For the first time in all of my years of car ownership, I bought my first General Motors product. The Chevrolet Volt has captured me with its great lease deal, promise of amazing mileage and über technology. The cost to operate this sucker for my commute cycle should be minimal.
Since having it just a few days, I realize that many people are unaware of what powers the Volt and how it all works (as I’ve already been asked many questions from passersby). The car is neither a Hybrid nor solely an Electric, yet what drives the front wheels is an electric motor. Confused? It’s actually quite brilliant: the Volt is a plug-in electric vehicle, with a backup gasoline engine. When you run out of power (around 40 miles in my short experience), the gasoline engine powers up acting as a generator–sort of like an emergency power generator that you’d have for your home or office. The engine comes on as necessary to recharge the Volt’s batteries, but only after you’ve depleted the original electrical charge.
What’s great about the drive system, versus other electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla, is the lack of “range anxiety.” Without a backup generator I could totally see how range anxiety could creep in. With full electric vehicles, once you’re out of juice, you’re out of luck! It’s not like the the tow-truck can come pour electricity in your tank. I don’t see how people can live with those cars, unless they have a very confined driving area.
The other thing that’s great about the Volt is charging it. At 120v (standard household outlet), it takes about 10 hours to fully charge a dead battery. As I understand it, other plug-in electrics take much longer to charge.
This car is a technological tour-de-force and perfect for any gadget geek. From the iPhone app that allows you to remotely check your stats and control the car, to the greeting tone and graphic that appears on the screen when you step into the car, there’s just a remarkable amount of tech.
I’m going to profile my Volt experience here over the next few weeks, backtracking to my first experiences driving and charging the car.