Four months into life with my Chevy Volt, and I am still learning about the Volt in every way. Learning about the XM radio, the best ways to charge, and wondering why they didn’t put nitrogen in the tires.
The biggest change this month is the addition of my home 240V charger. Instead of the Volt Charger that offered a $200 discount from GM, I chose to upgrade and get a Bosch 30 Amp charger in case we wanted to get a battery only car like the Honda Fit. I also am hoping when my lease is up in three years that the new Volt might need more charging power available than the 15 AMP charger GM was offering through Bosch and have even more electric range.
The faster charging time really comes in handy, and I am using even less gas because of it. Now my average is over 224 miles for each gallon of gas used. 174 of those are pure electric and the remaining 50 miles are on gas. Yes, I am really getting 50 MPG on gas even though GM and the EPA say it only gets 38.
The trick is to manually manage the drive modes, which I understand are new to the 2013 Volt. When I know I can’t make an entire trip on electricity, or I know the destination charging fees are higher than the cost of using gas, I’ll run the gas on the highway as soon as I hit 40MPH until I’ve run gas for the number of miles that I was going to be short on battery range. I am sure the “hypermilers” are getting even better milage with their Volts than I am.
As a side note, my calculations figure that $1.00 per hour of commercial electric charging is about the same as $4.25 per gallon of gas. I am a tree hugger, but a thrifty one, so I will use whichever energy source costs less. Blink has this figured out, since they charge members $1.00 per charging hour everywhere. The trouble with Blink is if you can’t get back to unplug, the meter keeps running even though you don’t use any electricity.
When I pull into Chargers like Seal Beach that are $1.00 per KWH which equals $3.37 per charging hour, I don’t charge. Obviously when I find free charging like South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa offers, I jump in. Some free places though are so popular like the two chargers at Bella Terra Shopping Center in Huntington Beach, I quit trying. I am sure two employees regularly charge because it is the same two cars.
I had a little glitch where the car stopped charging. This lasted two days and was fixed. No one knows why, but we did “reboot” the car and it is back to it’s old self charging like it should, I think.
I also changed my home electric plan so I get really really cheap rates from midnight to 6 am. With the 120V portable charger, it takes over eight hours to charge so that plan was pretty useless. Now that the car knows to start charging at midnight, and is done between 3 AM and 4 AM every day, it is even easier on my wallet.
The place where the car isn’t quite as smart as it could be is in the charge modes. At home it should use delay charging, on the road it should automatically plug in. With all of the cameras, GPS and monitoring I have in the car, it should know when I am home. I know Onstar does. So when you want to charge on the road, you have to temporarily override the charging schedule when you plug in at a commercial charger. I found out the hard way that Blink will still charge you $3.00 if you are plugged in for three hours even if you aren’t charging because you left it in “delay charge” mode.
The car did send a text and an email that it was “not charging due to an interruption”. I assumed that someone just unplugged me or the blink charger stopped charging. In delay charge mode it sends this text every time I plug in and it is in delay charge mode. At home this is a bit annoying.
Another place the brains could use a minor upgrade is the alarm when the car is unplugged. If I am on my 110V charger, it makes sense, I don’t want my charger stolen, but I doubt the alarm will stop anyone. If the car is fully charged, I don’t mind the car in the next space unplugging my Volt and plugging in their car. Blink and Chargepoint will both stop charging me so I think this is just good etiquette to allow them to use the charger when you are done.
I dropped the XM traffic subscription. More than once a freeway would be closed late at night and the XM would show it as the fastest route home. Even funnier, my wife beat me home a couple of times just sitting in traffic while I was detouring all over town taking the “faster” route. Now I leave the GPS route planning in Eco mode and it works perfectly.
The Chevy Volt is still fun to drive and my wife is still taking it every chance she gets. The magic hasn’t worn off yet, I’ll let you know where we are at five months and 5000 miles.