Well, it's been a year since we bought our Chevrolet Volt. And it's been a very uneventful year. Most people would be a bit wary with any first generation technology -- me amongst them -- but being a techie I tend to get new technology early regardless and sometimes have paid the price. Not with the Volt. It's been utterly flawless. It performs just as GM said it would. Lutz and the entire Volt team should be very very proud, as should the folks on the assembly line. The car is, after one year of me driving, still rock solid and not a squeak or rattle -- even considering that some of our roads look like they're "Imported from Kabul".
Those wondering if a green car would make me change my driving habits I can happily say that, no, the Volt didn't. It was quite happy with my driving style. Other enthusiasts who drove it similarly commented on how the car enjoys being driven. This is probably one of the biggest surprises for those who haven't driven a Volt: it's a truly enjoyable car. It does not compromise the joy of driving to get you an extra klick of range. And for someone like me who couldn't care less about that extra klick or so I am very very happy. Swapping the G8 GT for this was not as big a sacrifice as I thought it might be. In fact, except for the v8 burble and the insane power of the GT I can say I barely miss the G8. If the ELR is as sporty as some rumours claim, then that car would make me fully forget about the G8!
For the curious, note that I only charge at home. If I could charge at work then I'd have much better all-electric numbers -- and lower total running costs. Weekends we typically put 200+km on the car, most of that on Saturdays. And that's when we use most of the fuel. For more detail, here's the monthly kw-hr/100km straight from OnStar. This is the average for the month as I have little interest in day-to-day. I've provided temperatures in Celsius as well (high, low, average). Do note that during the winter months the car was pretty much driven at the cold extreme since I would go to work when it was dark, and cold and head home around 6 or 7pm, again, when it was much colder than the daytime high.
- November 2011:25kW-hr/100kms (10c, 0c, 5c) *
- December 2011: 30kW-hr/100kms (0c, -8c, -4c)
- January 2012: 33 kW-hr/100kms (-3c, -14c, -9c)
- February 2012: 25 kW-hr/100kms (0c, -10c, -5c)
- March 2012: 34kW-hr/100kms (9c, -3c, 3c) *
- April 2012: 25kW-hr/100kms (12c, 0c, 6c)
- May 2012: 22kW-hr/100kms (22c, 9c, 15c)
- June 2012: 20kW-hr/100kms (26c, 13c, 19c)
- July 2012: 21kW-hr/100kms (30c, 15c, 23c) *
- August 2012: 20kW-hr/100kms (27c, 14c, 21c) *
- September 2012: 20kW-hr/100kms (21c, 8c, 14c)
- October 2012: 21kW-hr/100kms (15c, 4c, 10c)
* = above average monthly temperature.
Average kW-hr/100km = 25.
In winter the range can be as bad as 32km (see below for stats). And, depending on my commute, that is either barely enough or not nearly enough to go to work and come home. It's nice to not have to worry about getting home courtesy of the range extender.
The range extender comes on seamlessly. You can barely hear it, it's quite well insulated from the car. In Mountain Mode, however, it is quite a bit noisier and something that will have to be tamed for the ELR since the racket it can produce would be rather unbecoming a Cadillac. I do wonder if a rotary engine might be a better choice for EREVs. Do note that GM did insulate any vibrations exceptionally well, but I think GM should have used the audio system to mute the drone when in Mountain Mode.
The driving dynamics, quietness, and overall fit-and-finish of the car is unbelievable. The car is simply a blast to drive -- ignoring the stupid low-rolling-resistance tires for now (see below). Because of it's low centre of gravity it just loves being tossed around. It's easily as fun as the G8 was in terms of handling, but obviously lacking the grunt the v8 in the G8 provided -- here's to hoping Voltec II resolves that problem since electric motors can provide huge amounts of torque to make for a truly awesome driving experience.
There are definitely three things that take a bit of getting used to:
- The lack of shifting from the car is weird until you get used to it. It means you regularly end up scooting past speed limits because the car is so quiet. I've had to learn to watch my speed since between the sound deadening, the silence of the electric motors and the general overall soundness of the vehicle you end up driving much more quickly simply because you're not aware the speed that you're doing.
- The brakes take some getting used to. The first 10% of depression or so does not result in braking in the way a typical car does. Once you get used to it, though, it's not big deal.
- Not having to stop for gas every week is totally off-putting initially. It's just weird seeing the range go up each morning from where it was the night before -- and by "up" I mean 60km or so, so it's quite noticeable. I pass a Petro Canada each day on my way to work and I've seen people pumping gas into their cars staring at me as I roll by. They seem a tad jealous.
The car does get a lot of attention even now. I get thumbs up, but I also get the occasional a** who seems intent on driving slowly in front of me for whatever perverse reason. But most people like the car and want to know more about it. Most are amazed at the "fuel economy" and when taken for a spin at how the car performs. Most would buy one if it weren't for the price, so once GM gets the price down I think there's a huge market just waiting to buy the car. I've had a couple of folks who think the car is slow, but considering how I drive they're usually dispelled of that notion fairly quickly. A few individuals have actually stopped at a light and told me they can't believe how quickly it moves. I think they're used to a certain slug-shaped vehicle that moves around at a slug's pace while the smug driver annoys the crap out of everyone around them. Me, I drive the same way I've always driven. And, to be honest, that's probably cost me some range and fuel economy in charge sustaining mode, but who cares. I bought the Volt because it's cool, not so I'd save a buck a month on gas or electricity. If I was interested in saving as much money as possible I'd have bought a used 4-banger or taken the bus to work .
Of course, as with everything in life, nothing's perfect. So, things that bug me or need improvement are:
- The stupid "low rolling resistance tires" which is translated into car-guy speak as "squeals like a stuck pig whenever you try to turn at all enthusiastically". You should be able to pick real tires so the car would be more enjoyable to drive.
- No power seats? What the …
- Should have come with HID headlights. I mean, really. If not HID then full-on LEDs.
- No hard, auto-lift cargo cover -- I mean, the car is $40+k. It (optionally) comes with an elastic cargo cover. Again, what the …
- In Sport Mode it shouldn't pull back on power at 80 - 90km/h. I know it does it to save electrons, but I put it in sport not really caring about electrons being spewed with vigour, so GM should truly just let the car perform fully in Sport Mode. This, to me, is GM's biggest boneheaded move regarding the car.
Not a long list, but that's truly the only things that still bug me one year in. I still thoroughly enjoy the vehicle.
I'd love to see this on Epsilon, say in something the size of the Regal or Malibu with styling like the Flextreme GT/E. That would be awesome. One can dream .
Also, something only a person with an electric car would care about, Ottawa has crap charging infrastructure -- and by crap, I mean none. Well, there are like 3 spots, none of them remotely convenient. Typical bureaucracy: lots of nattering on about doing it, little actual doing.
Now, to the part that I know some of you are just waiting for, how the car performed across the entire year including a typical Ottawa winter followed by an unusually hot Ottawa summer. So, without further ado, onto some statistics.
- Kilometers: 18,905km (11,757 miles)
- Electric km: 15,723 (9,770 miles)
- Gas km: 3,182km (1,977 miles)
- "Fuel" Economy: 1.3l/100km (181mpg)
- Average fuel economy in CS mode: 6l/100km (39mpg)
- Best fuel economy in CS mode: 4.35l/100km (54mpg)
- Worst fuel economy in CS mode: 8.04l/100km (29mpg)
- Worst range: 32km (20 miles)
- Best range: 75km (47 miles)
- Average warm - hot weather range (> 15c): 60+km
- Average fall weather range (5 - 15c): 55km
- Average mild winter weather range (-5c - 5c): 48km
- Average cold winter weather range (-15c - -5c): 40km
- Average f-k'n cold weather range (-50c - -15c): 36km
- Total gas consumed: 257l (68 gallons)
- Total gas consumed (est): $334 (averaged price for the year @ $1.30 for premium -- note, GM provided 2 tanks free, so the true out-of-pocket cost to us was $256).
- Total gas consumed monthly, averaged: 21.5l/month (5.7 gallons) -- total monthly cost = $28
- Typical gas range: spring, summer, fall = 520km (323 miles); winter = 384km (239 miles)
- Total electricity consumed (est.): 3,931kW-hr
- Total cost of electricity (est): $400 taxes in (~ $33/month @ $0.11/kW-hr Ottawa hydro, off-peak since we charge mostly at night)
- Electric power rating (kW/100km): 30 - 35kW-hr/100km Winter / 19-21kW-hr/100km Summer
- Range of operating temperatures: -40c - +45c
- Percentage electric: 83%
- Total running cost/month (est): $28 + $33 = $61 (taxes in)
- Total maintenance costs: $100 (tire swap, summer-winter-summer + storage + balance).
- Total operational costs for 1 full year: $100 + $400 + $256 = $756 ($834 if GM-provided gas calculated in).
Of interest is that the "fuel efficiency" in Mountain Mode seems to be about 6.25l/100km (38mpg). And that keeps 18km of range on the car. Obviously, if there are less than 18km it will charge the battery up to 18kms. But if it has 18, then what you end up with is a 38mpg cost to keep it there. I'm sure "Hold Mode' delivers similar numbers on the 2013 Volt.
I don't really even notice the increase in the electrical bill courtesy of us switching 36 of our lights to LEDs. Our monthly bill has actually gone down $50/month courtesy of the LEDs and so we're now paying less per month than before the Volt arrived. So, the savings courtesy of the LEDs easily covers the Volt's monthly charging costs plus an additional $50 in savings. We really can't complain at all!
One other tidbit, after one year of driving the Volt the "Remaining Oil Life" according to OnStar is 80%. That means, nearly 20,000km in and the oil has lots of life yet. GM recommends a change every 2 years or when the "Change Oil" notification comes on. I'll deal with the oil change next year, obviously, when the car hits 40,000km or so. Interestingly enough, the oil will probably still have more than 50% of its life left. I wonder if this makes it easier/better for recycling.
Finally, I'm seeing more and more Volts. Just yesterday I saw a red one like mine and passed a white one on the way home on Baseline. So they're becoming more common. What's not more common is visits to the gas station. With only 257 litres used, I've visited a gas station exactly 7 times in a year (it'd have been 8 had GM not given me a second free fill up). Pretty impressive considering the 30 litre tank and the fact the car uses gas to keep itself warm during our darkest, coldest months of winter. All told, we're extremely pleased with the Volt.
Couldn't be much happier. Would I buy another Volt? In a heartbeat. What would I most want in my next one? More range, more power to the wheels and more room -- an Epsilon-based Voltec vehicle would be optimal in my opinion, but I'm willing to sacrifice room for power if the ELR is substantially faster and even more fun to drive .