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Published on May 22nd, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


2017 Chevy Volt Review, Day 2

May 22nd, 2016 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

Yesterday was my first full day with the Chevy Volt the folks at Chevrolet have kindly placed at my disposal. I decided I would use it exactly the way I use my regular car, a 2010 Honda Civic, on a normal day. Apart from all of the “saving the planet” goodness of driving an electric car, I wanted to know, “Is this a car I could live with on a daily basis?”

Chevy Volt

When I am not parked at my keyboard creating stories for Gas2, I am a constable for the State of Rhode Island. That means I deliver court notices to people. Not many of my “customers” are all that happy to see me. Basically, what I do is leave the house and drive to dozens of locations in northern Rhode Island. If no one is home, I leave a note on the door asking someone to contact me. It’s surprising how many do. I call it “littering;” my wife calls it “disturbing the peace.”

I can spend up to 8 hours doing that on a typical day. Performance is rarely an issue, but comfort and getting in and out easily are important to me. My car is primarily a business tool. Ideally, it will assist me in getting the job done rather than putting roadblocks in my way. Reliability is more important to me than acceleration and style.

I started the day with 57 miles of range and 1754 miles on the odometer. I finished the day with 0 miles of range and 1837 miles on the odo. That means I drove a staggering 83 miles on battery power alone. The gasoline engine never came on, even after the range indicator told me I had no range left. This is what people want — a car that under-promises and over-delivers. Congratulations, Chevrolet. Color me impressed.

How do I account for that? I don’t. I drove the car exactly as I would my Civic. I stopped to see my son-in-law in Providence who drives a Honda Fit EV. We drove around a bit and did a few full throttle starts in performance mode just to see what the car could do. I drove mostly on city streets, got caught behind a school bus or two, and drove about 12 miles on a highway. I did not try any hypermiling techniques. I just drove normally, traffic permitting.

The Volt I have is loaded with every option known to modern science. Frankly, I don’t know what half the buttons are for yet. I noticed while I was driving on the highway that the steering seemed heavy. A couple of times it seemed like I had to fight the wheel. I noticed an indicator light was lit on the left side of the steering wheel and remembered the fellow who brought the car to me mentioning something about a lane departure system.

I cancelled the lane-keeping function and the steering immediately became more responsive to my input. Note to Chevy. I can do without the lane-departure technology, thank you very much.

While on the highway, I was approaching an exit I wanted to take. There was a knot of traffic around me that made it unsafe for me to get into the right lane. No problem. I pushed down on the accelerator and the Volt wafted its way, silently and effortlessly, to the front of the line. No drama, just the extra speed I needed when I needed it.

About halfway through the day, I got curious why there seemed to be little regenerative braking going on. Somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered reading about how the L setting on the gear selector would engage more regen. I tried it, and sure enough, there was the regen braking I had been expecting all along.

I have to say, I am uncomfortable driving around in L. That’s what we did in my Mom’s Impala years ago when we wanted to make a lot of noise and impress our dates. It just doesn’t feel right being always in L mode. Time to think of another letter, Chevrolet. I recommend D1 and D2, with a programmable function that allows the driver to choose which is which. People who like a lot of regen should be able to make it the default setting for them.

Chevy Volt

Regen adds a whole new level to the electric car experience. It makes true “one pedal” driving possible, where the brakes are used seldom if at all. With a little practice, the driver can bring the car to nearly a complete halt just by lifting off the throttle. It’s an acquired taste. I don’t think I would care for it on the highway. But around town in traffic, it is just about the best idea since sliced bread.

Here are a few more things I like. The blind spot detection is sweet. I know lots of cars have this today, but it was my first experience with it. It works great. The backup camera has an audible alert that warns of a person, car, or obstruction lurking behind you.

As I was practicing my one pedal driving technique, I got closer to the car in front at a traffic light than the car’s computer thought was prudent. Suddenly, a series of bright red LEDs illuminated directly in my line of sight and an audible warning went off. I was surprised the first time it happened, but I like how the system works. Definitely want this on my next car.

My first day with the 2017 Chevy Volt convinced me this is a car I could live with. Sure it’s “green,” but it’s also a darn good car. It is nearly silent but powerful. It tracks and steers accurately. It rides comfortably. I purposely drove it over some manhole covers that upset the suspension in my Honda, but the Volt handled them with aplomb.

I mentioned that my son-in-law drives a Fit EV. He is an electric car enthusiast, someone who looks with scorn at any car with a gasoline engine. At the end of our test drive, he said, “Nice car. I’d buy one.” Coming from someone who already owns a battery electric car and has sworn never to own a car with an internal combustion engine again, that is high praise indeed.

I could do without some of the bells and whistles on this fully equipped car, but overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the Volt. No roaring engine, no shuffling gears — just quiet, confident, sure-footed driving. It reinforces the opinion I and so many others have — the best way to sell someone an electric car is to get them behind the wheel and let them drive one. Are you listening, Chevrolet?

Photos by the author. 


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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