Goal: To further reduce our household CO2 emissions and live lighter on the planet. Solution: a Chevy Volt – the ideal green car!
After ten years of driving a fuel efficient Toyota Prius and nearly five years driving a Nissan Leaf full electric vehicle (EV), I finally found a vehicle that combines the best of both. Here is why I call the Chevy Volt the ideal green car.
The Prius had great mileage, but it still used gas. The Leaf could not burn gas if it wanted to, but the range was far less than the 100 miles per charge that Nissan originally claimed.
But it got worse. Over time, the battery capacity diminished, significantly reducing range. There were plenty of times I wanted to travel farther than the Leaf’s battery would allow. The only options were to make a charging stop along the way that could add hours to the trip (not so bad if I had a good book to read and was not pressed for time), or to coordinate with my wife to use her gas guzzler (a Prius).
I know, this is a classic first-world problem. Believe me, I count my good fortune every day and having that choice was one of them. However, for someone trying to actively reduce their carbon footprint with every decision, it is an issue. Most of the time, the gas guzzler was the practical option, thus most of my longer trips were 100% gasoline powered, even if it was only slightly beyond the range of the Leaf.
You Won’t Go Back
At this point I should say that once I became accustomed to driving an electric vehicle, going back to an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) seemed so primitive. EVs are superior, period. But the Leaf’s decreasing range issue was not cool. There had to be a better way.
I found the perfect solution in the form of a 2017 Chevrolet Volt. The brilliant design of the car combines gas-free, electric-only driving for daily trips around town, with a range-extending gas-electric hybrid system that only kicks in when the EV battery is depleted. It combines the best of both: the full electric vehicle I want every day, with a fuel efficient gas-electric hybrid mode when I need it for longer trips.
Electric when I want it. Gas only when I need it.
Goodbye Range Anxiety
Gone is the range anxiety of the Leaf’s limited battery capacity. The Volt’s 8.9 gallon fuel tank is there when needed, adding over 370 miles of range on top of more than 50 miles of electric-only driving. This makes the Volt a great car for around town as well as for long distances. Like I said, it combines the best of both.
So how has it been working out in real life? I’ve now driven over 3,500 miles in the Volt. 95% of that has been electric only since most of my driving is local. The car had a full tank of gas when we picked it up at Findlay Chevrolet on September 9th. Now over four months later, we’ve used less than four gallons of gas. The tank is still over half full. Most of those four gallons were burned while testing the car in the first weeks we had it.
Your Mileage May Vary
Now that we’re beyond the “test phase,” our practical mileage is well above 1,000 miles per gallon!
In daily use, the ICE rarely activates. Usually it happens on the way home from a longer trip across the valley and back, and it is practically unnoticeable. Chevy has done a great job making the transition from full electric mode to gas-electric hybrid mode not only automatic but seamless. The ICE is well balanced and insulated from the cabin. It is barely noticable.
What? I Used Some Gas?
Sometimes I don’t even realize the ICE has come on until I power down the Volt in the garage. Then it displays a nicely-informative energy summary on the dash, showing consumption and range for electricity and, if applicable, gasoline. This happened the other day. I returned home and the display showed 61 miles traveled using the electric battery and the last ten miles powered by the ICE, using about .25 gallons of gas.
Since electricity is less expensive than gasoline and electric motors are much more efficient than gasoline engines, the average fuel cost per mile is drastically lower than that of a standard vehicle. As Nevada’s grid power is increasingly cleaner, EVs are a great way to reduce emissions.
We’ve taken it a step further, having installed a solar array on the roof of our home back in 2005. The car is charged primarily from our photovoltaic panels (PV), for even more savings.
So is the Chevy Volt the ideal green car? I believe it is currently the best choice for anyone shopping for a practical electric vehicle with the option to travel further when necessary. The need for a second gasoline-only car is eliminated so for single-vehicle households, it’s a great solution.
Do you park in downtown Las Vegas occasionally? The city has a great EV parking program. For $20 you’ll get a window sticker for your EV that allows you to park in any metered spot in the city without having to feed the meter! It’s good for two years and the Volt qualifies! Just find a spot, park the car, and walk away. For some, that might enough of a reason on it’s own!
Making the Decision
For us, getting a new vehicle is a substantial decision. I spent time learning about the car, visiting the forums to see what others were saying about it. Here are a few comments I gleaned:
My wife took our 2016 Volt in for its first scheduled service. While she was waiting, the writer mentioned that he couldn’t believe that after 9,700 miles we still had gas that came with car at the end of Feb. Customers overheard this and came over asking questions about the car. Most saying they had no idea that Chevy made this car. Maybe she should get a job as a salesman. – Chevy Volt Owners Facebook Group
The Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car scores higher on owner satisfaction than any other vehicle GM has sold since it began surveying its buyers. It has attracted new buyers who’d never otherwise have considered a Chevy. – GreenCarReports.com
I’m pretty sure if the general public had any idea how good the car actually is sales would rival the best-selling car in the world. I estimate so far [my Volt] has displaced about 3,200 gallons of gasoline, saved about $10,000 in gasoline costs, and prevented about 64,000 lbs of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. GM designed the pack so well… unlike early LEAFs that suffered heat exhaustion. – Chevy Volt Owners Facebook Group
We traded a 2011 Prius IV for the Volt. NO comparison! The Volt is actually FUN to drive! – Chevy Volt Owners Facebook Group
We liked our Prius too, but 5 or 6 years of tech advances are a lifetime. The Volt feels much more substantial and there is NO contest in drivability and handling. The Volt’s super low center of gravity and amazing acceleration allows it to take on our mountain roads like a serious roadster. – Chevy Volt Owners Facebook Group
Yes. Great car. We had a 2010 Prius. No comparison. – Chevy Volt Owners Facebook Group
Original brakes. 90% left on pads after 300,000 miles. This is the only car that I ever purchased that I feel that I got more than I paid for it. – HybridCars.com
As for the Use of Solar PV to Charge an EV:
The best way to justify driving an electric car economically over the long run would be to pair a plugin car with a rooftop solar array. This article comes to the conclusion that gas for a 32 mpg car would have to be $0.50 a gallon for the next 25 years to be cheaper than driving on solar power. So maybe something closer to $0.75 per gallon if driving a 50 mpg Prius. – InsideEVs.com
Range and cost are the top reasons given today for postponing the purchase of an EV, and the $2/gallon gas argument is given as conclusive evidence that it is not fiscally responsible. While in a handful of states this can be true when buying electricity from utilities, it will rarely be the case when the consumer makes their own solar connection. Solar photovoltaic (PV) combined with an electric vehicle (EV) is a winning combination both environmentally as well as economically. – InsideEVs.com
Where to Get a Volt – My Recommendation
I think big decisions should include analyzing the best place to do business. Again, I used online sources to help with my choice. I found that there are four Chevrolet dealerships in the Las Vegas valley and not all reviews were the same. I put that information aside for a bit and after deciding on what features we wanted in our Volt, I approached them all equally.
In my experience, one stands out above the rest: Findlay Chevrolet. I can honestly say that it was enjoyable to do business with them. We always felt appreciated and never pressured. They were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the Volt.
We were guided to Bryan Drewes, the Internet Sales Manager at Findlay Chevrolet, who personally likes the Volt so much he was planning on buying one soon for his family. I was impressed with Bryan’s knowledge of the unique features of the vehicle. Don’t underestimate the value of finding the right person when buying a cutting-edge car. Bryan is a professional and one of the nicest people you could meet. If you’re interested, here is his number: 702-982-4454.
The bottom line is that Findlay has the best online reviews of all four local Chevrolet dealerships, by far. They are doing it right. It was icing on the cake that they had the model we wanted, terms we could live with, and friendly, knowledgeable staff that helped us feel confident about our decision.
There is so much to say about the Volt. I plan to add more to this article as time permits. Check back in if you get a chance or do some checking on your own. You just might come to the same conclusion about the Chevy Volt – The Ideal Green Car.