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GM-Volt test drives Volt

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http://gm-volt.com/2009/12/01/gm-volt-chevy-volt-test-drive-in-extended-range-mode/

lyle-volt-1024x682.jpg

There are a few times in life when one’s hard work is rewarded, when one can get to see the fruits of one’s labor and the stuff of one’s dreams come true. Such was the day I drove the near-production Chevrolet Volt in both EV and charge-sustaining mode.

After nearly three full years of following each and every development, after discovering and discussing every detail imaginable, I drove for the first time the fully production-intent car that emerged from the back of Jon Lauckner’s and Bob Lutz’ proverbial napkin in 2006.

I may not have been the first to drive it nor the first to write about the experience, nor the least biased, but my voyage was the deepest of all.

The car was in its full production glory, with every gleaming detail full sculpted and bathed in its signature paint. It appeared far more aggressive and athletic than any show model I’d ever seen, gone the roughness notable in its integration vehicle brethren.

This car was also one of the 80 hand-built pre-production models assembled over the summer. It had reached a late stage of refinement though according to lead engineer Andrew Farah, some units were actually further refined than this one.

The refinements this car was still lacking had to do with acceleration, generator behavior, handling, and graphics and driver interface functions.

I found the egress and ingress very open and inviting. The driver’s seat was well situated and I had ample shoulder, leg and knee room; it was a very generous seating area. I drove the car with three other people in it and all had plenty of room and looked comfortably spaced. The interior was bright and cheerful and seemed very spacious including head room.

The driver’s seat position was manually controlled. Levers allowed forward and back movement, up and down positioning, as well as recline. Farah said a motorized system was left out to reduce mass.

The dashboard displays were beautiful. The screens were bright, vivid, crisp and conservatively artistic and looked to be in high definition. There were several display menu configurations on the driver dash that could be scrolled through and chosen with a dash button to the left. The center display was touch sensitive. The ipod-like white center stack had interestingly unique capacitive finger-sensing buttons that gave audio feedback in the form of a slight subtle chirp when the touching finger was detected. There was no tactile feedback, nor was it needed. The buttons were a little unreliable, something Farah said still needed work. The green leaf eco display was also not yet operational. For my task I found that I could set the display to show MPG. I reset it at the start of my drive. It read >500 MPG while in EV mode.

To start, the keyfob simply has to sit anywhere in the car and then the start button is pushed while the brake pedal is depressed. The screen then comes to life letting you know the car is on.

The test track was a 0.4 mile winding pylon flanked path set up on an uneven parking lot surface, so some slight grades were included, but nothing steep.

And so with one small step for me and one large step for all of us I hit the accelerator.

The car accelerated precisely and assertively and felt very spirited. There were two modes of operation. Normal mode offers 90 kw peak power and felt to be in the 9 second 0 to 60 range. Sport mode delivered noticeably more intense acceleration below a 9 second 0 to 60. I was not permitted to time 0 to 30 or 0 to 60. It was not an outright sports car feel, but definitely sporty. Clearly it would outrun a Prius, Insight, or Fusion hybrid all of which I’ve driven. It’s top speed of 100 MPH would also easily top the Nissan LEAF’s 85 MPH.

I did bring a decibel meter as requested, but this too was not allowed by the team. Beyond any doubt however the car was extremely quiet in EV mode. Even the whine of the electric motor that can be heard in the MINI E or Tesla was very dim and muted by what seemed to be excellent sound insulation.

I spent about 50 minutes continuously driving, but did not have enough space to go beyond about 50 MPH.

I started out with about four miles of EV range and I watched intensely for the changeover to generator mode. The only change that coud be observed was the disappearance of the battery graphic on the driver’s screen which became replaced by a fuel tank symbol. With intense critical straining I could detect the slight muted whir of the gas engine but did not find it at all unpleasant. After all we must realize the car is burning gas, that’s its advantage over pure EVs, limitless range when needed. Combustion engines make noise. Period.

Once the car enters charge sustaining mode there’s no turning back to EV mode until the car is plugged in again. The car’s central processor continuously monitors battery state of charge and the rate at which it is being depleted. It will turn on the generator whenever the low point is reached. It may go on at one of several different RPMs depending on the car’s momentary requirements and depletion rate. The engine will turn off again when no longer needed, and when the car comes to a stop.

I found that when I drove reasonably and moderately I didn’t hear the generator go on at all. When I suddenly floored it, the generator revved for a couple of seconds. I did not find the need to use the words jarring, disconcerting, or off-putting as other journalists did. My word is appropriate. You floor a gas burning car, it makes noise.

The car felt very solid and well balanced. The uniquely low center of gravity due to the four hundred pound battery in the center gave a notably beneficial hugging of the ground. Yet the car felt light and spry, the power steering was perfectly tuned and the car handled wonderfully. Farah all but admitted the car weighed 400 pounds more than a Cruze, or about 3500 pounds. He wants it to be lighter and there are plans to make it so for the next generation.

When the car switched into generator mode, I reset the MPG meter.

After about a half hour of driving with the generator the reading was between 32 and 36 MPG, and would increase if I was gentle with the accelerator. Farah claimed this wasn’t a true number and that the display wasn’t accurate, so take it as you may. He instead explained to me about how when he used it for a weekend, driving a total of 200 miles and charging the car every time he came back home with it at 240V, he used a total of .2 gallons of gas for an overall efficiency of 1000 MPG. And in fact, this is the better way of looking at it. We should not be focusing on the generator mode MPG but the car’s overall fuel consumption

over time, because that’s what practically matters as it determines how much gas you will burn.

In the end, I found myself delighted and excited about this highly refined, competent and wonderful car. I would take it home as it is right now if I could. But we’ll just have to wait those 11 months and let the engineers do their final tweaking.

There is really nothing to complain about here. GM has taken a great idea and made it into an even greater reality. And our dreams are starting to come true.

---

From all the test drives I've read so far, and based on GM's claims about range and tank size, it seems the Volt will get 30-40 MPG in extended-range mode. 40 MPG and 40 miles EV would be a nice target.

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The volt has been getting lots of press, especially from all the test drives at Dodger Stadium. The GM team has been tweeting about the car and how it is preforming exactly as advertised. I can't wait for this thing to go on sale in California.

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I suspect the demand will make Camaro sales look slow.

Can't wait to see it.

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I suspect the demand will make Camaro sales look slow.

Can't wait to see it.

It will help that Volt availability will make the Camaro availability look fast.

That 32-36MPG ICE had better be incorrect... although that is what some have predicted and even what GM seems to have been recently hinting.

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It will help that Volt availability will make the Camaro availability look fast.

That 32-36MPG ICE had better be incorrect... although that is what some have predicted and even what GM seems to have been recently hinting.

Imagine the "extended-range" MPG of a Prius or Escape Hybrid if it had a 16 kWh battery...

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It will help that Volt availability will make the Camaro availability look fast.

That 32-36MPG ICE had better be incorrect... although that is what some have predicted and even what GM seems to have been recently hinting.

Depends - is that the mpg seen from someone doing spirited driving, normal driving, or gentle driving? If that's the best one can get out of gentle driving, then that would be disappointing. If from normal driving, a bit disappointing, but not horrible if the car overall is very enjoyable aside from mpgs, and if that's from spirited driving, then I wouldn't be disappointed with that one tiny bit. When these come out, we're going to get mixed stories about what people get. I expect I'll have to pound my head against the wall when certain people pick up on the first few lower than hoped for mpg reports & act like it's an across the board thing and the end of GM. Give time for varied reports to come in from owners once these cars come out.

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Imagine the "extended-range" MPG of a Prius or Escape Hybrid if it had a 16 kWh battery...

I know somepeople think I am just piling on GM or being a Ford/Honda/Toyota fanboi, but the large battery is the biggest problem with the Volt and the competitors REALLY are better off without such a large battery. Because they don't have the limitations of the Volt design they don't need a large battery. And because they don't need a large battery they get all the advantages that come with that:

1) Lower cost

2) Lower weight (more efficient)

3) More efficient use of the battery (more of the battery used more often).

Disadvantage:

1) Less electric range (200 ish gallons of fuel used per year instead of 3,000ish KWh of electricity (@ 12,000 miles/year))

This is going to be the reality of the Volt until GM gets that battery breakthrough that they originally said they needed.

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Congrats on the drive.

I see you had a very similar drive as the others. It sounds like they have gotten a good handel on the engine noise and RPM. I had been told it maxes at 4,000 RPM and they hope to cut that down more by production.

This car I feel will set the tone when it comes out and we will see fast upgrades with it and reduced cost in a short period of time.

The technology in this car is no different than Anti lock brakes, stability control and electronic fuel injection. They were all only seen on the Cadillac or high end cars the first year or two and then migrated to all cars in a short period of time as cost come down with the increase of units sold.

Good write up!!!!!

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Depends - is that the mpg seen from someone doing spirited driving, normal driving, or gentle driving? If that's the best one can get out of gentle driving, then that would be disappointing. If from normal driving, a bit disappointing, but not horrible if the car overall is very enjoyable aside from mpgs, and if that's from spirited driving, then I wouldn't be disappointed with that one tiny bit. When these come out, we're going to get mixed stories about what people get. I expect I'll have to pound my head against the wall when certain people pick up on the first few lower than hoped for mpg reports & act like it's an across the board thing and the end of GM. Give time for varied reports to come in from owners once these cars come out.

Lyle has posted the video of the drive.

http://gm-volt.com/2009/12/08/chevy-volt-test-drive-the-video/

This shows that he wasn't exactly being accurate about the MPG situation.

When he first got into the car, Lyle started trying to talk about the "Efficiency Gauge". The GM engineer showed him how to get to the car's tutorials. In doing so, Lyle saw how to get to the efficiency numbers.

It showed 89.5 miles on 5.3 gallons of gas for an avg of 16.5mpg.

GM Engineer (talking over Lyle who is giving his commentary): "All of those numbers... All of those... All of those numbers... have not been reset since all of these press drives started so I wouldn't put any credence in any of them."

Lyle: "Yeah but its 16.5 MPG."

GM Engineer: "As I said I wouldn't put any credence in any of those numbers."

Lyle: "I don't know what it means... why it would ever(?) say that."

That's the founder of GM-Volt, having his mind blown.

Most of the driving seemed to be in the 15-25MPH range with some jumps to 40. It is hard to tell from the clip, but it looks like there is a fair amount of either sitting still or staying in that 20-25MPH range around a windy course.

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Can't wait for the Volt to come out so all this speculation can be, at least somewhat, put to rest! :D

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GM-Volt.com is now reporting that the Volt doesn't have an atkinson cycle ICE:

http://gm-volt.com/2009/12/15/chevy-volt-generator-does-not-use-the-atkinson-cycle/

And?

You're already complaining that GM is pricing it too high and now you wan't them to put a more $$ motor in it that isn't as mass produced as the Cruze's engine?

You say you're not a "Volt basher", but yet you seem to nit pick @ EVERY LITTLE THING with this car.

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And?

And that might explain part of the reason why the ICE MPG is apparently uncompetitive?

You're already complaining that GM is pricing it too high and now you wan't them to put a more $$ motor in it that isn't as mass produced as the Cruze's engine?

The problem with the Volt, nicely highlighted by this engine choice, is how incredibly poorly thought out it is. That makes sense, given that Lutz has already admitted that the Volt is a compromised attempt at one-upping Toyota, not an attempt at building the "right" car. I've said it before and I will say it again... they started with an inefficient design, then they picked a battery size to accommodate ~78% of the average US citizen's daily commute (why???), and in doing so made the price so high and their volume so low that there is virtually no market. It clearly made no sense. And now we have Lutz giving "bombshell" speeches about how high cost is a barrier to entry.

As long as Toyota doesn't try to gouge the consumer on the price of the plug-in Prius, the Volt is probably going to end up being 40-50% more expensive than the plug-in Prius, require a battery 300% the size, and yet save less than 70 gallons/year over the plug-in Prius (assuming GM's 230MPG and Toyota's 100MPG numbers are correct and 12,000miles/year).

I know blasting me is fun, and probably better than being a Volt-apologist, but do numbers like those at least help you to understand why I don't think casting the car with the detergent box and the standard batteries under the hood as a moonshot-leap-frog of Toyota was anything but PR?

You say you're not a "Volt basher", but yet you seem to nit pick @ EVERY LITTLE THING with this car.

I said I wasn't a "Volt basher"? That doesn't sound like me.

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