Trading Plugs, Adding Flexibility
We are all smiles, driving our new 2016 Chevrolet Volt. We have driven more than its rated 53-mile electric range (at which point the engine engages to give us a total range of 400 miles). After driving the Volt for one week, we have used only one ounce of gasoline. We’ll try to do better next week.
Some friends are surprised that we sold our electric Nissan Leaf and replaced it with a Volt plug-in hybrid. We are no longer driving pure electric and I feel a bit guilty about the ounce of fossil fuel. For three and a half years, my wife and I drove the Leaf without ever running empty. It was a great car and mostly hassle-free.
We switched to the Volt because we went from two cars to one. In fact, we now have one Volt and two electric bicycles. Living in San Francisco, it all works. We can walk to grocery stores and
restaurants. If the walk is too long, we can bike or take nearby transit. If we are in a hurry, Uber and Lyft are omnipresent.
The Volt is an excellent match for a one-car couple like us. Local drives are pure electric. For our trips to family in San Diego, 400 miles away, the Volt gives us the range the Leaf didn’t.
It all comes down to how many cars you need, where you live, where you drive, and if you are willing to share. With two cars, we shared the Leaf and rarely used our Honda Civic Hybrid. For long distance, we used the hybrid. A pure electric car worked fine when we had two cars. Now that we’ve shifted to one car, a plug-in hybrid with its 53-mile electric range is great.
The 2016 Volt, with its 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery offers 40 percent more electric range than the 2015 Volt. It offers almost three times the electric range that I achieved when driving competitive plug-in hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi (21 miles) or Prius Plug-in Hybrid (11 miles).
2016 Chevrolet Volt
The good folks at Stewart Chevrolet told us that we were the first to take delivery of the 2016 Volt. I had ordered it in July. For delivery this year, it helps to live in California. Nationwide delivery don’t start until next year.
Our Volt LTZ cost $39,335 because it is loaded with extras, including an eight-inch screen with a backup camera, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Blind Spot Alert and Park Assist. The only surprise in the pricing from Chevrolet was a $1,000 rebate as an incentive to buy the Volt now. On top of the $38,335 balance, I had to pay California $3,449 in sales tax, but I’ll get back $1,500 from the state in an EV incentive. When we do our taxes next year, we will deduct $7,500 for buying an electric car, which greatly helps make this Volt affordable.
We never paid more than $35 in a month to keep our LEAF charged, so we expect the Volt to save us a bundle by rarely buying gasoline.
My wife loves the premium black and brandy leather interior and silver ice metallic exterior. I love the sport car handling and acceleration onto freeways.
For more acceleration, I could drive the Volt in Sport mode, but I’d rather have more electric range, so we always drive in Normal mode. I love the regen paddle on the back of the steering wheel. I can slow and stop the car in heavy traffic or downhill without using the brakes, while adding energy to the battery.
In theory, the new Volt is now a five-seater, yet my vegan, marathon-running brother is not thin enough to fit in the middle. A child would fit. The split back seat easily drops to expand cargo space for lots of luggage, home projects, school sports, golf clubs, etc. For us, it’s easy to put two bicycles inside (after removing the front wheels).
Volt Navigation and Safety
Although I love our new Volt, I’d like to see a few improvements. For navigation, I need to call OnStar and talk to a person to have turn-by-turn navigation display. I want to display Google Maps
from my Android phone, but Chevrolet is not yet delivering Android Auto on the Volt. Hopefully, I will get a free software upgrade in a few months. It does have Apple Auto. The Volt did easily use Bluetooth to pair with my phone, making it easy to play Google Music.
I’m still learning to use the safety features on my new Volt. Beyond warning when you stray out of your lane, Lane Keep Assist will gradually steer my Volt back into my lane after the car drifts inches into the adjacent lane. With Forward Collision Alert, I only received a visual and audio alarm at the last minute when approaching the car ahead (though it’s also supposed to apply the brakes). When I test drove a Toyota, their collision alert slowed the vehicle well in advance. The backup camera with the eight-inch display is most helpful. Blind Spot Alert is good at showing me that there is a car in the lane next to me, so I don’t try to make a dangerous lane change. In total, the car feels slightly safer than cars I’ve previously owned.
The 2016 Volt safety features are just the beginning. Internally, GM will start testing a future Volt with 100 percent self-driving capability.
The Leaf worked beautifully during the three-and-a-half years that we drove it. We purchased the Leaf for $33,000, took advantage of tax credits, and sold it on Craigslist (in four days) for $12,700. Ownership cost us $225 per month, plus an average of $35 monthly to keep it charged. That’s only $260 a month, including fuel and maintenance, to drive an excellent electric car.
We used the Leaf 80 percent of the time and our Civic Hybrid 20 percent for longer distances. Range anxiety is overplayed, but real. We never ran out of charge, but once a month I came home in the right lane of the freeway driving 55 miles per hour instead of 65. Range was much greater at 40 mph than 70 mph. Yes, we had trips of more than 100 miles. On a hilly freeway at night, with headlights on, the range was as little as 50. The 2016 Leaf has the option of a 30 kWh battery compared to our 2012 Leaf’s 24kWh. The range will be better than ever.
The only problem we had with the Leaf in 3.5 years was one flat tire. The car handled well and had lots of cargo space when we lowered the back seat.
The Leaf has earned its position as the best-selling electric car. It is getting more competition from Chevrolet, BMW, Ford and many other automakers. Take a look at Clean Fleet Report: Top 10 Electric Cars.
Green Car of the Year
Green Car Journal has announced its five finalists for the magazine’s 2016 Green Car of the Year award. The 2016 models include the Audi A3 e-tron, Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Prius.
I owned a Prius for seven years with a mostly positive experience. The Civic and Sonata are well-appointed sedans. The Audi A3 is a good plug-in hybrid, but only has a 19-mile all-electric mode compared to the Volt’s 53-mile electric range.
As a delighted new owner, I know how I’d vote. The new 2016 Volt deserves to be the 2016 Green Car of the Year.
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