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:
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.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.