Our Chevy Volt Turns 3 1/2 … and 100 … Again
According to a search of the archives, I’ve not yet written a post about our Chevy Volt, and if this is true, shame on me. We’ve had our Volt for over 3 1/2 years now, and it is certainly worthy of at least one post. And recently we re-passed a milestone that makes it even more worthy.
I’ve Seen the Ads, But What the Heck IS a Volt?
Before we get to the good stuff, I should probably explain what a Volt is, because Chevrolet has certainly done a poor job of it. I can sort of understand their reasoning: electric cars are still scary to many Americans and they didn’t want to spook people. So instead, they confused people with campaigns like “It’s more car than electric” (what they heck is that even supposed to mean?) so people still don’t know what it is. Honestly I still get questions about it from people, who like the look of the car and have heard of it, but have no idea what it is or does.
Here Chevy, I’ll Give You This For Free
In a nutshell, a Volt is plugin electric car with a gasoline engine: it runs on electricity until the battery runs out, then automatically switches to gasoline. So really it’s the best of both worlds (unless you can afford a Tesla): you get the benefits of all electric when driving around short distances (official average 35 miles on battery, more on that later) without any “range anxiety” because the gas engine gives you as many miles as any other car (we get around 40 mpg, 280 – 300 miles on a full tank).
FAQ’s (and I do get them)
- No, you can’t manually switch over to gas to save your battery
- Yes, battery mileage is lower in cold weather (20 – 25 miles when it gets below freezing) but higher in warm weather (around 45 miles when it’s above 80)
- No, we haven’t had any major problems being early adopters; a few recalls for software upgrades and a few other issues that didn’t necessarily seem to be Volt-related
- Yes, the charging situation is getting better, but it’s still not great in smaller cities such as Peoria, or even St. Louis for that matter
- Yes, it uses a regular 120 volt outlet to charge, although if you want to spring for a 240 volt charging station you can cut your charging time in more than half. We just charge it in our garage whenever we’re home.
So About This 100 Thing
We bought Sparky (Cecile named it, pretty perfect, right?) in February 2012, and it had some miles on it as the dealer had been driving it around to show off and to keep the battery well conditioned. As a result, the lifetime mileage (which combines miles on battery and gasoline) was already over 100 mpg when we got it and we mostly just drove it around town for its first several months, getting that average up to around 115 mpg.
When you get an electric car or hybrid, you pay attention to these things. I won’t say obsessively, but I won’t not say obsessively.
But that first summer, we took a weeks long trip out east, and while there were a few places to charge, we pretty much used gas, and Sparky’s mileage fell into the mid-80s.
After that it was an ongoing I don’t know what, not a game, not a challenge, just something I paid attention to, wondering if Sparky would ever get back over 100 mpg lifetime.
It didn’t seem likely.
We’re a one car family, which is one reason we got a Volt: at the time there were no other plugin electric hybrids like it, although there are now. So we couldn’t go all electric and stick with one car, and we generally take a few car trips a year. So any time we’d get Sparky back up to the 90s, it would generally be time for another trip and the mileage would go back down.
And obviously, as we racked up the miles, it got harder to budge that number in either direction (not going to give you a lesson in moving averages here if you don’t understand that, sorry).
But for some reason, this summer that number started to go up, pretty consistently. Obviously it means we weren’t taking as many long trips: our son didn’t go to his overnight camp this summer, and we didn’t make it to St. Louis either, which had been two of our standard mileage killing road trips.
Cecile and Joel did take a trip to visit Cecile’s parents in Ann Arbor late in the summer, but her mom had previously fixed their outdoor outlet so the Volt can be plugged in in the driveway while we’re there.
Another factor in our favor is our son’s ballet, which involves about 15 miles per trip, and as he’s advanced we make those trips more often each week. And so, as summer turned to fall, my excitement grew as Sparky inched into the upper 90s.
Did I mention I can be a little obsessive about following Sparky’s mileage?
And finally, on October 26 while stopped at a red light, I checked the mileage, and lo and behold we had done it!
Chevy Volt in the Wild
Here’s a gallery of pictures of Sparky out and about at various charging stations and hanging out with other Volts. We’re pretty sure there are at least 4 others in Peoria: red, black, white and gray/silver.