A week with the 2012 Chevy Volt


For some people, myself included, the words “electric car,” give an impression of being light instead of heavy and flimsy instead of solid. The idea of plugging a vehicle in, especially in this part of the world, makes one think of a golf cart, which is fun to ride and will get you to a nearby destination, but really isn’t a viable vehicle for anything more than a quick zip around the neighborhood.

The Chevy Volt addresses those concerns from the moment you lay eyes on it. You can see immediately that this isn’t a car that will get pushed around by a gust of wind. It has a sporty design but also some heft. This is no tiny car that puts the driver close to the road and beneath all other vehicles. It is substantial and has a presence that draws the eye, but it’s true value appears once you get inside and take it on the road.

Sitting in the Volt can be intimidating at first because of the sudden sound like a computer booting up as the screens behind the steering wheel and on the console come to life. The information available to you glows and you aren’t sure where to look first. Thankfully, the car starts with a simple tap on the brakes and the push of a button. Although there is no rumbling of a raring to go engine, the car is ready to roll. Before you get moving though, you can do a quick assessment of how much charge is in your battery, how much gas is in the tank, what the temperature is inside the car and what station is playing on your XM radio. If you need to change something, you change it like almost anything else these days with the tip of your finger. In a world full of ever-smarter smartphones, the Volt feels like a truly smart car. In fact, smartphone users connected with OnStar can have an app that allows you to program charging times, set temperatures, create photo reminders for parking spots and more.

My test drive of the Volt lasted one week and I was thrown into some end-of-the-day rush hour traffic on my first afternoon with the car. The car worked just like I would expect any car too, if not a little better in places. The brakes, which I had to apply quite a bit in the bumper to bumper traffic, responded quickly without being overly sensitive. When I had the fortune of some open road and the opportunity to seize some more, I had plenty of pep to move ahead and in and out of traffic. Overall, the Volt drove like I wanted it to, while also using some of its technology to teach me how to drive it more efficiently. On the screen behind the wheel is a gage that shows the driver if he or she is accelerating or braking too quickly to be efficient. Some times, you don’t care about efficiency, you have to stop or you will hit the person in front of you, but there are many times in your day to day driving where you stop at the same stop sign or make the same turn. It was interesting to see the small changes I made in my driving style in just one week.By paying attention to the gage, you can learn to maneuver better and more efficiently.

And efficiency and energy conservation is what the Volt is really all about. After a full charge, the Volt can go 35 miles on the battery and, if you have to go further than 35 miles in a day, the 9.3 gallon sized gas tank, can provide the back up to take you where you need to go. It has a cruising range of 325.5 miles in the city and 372 miles on the highway. The cost of fully charging the Volt is estimated to be around $1.50 per day. The battery and Voltec component comes with an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty.

Most of my driving is done in and around Fayette County and my commute is a short one, dropping kids off at school, going to the office, and picking the kids up after work. I would likely never use the gas tank until driving on the weekend when we are running chores or heading out and about. For our family of four, there was just enough space, but the backseat is two seats instead of a bench. My kids are both young, so they fit in there fine, and while I didn’t get a chance to sit in the back before we put the child safety seats in, a coworker joined in on the initial test drive and said she found it surprisingly roomy back there. The trunk was also big enough to hold groceries, golf clubs and more.

I tried to play with everything during my week with the Volt. Even though daytime temperatures were unseasonably warm, I tried and enjoyed the seat warmers. The air conditioning worked great and I could either punch up the fan speed or select a temperature to cool the car to. I have long been a fan of satellite radio and enjoyed the XM, but I think the Volt may need a stronger antenna. In my car that had satellite added to it (not built-in with car), the signal would only go out some times under heavy cover. It worked in garages, tunnels, etc. The XM in the Volt went out momentarily each day next to my son’s school and winked out intermittently in other spots. It was never for a long period of time, but it happened just often enough to be noticeable and mildly annoying.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the Volt. I felt safe, thanks to the sturdy build of the car and also because of the air bags. The Volt features dual-stage frontal, side-impact and driver’s knee air bags, plus roof-rail side-impact bags for front and rear outboard seating positions. I imagined that if I was to get in an accident, the interior of the car would be like a balloon, but everyone inside would be safe. The Volt also comes with OnStar, which I didn’t get a chance or have a need to use, but the Bluetooth technology came in handy more than once.

Driving the Volt felt like driving the future and it prompted a lot of conversations with interested friends, family members and co-workers. I kept coming back to the thought that for me, an electric car, just made sense. I rarely needed to use the gas reserve because a full charge could get me where I needed to go most days. Having the gas tank gave me peace of mind though, knowing that I wouldn’t get stuck halfway to my destination or have to push it down the road. The Volt may not be an ideal car for a family larger than four, but it certainly should be considered by anybody interested in a cleaner, greener car and not having to spend so much on gas. If the Volt is a first step, the future for electric-hybrid vehicles should be promising indeed and I am excited to see what happens next.

For more information, call Southtowne Motors of Newnan 770-253-3131 or www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car.