Car zealots are a unique bunch. The Ford people make fun of the Chevy people, the Chevy people love to tell the Ford people that their cars are Found On Road Dead and everyone makes fun of the Honda kids because of how they wear those sideways hats and because of VTEC, yo. I may also be guilty of quietly laughing and judging every Toyota Prius I see, partly because it represents the antithesis of the V8, rear wheel drive cars that I have owned my whole life and partly because it looks like an egg and everyone drives them 63mph in the left lane on the interstate because they are doing their part to save the world and the rest of us should be so noble. When Chevrolet released the new Volt back in 2011, it was very promising. The styling wasn’t nearly as bland as the Prius and it was a true electric car. The reviews were fantastic and since then, a very vocal group of owners swear that it’s the best car they have ever owned. My brain has a hard time comprehending that because there’s no V8, no rear wheel drive, no snarly sounds coming from the tailpipes and yet people STILL maintain it’s the best car they have ever owned. How is that even possible? Maybe it’s VOLTEC, yo.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to get to spend a week in the completely redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Volt. I went in to it with an open mind because no matter what I think, V8, rear wheel drive cars are going extinct and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I got in to the little white Volt for the first time and noticed that it had 3333 miles on the odometer. There’s might be a little bit of a learning curve with the car, so I decided to break out the owners manual before I drove it anywhere. After all, I don’t want to cross the streams because that would be bad. I learned the car will run about 50 miles on a single charge and not use a drop of gas, so all I had to do was push the start button, put it in drive and go. So glad I read the directions! Way easier than I thought it would be, given the futuristic look on the really impressive setup in the cockpit. I had never driven a real, grown up electric car before and it was actually exciting! When I pushed the start button on the Volt and all of the lights came to life, I was amazed at the quality of the interior, the comfy seat and all the technology in front of me.
I’m familiar with Chevrolet’s award winning MyLink system that runs the stereo and navigation in my daily driver, but the improvements to that system in this car compared to my 2015 Chevy SS were many. The Apple CarPlay worked seamlessly and because this is an electric car, there were all kinds of new things to play with. I really liked the Flux-capacitor looking animation that showed when the car was regenerating battery power, using battery power or using the gas engine and battery power. I assume it all works with the assistance of witchcraft and sorcery.
The Volt is completely silent when it’s running on just the battery and for some reason, I found that to be quite amusing. So stealthy. The last time I drove something this quiet, it was on a golf course, there were shenanigans and security got involved. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that driving in traffic, the Volt has more than enough power to pull out on to a 6-lane highway and not have to worry about yelling for the gerbils to run faster because I need more power! This car is fully capable to run right with traffic without any stress or drama. In full golf-cart mode on the interstate, keeping up with traffic, I made it from St. Petersburg to downtown Sarasota on a single charge driving at highway speeds and NOT at 63mph in the left lane. It was exactly 50 miles before the gas engine kicked on to help run the car. I must have looked like a crazy person sitting in traffic saying out loud “holy crap, that is amazing! I think I really like this thing!” Another cool feature it has is the little paddle on the back of the steering wheel. It’s a “Regen on Demand” brake that aggressively charges the battery when it’s in use. I used it as much as I could which meant that I really didn’t touch the old fashioned brake pedal on the floor very much. It took some getting used to, but I made a game out of it and it never got old. It’s the same technology that you can get in the Cadillac ELR, which is the fancy version of the Volt that costs more than twice the price of a loaded Volt. I had the Volt during the coldest week of the year and made use of the heated seats and heated steering wheel nearly every time I drove it. I can see how that would come in handy if you live anywhere north of Wesley Chapel.
Everyone asks about the charging time and all I could tell them was when I plugged it in at work to the regular 110v plug in the back parking lot at the tv station, it took over thirteen hours to charge from empty to full. I hope I won’t have to explain why CW44’s electric bill is slightly higher next month to the HR department.
The home based charger you can get when you buy one charges the car much faster. It only takes about four and a half hours to go from empty to full on the green battery side of the “fuel” gauge. If you are the kind of person who lives your weekday life in about a 20 mile radius that involves taking the kids to school, driving to work, picking up the kids from school and driving home, you’ll probably only have to buy gas when you take a trip out of town. I drove the car 505 miles in the week that I had it and used less than $20 of gas. I know I shouldn’t compare the Volt with the gas pig that I usually drive, but I will anyway. Technically, my regular car is a hybrid. It burns gas AND rubber.
OK, so the two cars do not compare to each other, but I admit that I love them both. If I could have a Volt to drive around town, it”s far better at sitting in traffic than my SS, but the SS is much better at getting me in trouble. A few of my car friends tell me there is no need for the Volt anymore because gas is super cheap. But we all know that cheap gas won’t last and my mind, anytime I can give a one-finger salute to the oil companies by passing every gas station I see, that is a good day/week/month/year.
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt stickers at $37,520, as tested with options $39,850
It’s EPA rated at the equivalent of 106mpg on the battery and 42mpg using gasoline.
Erica Habedank | CW44 Tampa Bay