I have followed the Chevrolet Volt for a number of years. I think it first caught my attention in late 2008 when I found a blog started by a Volt enthusiast and I thought, finally they are doing hybrids the right way!
The creator of that blog was great at sharing news, highlights, rumors and inside information about the Volt. You could say that it was his persistence that led to GM being so transparent with the development of the Volt.
Some background, I have been a vehicle enthusiast since I was like 11. I remember when my mom got me a subscription to Car and Driver one year and I went nuts, that followed with a subscription to Motor Trend. That had me thinking about cars and being the curious type I always wondered if there was a better way. I even pursued an education in vehicular design to see if my vision could be a reality. That path didn't happen, but my enthusiasm for vehicles in general has not waned.
During those years a number of concepts came and went and some of them had a lot of possibility, others did not. Some made it to production (GM EV1) others did not (Dodge Intrepid ESX). Although the Intrepid ESX was a winning concept, it was before its time. It was an electric vehicle powered by a small battery pack with a 3 cylinder diesel engine acting as a generator in the trunk. Sound familiar? It should, its almost exactly what powers the Volt and it had a predicted range of 500 miles on a small tank of fuel.
Fast forward to 2010, GM started production on the Volt which is an advanced technology vehicle. Why do I have to state that its advanced technology? Well, for one this vehicle employs a number of systems that do not exist on conventional internal combustion vehicles. One is the battery conditioning system. AC for your battery, really! It maintains the optimum temperature for your battery while in operation or while charging, extending the life of the pack. Because the car is powered by a large battery, everything you do in the car ends up using electric power. Everything! Think about it, the radio, the windows, the A/C, the fan, the lights, the switches and in this car even the power steering!
GM had to completely rethink its approach to vehicle design as well as systems design to make this car possible. Even the software that runs all the systems on-board was created from scratch to optimize everything that you do in the vehicle.
Now I have to clarify a misconception about this vehicle. It was once rampant and now is just a reason for some to ignore this new technology since they think it will not fit their lifestyle. The Volt was designed as an electric vehicle that has a gasoline generator to extend a trip. It gets between 30 and 50 miles of electric range on a full battery charge. If your trip, before recharging, extends beyond the electric range the gasoline generator turns on to allow you to continue your trip undeterred. This transition is seamless! While using gasoline you will get about 30-50 miles per gallon. Of course your personal driving style will account for more or less usage of either fuel source.
So, why am I talking about the Volt at all? In the coming weeks GM has been gracious enough to provide me with a demo vehicle for my wife and I to use for one week. In that week we are supposed to do what we usually do, drive to work, go to the gym, whatever. The idea is that we determine if an advanced technology vehicle will fit into our lifestyle.
In reality, the purpose is to see if our lifestyle is hindered by having an extended range electric vehicle in our personal fleet. I anticipate that our lifestyle and driving habits will not be hindered at all. But that's not the point of sharing our experience. By sharing, I'm hoping to open your eyes to the possibilities and UN-limitations of driving a vehicle like this one.
So for the next week or so I'm going to document, as accurately as I can, our personal experiences with the Chevrolet Volt. Please feel free to send questions my way and I will do my best to respond!
References and Resources:
Chevrolet.com: Volt information from Chevrolet
GM-Volt.com: Volt and EV related blog
The Future is Electric: GM blog related to the Volt and EV in general
EV World: dedicated EV blog and resource