Jackson Browne Chevrolet Volt – Plugging In Together
Jackson Browne told me that he has only used 8 gallons of gasoline during the 2,000 miles that he has driven his Chevrolet Volt. Jackson is famous as a singer, songwriter, and inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over 17 million albums have been sold in the U.S. alone. Jackson is a founder of MUSE – Musicians United for Safe Energy. Prior to this Sunday’s inspiring concert, he talked to members of the press, including me, about his commitment to clean energy.
When it comes to oil, coal, and nuclear, Jackson knows that we are “Running on Empty.” For over 25 years, he has lived off-grid using solar power and wind energy. Now he rides on sunlight, charging his Chevy Volt electric car with renewable energy. Only on a few long trips, has he needed a little gasoline.
Saturday, I attended a meet-up of 24 owners of Chevrolet Volts. As I chatted with many owners, it was clear that they loved their Volts. Tom and Laurie share driving their Volt. The one driving the most miles for the day takes the fuel-sipping Volt. Normally, Tom takes the Volt for his 60-mile round-trip commute to work. He has averaged 44 miles of the trip in electric mode. The electric-mode range is impressive for his freeway driving, but rush hours lead to slower speeds and better electric range.
When I pressed the happy owners for any negative experiences (I’m trying for journalistic balance in these stories), the only lament was their long wait to get their Volt and their now long wait to get their ordered SPX level-2 charger installed. They have discovered, with few exceptions, level-1 charging using a standard 110v outlet is just fine.
Felix Kramer and his wife Rochelle, in January, became the first couple to own and drive both a Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt. A founder of CalCars, Felix has been a leading advocate for plug-in hybrids for 10 years. We all owe him a thank you for the accelerated development of electric cars. Being environmentally concerned, they have a “LEAF-first policy” to minimize use of gasoline.
On nine trips to Lake Tahoe, over 200 miles from their home, they drove the Volt. The extended range of the Volt provides for easy non-stop driving. With the LEAF, overnight stops would be needed for recharging. When driving his Volt on snow, the handling has been adequate, but that there is a big market for the first automaker to offer a plug-in vehicle with all-wheel drive for better traction. Felix also recommends that automakers provide better range management with clear display of the miles of each trip without need to reset the odometer and with clear state-of-charge display.
Richard Lowenthal loves driving his Volt. Richard is founder and CTO of Coulomb Technologies and the ChargePoint network. Coulomb now has over 5,000 charge points installed in over 20 countries. I have used their chargers at a number of locations with 100-percent ease and success. Recently, Richard drove his Volt from his home in Cupertino to the San Francisco Airport where he charged with one of 14 Coulomb charge points. Then he went to downtown San Francisco and again charged. When he returned home after 110 miles of driving, he displayed that 102 miles were in electric only-mode.
New General Motors Voltec Charger
The Volt owner meet-up took place at the General Motors Advanced Technology Office in Palo Alto. Volt and LEAF drivers were charging their vehicles with GM’s new Voltec Level 2 Charger which can be bought through Chevrolet dealers and online for only $499. GM has achieved the low price by eliminating redundant smart charging electronics in the EVSE and letting the vehicle manage charging. Volts have on-board smart charging which can be managed through the vehicle display, the internet, or with smart phones using the GM Volt OnStar Mobile App.
General Motors Shad Balch explained to me that GM has increased its scheduled production of the Volt as it scrambles to catch-up with customer demand. GM will make 16,000 Volts in 2011, almost double its original plans. This includes 2,000 for dealers to provide demonstrations and test-drives. In 2012, General Motors will make 65,000 electric cars including 45,000 Chevrolet Volts for the U.S. market and 15,000 Opel Amperas for Europe.
The new General Motors is an engine of innovation. GM is working on 32 electric car derivatives all based on Voltec, the Chevrolet Volt’s electric drive system and GM’s architecture and roadmap for a number of exciting vehicles future vehicles with electric drive systems. Voltec can accommodate an electric drive system that uses a small engine coupled with an electric generator, such as today’s Chevrolet Volt in America, and the similar Opel Ampera for Europe and Japan.
You don’t need to be a music legend to drive an electric car. The Chevrolet Volt can be leased for $350 per month. Some owners are saving a fortune at the gas station, spending less than $60 per month for the electricity and gasoline needed to run their Volts.
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