2018 Chevrolet Volt – An Owner’s Perspective – Part 3

2018 Chevrolet Volt – Part 1
2018 Chevrolet Volt – Part 2

Images courtesy of GM Canada except lead image of 2018 Volt Premier Edition

First things first: after ten months of Volt ownership I continue to be pleased with my purchase. No buyer’s remorse, no major complaints, no operational issues, car runs like a charm. I’m really happy with the Volt. My partner, Susan, likes it as well!

The plan was a plug-in hybrid type vehicle mostly to drive locally. But we wanted the ability to take longer trips when required, without the charging inconvenience and still-limited range of a full EV (electric vehicle). That’s worked out well; the Volt is ideal for this.

That said, we haven’t put huge… um…”kilometerage” on the Volt. It’s a second vehicle that is used, as I say, mainly for local driving and we’ve only recently managed to top 10,000 kilometers (10,813 to be precise).

Specifically, city driving has been supplemented with a few long highway trips which account for about 3,000 km of the total. Consequently, 66% battery; 33% gasoline is the ratio at this point (there’s a Volt app that tracks this). Additional variables include seven weeks out of town with the Volt sitting in the driveway, and several weeks test driving other vehicles.

In other words, it’s seen use, but not daily use.

Since my last report in May 2018, hotter weather arrived and as hoped, driving range exclusively using the battery has also increased. On several occasions, in fact, we have seen battery range of 95-105 km, significantly exceeding expectations. And as you know if you’ve read Part 1 and 2 of this series, in the dead of winter we were achieving only 60-70 km electric range (GM has addressed this unwelcome lower winter range in the 2019 model, which I’ll get to later). All to say, the Volt’s stated EV range of “up to 85 km” would actually be an accurate average through the seasons. It’s still the best battery range of any plug-in hybrid on the market at this time.

And it’s a very useful EV range for local driving –- or at least for our local driving (visiting, shopping, evenings out) — and when combined with the “extended range” afforded by the gasoline engine, our 2018 Volt is good for close to 700km km from its 16.4 kW/h battery and 35L tank (regular grade fuel). We do prefer, however, driving Volt in EV mode. We like the smooth and silent ride.

As far as comfort and conveniences are concerned, the Volt has been stellar. The seats are comfortable; driving position excellent; amenities (wi-fi hotspot, self-parking, premium audio, cargo capacity, electronic safety aids) are useful and appreciated; driving dynamics are also excellent, and we both like the look of this car.

Yes, I concede that Volt’s exterior design grew on me (I was lukewarm at first). It’s distinctive, modern and tastefully executed. We like the colour (steel metallic); it buffs up well!

Previously I mentioned potential concerns about the climate control in hot weather, so I’ll comment on that. The reason is that in the winter the heater proved annoyingly insufficient on occasion. I wondered if in the hot summer weather, the air conditioner would be equally recalcitrant. Turns out, it is. What you have to do (not always, but sometimes) is select “Max” and crank the fan up as well. Then you’ll get the cold air you want.

We’ll try the same technique next winter to see if we can convince the heater to be more willing. Granted, though, the whole process seems to defeat the notion of having automatic climate control. Perhaps in a more moderate climate, the system works as intended.

Level 2 charge port

Oh, and I did mention we were away for several weeks and before departing, I wondered whether I should leave the Volt plugged in during our absence. The owner’s manual is a big vague on the subject and our dealer’s service department ultimately said no. Unplug it. Frankly I was unconvinced, so I called our Volt “Ambassador” at the General Motors headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario, and he said absolutely yes. Keep it plugged in!

Given that my query was “recorded for customer satisfaction purposes” (or something like that) I went with the manufacturer, reasoning that if the Volt blew up or melted down, I could point to GM’s emphatic instructions on the phone. Nonetheless, GM and their dealers should get themselves on the same page regarding things like this, I reckon.

In the event, I returned to an intact and fully charged car, but its battery range of 85-95 km) is now somewhat lower than it was. Of course, here I am in October and it’s getting colder. Is the system that sensitive?

And here’s something you may not have thought of if considering a full EV vehicle like a Tesla or a Bolt. Here in Ottawa we recently endured three days without electricity. Virtually the whole city was out, so one wonders about options if your car’s battery is depleted. We had no issues with the Volt, given its extended range technology, and…(and this is huge) we were able to get online using the car’s wi-fi hotspot. Who’d have thought? Turns out that with the power outage and damage from tornados, no less, the local cell network was compromised. So, no internet, no phone, no TV and for those who don’t own what was referred to as an “old school battery radio,” no radio, either! Opting for OnStar enabled wi-fi hotspot plan ($200 a year) can come in very handy.

For model year 2019 – should you be in the market — the Volt’s charging system is significantly improved, now requiring only 2.25 hours to fully recharge using a Level 2 charger (rather than our 2018 model’s 4.5 hours). This would be more of a help to owners of the full EV Chevrolet Bolt than to ourselves as we’ve only charged at home, at night, using our Flo Level 2 driveway mounted charger. However, this is definitely a technological step in the right direction. Imagine when it takes only minutes to fully charge!

Another 2019 tweak (as alluded to above) is that the incoming model is modified to maximize EV-only driving in the winter (I guess they had complaints), so you should see greater EV range in cold weather if desired. Additionally, Volt’s Low and Regen-on-demand profile have been recalibrated to increase regenerative braking capacity while offering an improved driving feel when slowing. Actually, the driver is less affected by this than the passenger, who may find the unexpected and abrupt slowing in Regen or Low gear disagreeable. Either way, Regen-on-demand is used — or not used — at the discretion of the driver (see Parts 1 and 2 for a more complete explanation of Regen-on-demand).

Regarding the future of the Chevrolet Volt, production apparently continues until 2022 when it may be replaced by an electrified compact utility vehicle.

In conclusion, I would have been ready to unreservedly recommend the Chevrolet Volt but now I must qualify. Since purchasing my car, our province, Ontario, has cancelled its EV rebate incentives and all other clean air initiatives in favour of enabling people to purchase beer for one dollar a bottle (really, I don’t jest). New priorities, I guess! It’s amazing how little one has to do to get elected.

Personally, I wouldn’t have bought our Volt at its full price of $45,000 plus freight and taxes, without the admittedly generous government incentive(which of course is the purpose of an incentive). In provinces that offer them your purchase decision will be made easier, but in Ontario things just got complicated.

Canadian sales of the 2018 Volt were on track to exceed the 2017 model, so we’ll see how Ontario’s decision impacts the market. My sense is that the sale of EVs in Ontario will plummet unless manufacturers adjust their MSRP.

For the record, it was my intention to keep my Volt through 2019 then replace it with a Chevrolet Bolt or equivalent. The idea was to exclusively run the Bolt locally and to purchase a new compact SUV (preferably a hybrid) for towing and longer distances.

Given developments, we’ll likely keep the Volt or maybe move to another province!

In the meantime, if you’re in the market for an Extended Range EV (aka Plug-in Hybrid), the Chevrolet Volt is an excellent choice, and in my view it’s still the best choice currently available.

Volt battery

Pros: Excellent EV range and excellent overall range/fuel economy; comfortable seats; very good vehicle dynamics; practical and useful four-door liftback configuration; supremely smooth and quiet in EV mode; excellent features and amenities (self-parking, automatic headlights, heated seats front and rear/heated steering wheel, wi-fi hotspot, etc.); solid build and appealing exterior and interior design.

Cons: Needs a rear windshield wiper; automatic climate control not effective enough; drivetrain noise in extended range mode can be intrusive; flimsy charge port door; compromised outward visibility (large a, b, c pillars).

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