Chevy Volt Owners Squeezing Juice From Battery

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to drive without the needing to stop for gas after motoring 300 to 400 miles on the road? Well, some early owners of the new Chevrolet Volt are doing just that — and more — driving on electricity that charges the battery pack of this revolutionary new extended range car.

About 2,200 Volts have been sold so far in 2011. The Volt is not cheap; the average transaction price has been running about $42,000 for the compact vehicle. Despite that, there has been a rush to Chevrolet dealers by drivers eager to own the green car. A government tax credit of $7,500 designed to encourage buying green cars helps bring down the overall cost of the Volt.

An early Volt purchaser in California racked up 3,000 miles in his new plug-in and only had to purchase 6 gallons of gasoline in seven months. A New York owner, who commutes from a nearby suburb into Manhattan, made the round trip for two months without needing a gasoline refill — and he accomplished this without needing to plug-in his Volt while at work.

The Volt recharges its 144-cell battery pack through a supplied cord that plugs into a standard household 120-volt outlet in about 10 hours. The car can usually be recharged overnight when electricity rates are lower.

Driving the Volt is transparent. There’s no sensation of doing something different when you’re driving on battery power or driving while powered by the Volt’s internal combustion gasoline engine.

It differs from conventional hybrids that can’t go more than about 1-mile on full battery power alone. The Volt can be driven up to 40 miles solely on battery power. When the battery pack’s energy is exhausted, the car’s gas engine takes over and propels the vehicle like a conventional car. The Volt can be driven about 300 miles on gasoline after the battery pack runs out of juice.

Performance is anything but sluggish. We cruised at normal highway speeds in the Volt. Chevrolet claims the Volt’s top speed is 100 mph. The only way I could tell that the Volt had transitioned from battery power to gasoline power was by looking at the icons on the instrument panel that revealed the vehicle’s power source in real time.

An icon showing a gasoline pump lights up when the car starts running on its 1.4-liter engine. Dealers in all 50 states are now able to take Volt orders. A Chevrolet spokesman says that at current production rates, it takes about 10 to 12 weeks to take delivery of a Volt after your order has been placed.

I’m not one of the typical drivers who travel less than 40 miles a day. So I’ve had to burn gasoline on most days in the Volt I recently tested. But Chevrolet claims that about 80 percent of drivers travel less than 40 miles daily and could conceivably only need a gasoline fill-up on rare occasions. That’s a good feeling when driving past service stations advertising $4 per gallon fuel. — Herb Shuldiner, Motor Matters

Manufacturer photo: Steve Wojtanek in the driveway next to his Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range capabilities in Boca Raton, Florida. Wojtanek is averaging 122 miles per gallon and visiting the gas station about once a month.
The Volt offers a total driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 35 miles, the Volt can drive gas- and tailpipe-emissions free using a full charge of electricity. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas-powered engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full change.

Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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