Sunday, December 06, 2015

2012 Chevy Volt Review

I have been driving my 2012 Volt for a couple of weeks now. According to the trip meter, I have driven more than 400 miles in those two weeks, and I have used less than 4 gallons of gas.

It would have been less, but my Volt did not have a full charge when it was delivered, though it did have a full tank of gas. That means that I still have not put any gas into the Volt myself. When I do, the manual calls for premium gas because it's likely to be in the tank for a while. I think I can afford the few cents more per gallon when the tank holds less than 10 gallons total.

For now, I'm charging my Volt with the cord that came with it using a standard 120V outlet, though I am in the process of getting an estimate for a 240V outlet to be added to our garage, which would also require the installation of an upgraded charging station, which would be another $400. That would mean that my car would charge twice as fast. We had a problem on the first weekend I had the car with a tripped circuit -- it seems that the garage outlet was added to the same circuit as half our kitchen, so when we tried to make toast and coffee at the same time while the car was plugged in, it was too much, even though the car was already fully charged. We haven't had problems since then, but I would at least like the car to be on its own circuit.

I am lucky enough to be working at a place that has the fast electric vehicle charging stations -- four of them in the front row of a very large parking lot. I have to admit that this was one reason I started thinking about the Volt in the first place. There are at least 5 electric vehicles that at least occasionally park there, so I'm not guaranteed a spot, but it's nice when I get one. There was a little setup with the ChargePoint system to use the charging stations, but it's now incredibly simple to charge.

Other than the charging issue, the Volt drives like a regular car. I wouldn't have been able to have a pure electric vehicle -- there aren't enough charging stations where I live -- but the fact that the Volt can use gas as a backup power source makes it practical for me. The engine is incredibly quiet, almost silent, when it is running on battery power only. When the gas generator kicks in, it gets a little louder.

One thing I didn't think about when I bought an EV is that a gas engine naturally produces a lot of heat, but electric engines don't. To heat the car uses battery power -- the same power that drives the car. The default setting for the climate system is ECO, which here in Ohio, does not heat the cabin to anything approaching a comfortable temperature. I start it out on Comfort, which draws more power, then switch to ECO after things have warmed up. I'm also very happy to have the Premium package, which includes heated seats. This also means I have all the features I was used to in my last car, like a backup camera and a navigation system.

It's really easy to get caught up in a game of trying to use as little gas as possible. The detailed screens at the end of each drive feed this impulse, by showing a pie graph of how much electric and how much gas was consumed since the last charge, and what the current mileage per gallon is.  Gas prices are cheap now, but they won't stay that way forever, so I expect the savings I'm getting from using less gas will only increase. It's also nice to feel like I am doing something for the environment -- though electricity is not always from clean sources, as coal plants retire each year and more renewables come online, it will get cleaner.

Have you ever considered an electric vehicle or hybrid?
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