping refined petroleum products into my cars – it’s just what you do, right?  Well – no – not any more.  If I hadn’t needed to take a short road-trip to bring my daughter back to college (120 miles), that number might be 0.0 gallons of gas.

So, for one month, I’ve driven around in a sporty, smooth & stylish car with heated leather seats, navigation, auto-climate and Bose audio – all with one very brief stop at a gas station for a lawn-mower-sized amount of fuel.  Not bad.

Questions

A few interesting questions I’ve been asked in the last month:

  • What happens when it runs out of electricity?  (A: The gas engine fires up and generates electricity to power the drive wheels – if you’re not paying attention, you might not hear it come on!)
  • How much does it cost to charge up? (A: It depends on how depleted the battery is – but 10KW is ballpark for a full charge, so if your energy rates are $0.10 per KWH, then it could cost about $1 to charge for 35-40 miles of driving)
  • How fast does it go? (A: 100 MPH top speed – 0-60 in about 9 seconds)
  • Can you charge it up at home? (A: Yep – it comes with an adapter for a normal 110V plug)

Overall & what’s next?

I guess you could say it’s been a very good month for me and my Volt.  The driving has been great, the dealer experience has been great (shout out to Don Phillips at Sir Walter Raleigh Chevrolet on Glenwood Dr. in Raleigh), lack of visits to gas stations has been great – it’s really tough to find anything to complain about yet.

I’ve got big plans for my little Volt in the next year, so stay tuned, and we’ll see just how much fun can be had with this great new technology.

Here’s some more reading, if you’re interested:

Why a blog?

Well, I have a few things to say.  About a few different things.  So, I’m starting a blog.

I like to talk and think about lots of things, but namely:

  • Photography
  • Cars (really – anything having to do with cars)
  • Programming
  • Books (mostly boring non-fiction type stuff)
  • Management
  • How to keep stuff running (20 year old lawn-mower, anyone?)

Well, you get the idea.  It’s a long list. So, in theory I should have lots to write about.

Watch this space…