Mike Winger is a regular Gas2 reader. He purchased a Chevy Volt nearly a year ago and wanted to share his impressions of the car with his fellow readers. It says a lot about the car that Mike was willing to commit quite a bit of time to putting his thoughts down on paper — digitally speaking.
The Journey Begins
We bought a 2016 Chevy Volt in January. We had a 2011 Leaf and the battery capacity and trade in Value for the Leaf were dropping like a rock. Because of this, we had to get rid of the Leaf ASAP. The Gen 2 Volts were just starting to hit the dealer lots here in Northern Virginia. Some of the local dealers were selling their new Volts as they were being unloaded from the transport trucks or took deposits on cars as they were being shipped.
“Oh,” I thought. “I want/need one of those new Volts!” and figured we would have to pay MSRP or more to get one. The first couple Chevy dealers I visited tried to ask me to pay full MSRP and offered me $3000 for a Leaf with 11,000 miles on it. I’m not the kind of person that likes to haggle so I put my hat on and walked out of the dealerships. I’m figuring the money is still in my pocket so I’m in the drivers seat. I refuse to fight with somebody to spend my money!!!. Forget them.
There are 6 Chevy dealers within a 30 mile radius of my house. I’ll just keep looking. Finally, I went to Koons Chevy in Vienna Va. WOW and I mean WOW! These guys have selling EVs figured out. They undercut my GM suppliers discount by, say, $1500 and offered a reasonable value for my trade. Bought the car on the spot. No haggling just a great deal.
My First GM Car
I will tell you that I am almost 60 years old and this Volt was the first GM car I ever bought. We are really impressed with this car. The looks of the interior and exterior, the feel of the car whisper “Nice”. We have been driving this car for 10 months and nothing has broken. I’m shocked everything works. So far so good. The cargo space in the back of the car is more than big enough to hold 200 pounds of horse chow. The back seats are big enough to carry my dogs to the doggie doctors when needed.
The materials that make up the carpet in the car do not cling dog hairs so a quick blast with the shop vac yields a clean dog hair free cabin. That is really important for us. The back seats are contoured and comfortable, but I’m thinking 3 people in that back seat may not happen. The front seats are comfy and do not hurt my back on long drives.
The controls, switches and buttons are well placed. And yes the power window and door lock buttons are lighted. You can’t believe how annoying this is in a car like the LEAF that does not have it. The EV range meter is so accurate it scared me when we first got the car. My only real complaint about the interior is the placement of the A/C vents which are located behind the steering wheel. I like to have the A/C blow directly on my face but now freezing cold air is blowing on my hands and the steering wheel. I noticed the a/c vents on the Bolt were moved to the center of the dash board. Thank you GM!
Regen Makes One Pedal Driving Easy
The one single thing that I like the most is the regen on demand switch. It’s a small switch on the forward side of the steering wheel – flip it and the electric motor turns into a generator and slows the car. This regen is not as strong as the regen on the BMW i3 but will slow the car to 2 MPH at which time it disengages. To get more “economical” driving I use this feature regularly instead of the friction brakes. As an option you can drive in L instead of D. This will start the regen process to slow the car immediately after you take your foot off the accelerator pedal. This regen feature is so effective that the first time I washed the car I was shocked to see NO black brake dust on the wheels.
Living With The Volt Is Easy
The electric motors in the car are quiet and provide enough power for everyday use and propel the car confidently at highway speed, up hills and squeal the tires on wet roads. The gasoline motor/generator backup means you never have to stop to recharge, and allows you to drive this car just like any other car. The gas tank holds a respectable 9 gallons of gas so at 40, 50 or 60 MPG you can drive hundreds and hundreds miles without stopping for fuel.
There is a mode selector button on the shifter console. You can select any mode of operation by pushing the button and toggling thru the list. The default mode of operating this car is “Normal” The electric motors draw power off the battery until you recharge the battery or it is depleted. Once the battery is depleted the gasoline engine and one of the motors automatically turns on and produces the power necessary to keep the battery at the minimum state of charge.
The system goes into a Start/Stop mode of operation at this point. There is a slight “Phase Shift” at this point as the motor generator recharges the battery. Just remember the gas motor will run to charge the battery not propel the car (usually). Other setting are “Hold”, “Mountain” and “Sport”. The “HOLD” mode runs the motor gen set to hold the current state of charge on the battery.
You can save the charge in the battery to use at a later time if you wish. Mountain mode is similar to hold but the motor generator set runs at a slightly higher output to slowly recharge the battery as you drive. I tried it once it added about 5 miles of EV range during a 11 mile trip. Gasoline is more expensive than electricity so I will not be doing that unless I have to. You can switch to/from any mode to want at will.
About That Engine…
The Volt is equipped with a CVVT engine designed to run on regular gasoline. If you add a little bit of premium gas to the tank you will be rewarded with a little better gas mileage. With the higher cost of premium fuel I just use regular. The fuel tank is sealed so a tank of gas will still be in a usable condition for about a year. I don’t trust it and put fuel stabilizer in.
The cars’ computer monitors the age of the fuel and initiates “Engine maintenance” cycles to burn off the gas before it goes bad. So you should expect to burn at least 1 tank of gas every year .
There are other times the gas engine starts. Whenever the outside temperature drops below 35º F, the engine starts to produce heat for the cabin and the defrost system. If you buy the Premier model you can change that set point to 15º F. Some hard core types have found easy ways to defeat this feature but I am OK with burning a little bit of gas to get heat.
Using The OnStar app
The Chevy Volt, just like many other GM cars, comes with “OnStar”. You can download an app to your mobile device and acquire a wealth of features. You have all the controls found on the key FOB as well as being able to set the charging times and other feature associated with battery charging. You can even remote start the engine for A/C or heat.
Remote starting not only conditions the cabin but it also cools/heats the battery to ensure longer battery life and prevents tanking your EV range in winter. That’s a really good idea and I also use it a lot in summer. Need directions, have a accident or medical emergency? Just press a button and an OnStar operator will help you. This system is free for the first couple of years but will run almost $200 a year, so you decide if its worth it.
Where The Rubber Meets The Road
My car came with Michelin MXM 4 tires which have a speed/load rating of 91H. They are Low Rolling Resistance (LRR) tires and really improve electric range and gas mileage. These tires are the cheaper Michelin MXM 4 tires with less than ideal traction and tread wear ratings. The better MXM 4 tires are the 93V and 95V speed/load rating. They are costly but do have much better traction, temperature and tread wear rating. They work OK but lack traction when the road is wet.
With these tires, I can regularly get 60+ miles on a full battery charge. Under ideal temperature conditions and “economical” driving techniques, I feel confident I could get 80+ miles on a charge. Gas mileage is the same result. I have seen reading as high as 63 MPG on the highway but the usual number is low to mid 50s.
Driving Electric Every Day
All of my everyday driving is on electric. For occasional trips we sometimes need to burn a little gas. I’m OK with that because we are using less gasoline now compared to when we had the LEAF and I had to use my wife’s Sonata for backup. I also monitor electric consumption at my house and I noticed about a 100 kWh reduction per month as soon as we got the Volt. This car has proven to me to be very energy efficient. To further reduce operating costs, GM is providing 2 years free maintenance. That includes oil changes and tire rotation in addition to the standard warranty.
Putting It All Together
The Volt’s strengths are its looks, the flexibility of the engine/motor/regen system, and the Onstar app. Some details of the car that need a little more work. The front air dam scrapes all the time. I notice it is made of a semi-flexible material, so maybe it will hold up over the long run. Again I will mention the tires. Oh yes I would pay the extra $350.00 to get the 93V speed rated tires. Snapping back to reality I understand that this car is not a “sports” car so it looks like I will have to settle for the cheaper tires.
Overall, my wife and I are very happy with the Volt. For once, GM has under advertised and over delivered. I really hope this trend continues with the upcoming Bolt.
A Note To Our Readers
Mike Winger is obviously passionate about his Chevy Volt. We encourage original submissions from other readers. If you have a car you are passionate about or something else on your mind you think Gas2 readers would be interested in hearing more about pertaining to the world of transportaton, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to consider your story ideas but cannot guarantee Gas2 will decide to publish them.
I hds the use of second generation Chevy Volt for a week last spring. You can read about my impressions of the car at this link.
Photo credits: Mike Winger