Has there been any other vehicle in automotive history so maligned by those who don't know or understand it, yet so loved by those who do? Critics typically see the Chevy Volt as an electric car with a pitiful 38-mile range (as if the range-extending engine/generator weren't there), while media testers give it rave reviews and owners offer industry-best customer satisfaction scores.

Like a lot of folks, I loved the Volt's EREV (extended-range electric vehicle) concept - the idea of running on grid-provided battery power for the first 35-40 miles before a small, fuel-efficient gasoline engine starts, if needed, to keep you going - but was skeptical before driving one. My first encounter was a one-day press drive on mostly urban streets, about which I wrote nearly three years ago. My electric/gas composite "fuel economy" for 82.2 total miles (the first nearly 40 miles consuming no gas at all), some of them aggressive, was an eye-popping 81.5 mpg. Beyond that, it was also a surprisingly responsive, comfortable and pleasant car to drive. A while later, I picked up a Volt in the Detroit area, drove it to a meeting, then 80-plus freeway miles home on just over a gallon of gas. For the next several days, I used it for local trips, topping off the battery on 120V in my garage, and burned not one drop more.

Over my first 86 miles, my composite economy was 58.9 mpg.

Now I've finally been able to enjoy a second opportunity to live with a Volt as if I owned it. I picked it up on a Friday at the Detroit Metro airport with 38 miles on the EV range gauge, and 350 on the full battery/gas tank combo. I ran the first 31.8 miles on battery energy at freeway speeds before its 84-hp DOHC dual-VVT 1.4-liter four started (imperceptibly) with 303 gasoline miles remaining in its 9.3-gallon tank. About an hour later, I pulled into my garage with an indicated 254 miles showing on the gas range gauge. With the Volt consuming no gas for those first nearly 32 miles, then just 1.4 gallons for the final 54, my composite economy was 58.9 mpg.

Following an overnight charge, I drove it to the Detroit area and back Saturday night, burning 4.1 gal. of gas in 180.9 miles at mostly freeway speeds. That resulted in 44.0 composite mpg and left 110 miles of gasoline range. When I plugged it in at 1:00 a.m., the Volt told me its battery would be fully charged at 4:15 p.m. the next day. Yes, 120V is slow!

That trip totaled 139.4 miles on 3.0 gallons for a composite 45.2 mpg.

But Sunday afternoon I had to pick up my wife and her sister at the Grand Rapids airport (about 70 miles west) at 3:30 p.m., so I departed at 2:15 with an indicated 34 miles of EV range (and 145 total) on the gauges. Once both ladies and their luggage were comfortably aboard, I topped off the Volt's tank with 6.5 gallons of premium (Chevy requires the high-octane gas and says it adds 5-10 percent efficiency by enabling more spark advance and a higher compression ratio) before heading home. That trip totaled 139.4 miles on 3.0 gallons for a composite 45.2 mpg.

2013 Chevy Volt. Copyright 2013 Drew Phillips / AOL

The Volt enjoyed a day of rest and recharge before heading back to Detroit Metro Airport Tuesday morning (with 36 miles of indicated EV range) for a short two-day trip, and I decided to park in the big deck across from the terminal, where EV charging is available on the eighth level (thanks to DTE), instead of in my usual satellite lot. It took several minutes to find the (just two) EV charge stations, which of course were already occupied. Good thing I was driving a range-extending Volt that would get me home on gas instead of a "pure" EV that wouldn't!

When the press car guys picked it up later that morning, I hated to see it go.

By the time I found a regular slot in the nearly-full deck, I had driven 88.8 miles on 1.4 gal. for 59.9 mpg composite economy. And when I returned early Thursday morning, I was reminded why I always use the satellite lot: my parking bill for two days was $40 - compared to the $15 discounted rate I would have paid had I not decided to attempt an airport charge. The 87.6-mile trip home used another 3.9 gallons for a round-trip composite economy of 44.6 mpg, and 98 miles of gas range remaining. When I plugged in at 9:00 a.m., its battery was projected to be full by 1:00 a.m. Friday morning. According to the "B" trip meter (which I never reset), my entire 583.1 miles of driving over six days, the majority at freeway speeds, had burned just 12.6 gal. for a composite rating of 46.3 mpg. No wonder Volt's owners love it! And when the press car guys picked it up later that morning, I hated to see it go. Except for the lack of available chargers at the airport, it had been a great six days of Volt-owner experience.

2013 Chevy Volt plug

While I love driving EVs, especially on cheap grid energy, and fully understand their appeal to folks with only short-range driving needs, if I were to own one - living in mid-Michigan, 70-90 miles from most places where I regularly need to go - it would have to be an EREV. With a pure EV, I would need a second liquid-fuel vehicle for all those longer trips.

But with its complex dual-powertrain system and its big, expensive battery, the no-range-anxiety EREV's killer shortcoming remains its high cost - one good reason why no other automaker save upside-down Fisker (and, soon, BMW) has yet offered one. Chevy has recently addressed that issue by discounting the Volt another $5,000. And much cheaper, more energy-dense li-ion batteries are rumored to be just around the proverbial corner. Meanwhile, I can't wait to drive that gorgeously slicker, quicker, more athletic (but much less practical) 2015 Cadillac ELR EREV. More fun than Volt, but at a much higher price.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 99 Comments
      Dave R
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sounds like a combination of 240V L2 charging, a bit more EV range and a bit better fuel economy in range-extender mode would really make the Volt a winner. Personally I'd like to see a bit more interior/storage room for those longer trips on the range extender, too. Now that you can get one for as low as $31k (if you can negotiate with the dealer) it's almost a no-brainer once you factor in the federa tax credit and any local incentives.
        Rotation
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Dave R
        The Volt has 240V L2 charging. This guy just didn't have access to an L2 EVSE where he was.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sounds like a lot more long distance driving than the vast majority of owners would do. The more typical owner should expect to use much less gas. The article goes to show that even for a driving pattern that is much more extreme than what it was designed for, this EREV still does very well.
        mustang_sallad
        • 1 Day Ago
        @BipDBo
        and I think the other point is that it can do a lot more than most pure EVs.
      • 1 Day Ago
      I borrowed a Volt last July from an in law for about two weeks. That's when I realized I was driving the Car of my dreams. As a teen I built and raced slot cars. I recognized from that experience the true nature of electrical motive power! Just check out how diesel locomotives work. I wanted to own a decent electric car from then on. This is it! I bought my own in December 2013 (a 2014 model). I don't care about the mileage or whether it's running on battery or the ICE (internal combustion engine) since it is still the motor driving the vehicle. 1. It has so much torque that it never wavers in cruise either going down hill or up hill at any speed. I recently drove the hills of virginia on I-81 and had the problem of getting other cars to move over going up hill. They could only keep up if they down shifted. I was crusing at 75 (70mph limit). 2. Took it off road in the snow behind a four wheel drive up a hill to a cabin in Tennessee. The owner said I wouldn't make it as his other cars, front wheel drive, never have. Just followed him right up! He and my wife were shocked. Traction control of electric motors is unreal. 3. I drive in sport and L all the time. Wish they didn't call it L as I have to constantly reassure my wife it's not in LOW gear.. 4. with all of the rebates and dealer negotiations i was able to get the deluxe model for less that 32K. This car will last me a long time. :>) it's worth it in my book. By the way i subscribe to many electriconics mags and forums. Most have commented on the Volt with positive reviews concerning its construction and reliability.
      • 1 Day Ago
      I retired some years back and I have 2 vehicles that i use. I have an old Saturn that I let my daughter use and it's good on gas. I have a Buick Rendivious 2003 that I really love, but it is terrible on gas. May 19th I decided to purchase a Chevy Volt. It's only been a few weeks but I can't believe how much I love this car. I feel like a 20yr old kid with his first new car. They tried and talk me into leasing the car but I've never leased anything and it just seems like a lot of hassle when the lease is up. Not sure how much time I have on this earth but I will no longer support the economy of OPEC nations like I was. Monday I have an electrician friend coming out to install my 240 charger in my garage. I no longer commute to work so I just use this to get out to go shopping, appointments and such. It's taking a little time to figure out all the options and how to use them but I'm learning something new almost everyday. I spent a little more as I got every option I could. It drives and handles so nice. They had a show or rally at Schoolcraft College yesterday and I got to see all the EV cars and I can see what the future holds. They filled my Volt up at the dealership and I don't know when I will have to refill again. The on board computer asked if it could run the gas engine for 10 mins an it started nice and it was so quiet I had to get out of the car to listen to it. I felt a bit selfish buying this but I figure you only live once and decided what the heck. I'm glad I did.
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      Did I miss it? Not ONE TIME does Gary W. drive the car for daily use, like a regular owner. Always long trips for 6 days! No pizza run, no supermarket, no bowling, all of which would have been covered by the 40 mile range. And which would have required Gary W. to report infinite mpge, as he would have used No Gas. Then, he complains it's took till 2 am to charge the battery? Where did you need to go Gary, at 2 am? Got a chicky on the side, 70 miles away? This is more Gary W. Incompetence at testing EV's again. Just another story where Gary W. doesn't "get" this car, and amazingly just can't report it right. As for "complex": Gary W. It's just a Transaxle, it's not that big a deal. It's just a reliable as that ultra complex think in your regular car called a "transmission".
        Marco Polo
        • 1 Day Ago
        @CoolWaters
        @ CoolWaters " Did I miss it?" You almost always do ! Gary clearly states, " Now I've finally been able to enjoy a second opportunity to live with a Volt as if I owned it". Not if you owned it, or any other hypothetical person owned a Volt . He's telling you about his circumstances and experiences.
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @ CoolWaters "Fraud ?" It's ranters like you that make it harder to get EV technology adopted. Why is it that I find Gary's article a positive endorsement of GM's Volt, and all you do is post abusive rants? Oh yeah, that's right, I actually own a Volt !
          CoolWaters
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Marco Polo
          G. W. is renown for his mis-interpretation of EV's, including GM EV's. He drives a car for 6 days, and never takes 1 short trip? That's Journalistic FRAUD.
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Upon great reflection, this article is almost a Broder. 1) He charged at 8 amps instead of 12 amps thus charging much slower than it was capable. (Not to mention an owner might get a 240V EVSE.) 2) He didn't look at his smartphone to see if the airport chargers were in use. And then blamed his higher parking charge because he wanted to use the chargers. 3) He kept giving relatively low MPG numbers because he only calculated MPG when doing long trips. He didn't bother to add in all the miles he did on electricity for short trips . . . "For the next several days, I used it for local trips, topping off the battery on 120V in my garage, and burned not one drop more." 4) Most of his driving that he reported on were 88+ mile long trips which is just not normal everyday owner driving. "if I were to own one - living in mid-Michigan, 70-90 miles from most places where I regularly need to go" . . . really? So do you really spend 2+ hours commuting EVERY DAY?!?!? Maybe you should move. Although he has relatively kind words for the Volt, his MPG numbers show that he would be better off with a Prius. But his driving pattern is far from average. But the driving he did is probably also far from his average.
      Smurf
      • 1 Year Ago
      While Gary's driving of relatively long trips every day may not have been typical for a Volt owner, this test drive did show the versatility of the Volt. Even if you "do" drive well beyond the 38 mile range on a daily basis, the Volt will still yield phenomenal gas mileage, without hunting for (and waiting at) public charging stations.
        owlafaye
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Smurf
        Phenomenal? Hardly...read Musk's comments on the Volt...right on. Besides, who would want a low quality, ugly car with poor fit and finish? Now you will hear the Volt owners scream...but the fact is, the Tesla is a VERY high quality automobile with 0 (zero) emissions.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @owlafaye
          @ owlafaye " low quality, ugly car with poor fit and finish?" Either you have very high expectations, or you are just being annoying. I have been very surprised at the excellent level of build quality and finish of the GM Volt/Ampera. The Volt's aesthetics may not be to everyones taste, but that true of every car. Why would you compare the Volt, with Tesla model S ? Not only is Tesla twice the purchase, but is designed for a completely different market segment, with different needs and circumstances. Both are excellent vehicles, both are infinitely preferable to the rival ICE products.
          mikeybyte1
          • 1 Day Ago
          @owlafaye
          I would hope for $100k vs $40k the Tesla would have higher quality. Lame post.
      Koenigsegg
      • 1 Year Ago
      ELR is a fail already, wack
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      Good performance by a Volt in a situation it's not all that well suited for. Despite the plaintive cry that he's 70-90 miles from places, I'm guessing there are stores and restaurants close enough to him to actually drive to and back from with the Volt. I've been to places in Wyoming where you really were 70 miles from anything, but there's no place like that in lower Michigan. you would have gotten a better idea of the real value of the Volt if you had driven it in-town instead of only on out-of-town trips. I mean, you really were with friends and family for 6 days and never drove anywhere in town?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Awesome review... I would just like to note your one overnight charge (full the next day at 4pm) was probably on default 8amp..changing it to 12amp (max) would of charged it quicker. All VOLT owners learn to drive their cars and receive better efficiency over time. I have an 90mi RT commute and push out 46-50 Pure EV miles each day resulting in 1.3 gal of fuel...over 80mpg at highway speeds. Its a chore but it works
      BipDBo
      • 1 Day Ago
      VL00 "Try pulling out to pass someone at highway speed in a ~4000 lb car and 84 HP (less after conversion losses) - it sucks." You obviously have never driven a Volt because if you did, you would know that is not how it works. In extended range mode, during acceleration, it pulls electrical energy from both the engine-generator and the battery, for much more than 84hp. In fact, it is more powerful and quicker in extended range mode than in EV mode. Also, yes weight doesn't effect highway range much, but it does affect city range.
      VL00
      • 1 Day Ago
      Weight is a secondary factor, and basically irrelevant on the highway. The Volt could have an aluminum block (instead of iron), and the range would increase by about 100 ft. Iron is more durable anyway, and its already running an Atkinson cycle. And no, it shouldn't be less powerful, if anything the power should be doubled with a turbo. Try pulling out to pass someone at highway speed in a ~4000 lb car and 84 HP (less after conversion losses) - it sucks. If I had to drive my Volt on gas every day, I'd sell it.
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