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:

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9 thoughts on “My Chevy Volt Experience : First Month!

  1. Have you calculated out what your cost per mile has been (gasoline and electricity combined)? What is your electrical rate where you live? I’m anxiously waiting the re-design with an upgraded battery. Thankfully, Tesla has brought in some competition to make every strive for the best possible product.

    • According to my latest stats on the MyVolt site, I drove 120 miles on 2.5 gallons of gas at $3.50/gallon and another 552 miles on electric at a rate of $0.10/KWh (208.89 KWh total), for a total cost of $29.64, or 5.37 cents per mile. For comparison, a 30 mpg car at $3.50/gallon would cost $78.45 to travel the same distance – or 11.67 cents per mile. Total savings for the month of $48.81 – not earth-shattering, but a decent savings. One other number to note – from the MyVolt site: 448 pounds of CO2 avoided (using GHG calcs from http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/). Still shocking to me that every vehicle on the road is emitting that quantity of CO2 in a month!

      The real fun starts when you can go full-EV and use off-peak rates like our local utility will be offering in 2014 – for example, my cost would’ve been $16.71 on full-electric at $0.08/KWh. Or even better, if you have access to free public charging stations near your home or office, your costs could go to zero.

      And I agree that the next-gen will likely be far better range-wise. Companies like Tesla, Nissan and Ford have started to up the ante, and the competition has been great for progress. I think we’ll look back in 10 years and see this period as a real turning-point for automotive technology. We’ve been too dependent on petroleum for way too long – and with the improvement in battery tech and overall infrastructure, EV’s are finally making strides. Time will tell…

      • Off-peak will certainly be one of the keys for when I look to purchase a vehicle with an electric component. Just have to get the family used to using the dryer on nights and weekends. Thank you for the information.

  2. Pingback: My Chevy Volt Experience: First Public Charging Station Visit | Matthew Allyn

    • Thanks for the kind words, Dale! I’ve done a little PV research – mostly looking at solar shingles. My hope is that NC will offer more incentives in the future to offset the initial investment costs. For now, I’m just enjoying the “silent running” of the Volt and passing by all those gas stations 🙂

  3. Very informative article Matt. You have provided very useful information and have peaked my curiosity to the point where I may consider a future purchase of a Volt.

  4. Nice review. I had the opportunity to drive a Volt for a week and I agree with most of your comments. Great hi-tech car !!

  5. National upgraded me to a Prius recently. It was fun. The system display was a bit distracting, could be dangerous like texting. The technology is exciting, I will definitely look into it for my next car. If anyone makes a convertible I will be first in line to buy one tomorrow.

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