The Chevy Volt Goes To The Races


I took the Chevy Volt to an autocross today. Not to compete; just to show the flag, so to speak. I was curious what certified gearheads would have to say about Chevrolet’s first electric car. Would they reject it? Make rude comments? Exclude me all together?


I needn’t have worried. As it turns out, most of the racers on hand were quite interested in it. That included Anthony Ricci, the founder and director of Advanced Driving & Security, Inc, the host of the event. ADSI rents an abandoned runway at what used to be Quonset Naval Air Station in southern Rhode Island. During the week, he and his staff instruct police officers, security personnel, and limousine drivers in the fine art of steering a 5,000 lb car through high speed maneuvers without damaging anything or anyone.

Once a month in the good weather, he opens the course to racers. He likes to call it a “test and tune” day. While lap times are recorded, the objective is to make incremental improvements in your times during the day. Anthony says to try for a 1 second improvement per lap.

Two of the fastest drivers there were highly interested in the Volt. One has a yellow ZO6 Corvette with an aftermarket turbocharger. Add a coilover suspension and race rubber and the car is scary fast. It is owned by Tony, whose daily driver is an ’11 Volt. He loved the new interior and exterior styling. And of course he was thrilled that it had more range than the first generation car. I suspect he may decide to upgrade soon.

IMG_0094Others wandered by to check out the Volt in between runs. The hood was opened. Pictures were taken. People wanted to sit inside.  The consensus was that the Volt was no race car, but a car a racer could be comfortable with as a daily driver.

Toward the end of the day, Anthony asked if I would take him and his photographer around the course on a demonstration run. I had promised the folks from Chevrolet I would not beat on the car, and I didn’t. The fast cars were completing the 1.5 mile long course in about 1 minute, 29 seconds. The Volt went around — quietly — in a shade over 2 minutes.

My passengers were impressed with how quickly the Volt accelerated and how competent it was in the turns. This is not a car with a wimpy suspension like a Hyundai Excel or a Yugo. It negotiated the turns well, changed direction easily, and went where it was pointed during our one fairly low speed lap. I would rate its suspension as surprisingly competent.

During the day, I was reminded of exactly how much misinformation about the Volt there is out there on the streets. I was with people who are into cars. Their mechanical IQ is well above average. Everyone of them knows the difference between a 6 point and a 12 point socket and the advantages of each. But few could say exactly how the Volt worked. I like to think I did a creditable job of educating a few folks. I know several told me they now intend to test drive a Volt themselves. That was pretty much the point of taking the car to the event in the first place.

I only got 45 all electric miles today. Planting your right foot solidly on the go pedal uses up a lot of kilowatts. As I motored silently home, I was proud of the Volt. In the midst of all those hot shoes, it held its head high. It even set the fastest time of the day for an electric car! Today, the Volt was a true champion.

Photos 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.

  • bioburner

    I’m glad the car was well received. As an everyday car its a very good machine.

    • Steve Hanley

      I was surprised how many of these drivers were into the low/zero emissions thing. Two drive Volts everyday and another has a Ford Fusion Hybrid as his daily driver. He made an excellent point, which is that even with today’s low gas prices, the amount of money he saves (he drives about 800 miles a week) makes the hybrid/phev/electric car route a no brainer economically. That’s the kind of thinking that will make such cars go mainstream. We all vote with our wallets one way or another.

  • jychevyvolt

    You did more marketing in one day than Chevy in 5 years.

    • Steve Hanley

      Maybe they will give me a free 2017? Thanks. If I were running things at Chevy, i would have teams of people like me going around to all sorts of community events just to show the car off. People need to see them out and about to get interested in them. The way to overcome the unfamiliar is to make it familiar.

      • jychevyvolt

        Something like the Tesla referral program. Most referral gets a decked out volt. Bjorn nyland of Chevy Volt.

        • Steve Hanley

          Ahhhh, Bjorn is much more photogenic than I am. ; – ) But yeah, Chevy could get a lot more creative with its marketing. I would start by requiring every dealer to put one up on a dais outside the front door of the dealership so people could see one,

  • adaptable1

    In sport mode, I am always surprise how fast my Volt is off the line. 0-35 faster than a lot of sports cars.

    • Steve Hanley

      Yup, the little beauty is some quick off the line when you put your boot on the throttle. Very good short burst passing power on the road, too. When a space opens up ahead, the Volt can get you there before it closes.

  • Victor E. Sasson

    Stop calling the Volt an “electric car.” You know it’s just another plug-in hybrid that uses gasoline. I drove one last week and found it bland and boring. It will probably bomb like the first generation Volt. Give a car to a blogger for free and he’ll say anything.

    • Steve Hanley

      You obviously are not familiar with my writing. I find your dismissive attitude insulting. If you think the Volt is just another plug-in hybrid, you miss the entire point of the car.

      • AaronD12

        Don’t feed the trolls. The first gen Volt didn’t bomb, and this second gen one won’t either. While I understand his point that the Volt is not an electric car *, I think he took his argument too far and strayed from facts and into emotion.

        * It’s a PTPHEVPTEREVPTEV.

      • Michael T. Babcock

        Welcome to dealing with some more misinformation … sigh. Love my gen 1 volt; drives much better than anyone expects it to. Best car I’ve owned so far.

        • Volt Owner

          This is a very old talking point, from before the 2010 introduction even.

          The dividing line for me, is, can you drive it if it has no gas in it, and with a Volt the answer is Yes, you can. BTDT, twice.

          Another line that most PHEV’s cross is max power available without burning gas. PIP, Ford and most others cross that line, Volt does not. Top speed,and max power. Until the battery is discharged, no gas.

    • Carney3

      Since your comment history shows you’ve been attacking the Volt for months, your claim to have driven one last week is not credible. Even if you did, you obviously brought a negative attitude about the car with you, so your verdict on your alleged experience is not convincing.

    • John

      Lol … I see you are without a clue.

      If PHEVs don’t succeed, EVs never will.

    • jtheye

      It is an electric car. The drive of the car itself comes from an electric motor which is powered by the battery, which is then backed up by the gasoline powered generator when the battery is depleted. The reason it is not referred to as a hybrid is because a traditional hybrid the drive comes from a transmission which is powered by a gasoline engine with battery / electric motor engagement usually 25 mph and under. The Volt only uses electricity to drive the electric motor not an ice/tranny combo with a battery drive electric motor at slow speeds. This is why they call it an extended range ev.

      As for your wish of failure, well your either a troll, or a person who just cant handle the changing worlds problems and the attempts to try and solve them. If your the latter, thank God your kind are dying off. If your just the troll, who cares?

    • Koenigsegg

      Haven’t used gas in my 2016 Volt in 3 months.

    • Drake Richter

      Oh look, a hurt tesla fanboy who can’t stomach the fact that the Volt is a better car for the average buyer TODAY than the Model S or Model 3. Don’t worry, the burn will fade in time.



  • ViperMav

    Great write up 🙂 I’ve been driving a 2012 Volt for 2.5 years now, and just purchased a 2017 Premier last week. They took everything I loved about the 1st Gen Volt and made it even better. LOVE my solar-powered Volts! (from 3kW solar array on my home roof)

    • Steve Hanley

      The solar array is the icing on the cake. Good for you. May I ask the cost of your 3kW system and whether it has a battery to collect energy during the day so you can recharge your Volt with it at night?

      • Volt Owner

        I can only call my Volt “Solar Offset”. My 2KW system is grid tied, and about 8 years old, so you don’t want to know how much it cost back then…
        The cost to charge at night is much lower than the day rate, when demand is high. My solar production goes into my neighbors AC system in summer, offsetting a peaker type power plant, which are the least efficient.

        Base load plants that might be wasting power at night is where I get my car juice. With net metering,I actually break even over a year, (sell high, buy low!) despite adding another BEV last year. A PHEV pickup, and I’ll have to add more panels on the roof.

        • Steve Hanley

          That is so cool. Sadly, I live in a backwater where net metering is treated like some kind of Communist plot!

  • Koenigsegg

    no videos of accelerations?