Turned On by the Chevy Volt

Like many, we are a two car family.

Working from home means that my car is “the family car” that holds all of us and that we take anytime the whole family is going somewhere. My wife has a sixty five mile or so round trip commute every day, so she has the more practical commuter car that gets better mileage.

This review could be summed up easily by my wife who told me, “Out of all the cars you’ve been given to review, this is the first one I hated to see go.”

2012 Chevy Volt

2012 Chevy Volt

2012 Chevy Volt

A huge thank you to Chevy for giving us a 2012 Chevy Volt for a week as an extended test drive. We would have never fully appreciated the car without having that length of time to see how it really fit into our lives.

In my opinion, this is the direction all car companies need to be moving. A mix of electric and gas that works together to give you the most driving for your dollars.

This is what our dashboard looked like when we returned the car. Over the week we drove 405.5 miles (with a lot of those being on the highway) and only used 5.3 gallons of gas which comes out to just over 75 mpg. Those are real numbers and when you see it like that it is very impressive!

End of a week With the Chevy Volt

Every night we’d plug the car into a standard outlet. It would take all night to charge, but in the morning on a full battery, my wife could almost make it to the office and back  using almost no gas. If I were to have a car like this as my own, we’d of course upgrade to the higher voltage outlet to charge it much faster.

Chevy has done something that at first felt like a gimmick, but here days later I’m still thinking about. They’ve gamified the driving of your car.

As you drive, there is a little spinnging globe (on the right of the photo above) that shows when you are driving the most efficiently. Acelerate or brake to fast and it goes off the grid, but do either smoothly and it’ll keep spinning with it’s little congratulatory leaves. Yesterday, as I was driving my own car I found myself not punching the gas, but doing it more gradually as the reminder of how to be more efficient grew in my head.

So, what did we think of the car? We loved it, but here are the good and the could be better points.

The Good

  • The hybrid nature of the car is great since finding a place to plug in is still a rarity. Range anxiety is very real and until the batteries can hold a lot more charge and public places to recharge are common this is a must.
  • The Volt has more power than we imagined it would. It was a blast to drive and it’s “sport mode” is extra fun to play with.
  • Never having to fill up with gas for the entire week was a blessing.
  • You feel safe in it as the design wraps around you and the eight airbags are all clearly labeled so you can’t help but feel safe.
  • The keyless entry was a nice upgrade from our current cars. You leave the keychain in your purse or pocket and get in and out without ever having to touch it. I had it set so that after I got a certain distance away it automatically locked the doors.

2012 Chevy Volt

2012 Chevy Volt

The Could Be Better

  • The dashboard is horribly organized. Buttons are in no sort of order and the last thing I want to be thinking about while driving is how where to change the temperature in the car.
  • The interior needs to be updated so that the cup holders are not so far back that they get in the way of driving.
  • It needs power seats that allow the driver to be higher. Both my wife and I felt like we were in a low rider the entire time.
  • Improve the bluetooth connectivity so that it auto detects devices when you return to the car. Having to connect my phone each time is not a good thing.
  • Our kids said that the back seat was not comfortable for taking a nap in. They are eleven and thirteen and thought it could use a bit more legroom as well since I drive with the seat all the way back and they didn’t have a lot of room behind me.
  • Better battery technology that holds a longer charge.

The biggest problem though is the cost. This isn’t just a problem with the Volt, but almost all hybrid cars are still very expensive because the demand isn’t there for them yet. Until the prices come down, they are never going to catch on with enough people to really shift the auto industry in the direction that they need to go. I hope the technology improves at a much more rapid pace so that the cost can be lowered and these type of cars become the norm, rather than a vanity.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the Chevy Volt and are now curious to try other hybrid cars since we are sold on the concept.

This car could easily replace my wife’s commuter car. A quick search online shows that many of the things we didn’t like are currently being worked on so maybe the 2013 will be even better?

2012 Chevy Volt

It isn’t big enough to be our family car since while it has a nice sized trunk area, it wouldn’t hold our black lab and enough supplies for a weekend away which is how we judge.

A big thank you to Chevy for listening online. When I put out a call to automobile manufacturers on Twitter that we were looking to rent a hybrid car for a week to test them out they were the only ones that responded. Guess more car companies need to work on their listening skills. *grin*

And yes, I took all of these photos myself except for the dashboard one which my wife took.

2012 Chevy Volt

  • http://www.pjmullen.com/ PJ Mullen

    We looked into the Volt when we replaced my wife’s car not too long ago. We had many of the same issues/concerns that you did. She could have lived with some of them, but in the end I couldn’t justify the cost of the vehicle in relation to the fuel savings. If the auto manufacturers could figure out a way to make them more cost effective, I believe they’d catch on. It is happening, for instance a report I read stated that the 2013 Nissan Leaf is going to be more than $10K cheaper than the 2012 model. If accurate that is a tremendous stride that will hopefully spur further adoption.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Yeah, I keep reading those reports and I hope they prove to be true.

      I tell you if I could figure out a way to add solar panels to our house that I could use directly to charge a car, we’d be all over getting a car like this. All the pieces are out there, but few of them are cost effective enough to justify.

      • http://stevegarfield.com Steve Garfield

        Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle Charger Unveiled 8/26/12
        http://cleantechnica.com/2012/08/26/solar-powered-electric-vehicle-charger-launched/

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        Thanks for the link. I also read a report that Ford is going to be selling options with their next line of cars.

        Still not very cost effective. I wouldn’t spend that money on gas.

        Damn, I can’t wait till this being green doesn’t cost as much green!

  • http://www.davedelaney.me/ Dave Delaney

    I hope to make my next car (which will be soon) electric. I want to show my kids that I care about their future (in a non-tree-hugger-kinda-way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. :)

    These photos are amazing!

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Thanks man. I’m really proud with how the photos came out. Who knows, maybe Chevy will hire me to shoot some for them sometime :)

      I totally get what you are saying about the car. The responsible decision is a hybrid in my mind, but it is not a cost effective one yet which I REALLY hope changes.

      • http://www.davedelaney.me/ Dave Delaney

        I agree. If car manufacturers truly care, they will find a way to reduce the price point. I hope so.

  • Pingback: C.C. Champan Loves His Week in our Chevy Volt

  • http://twitter.com/mavjop Stephen Jacob

    In re renting hybrids, the Toyota dealership we’re trying to buy a Prius v from (they’re still working on trying to get the right car) rent various models of Toyota, including Priuses (Prii), so if it’s a rental and not a free loan for review purposes, try asking dealerships?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chipgriffin Chip Griffin

    Love the photography. The power lines in the background are a nice touch.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Thanks. They were VERY much on purpose :)

  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    My next car would be something like this. My biggest issue is that Electricity is so expensive on the Island that I am not sure if using electricity over Gas would be beneficial (Puerto Rico has the highest cost of electricity as a U.S. territory).

    I drove the Volt at SXSW and I was impressed by it. Maybe if in 2013 the technology is improved and as our politicians promised locally they bring the electricity cost down with new renewable energies I might look into one of these.

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