Last Monday, GM's Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt, and Dave Barthmuss, GM's communications director, invited a dozen Plug In America members to Dodger Stadium for what turned out to be an exciting test drive of the Chevy Volt. Coming hard on the heels of our Nissan trip, it's clear the leading car makers bringing back plug-in cars are serious about soliciting input from the people who have the most experience driving EVs. That's a good sign.
We started off with a thorough explanation of the car including the charge port and 120Volt cord set with the standard three pronged plug. Given that the battery pack holds 16 kWh, but only 8 kWh will be usable (this is to protect the longevity of the pack), Level one charging on a 120V should suffice for most folks. According to Dave Barthmus, Level two charging (240V) will be available, but it's not been decided whether this will come standard, or be an option.
As for the price, Barthmus said that GM will announce this crucial piece of information about a month prior to the release of the Volt this fall. I hinted to them that they needed to be at least as low as $35K-$37K to be competitive, and lower would be better.
My first impression of the car was how nice it looked. When I first saw the body at Chris Paine's house during our Plug In America fundraiser 18 months ago, it was surrounded by a crowd of people and nose to nose to a Tesla Roadster. Here, however, I was able to get a good look, and I liked what I saw. Not too conservative and not too wild, not too big and not too small, a car most people would feel comfortable driving.
In our group were three Tesla owners and two MINI E lessees while most of the rest of us drove RAV4 EVs, so as a group, we had a lot of experience behind the wheel of electric cars. I gladly jumped in with Stefano Paris and Colby Trudeau for the first round of test drives on the rally course set up in the giant parking lot. Stefano asked me to hold his video camera while he drove, a task made difficult by the sharp turns on the course.
The acceleration of the Volt is quite good. Cornering felt tight and predictable to me, although the Tesla and MINI E drivers thought it was a bit heavy, but considering what they are used to, that's to be expected. We did have four adults in the car, so that should be considered. All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with the driving characteristics of the Volt. I've got lots of experience behind the wheel of a Prius and can guarantee the Volt will run rings around the Toyota.
Stefano really pushed the car, and then Colby, all of about 20 years old, got behind the wheel and he pushed even harder. By contrast, I practically poked around the course. After our turn, Tesla drivers, Linda Nicholes and Nagin Zainab Cox, showed the boys how to drive fast. We were all impressed with their daring. I know Linda took a course in racing to prepare for the Tesla. I have no idea how Nagin got so good. Maybe it's just nerves of steel
So, the Volt is quick and corners well. How is it for hauling stuff? Bruce Tucker, a RAV driver, was curious because he needs to haul around a full sized bass violin in a case, something with which the RAV has no trouble.
Everyone gathered around to watch as he opened the rear hatch and slid the instrument in, easily closing the door with room to spare. He then got in the passenger side with the neck of the bass between him and the driver, plenty of room!
I'm excited we have such good choices for plug-in cars coming so soon. Whether you get a Leaf or a Volt, you'll be happy. Both are great cars. I don't see a lot of competition between the two since most people I talk to want either a pure electric, or they want the extended range. The people who should be worried are those who sell the Prius or Civic hybrid. As long as those cars remain plug-less, the Leaf and the Volt will eat them for lunch.