During the month of May and slightly beyond, Chevrolet loaned four Chevy Volts to the Chevrolet-powered KV Racing Technology team. At least one team member wishes he was still driving one.
Charlie Guilinger, machinist with the team since 2004, regularly drove a two-tone silver and grey Volt back and forth to work for several weeks. He even took it out of town a couple times, including to the race in Milwaukee. “It’s peppy,” he reports.
Sitting low in the sporty four-door hatchback reminded him of driving a Corvette or Camaro, he says. “It feels like a sports car, where you’re hugged in the seat.” The quiet Volt doesn’t sound like a sports car, but Guilinger says he didn’t realize how quiet it was while he was driving on the freeway because the air conditioner and the XM satellite radio masked the silence.
Well-designed ergonomics, with many of the controls on the steering wheel and programmable memory for two different drivers’ preferences, made Guilinger’s drive time comfortable. Although he says he would swap the positions of the fan speed and temperature control, his only complaint was that some of the buttons are too sensitive. “It’s easy to accidentally turn on the seat heaters.”
Not only is the Volt peppy, it’s also pretty good on fuel mileage. Driving at an average speed of 75 mph on a typical trip to Cincinnati, Guilinger estimates his own car’s fuel mileage at 20 mpg. In comparison, the Volt achieved 45-50 mpg on his journey this summer.
In-town fuel mileage was even better. During Guilinger’s 10-mile drive to work, the Volt ran on electricity only. The Volt, GM’s advanced hybrid car, operates solely on battery power for about 40 miles until a gas-powered generator kicks in to keep the engine running.
Because of the short commute, he didn’t even need to charge it while he was at work. In addition, he soon discovered that switching the air conditioner from comfort level to economy mode extended the charge. “It really saved gas,” he says. “I spent more money washing it than putting gas in it.”
Bells and whistles include tire pressure sensors, XM satellite and a DVD player that works in park only. The drawback is the $40,000 price tag. “I would lease it, not buy it,” Guilinger says. “That way, you get the best out of battery life.”
The battery has a five- to seven-year life if properly cared for. A 4×6 menu screen indicates how much battery life is left before the car needs recharging. In fact, Guilinger says, that was the reason the team got the cars. “Chevy wanted us to drive them to keep the batteries charged.”
Guilinger wouldn’t mind keeping the battery charged a little longer. “I wish I still had it,” he says.
He isn’t the only test driver to give it a great review. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt was the first electric car to be chosen as the Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, sponsored by the Green Car Journal.