Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

cruising volt Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Cruising Van Dyke in the Volt,

On Wednesday, October 13th, WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert spent the day driving the new Chevy Volt electric vehicle.  This is the running update of his day long experience.

Closing Thoughts: Some final thoughts after spending the best part of today driving the Chevy Volt and learning more about it’s system.

It’s an impressive vehicle, no doubt, and quite the achievement for General Motors. They should be proud of it…and what they’ve accomplished during a very difficult time in the company’s history.

(Jeff Gilbert’s Chevy Volt Test Drive Piece)

But, as hard as they want people to think of the Volt as a normal car…there’s one thing that will get in the way—the price. Even after a federal rebate, you’ll pay in the low thirties, or $350 a month for a lease.

I see the Volt (and the pure EV’s that are coming) as first steps toward a future that may be more distant than many would like. The “early adopters” will buy these vehicles. The auto companies will learn. The price will go down, the reliability and electric range will go up…and maybe down the road, we’ll reach the point where there’s a smaller cost differential, and then, maybe even a cost savings.

I’m guessing a lot of people will be leasing, rather than buying, for the same reason we only keep cell phones for a couple of years. We know the next generation will see a big improvement.

And, I can’t wait.


img 1325 Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Volt Technical Briefing

3:50 PM

— Pulling back into the Royal Park hotel, our long drive finished.  We never did get into Macomb County.  My co-driver, Justin Hyde of Jalopnik, wanted some shots of the Volt in front of the old Model T plant in Highland Park.  So we stopped by there, went up Woodward, onto I-75, into northern Oakland County and back.

I was at the wheel when the “range extender” kicked in.  It was totally seamless.  Now, the driving experience changed a bit after that.  The accelerator pedal felt a little different, and the revs of the engine are not in sync with your pressure on the gasoline pedal.  That’s because the engine is revving to create electricity, not run the wheels.

It was particularly odd when you pulled out from a light or stop sign at slow speeds.  You pull your foot off of the accelerator, and the car slows down, but the engine keeps revving for a few seconds.

There were some interior touches that I wasn’t too thrilled with.  The controls for the radio, climate control, etc. are almost flush with the instrument panel.  That makes them very hard to see quickly when you’re driving.

I did have the bonus of driving the Volt through a downpour, and it handled very well.  It held the road nicely, and didn’t seem to have any problems.

 1:20 PM – Just finished tour of huge Detroit Hamtramk Plant, where they have started making early models of Volt. Volt is built on same line as Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne big cars. Obviously some differences, so there are special areas where Volt battery and powertrain are installed.

They hope to ramp up to building 40 thousand Volts a year here,  Last year this plant made a total of 36,000 vehicles.  It has the capacity to make 300,000 vehicles a year.

12:03 PM – At plant preparing for tour.  They let me plug Volt into charging station.  As simple as plugging in any appliance.

After lunch, a long drive through the country.

Got stats on our time in full EV mode…exactly 40.1 miles.

Update to earlier post about our stuff visible in back of Volt — You can get a cover.

11:43 AM – After cruising through many of Detroit’s eastern suburbs, the range extender of our Volt kicked in.  We were almost exactly at the 40 mile mark. You don’t hear the engine start, but you do hear it when it’s working harder.  Justin Hyde is driving…he says the feel is different.  I will experience it later.

Now it’s on to the Detroit-Hamtramk plant, where they’ve started building early models of the Volt.

img 1340 Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Unique Volt Instrument Cluster

10:20 AM  Volt Briefing Highlights: GM EV expert Larry Nitz has been commuting with Volt. His long commute takes him about 600 miles a week. Says he charges at home and at work. Goes through one tank of gas a year.

Nitz says it’s not practical to recharge battery while driving.

Average recharge should cost a dollar fifty.

Very technical explanation of how gas motor drives wheels sometimes at freeway speeds. Adds ten to fifteen per cent fuel efficiency.

Nitz says by SAE definition, Volt is a hybrid because it has two sources of power. GM says it’s an EV because the electric motor always runs.

img 1313 Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Chevy Volt Charging Station

The Volt requires premium fuel. Nitz says that’s because it improves engine efficiency…and will cost owners less over long term.

GM says Volt will monitor fuel age in volt and advise owner when they need to run engine.

9:40 AM  – A few more driving impressions. It’s certainly the most normal EV I’ve driven. Feels like a slightly larger compact car. Very quiet at low speeds. Not much of a different sound at highway speeds.

Detaching from charger was easy…but it could be easy to forget that your cord is attached.

The techie feel of the instrument panel is nice, but could look dated quickly.

Turned on defroster after driving several minutes. Blew cool air at first…probably because it’s EV and there’s no engine heat.

Very odd inside panels for door. Not a deal breaker, but I don’t get it.

Seats feel high end. Rear cargo area is tight…your stuff can be seen.

No negative issues with driving. Very spirited, but not overwhelming.

charging volt Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Charging the Volt.

9:20 AM – Stopping at GM Tech Center for a 3D presentation on Volt Vattery and drive system.

GM EV Chief Mickey Bly says they didn’t know how they were going to do battery at first…didn’t have Suppliers lined up. He says they’ve come a long way and learned a lot about batteries.

8:45 AM – Swapping with my co driver Justin Hyde. My first 20 minutes were enough to get a good first impression. Good acceleration. Brakes took some getting used to. We bottom out a bit too easily.

We’ve driven 10 miles and the meter says we have 28 miles of ev range left.

8 AM – At Royal Park Hotel, Rochester Hills, ready for a long day of driving that will take me to Warren, Hamtramk and points beyond



Our plan, as we go through this day is to document our time driving the Chevrolet Volt.  This is something new.  So, we’ll be making it up as we go along.

img 1306 Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

GM Vice Chair Tom Stepens Hooks Chevy Volt To Charging Station

We’ll add in photos and video clips as we go.   In some cases, it’ll be quick notes to our webmaster…and as we get time, we’ll add to them.

And we’ll only be doing this when others are driving, or we are safely parked.

I’ve been told our trip will include more than a hundred miles of driving, plus tours of the development facilities at GM’s tech center, and the Detriot/Hamtramk site where the Volt is built.

At a dinner before our drive, GM outlined their plans to promote the volt as “More Car than Electric’, meaning unlike other electrically powered vehicles, this is a car that stands on its own merits.

We have had a little experience in the Volt before, and we’ll post that video clip here.

Those brief drives have been a nice taste…but not enough to tell you much.  In fact, we’ll be working with limited information here.  You really need to live with a car a few days to get a feel for it, find some surprise and delight features, and find the things that annoy you.

We’ll still take the input we get, and write our test drive piece for Friday.

Next step…get behind the wheel and drive.

img 1321 Driving the Chevy Volt — Live Blog

Chevy Volt Battery

2:05 PM  Heading out for a long drive through Macomb County.  We topped the Volt off with two hours worth of charging.  The meter says that works out to about 30 more miles of pure EV driving.

  • Don

    Do the back seats fold to increase luggage space. Is a cargo cover an option?

    • http://carchronicles.wordpress.com Jeff Gilbert

      The seats do fold. I’ll ask about the cargo cover, but it doesn’t look like it does

      • http://carchronicles.wordpress.com Jeff Gilbert

        Found out that you can get a cargo cover. Thanks for asking.

  • Cathy

    Is the Volt so quiet that people (pedestrians, kids playing along a street, etc.) won’t hear it coming?

    • http://carchronicles.wordpress.com Jeff Gilbert

      Yes, right now it’s very quiet, but new rules are coming that require all ev’s and hybrids to make some sort of noise at low speeds. The trick is to make the sound something that warns people that a vehicle is coming…but doesn’t distract them.

      For now, the Volt can make a sound that’s like a quiet..non startling horn beep–when you pull back on the turn signal stalk…so you can let people know you are coming, without making them jump out of their skin.

  • todd bixby

    Mr. Gilbert isnt it true that any EV has to hvae some sort of power supply to produce the electricity to charge the batteries. So the hypocrites jumping on the “is it” or “isn’t it” a true EV need to look at where they get the electricity. Unless they are getting the power to charge their EV from a wind turbine,water wheel,etc. there is probably some type of fuel powering a generator somewhere to charge their EV. So I believe the Volt is a true EV in every sense of the word.

    • http://carchronicles.wordpress.com Jeff Gilbert

      I’m not an engineer, but I think the people who are making a big issue out of this are splitting hairs.

      At our briefing yesterday, a GM exec said that by pure definitition, the Volt is a hybrid because it has two sources of power.

      But, since it’s unique…they want to differentiate it from current hybrids, and the plug in hybrids that will have the gasoline generator fully turn their wheels. Hence the marketing name “Extended Range Electric Vehicle.”

      GM points out that the vehicle won’t move without the electric motor…and if they can get a fuel economy boost from the gasoline engine, more power to them. My drive indicated that it needs that help when the range extender is on.

      So, this is a long explanation to say that you can put me in the “Volt is an EV” camp.

      • Mike

        If they truly want to make a vehicle with good fuel mileage and fewer engine problems, why not make a diesel electric hybrid. Diesels get much better mileage, will run 3 to 4 times longer than gas engines and when you include a electric engine to the mix, consider all the benefits. Remember that most of the world vehicles run on diesel. This country and few others still run a gas.

  • Ervin Raab

    I don’t know if the average American is ready for such a radical departure from a ‘normal’ car. They might have to grow on owners.

    Ervin Raab

  • Mike

    It is a good car, but it has a massive flaw, with fuel prices at such a high level, people do want a economical vehicle to drive. The issue with Volt is that it requires you to purchase Premium fuel, this comes directly from their website. With all of the hybrid vehicles out on the market today running on regular fuel and costing less, why would anyone consider purchasing a vehicle that requires you to spend so much on fuel when the time comes?

    • http://carchronicles.wordpress.com Jeff Gilbert

      GM says that because of the way the engine is tuned, it will get significantly better fuel economy with premium. More than enough, they say, to offset the higher cost of premium.

      Now that it seems likely that the fuel economy in extended range mode is average at best, you can see why they took any opportunity to squeeze out every possible mpg.

  • http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2010/12/03/driving-the-nissan-leaf/ Driving The Nissan Leaf « CBS Detroit – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Detroit

    […] Jeff spent some time earlier in the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric vehicle. That “live blog” can be found here. […]

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