SXSW Volt hard to give up – this is the EV that my family wants me to buy

my volt and I

Today Chevy took my SXSW loaner Volt back to the dealership in the cloud.  While I was already inclined toward the Volt, I was much more impressed that I expected.  Frankly, the fact that the Volt and my home-conversion RAVolt both have a 30 mile range made the Volt seem like a pretend EV on the surface.  Yet, the Volt proved it was a full EV and more.

The Volt is a very solid electric car with the all torque and feel I was expecting.

Since the Volt was delivered without a charge, my first day in the car relied on the gas hybrid feature.  Even on gas, I was getting >40 MPG.  While I would have preferred to get the Volt fully charged, it was an important lesson for me to see it perform as a gas fueled car first.

Once I got it charged, I was able to drive nearly all my trips electric only.  That included my 30+ mile commute.  The magic of the Volt is that I never worried about running out of charge.  As an EV driver who has had close scrapes, that is a truly liberating experience.

I enjoyed playing with the Volt’s drive system.  I managed to find an accurate power input/output gauge on the dash instrumentation (the center console view is mainly a pretty animation for passengers).  I was able to extend my electric range using feedback from the more accurate gauge.  In addition, the built-in tutorial explained that I could use the PRNDL “low gear” in traffic.  Low gear activated behaviors in the Volt that made it more efficient AND EASIER to drive in traffic than conventional gas cars.  I was also intrigued by how efficiently the Volt used its gas generator – it used some smarts so the generator ran as little of possible.  Of course, I also enjoyed the acceleration of the electric motor :)

In addition to the power train, I found the fit and finish of the Volt to be very satisfying.  The electronics were effective, interior comfortable and handling responsive.  While it did not pretend to be a luxury car, the Volt does not feel like a econobox either.

One note: if you are considering a Volt then plan on a 220 charger.  Relying on charging from household power is simply not practical.  Using 220, you can charge quickly at night when power is cheapest/cleanest to generate.

SXSWi bound thanks to GM & Chevy Volt

I’ll be blogging from SXSWi over the next few days as a guest of the Chevy Volt team AND they’ve given me a Volt to drive for the week (disclaimer: total cash value of $1150).  I’ve been in Austin for over 10 years and find it ironic that my electric car past gets me to event instead of my cloud or software work.  Either way, I’m delighted to attend.

RAVolt maiden 037Yes, I have electric car construction experience…

About 6 years ago before the first days of $4 gas, I took on the entrepreneurial/science project of converting an electric car (a 96 RAV4) to run on batteries.   The result proved clearly that there was no sustainable business in converting gas cars to electric because the mechanics are different enough to require purpose-built design.

My conversion project, the RAVolt, is still in daily use with over 3,000 electric miles.  I never intended it to be a show car – my goal was to be time and cash effective so it uses the most time-tested components: lead acid batteries, 18 hp elevator motor and a forklift DC control system.   With a 30 minute range, it has limited utility.

And now, I find myself in the market for a new car AND being given a Volt for the week.  The Volt was on my short list to consider (I drive a Honda Fit now) along with the Tesla S, Leaf and Smart.  This topic deserves it’s own post.

For the next few days, I’m going to wallow in the SXSWi nerdfest and enjoy experimenting with a production class electric car.  I will, of course, be sharing my experiences and observations about both here and on twitter.  Both are subjects of long-standing interest.

Disclaimer: Chevy has provided me with a SXSWi pass and Volt use ($1150 value).  They have asked for nothing in return and I have made no commitments for favorable comments.  Further, my employer, Dell, is aware of this arrangement with Chevy.  My opinions are my own.