On the road at last
On a full charge I started out on a day in the low 100s F, from Boston to the mountains in New York State. Electric range was given as 40 miles with 315 miles of gasoline-augmented range. During stop-and-go and under highway limit speeds on the Mass Pike (with the air conditioner on), my EV-only range ran out at just under 36 miles. At the end of my trip (with a net elevation change from around 160 ft to 1,875 ft) I had gone 203.4 miles with an indicated 4.5 gallons used, which the onboard computer calculated as 44.6 miles per gallon.
After a full charge overnight, the indicted EV range was back up to 40 miles. But to show how potential and kinetic energy come to play in the Volt, a 1.7 mile drive down a steep hill starting out my trip next day boosted the EV range to 47 miles thanks to regenerative braking. Returning to my start at the end of the day after a hike in the Catskills produced totals of 263.6 miles, 5 gallons used, for a computer number of 52.1 mpg.
The third day, after another full charge to 40 EV miles to go, again demonstrated energy interplay. A morning trip to a nearby town included two long descents and two long ascents, and then the trip was reversed. The 16.5-mile trip was made entirely on battery capacity and at the end the computer said 19 miles of EV range was used. Because no gasoline was consumed, total mileage went up to 55.9 mpg.
The return to Boston the next day (starting on a full charge to 40 miles EV range) had some interesting results. With most of the "descent" to Boston at the start of the trip, I was able to go 48.1 miles in the electric only mode. The trip was made with the air conditioner on for most of the time, and the result was a grand total of 485.1 miles, 9 gallons used, for a computed mileage of 53.3 mpg. (The return trip was 202.4 miles, 4 gallons used, 50.1 mpg computed.)
After a week in the Volt, having put 5½ full charges into the battery, over a total of 621.3 miles, I used 11 gallons of gasoline, for a computed mileage of 56.4 mpg.
Some other touches I notice during my time in the Volt are the attention to cutting aerodynamic drag. For example, there's a low, but flexible, air dam under the nose of the car to direct airflow over the top of the vehicle. The side mirrors are set back and well away from the body to cut interference from the airflow off the windshield and reduce noise.
The car also has Sport and Mountain modes for "quicker" motor response (with a penalty of some economy), but even on my trip to the mountains I didn't feel the need to use them because the normal mode was more than adequate in climbing grades.
My one complaint with the car concerns the pedestrian warning system. Because the Volt is so quiet below 40 mph, a pedestrian warning has been incorporated to work at those speeds. This consists of pulling on the turn signal/high beam switch to flash the lights and emit an abbreviated burst from the horn
—which seemed highly annoying to those inside as well as outside the car. (The system also embarrasses the driver when it goes off when simply lowering the high beams below 40 mph!) Better to have used a warning like the Nissan Leaf's with a high pitched sound constantly on that is hard to discern inside the cabin.
The Chevy Volt is no doubt a high tech vehicle. Even the touch switches with aural feedback on the center console (these are "spots" rather than distinct buttons) add to that impression. As to whether it is a practical car would depend on one's driving style and situation to take advantage of the excellent range on battery power alone—thus amortizing any battery cost penalty over a reasonable time.
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