Reviewing a Chevy Volt is a lot like assessing a low-end BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus. Although the Volt has a Chevy nameplate, it's still a luxury car -- albeit a car for those with an untraditional sense of luxury.
I wrote about my initial impressions of the car in July. This article is to add deeper perspective on its features and energy usage.
The reason I put the Volt in the luxury category is simple: The model I drove from September 28 to October 5 has a sticker price of $44,680. Most buyers will also need to add a 240V charging station to their homes or garages at about $1,500 to $2,000 a pop, installed. So the bottom line is that it's going to be a tough sell for a young engineer with a family and an $80,000-a-year salary.
Watch Chuck's video showing the Volt's center-console power management and charging display:
That said, the Volt is a triumph of energy-efficient engineering. The 16kW battery and the 149HP electric drive unit provide a lot of oomph, making it accelerate in a way that few production vehicles can today. Moreover, the Volt's launch is smooth and quiet -- so quiet, in fact, that riders in our car universally felt that they were experiencing a new automotive phenomenon. The Volt, they said, really is different.
To absalom: I apologize for not making this more clear -- the Volt can indeed go more than 39 miles. It uses only battery power for the first 39 miles or so. After that, thanks to the internal combustion engine, the Volt can go another 300 miles before it needs to refuel. With or without that range, I think a spare tire would come in handy.
To mr88cet: You are correct. Our 55 mpg figure was based on the fact that we didn't use a drop of gasoline for the first 33 miles. During the remainder of the trip (when we were running the motor-generator off gasoline) we got about 40 mpg on the highway.
I am certain that Brian is correct in that it is a luxury car, and those do sell to a lot of folks, and make the producers a lot of money, and in America that is fine because it is (sort of) one of our freedoms to be able to spend some of our money whgere we feel like. I applaude the excellent engineering that went into creating this car, and I hope that it is able to do some good in reducing urban unpleasantness. The EV or hybrid EV is perfect for the slow stop-start driving that is so common in most cities, since when it is not moving it can be off, and not wasteing power idling an engine. The plushness makes the trip much more comfortable, I am sure.
Mostly, I don't drive in that kind of traffic, and so such a vehicle would benefit me much less. My choice, based on preference, NOT ECONOMICS, has been simpler vehicles that are by no means luxury class. As an American I am allowed to make that choice. Unfortunately some poorly informed individuals believe that I should be forced to pay a much higher tax on my fuel so that their favorite modes of transport can be supported. Consider that in Sunny England the very high price of fuel subsidizes both bus and train service, besides keeping the roadways in first class shape. IF I thought that was a much wiser choice, I would move to England and live there, but I don't, and so I will not be moving there. I do know people who have moved from the UK and become US citizens, so perhaps others may agree with me.
The purpose of this extended explanation is to say that while the auto companies should certainly be allowed to sell vehicles that people want, it will be found quite challenging for them to sell vehicles that people do not want to own or drive. At least, in America.
Quick question: Am I understanding correctly that the ~55MPG you got on your longer trip included the time in which it was running on battery? If so, then any idea what kind of MPG you got for the gasoline-only portion?
All in all, I'm very positive about what we're seeing with the Volt, Leaf, and plug-in Prius. The fact that these vehicles are optimized for very different driving profiles is very positive. For now, it means more choice, and as time goes by, car companies and consumers will gradually understand better how best to optimize all of these range factors.
However, I strongly suspect that in 5 years, one of two things will occur: Either the market for these vehicles just won't materialize and we'll go back to our current brain-dead mode of energy consumption, or, there will be several 300-mile-per-charge pure-EVs competing healthily on the market, and hybrids like my 2nd-generation Prius will look like kludgy solutions to the range problem. Here's hoping it's the latter rather than the former!
As is have stated, I would love to see this become practical, and as the owner of an automation company who's speciality is environmental automation and governmental reporting, I am keenly aware of that aspect of life. Having spent 10 years directly responsible for the monitoring and reporting of NOx emissions that go up the stack at a power generation facility, I am well familar with what happens there.
I will just say that it is not a win-win to move the pollution from the tail pipe to the smoke stack! As for the solar option, that is a complete fairy tail.
When I was in high school, I was handed a kit about the size of half a shoe box by my physics instructor, from which someone could fabricate a silicon solar cell. It took two months, but I handed back a working solar cell with great anticipation. It was my dream to someday be able to effectively and efficiently use solar power for home use. That was in 1965, and to this day it is still not realistic.
After all this time, electricity generated by solar still cost 4 times more than utility generated power. Now this could be difficult to believe, unless you take in to account that the hidden hand of the people who really rule the world is on the till. Clearly they don't want us to prosper and the middle class in the US is the only thing that they have not found a way to completely subdue, although they are doing a fairly good job on us right now.
It is critically important for all of us to begin to analyze the meaning behind the seemingly inrelated things going on in the world and to be aware of the "adgenda 21" type initiatives that flow like a river from these "people".
For example, both of my vehicles are equiped with OnStar and now we are informed that the government owned company from which they were purchased is now tracking our location and speed, etc.
Ironic is it not, that we are now considering the fact that the government will now be controlling the cost and the extent to which the Volt will be operated and maintained.
The environmental movement at it's core, has zero to do the environment and everything to do with converting the "free" citizens of the US into subjects.
While you are resting, you might want to research the term "Agentur". In the unlikely event that this is foreign to you, it may prove very interesting. I on the other hand am considered a "Goyim", which I am told means "useless eater".
I have enjoyed this discussion but I consider it to be at an end.
Why would you need a spare on a vehicle that can only travel 39 miles? You can only reasonably go less than 19 miles from your house. Triple A can be there in a jiffy or you can just put a bike rack on it.
There are many cars which are out of your (and my) league. Are you also going to Mercedes, BMW and Maserati articles to complain about the price? I do not understand where you are coming from but I see that you are spreading FUD.
Again, look at history. The same thing was said about Prius, but many independent workshops and individuals have worked on their Hybrids. I bought my 02 Prius in 2004 as salvage, so I have never bothered about warranty or dealer service, I have visited them once for a preventive service recall and once to buy parts.
The body shop had no problem working on the frame rails around the engine, then rebuild and repaint it, as long as I disconnected the battery (orange tab in the trunk, described in the user manual), so reality does not confirm your words.
What you (and many people in USA) do not understand is that gas is way too cheap, because it does not figure in the cost it causes directly (such as health issues from pollution) and indirectly (wear and thus maintenance of roads, climate effects) which is why almost everywhere in the world the price of gas is twice what we pay here. The reason it does not change is that politicians understand that it is political suicide to do the right thing (increase gas prices) so we are still paying barely more than the cost of crude, refining and transport. Somebody else will pay the consequences in increased health costs or property taxes, even if they do not own a car. There are many effects that are not so obvious that make an EV *much* better in its "business case", not just the out of pocket money.
Look at it this way: even at $4/gal, gas is about as cheap as a bottle of water that you buy without thinking much about it, while you can get water for virtually free from any tap. So why complain about $4/gal gas price while it should be at least double that? Current gas price is mostly the cost of crude oil. That is easy to see, for example when oil costs $84 per barrel of 42 gal that means $2 of the gas price is the crude cost. Then there is the refining that adds almost a dollar when including transportation, so when oil is at $84 then gas at the pump cannot cost under $3/gal. Electricity is mostly made with fossil fuel (natural gas where I live) and so it follows the price of fuels quite closely. One of your options is to install an electricity generator, preferably a renewable one like solar. That way you can create your own "fuel" for your vehicle.
I am sorry to hear that you were so much bothered by range anxiety, even though there are recharging points (outlets) litterally every 100 feet in an urban area. I have driven my EV for 3 years with a lot of joy and even though I cut it close a few times, I knew the remedy and was not worried. but most driving was daily commute and that was never a problem, just a blast to know I did not use any gas!
I agree that we will see where the costs will land, time will tell!
Unless you raking in over $100k a year, the volt is far to expensive to buy and long term ownership cost is unknown. While I applaud GM for the development of the car, costs were apparently not part of the equation. This car is not priced for the average middle class income (where the majority of new car sales are made). Another drawback to the volt is that only dealerships will service it, now and after the warranty expires. The specialized training, tools and service equipment required is to costly for most independent repair shops. That leaves you at the mercy of the dealer and whatever they feel like charging. Batteries do not last forever, and again replacement costs are unknown. I have seen numbers ranging from $3k to $10 thrown around, but no one seems to know the actual numbers. My opinion is to say, thanks, but no thanks.
I enjoyed your reponse and look forward to the time when the true costs begin to become common knowledge. In the mean time, I stick by my assertion that the cost to go electric is still quite significant and while it is likely to diminish a bit, I think that the hidden forces will unite to prevent it from falling much.
Regarding the ICE costs, I specifically stayed away from that in my 100K Subaru example, but clearly that vehicle could easily go 2-3 times that far with out significant repair expense. Thus the cost per mile difference could actually rise over time if the 100 K benchmark for a battery change or rebuild is brought into the calculations. In that scenario, instead of 5 cents a mile, it could rise toward 10 - 15 cents.
I hope that it works out because in reality, by this point on our evolution, electricity should already be free (if we had any leaders that were not owned by the new world order crowd). Thus, following the election, the cost of gasoline will again rise well past the $4 per gallon mark so that helps to justify the added cost of electrical vehicles.