2017 Chevy Volt – Initial Thoughts

My New 2017 Chevy Volt

(or I am Jack’s Electric Car Obsession)

I’ve always wanted an electric car. When I say always, I mean since well before I could drive, so we’re talking the late 80s.

This obsession began thanks to my fascination with electricity and specifically solar electricity, which sprouted during hours upon hours of reading, playing with solar powered gadgets, and whatnot.

The 2012 Impreza is a fine car. Good in the snowy winters we have to endure up in the frozen north, decent MPG for an AWD vehicle, handled pretty well, and was reliable.

I’ve had it for 4 years, but it’s always burned oil (something Subaru has gone through a class-action lawsuit over) and while 30mpg average fuel economy is pretty good, I knew I could do better.

So I started looking at hybrids and all-electric cars. The problem once again is that I live in the remote frozen north, so I have to drive 30+ miles to work, without the benefit of being able to charge at work (at least yet, I’m working on getting my current employer to put in a 240v charging station!), so I couldn’t really go with many all-electric vehicles out there with any degree of certainty; or at least not the ones that I can actually afford.

Leafy Greens

The Nissan Leaf was appealing, but all of the specials going on for that car were focused exclusively on the base model, which only sports an 84 mile range, which plummets in the aforementioned arctic winters. That would’ve been cutting it much to close for my comfort, I want to be non-dependent upon fossil fuel, not strap range anxiety onto my already long-enough list of things to worry about.

Apart from that, the latest model Leaf is not aging terribly well if the reviews are to be believed, and it’s really small.

That was enough to make me (dejectedly) cross it off my short list.

Enter the Dragon… err… Volt2017 Chevy Volt

I was considering a Prius C as well, but for just a bit more than I would spend on that I found that I could get into another car that I hadn’t honestly payed that much attention to: the 2017 Chevy Volt.

The 2017 Chevy Volt is an electric-first Plug-in Hybrid, which gives ~55 miles of electric range before its quite efficient ICE (gasoline/petrol/whatever you call it where you live) engine kicks in to provide voltage back to the battery and/or torque to the wheels. This is a change from the previous generation of the car in which the engine only ever charged the batteries in all but the rarest occurrences.

I fell in love with the Volt. I got it this past Tuesday evening. It satisfies my gadget needs (and wants!) with Android Auto, a mobile app to monitor charging, and way more.

This week I drove to the office 3 times. My Impreza would burn >2 gallons of gasoline per day so I would have burned, at minimum, 6 gallons of fuel this week. In the Volt I burned 0.2 Gallons of fuel. To put that in perspective: I used less than 1/30th the amount of fossil fuel that I my old car would’ve used if I was being “very efficient”.

The kicker here is that at no point this week did I ever have a full charge to start my day, due to 1) The dealer not giving it to me fully charged, 2) it defaulting to 8amp charging for electrical safety, which I discovered when it had been plugged in the first night for quite a while. I’ve since set up location aware charging so that it defaults to 12amp which cuts charging time on my 110v outlet from 20+ hours to 12-ish hours. I do plan to install a 220v charger for it in the future, but for now as long as I’m careful to plug it in as soon as I get home in the evening, it’ll be fully charged every morning.

I’m thinking I may even be able to squeeze the 65.5 mile round trip out of the battery, based on the fact that I never had more than an 80% charge this week and still managed to get there and back again with only two tenths of a gallon of fuel burned. I did plug it in at a nearby fast charger during lunch yesterday for about an hour as well, which helped get me home on all electricity last night. There are a few charging locations near my work, but the infrastructure in the NH area is a bit lacking at this point.

The game-changer will be when my employer installs a few charging stations, which at this point sounds like it’s a matter of logistics, not convincing and justifying. I’ll be able to have a full charge in the batteries by lunch time, drive out to lunch and have a full charge again by quitting time. I could feasibly never need to buy gas for my commute again.

The beauty of the Volt is that if I want to pick up and drive to NYC, I can absolutely do that and the Volt will do it with markedly better MPG than my Impreza, but if I plan my trips carefully and charge whenever I can, then my day-to-day use of the car should be almost completely fossil-fuel free.

I’m sure I’ll talk about the car on upcoming blog entries and on the podcast, but for now I cannot recommend the 2017 Chevy Volt highly enough!

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