A Week With A Chevy Volt, Part One

 

My Chevy Volt arrived Tuesday afternoon. It’s not mine, exactly. Chevrolet is letting me borrow it for a week. I’m sure they are expecting me to say nice things about it. Based on my initial impressions, I think they won’t be disappointed. I am predisposed to like the Volt. For most drivers on most days, it is an electric car. But it’s one that comes with no range anxiety issues because it has an internal combustion engine in the usual location under the hood.

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My Volt is a 2017 car with the 1.5 liter four cylinder engine that uses regular gas. It is finished in a very pleasant dark gray. It is a welcome change from the ubiquitous electric blue that Chevrolet uses in most of its commercials and press photos. It is tasteful and understated.

The car was delivered by a team of Chevy representatives who spend their days delivering cars to members of the press and other select individuals. I was given an introduction to the car, asked to sign a few papers, and then they left. They will be back next Tuesday to pick the car up and deliver it to some other scribe or favored personage. It arrived with 1,734 miles on the odometer.

This all started last month when a story I wrote about the Volt got a lot of unfavorable comments from readers. It turns out many people have had negative experiences at their local Chevy dealers. In several instances, salespeople had no idea the car had a battery in it or that it needed to be plugged in. I tweeted Mary Barra, CEO of General  Motors, about these dealer issues and she put me in touch with GM’s customer care team.

Those folks asked the Gas2 readers who complained to contact them and share details about their unfavorable experiences. Several did. One of them has since purchased a Chevy Volt of his own. I understand that Chevrolet offered him a discount on an option package to compensate him in some small way for his negative experience.

Elon Musk and Tesla insist they cannot sell their cars through a dealer network because conventional dealers don’t know enough about electric cars to market them correctly. Not only that, many of them have no desire to learn. For them, an electric car is a curiosity and a distraction. The problem is not confined to General Motors, of course. Selling an electric car requires educating consumers about what makes them special. That takes time.

The conventional sales process for new cars seeks to minimize the amount of time it takes to sell each car. The goal is to slam as many people as possible into a new car each month. Manufacturers offer sizable incentives to dealers who successfully meet sales quotas. Salespeople can earn substantial bonuses for meeting similar targets. It’s a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” process. I was in the car business for 6 years. Trust me, I know what I am talking about. The pressure to move product is intense. Nobody wants to slow down to smell the roses — or educate consumers.

So far, I have only driven the Volt about 10 miles on back roads near my house. My initial impressions are all positive. It is quiet and smooth. It accelerates well. It rides and handles well. Right now it is sitting outside plugged in, waiting for its first full day of use. Stay tuned for updates.

Photo by the author.





About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • kevin mccune

    Hope you like it ,did you know EZ-GO sells a hybrid electric golf cart with a 160 mile range?Hybrid seems to be a real solution to some of the issues now and I dont know why some people absolutely hate a Hybrid or full electric , After listening to all the ICE powered equipment shattering the stillness of the very rural area where I live ,I think a quiet hum is very nice.

  • halslater

    I’ve had my 2015 Volt for about a year now and it was the best deal on a car I ever got and, like the author, I spent many years in the car business. Basically, it had a window sticker of $35,500 plus T&L and after the dealer discount (it was new but a year older model), manufacturer discount, CA EV rebate, early retirement bonus from DMV and the $7,500 tax credit, it cost me $20,000 including T&L.

    It is a technological marvel, smooth to drive, a breeze to park and (thanks to solar energy) costs virtually nothing to drive. It will be more than another year before it is due for its first oil change. As far as I can tell all I will need is tires. I highly recommend you get one, even if you cannot steal it like I did.

    • Steve Hanley

      Wow, you really did steal yours! Well done. Did my first full day behind the wheel today and will tell you all about it tomorrow.

    • michaelnola

      Steal is right. You make the guys on Wall Street look like those tending to the poor by comparison.

  • Radical Ignorant

    I’m really curious about economic introduction. How this GM hybrid compares in price to other cars in its class. I know the price but I don’t know with what it would compete if we remove hybrid sticker from it.

    All press is stolen by Tesla but then it’s Tesla what make me hear about Volt at all. It does sound as reasonable proposition, so waiting for more of your articles about Volt.

    And one question if I can. Volt gas engine is not connected to wheels? It’s more an electricity generator than typical car engine? Seems to be different approach than classic (read prius) hybrid. It sounds complicated on Wikipedia.

    • AaronD12

      It IS complicated. The Volt uses a set of three clutches to control what drives the wheels. Depending on the situation, the electric motor(s) can drive the wheels alone, the gas engine AND the electric motor(s), or just the gas engine alone.

      Add a transmission on top of that and you’ve got a very complex system. It’s not an electric vehicle, it’s not an EREV (because the gas engine can directly power the wheels), it’s not a PHEV (because it can run just on electricity with an empty gas tank). I call it a PTEVPTPHEVPTEREV: Part-time electric vehicle, part-time plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, part-time extended-range electric vehicle. Whew!

      I also strongly dislike how the Volt’s dash displays the fuel economy number without taking into account the price of electricity. “I got 250 MPG!” No, you didn’t. You drove your car in electric mode a lot which artificially boosted your MPG rating. By the same calculations, I can put a gallon of gas in a gas can in the back of my LEAF and get infinity MPG.

      • It really is a feat of engineering Chevy should be more proud of

      • Steve Hanley

        “PTEVPTPHEVPTEREV”

        Brilliant! : – )

      • MrXtraconservative

        I have a 2013. I usually describe it as a 40 mile (new one is 50 mile) electric car, and it’s a gasoline hybrid. People understand that, but not so much the PHEVEREV acronym-soup. It’s silent. Has good pickup. Two years between oil changes. Almost no brake wear. It’s pretty much an EV around town, and electricity is much cheaper than gasoline. That sells the car.

        Mine has been very reliable, despite the complexity. The various clutches and drive modes all just work like magic, so the driver doesn’t need to care about it.

        If GM ever learns to market this car, it will sell like hotcakes. They’re missing a huge opportunity by not leveraging EREV across their product line.

      • John Qoolji

        Actually you got it backwards. The Volt only has the electric motor connected to the wheels. The gas engine only supplies electricity and because of the electric motor, there is virtually no transmission. The hybrid setup is the complex one because of the reasons you specified. In addition, both electrical and gas engines on a hybrid are under-powered since they are designed to work together. The Volt, on the other hand, has a fairly powerful electric engine since that is its only driver. The gas engine is under-powered for motoring duty but since its only job is to produce electricity it’s mostly irrelevant.

      • Radical Ignorant

        Thanks… I love your PTEVPTPHEVPTEREV 🙂

        And I understand your attitude toward “250MG”. I have similar feeling when hearing that due to “long tailpipe” BEVs have in best case 215 MPG – how on Earth something what doesn’t use even milliliter of gas can burn gas per miles? But if you want to prove lie you change definitions it seems.

    • Nunya

      You are correct that it has an engine that is really a generator only which means that the car is NOT a hybrid, but an EV with an onboard generator.

      • IJustGotaTan

        I believe the Gen2 differs from Gen1 in that the Gas engine can drive the wheels

        • Nunya

          under very limited circumstances

  • Ash45

    Hope you have a blast in the Volt. I love my 2014 Volt. It’s just a shame that plug-in cars are harder to sell for a variety of reasons, such as higher initial cost, people misunderstanding them or being unable to plug them in (such as apartment dwellers), and dealerships not being very motivated to sell them.

    But I think as more charging stations pop up in various parking lots at work and stores, people see more plug-ins on the road, and see the benefits and fun of driving one, they’ll start to become acceptable. Lots of folks who own one say their children like riding in them, and are more accepting of them, which should help as they grow up and start buying cars on their own.

    • Steve Hanley

      Please see today’s update. All your points are excellent ones, btw.

    • Volt Owner

      Your last point is excellent!
      My son’s first car was our old Honda Civic Hybrid. Eventually he will inherit our 2011 Volt when we get a new one. I’m not sure he’s ever driven a pure ICE vehicle…

  • Volt Owner

    I’m not up on the 2017 color names, but I am sure that the bright blue you mention is NOT called “Electric Blue”.

    Electric Blue is the name of the baby blue used on the Spark EV, right down to the matching dash panels that were on all the early ones. It wasn’t till the ’15 model that you could get any other color dash, no matter what the exterior color was. I went with Electric Blue mostly because of that, and the name of course…

  • IJustGotaTan

    You may want to include the links to your other Volt days at the end of this one as the others are hard to find.