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Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

Chevy Volt information

I owned a Chevy Volt from Dec 2010 to Dec 2013. It was one of the first Volts in the country (in the first batch that came out of the Detroit factory) and was in fact the first Volt to arrive in my home state of Georgia. Back in 2010 I created a simple website to introduce people to the car, because it was a complicated, new kind of car that required some explaining, and I would get lots of questions about it. You can still see that website at www.FirstVoltInGeorgia.com, where I have a fact sheet that explains the car.

The Chevy Volt is a fantastic car. Period. It’s a little complicated to understand on paper, but once you do, it’s brilliant, and GM did a virtually flawless job in designing and building it.

To quote WSJ’s Dan Neil, writing about the Volt upon its launch in October 2010 :

… for the moment, we should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them. That was downright heroic. Somebody ought to make a movie.

I believe the Chevy Volt is the best car for someone who is completely new to EVs and nervous about taking the plunge into a pure EV. In Georgia, however, the situation is distorted somewhat by the state tax credit. The Volt does NOT qualify for the state tax credit, because it can be fueled with gasoline (again, see the fact sheet above if that surprises you). So, in Georgia, Volt sales are generally depressed, in favor of cars like the Nissan Leaf and other pure EVs.

But if your daily drive is more than about 70 miles, the pure EVs are a bit of a stretch, and you really should take a hard look at the Volt. It only has a 40 mile electric range, but after that the gas engine “range extender” kicks in. For an 80-mile roundtrip commute, you would drive half on electric (no gas), and half on gas (at 40 MPG), and your resulting daily efficiency would be about 80 MPG. For a 120-mile roundtrip commute, you would drive a third on electric (no gas), and two thirds on gas (at 40 MPG), and your resulting daily efficiency would be about 60 MPG. That is better than any hybrid on the market, and the Volt is WAY more fun than hybrids like the Prius. Forget about charging at work or at public stations — the whole point of the Volt is that you charge at home, on a regular outlet, and have a fully charged car every morning.

There are really only two excuses to not get a Chevy Volt:
– It’s a hatchback, not a truck, so you can’t carry lots of cargo. Note though that the rear cargo area looks smaller than it is; it can carry just as much as any typical hatchback.
– The rear seat can hold two people, period. You can not fit five people in the car, not even three kids in the back, because there’s a hump in the middle of the seat, and there is no middle seatbelt. So if you have three kids, forget it. GM is fixing this in the 2nd gen Volt.

An additional excuse used to be that the Volt was too expensive, but that was in 2011, and the price has come down since then. See the “EV market” fact sheet (left side of this website) for the actual price now, after tax credit, and note that 2015 models in particular are likely to get extra discounts due to the 2nd generation Volt coming out at the end of the year. Price should not be a factor, especially when you consider the gas savings.

Considering a USED Volt? Look for model year 2013 or newer. Prior model years (2011 and 2012) were lacking some important improvements. 2013 is when the Volt finally hit its stride. Note that you do NOT get any tax credits for buying a used EV.

If you do test drive a Volt, put it into Sport mode!

Range analysis based on three years of actual driving

Early on in my time with the Volt, I registered with VoltStats.net, which is a site that gathers daily data from your Volt. You can then generate all sorts of interesting reports about how the car is performing — MPG trends, EV percentage, how you compare to other Volts, etc. Here is my detail page at VoltStats, showing my history starting from when I registered, 8 months after I got the car.

The latest VoltStats feature is the ability to download the data in a format that allows you to see how many miles you actually drove on each individual day. Using this data, within minutes I was able to generate a VERY interesting analysis of my driving patterns. The analysis showed me that I could easily live with a pure electric car, rather than having to rely on a range-extended EV like the Volt.

I did this analysis assuming a pure EV with 90 miles range. That’s a typical range for most of the pure EVs on the market. Well, it’s actually a stretch for some of them, but 90 miles is about what I expect the BMW i3 will do without too much pain.

You can click the image here for more information, but here are the conclusions.

click for full resolution PDF scan

click for full resolution PDF scan

1. In over 1000 days of driving, there were only 20 days in which I drove more than 90 miles. I checked those 20 days, and 17 of them were actually during long roadtrips out of town, which the Volt can do on gas of course. If I got a pure EV, I could do those roadtrips with a rental car and not burden myself with a gas engine for the 98% of the time that I don’t need it. In fact, some car makers are offering a gas car swap program to EV buyers, and I plan to take advantage of that.

2. Only three times in three years (once a year!) did I go beyond 90 miles just in around-town driving. But I could cover that situation by planning a stop at a charging station. In three years we’ve gone from ONE charging station in all of metro Atlanta to now over 150 charging station locations around town. So just an hour stop here or there and even those long days will be taken care of. This was a problem three years ago, but not anymore.

3. Continuing that train of thought, with just a little planning I could easily achieve 200 miles in a day, so that now even takes care of the more moderate roadtrip days (e.g. Atlanta to Asheville, to Macon, to Chattanooga). Now we’re down to just 2-3 days a year when I’m driving very long distances, and again those can be handled with a rental or swap.

4. Over the three years, 90% of my days were pure electric, fitting within the more limited 35-40 mile electric range of the Volt. I have a short commute, so that helped. I would go weeks at a time without burning a drop of gas. Now, there were those 10% days when I was driving past the electric range of the Volt, and for those the gas engine was necessary. But they were rare enough that I never, in three years, actually ever bought gas in Atlanta! The only time I really burned a lot of gas was when we were on a roadtrip, and we’d be out of town when it came time to fill up the tank. For three years, I constantly had “out of town” gas in the car! The longest I went between fill-ups was 7 months, and 3500 miles, again per the stats gathered for me by VoltStats.net .

If you are a Chevy Volt owner, then please heed this one piece of advice: if you haven’t already, register with VoltStats.net NOW. Don’t delay another day.