"GM Hit the Proverbial Home Run: GREAT Job, Fun Car!"4.5 starson by ammPilot
Pros: - Drives like any other car if you want.
- No "EV range limitation": ~40 miles electric, PLUS ~250 gas.
- Over 1500 miles driven, 8.1 gallons of gas.
- All my complaints are nits (except the first "con," and that's not unique to the Volt).
Cons: - Human factors of the center console controls are miserable.
- Lots of techie info on details of energy use not available to driver.
- Typically, long waiting list for the car--BUT, check with your dealer, because some have pre-order cancellations.
Summary: You get in this car, start it, and drive it. The real magic of the Volt is that it drives like essentially any other sporty compact on the road, despite an entire new kind of power plant and drivetrain. Run out of battery charge? Just keep driving (in fact, if you don't pay attention, you won't realize the gasoline engine just started and is powering the generator!).
BUT, if you WANT to pay attention to the difference that is the Volt and its being a plug-in hybrid, it's a whole new driving experience. Very quiet, very smooth. Acceleration is peppy: not head-snapping, but very respectable for a stock sporty compact.
Though I've not taken a trip where I had to refill the gas tank en route, I have taken a few trips beyond battery-only range, including one of about 85 miles, the other of 225 miles. On the 85 mile trip, the entire return portion was on the gas engine, which got 41 mpg highway. The 225 mile trip gave me an overall trip mpg of about 49 (including some parts in a 70 mph zone on I-5 at, um, the speed limit: not the most efficient way to drive ANY car).
During the cooler winter months in the central California coastal area, I saw 35-38 miles from a full battery; now that it's warming up, I'm seeing 42-43. That's with very normal driving habits: just driving the car. I avoid the jackrabbit starts and stops, but otherwise don't do anything special.
I'm waiting for my 240V charging station to be installed; in the meantime, I charge the car from a regular 120V outlet in the garage. If I'm going to visit someone without a charging station, I can bring that portable 120V charging setup along (it comes with the car, and fits in its own storage area beneath the cargo area's deck) and charge up. (What about the etiquette of doing this? I'll always ask, and always offer, when necessary, a few dollars to repay the cost of the electricity I'm using. Electricity, though much less expensive than gasoline for powering a car, isn't free. A full charge will cost something around $1 where I live.) If the car's plugged in for an hour on 120V, it will get about 4 miles of electricity into the battery (and about 10 miles if on 240V): not much, perhaps, but still less expensive and less polluting than gasoline.
At home, all of our electricity is from renewable sources: no coal, no natural gas. (It's all solar and wind.) Great trade-off for me: cheaper energy than gasoline, and absolutely no greenhouse gasses nor depletion of fossil fuel reserves.
One commenter mentions "return on investment". Where I live, it costs about 4x more to drive a high-mpg car a given distance on gasoline than to drive that same distance on electricity. That will only increase as gas prices continue to climb. At $4/gallon and assuming a ~$10,000 premium for the Volt over a similarly equipped gasoline-powered car in its class, drive 5,000 miles and you've hit the break-even point on car+"fuel" costs. (Given the Volt's performance, standard equipment, and appointments, a ~$10K premium is in the ballpark. If it's a $20K premium, make that about 6,700 miles to break even.) Yes, there are unknowns about battery disposal, but we're already solving those for other devices using the same technology (portable computers and mobile phones, e.g.). But, what's the ROI on the smoothness, the decrease in pollution, the decrease in greenhouse gasses, the ability to "fill up" at home or at work without an extra stop? Can't wait for the full charge while plugged in on an errand? No sweat: get what you can and keep driving, knowing the gas engine will kick in when needed.
Regarding the center console controls, it's VERY hard to work the climate system without looking at the console and the touch screen. In all of my previous cars, that was not the case. The Volt is not alone in this, either. (A friend who works at NASA on cockpit human factors design completely agreed with my observation when I gave him a tour and demo ride.) This is, by far, my biggest complaint about the car, and it's hardly unique to the Chevy Volt, much less to its Voltec drivetrain.
Chevrolet's entire package around the Volt adds to the car. Sure, some of this is probably just for the early adopters, like the extra two years of OnStar service. Others, like apps for iOS and Android devices (and a Web site) to monitor the car and control its charging and provide the functions of the keyless entry remote, and the stereo with very reasonable sound that is designed specifically for lower power draw than a typical car sound system, are there to stay.
Is the Volt perfect? No. Did GM get this car really, really right? Yes.
GM clearly worked hard on this car, and it shows.
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