The fine folks at GM have given us a shiny new (OK, 500 miles) electric blue 2017 Chevy Volt to test drive for the next week. I’m keeping a diary of my experiences every day here and will wrap up the week with my conclusions. Catch up on Day 1 or Day 3-4.
The Volt got a full charge of electricity last night and started the day with 53 EV miles as well as an almost full tank of gas. But rather than take it this morning, I thought I’d let my wife take it for the day. Her commute is about 15 miles and she normally drives a 2012 Prius Plug-plug in. She takes both of our kids so we had to put in a car seat and a booster seat. Much more room than the previous Volt. Kids also love cup holders in the center console.
The Prius advertises about 12 miles of EV travel on a charge but even on the best days it’s hard to go even a few miles without the ICE kicking on for one reason or another. My wife has never made it even halfway to work exclusively on the EV charge of the Prius and even with a charging cord at work, always comes back without any charge left. I’d caution anyone thinking of buying a Prius Plug-in and expecting to use it like an EV. It’s impossible. Do yourself a favor and look elsewhere.
Today, my kids had Taekwondo practice so that meant going back and forth the 15 miles 4 times. The 1st three legs of the journey were all on EV. On the last ride home, the Volt’s ICE kicked in about halfway through and completed the journey. The transition is like when you are on a sailboat and you have to turn on your engine to maneuver into port. Normally she would have charged at work and had enough charge for the 4 trips but I wanted to experience the Volt in ICE mode.
After she got home, I took it out to get groceries. I can tell you that driving the Volt without a charge is a completely different experience. The engine revs when you hit the gas like an ICE car. It now struggles and downshifts up hills and that quick 7 second 0-60 electric becomes painful on gas. The above image is what the speedometer looks like with no electricity but a full tank of gas. I’m not sure if Chevy does this on purpose, but the experience is so much worse that I’d seek out an EV charger while shopping rather than have to use the small gas engine.
Also keep in mind that this isn’t a “range extender” engine that acts like an electricity generator. This is an engine with a direct drive to the wheels that also generates electricity for the battery. It is undersized so that it can get the 42 miles/gallon that blows away the previous Volt’s 30+mpg.
Grocery shopping was *fruitful* and there is quite a bit of trunk room in the Volt hatchback. The one big knock on the hatchback is that it is very narrow. The left side has a false wall for charging cables but I’m not sure what’s behind the right wall. It seems like the layout here could be improved. Under the floor of the trunk strangely is a 12V Lead Acid ‘car battery’ and a tire inflation kit which seems like it could also fit a charging cable if I’m honest.
Getting things in and out of the Volt trunk is easy, much easier than a trunk that extends back. With the narrow width however, I don’t think you can fit much in there. I’d give it little shot to carry a bike, lumber, or even a lot of luggage. I think there is room for improvement here.
I was also able to get CarPlay and Android Auto working while I was in traffic. Both work well though I needed to restart the car a few times to get CarPlay to register. As I said before, I think the Volt’s screen is the best (clear, blacks, high resolution, anti-glare) I’ve seen on any car not built by Elon Musk. I’ll discuss CarPlay and instruments more in future posts but check out this video we made with the 2016 Volt at CES in the meantime:
Looking good at the Rockefeller Estate:
Windows Down! 90 degrees.