Analysis of a 2014 Chevy Volt. The 2004 Impala didn’t quite look good parked in the lot next to the BMWs, Teslas, and Range Rovers… I changed jobs. No longer at a university, it was time to upgrade to a vehicle that had a higher reliability (newer) and didn’t have quite so many rusty spots. Shifting directions for work, I still commute nearly 100 miles every day. And, to save on gas and try to be nice to the environment, I went with a 2014 Chevy Volt. Just off lease, this vehicle was still under the total warranty.
This is an electric car with a gas engine. This translates into the zippy torque of an all electric 100 kW drive motor that is always ready without any need to change gears, wait for torque converters to catchup or engines to rev. The only delay is electronic and can be basically eliminated in sport mode. The regenerative braking means I don’t need to feel bad every time I stop in traffic or use a brake pedal to slow. And, the the gas engine gives you the freedom to keep going past the 40 mile range of the battery and still have the electric drive power when needed. I like the sporty feel of zipping around on all electric. It is smooth, quiet, fast and accelerates better any fat SUV or dinky car that I’ve encountered on my daily commute. If only those annoying Prius, BMW and Porsche drivers could figure out how to press their gas pedal we might actually get to work on time.
The overall driving experience is nice. For a base model, it is functional for just one or two people and maybe two kids. The seats are reasonably comfortable, I consider the cloth an upgrade from the constantly cold or unbreathable hot leather I had in the impala. The suspension grips good. For a small car, it feels heaver than the boat of my `04 Impala, even while being smaller. However, that is a computer setting. Switching to sport mode makes the car feel feather light. Car seats snap into the back seat with ease. And, with close spacing it means you can reach back and hand something to your kids with ease. Likewise, they can kick your seat without even trying. Fitting a full grown adult into the back is less comfortable, however, possible.
Winter driving was okay after replacing the worn tires. The stock energy saver tires didn’t make it past 30K miles. Goodyear Triple Treads grabbed the road and had minimal problems in snow. I managed driving during white-out blizzards on more than one occasion and was able to maintain cursing speeds in completely snow covered roads without much effort. Hint: Don’t tap your brakes to check if you will slide, hit your gas pedal to keep moving. 50K miles later, the tires seem more stiff and not really ready for another winter. The traction control system appears to have moved the speed sensors out of the wheel bearings and back to an external pickup ring, which I hope lasts longer. So far (unlike the Impala), there hasn’t been any traction control issues. It occasionally kicks in when driving over really bumpy roads and, basically stays out of the way to let you enjoy drive.
However, at 70K miles, I can just start to hear the wheel bearings starting to go out… I was hoping they would last until at least 100K. One of the most noticeable issues is the temperature dependance for this car. It is highly susceptible to the temperature. The electric range moves with temperature. We loose about 2-4 mile range from the non-energy saving tires (as shown in the plot below). The car averaged 43.6 MPG and 4.08 MPkWhr, after new tires and the winter, 41.1 MPG and 3.75 MPkWhr. That is a 5.7% reduction in gas milage and and 8% loss in the electric range. When the temperature goes down, so the efficiency. After tracking the electrical and gas usage with for the past year, there is a clear dip during the winter months, with the MPG and MPkWhr coming back up when spring returns. The car seems to maintain that one electric charge gives you about one gallon of gas. The average daily charge is hovering right about 10 kWhr for each daily commute.
So far, the car has been working out well. At about 39,400 fully electric miles and 33,400 gas miles there hasn’t been any major issues. Still the car is under the 100K warranty for the battery and drive system. Assuming it is like every other device, I fully expect it to coincidently (just like my MacBook Pro) to die a few days past when the warranty ends. Assuming I keep the same commute, I’ve got about 1 more year before it kicks the bucket.