My Daddy-o, who bears no resemblance to a typical 86-year-old senior citizen (still skis and plays tennis regularly) bought one of the first Chevrolet Volt electric cars produced last spring. This week I was briefly in San Fran, and got to drive it.
It’s way cool. We drove far beyond the car’s electric range, which is approx 50 miles. Once the battery-charge indicator dropped to zero, the car’s small gas engine kicked on to trickle-charge the battery. The motor was so quiet, I couldn’t hear it running, even while the car wasn’t moving.
The Volt is a very small car. Unlike the anemic performance of a typical compact, however, the electric motor has stunning torque. You can smoke the tires at any speed, because unlike an internal combustion engine, the motor’s torque curve is flat: 100% of available torque is available at all times.
Chevrolet makes the world’s worst interiors, and the Volt is no exception. The leather seats and switchgear are Chevrolet’s best quality (similar in quality to the Corvette), but still pathetic compared to an Audi or VW.
The car also has OnStar, which is a great thing for my Dad. He doesn’t have to futz with programming the navigation system, he just presses a button, tells the OnStar operator where he wants to go, and the destination and directions are downloaded directly into the navigation computer without him having to touch it. If he gets hungry and wants, for example, Thai food, he can just hit the magic button and the OnStar operator will find one for him and zap the info into his SatNav. No Googling for my Dad, no distracted driving while looking up pizzerias on his phone.
He has owned the car since about March, and in 8 months has been to the gas station a total of three times. The gas tank only holds about 5 or 6 gallons, so he can fill it up for $20. It charges overnight on 120v, or in a few hours at 240v. The charger is about the size of a loaf of bread, and handles either voltage.