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2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

General Motors' patented oil-life monitoring system, found on most of the vehicles it has produced in the last eight or ten years, automatically measures variables like engine cycles, crankcase temperature and oil age to determine when a trip to the local Jiffy Lube is due. As most drivers know, oil loses its lubricating properties and friction reducing components gradually over time, and you thus need to replace the slick substance every X thousand miles.

In the case of the Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle that may, in the hands of a short-commute driver, only occasionally fire up its engine, oil change intervals could be extended to a max of two years. GM's executive director of electric vehicles, Mickey Bly, explained the Volt's oil change cycle to the GM-Volt.com crew like this:
We have adapted our patented oil life monitor to the Volt's unique operating conditions and its interactions with the engine oil quality. We have added a maximum calendar life of 2 years as a cap on the oil life...so that would be the maximum period before an oil change is needed. By using the oil life monitor it insures the customer will optimize the engine performance and be notified if an oil change is needed. As we learn more about the Volt in field usage, we may increase that cap.
Of course, extended oil change intervals reduce a vehicle's operating costs and that's one of the major selling points for a vehicle such as the Volt. GM is not implying that all Volt owners will get a warning chime from the oil-life monitoring system every 24 months, but it seems likely that most drivers of the Chevy's plug-in will see longer-than-usual intervals between lubes.


  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt passes a trolley while navigating the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt drives near the Golden Gate Bridge while on an engineering development drive in San Francisco, California Saturday, April 25, 2010. The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt navigates the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range on display at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • The first pre-production Chevrolet Volt rolls off the line at the Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant Wednesday, March 31, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet) (04/01/2010)
  • A Chevrolet Volt battery at the General Motors Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Michigan Wednesday, June 30, 2010. The Chevrolet Volt will offer customers an unprecedented standard 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on its lithium-ion battery. GM engineers have completed more than 1 million miles and 4 million hours of validation battery testing since 2007. Each Volt battery pack has nine modules and 288 cells. GM designed and engineered 99 percent of the 155 components in each battery. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)

[Source: GM-Volt]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 39 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      maybe try designs that don't require lubrication. rocker piston and revolving valve or maybe even a tesla turbine based generator
        • 6 Months Ago
        Even with ceramic bearings. They'll last longer, but not forever. If you want to go 100,000 miles, which is basically 20,000 hours or more, you're going to need some lubrication.

        Not with fluid bearings, but then again, those are basically oil-filled anyway.
        • 6 Months Ago
        you do realize the numbers you gave is an average of 5mph. fairly slow vehicle.
        • 6 Months Ago
        If it moves and you want it to last 100,000 miles, it needs lubrication, regardless of the mechanism.
        • 6 Months Ago
        even with ceramic bearings?
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's just dreadful. Having to pay $50 for an oil change every two years is a deal-breaker for me. I'm going to have stop buying lattes to afford this expensive maintenance.

      Please wait... rolling eyes.
        • 6 Months Ago
        A Leaf wouldn't work for somebody who has to drive for more than 40 minutes one way on a freeway, not have time to charge, and drive back home. Thanks, but that isn't far enough for me. A Volt would work for 95% of my driving in electric power alone, and also use it for taking to the big city so I don't have to drive my truck instead.

        The Leaf may be ideal for people who live in the city and are rarely leave the city limits because they think that there is nothing that the city can't offer, are willing to look for RV parks to charge up if they do venture out. As much as I love the planet, most people and I aren't like this.

        100 miles is a toy for your friends to say "gee, that's neat. you're so cool". When I can drive for 3 hours at freeway speeds before recharging, charge up in less than 10 minutes with charging stations not more than 10 miles out of my way, I'll consider a pure battery-powered car. The time isn't now, though.
        Noz
        • 6 Months Ago
        Gary, I drive 30 miles roundtrip to work and back. My wife drives 40 miles round trip to work and back.

        I drive a Ford Focus. She drives a Rav 4.

        I guess we drive toys right?? A mile range car would be MORE than adequate for many people.

        I don't understand this philosophy Americans have......drive all day alone...yet have 5+ seats in a car. Drive 40 mile-50 miles a day....yet have to drag around 12 gallons or more of fuel where ever I go.

        It's stupid.
        • 6 Months Ago
        I agree with Neil.

        The Volt seems to be for those that suffer extreme range anxiety.

        • 6 Months Ago
        Volt engine has a belt (unlike belt-free 2010 Prius). I wonder how often it needs to be replaced.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Wait until you find out that EVs still have lots of systems in there besides the motor.

        As if A/C compressors can't break on EVs?
        As if water pumps for the cooling systems can't break?

        These aren't golf carts, they are complex vehicles. They will break down once in a while.
        • 6 Months Ago
        "A regular ICE powered car costs $3-4K for regular maintenance over 100K miles. A "pure" EV costs virtually nothing for maintenance."

        Assuming you don't need to replace the battery.

        Oil changes are cheap. Spark plugs are cheap. Even batteries (not the EV kind) are cheap.

        What costs me money on my older cars is control arms, bearings and other non-ICE components. EVs don't solve that problem.
        • 6 Months Ago
        I need to disagree with you Neil. My oil changes cost $18 for oil & filter. With 20 changes in 100k miles, that's $360. Throw in $30 for spark plugs and another $30 to swap out my gearbox oil, $30 more again for 2 air filters. I have $450 in ICE maintenance for 100k miles. Am I missing anything?

        Sure, I'm doing it myself, but I'm using less than $10 worth of tools, right? Where to put the wrench & which way to turn it is literally all you need to know.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A regular ICE powered car costs $3-4K for regular maintenance over 100K miles. A "pure" EV costs virtually nothing for maintenance.

        Energy cost is where an EV really beats an ICE: it is about 1/4 - 1/3 as much.

        Considering the Volt costs ~$9,000 more than a Leaf to buy, and it is smaller inside (seats 4 vs 5), and the people in the back of the Volt should be less than 6 feet tall. If you drive less than 100 miles a day, then why wouldn't you get the Leaf?

        Sincerely, Neil
      • 4 Years Ago
      They forgot to mention that the Volt oil is very special and can only be replaced at autorized Chevy Volt trained dealers. And the cost is $500.

      Just kidding, only barely.
        • 6 Months Ago
        When you say that the cost of the Volt oil change is $500, are you serious or not. You say just kidding, only barely. You aren't sending a clear message to me.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Well, Chevy hasn't actually released any information or pricing or requirements for the maintenance of the Volt, so when I say I am kidding, it's only because I don't actually know if it's true or not.
      • 4 Years Ago
      1- the ICE operates at full engine loads. This amounts to placing your normal car in top gear and running 100+ mph all the time. Or like a boat or jetski that has an gas engine under a 100% load. Those typically require 25hr to 50hr oil changes and 40-60w oils to handle the breakdown of viscosity.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Two years is a very long time for oil to sit in an engine that moves rarely.

      I think that is cutting it very close. I have been doing my own oil changes for almost a decade now and i know what 1 year old oil looks like vs 6 month old... At about the year mark, the stuff starts to notably break down on it's own, at 2-3 years it can form a sledge that can block engine oil passages and other crevices in the head... which is not good news for an internal combustion engine.

      I wonder if this will become a problem in the future. This 1.4L is basically an off the shelf unit that was not purpose built for duty in the Volt.
        • 6 Months Ago
        My GM car went 11.5 months without an oil change using the oil life indicator in the car. If I had proceeded past 4% life remaining to 0% remaining I might have even made a year.

        This is with synthetic oil.

        If GM suggests 1 year oil changes, then I have to imagine it's safe, although I do agree the oil must have been very oxidized at the end.

        I think each time you type "sledge" you mean "sludge".
        • 6 Months Ago
        You are probably right about synthetics, however once it's out of the bottle and 'in the real world', it's another story.

        You can send your oil to a lab and find out all sorts of things! however, you can't send the gummed up, gelled, caked on oil to the same lab without shipping your head and block out!

        I'm not talking about the oil losing it's lubricating properties at all. I'm talking about it breaking down and turning into sledge in your engine.
        e85evodude
        • 6 Months Ago
        If your oil is breaking down that fast i suggest you start using synthetics. I have sent in oil for lab analysis that has been in use in a regular ICE at periods of 3 months, 6 months and 1 year (18400 miles nissan maxima with v6). Shockingly the oil was not that bad. Unless you send your oil in to get it analyzed, its pretty difficult to determine the condition of the oil. If your worried about metal flakes in the oil, get a magnetic drain plug. How long your oil will stay clean will also depend on how well your engine is running, how much fuel is getting into your oil.... Lots of new cars already have 15k oil change intervals (about 1 year for most people). Stretching it out to 2 years does not seem that bad given the car will be run in electric a big part of the time.

        However, if spending 35 bucks a year for an oil change would defiantly give me piece of mind.

        • 6 Months Ago
        Mileage and length of oil life are two different things though. Oil will go bad just sitting with 0 miles on it after a matter of years.

        I am not sure how synthetics age versus mineral oil, though. I would assume that synthetics last longer. But i've seen 3 year old mineral oil in a head before and it was ... let's say... concerning :P
        e85evodude
        • 6 Months Ago
        They are 2 different things, but mileage and condition of the motor/engine that it is in will have a direct effect on its life. As far as synthetics and their shelf life... I have asked the same question to a Redline motor oil rep. I was told just so long as the bottle stays sealed one or two years on the shelf is fine. I have used motul synthetic oil that was on the shelf for 2 years. Oil analysis indicated that even after 8k miles in a car it still had tons of life left. Granted the life cycle of this motul is a bit different than what the oil in a volt will see. both had the oil sitting for extended periods of time. Mobil 1 publishes a 5 year shelf life on their oil. (however this is when its in its original container) I think this might be one of those areas where Synthetic oils excel over the non-synthetics.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Volt owners would have another gas car as well since a 4 seater compact Volt is not big enough for a typical American family.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The hardest part on an engine is the wear during the first initial starting. Then once the Volt ICE is started up within seconds its running WIDE OPEN full throttle high loads. This is equal to a Civic Fully loaded with people and cargo sitting on the freeway on ramp. Start the car and 0-70mph wide open full throttle. How much wear do will the engine occur and what type of oil will handle the heavy loads.
      Marcus Fillion
      • 3 Months Ago

      I think this is a great idea. Especially for people like me, who never remember to change the oil without some help. If I don't have a reminder every now and again, it just completely slips my mind. Having the car let me know would be extremely handy. www.billsmithsauto.com

      • 4 Years Ago
      It might last that long in some places, but I wouldn't try it in any place where there is significant humidity. There are probably going to be a lot of oxides in that oil (including from the cast iron block), especially if the engine isn't run regularly.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's very clever! Congrats GM, but why not get a (much simpler) Leaf, and forget everything about stale gasoline, oil changes and mandatory gas engine operation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It would be unusual for someone to have just a Leaf and not another gas car. And that gas car will still require maintenance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Perhaps because you prefer the Volt?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Because they'd like to go more than 50 miles one-way under IDEAL conditions.

        That said, I wish they'd swap out this engine for a super-efficient gas turbine or something similar.
      Noz
      • 4 Years Ago
      You could avoid all these engine oil issues if you simply don't buy a Volt and buy a full blown electric car instead. Case closed.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Noz
        And stay very close to home.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Noz
        In reality, most people do.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Noz
        Keep your existing car for long distance and get a Leaf. Leaf also qualify for HOV lane in California but the Volt doesn't.
          Rjax
          • 20 Days Ago

          I have green HOV stickers on my Volt.

          Rjax
          • 20 Days Ago

          ... and I live in CA.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds like synthetic oil is going to be a good choice, or a shorter oil change period.

      Hmm. I have been so filled with the Volt is an EV merchandising, it is rather startling to see a picture of the robust looking engine.
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