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WATCH:'s Jason Rzucidlo Takes The Chevrolet Volt on an Extended Test Drive for One Week



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Local News / Automotive

Saturday, 30 July, 2011 3:24 AM

Test Drive: Living with a Chevrolet Volt is easy and painless's Jason Rzucidlo drove a Volt around town for a period of one week


I received this Chevrolet Volt t-shirt after my first test drive of the vehicle last November.


by Jason Rzucidlo



DETROIT -- Who said gas came before electric? The 1916 Detroit Electric had a top speed of 45 miles per hour. General Motors first began experimenting with electric vehicles (EVs) in 1996. After three years, the EV1 project was scrapped. It is ironic because GM was also the first automaker to bring the most practical electric vehicle to the market last November. I had the unique opportunity to drive a Chevrolet Volt for a period of one week and it was a life-changing experience.

The Volt is plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) with a total range of 379 miles. The first 35 to 40 miles will be on battery power alone. Some call it a hybrid because it also features a gas-powered charger to give you the remaining miles. When the battery has been depleted, there is always another 20 percent left to power the radio, navigation system as well as heating and cooling of the vehicle.

The vehicle has many cool features including automatic headlamps when it gets dark, a tire pressure monitor, heated seats and mirrors. In addition, it has bucket seats in the front and rear rows with a total seating capacity of four. The Volt also features an alert system if one leaves the turn signal on too long.

I used the navigation system to travel to Ann Arbor and plug in at one of DTE Energy's two charging stations at 425 S. Main Street. I drove the Volt to attend the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

When starting the Volt, it is almost impossible to hear. However, it is equipped with a pedestrian-friendly alert when stopped at a red light or a stop sign. The only noise a driver will hear is the plastic air dam when backing in or out of a driveway.

One will feel like a celebrity when driving the Volt around town. Other motorists and pedestrians will give you the thumbs up. Prepare to answer lots of questions when getting out of the car. People are interested to hear your experience with the new vehicle.

In addition, there are separate parking spaces dedicated for electric vehicles. As of right now, most of those spaces are free to park and to charge. All of the charging stations I used were free. However, there is one at the Miller Parking Garage in downtown Detroit that charges $2 per hour on top of the fee for the parking space.

When ready to charge, be sure to turn off the vehicle first. A ChargePoint card is required to use any of their EV charging stations. The stations will also accept contactless credit cards such as the Visa PayWave and the MasterCard PayPass. I thought one could just plug in their vehicle and it would begin charging, but that is not the case.

I didn't have a ChargePoint card so I called the 1-888 phone number marked on the charging station. The operator asked for my name, phone number and e-mail address. Then, I heard a click to let me know the charging station was activated. I plugged the cord in and the Volt started to charge.

Driving a Chevrolet Volt will change your lifestyle. With a gasoline-powered vehicle, one has to go out of their way to drive to a gas station and make time for it. However, with an EV, one does not. The idea is to charge while one is already doing other tasks. For example, one can charge at Meijer when grocery shopping, at DTE Energy headquarters while at a Detroit Tigers Game and during a class at Schoolcraft College.

Eventually, one will be able to charge at their place of work, at movie theaters, at shopping centers, at hotels and even at retail stores like Best Buy. The Volt eliminates the need to worry about range anxiety or getting stranded when the battery power runs out. One can always fill up the gasoline tank, which essentially powers the on-board battery charger.

The next day, I drove the Volt to Warren to have lunch with a friend. I charged the vehicle at the Meijer store at 29505 Mound Road. I figured the charging station would be at the gas station, but it wasn't. Instead, it was located around the corner of the grocery store. The pavement marking was green and it had a graphic of an electric car.

Then, I drove to Swirlberry the following day to get some ice cream. I charged the car at Schoolcraft College at 18600 Haggerty Road. There are four charging stations available. Two are located near the library and the others are in the north parking lot.

I put on about 400 miles during the week that I had the Volt. I never had to stop at a gas station once and that was a great feeling. Most of the time, I was running on electric. The only time I was using gas was when I drove to Mt. Clemens, where there is no charging station. In that case, the gasoline-powered, on-board charger kicked in. It doesn't require as much gas as an internal combustion engine so one can drive much further with the Volt.

The base price of the Chevrolet Volt is $40,280. Remember, there is a $7,500 federal tax credit for the first 200,000 units sold. That brings the cost down to $32,780. The model I drove is priced at $43,485 because of the premium trim package, polished wheels and red metallic paint.

Free home chargers will be given to the first 4,400 buyers nationwide. So far, a little over 1,500 Volts have been purchased. Owners will also receive a Verizon smartphone to monitor the charging status.

There's a lot that I've learned over the past week while driving the Volt. First, it is important to charge the vehicle to get the most out of its electric capability. Don't forget to unplug the vehicle when charging is done. It can be very easy to forget that it is plugged in with our busy lives. To use a public charging station, one will need a ChargePoint card. Register for one on their website about one week prior to the delivery of your Volt in order to be able to charge at one of their stations.

For anyone looking to buy an electric vehicle, I strongly urge them to consider the Chevrolet Volt. I give it an 'A' rating.

Charging The Chevrolet Volt
6/28 11:00 a.m. 12:30 p.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 6 mi 0% 15%
6/28 7:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 5 mi 0% 13%
6/28  8:45 p.m. 6:45 a.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 38 mi 0% 100%
6/29 12:30 p.m 1:30 p.m. Home (120 V) 36 mi 40 mi 90% 100%
6/29 8:30 p.m. 11:15 p.m. Ann Arbor (240 V) 8 mi 30 mi 20% 77%
6/30 12:01 a.m. 10:15 a.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 38 mi 0% 100%
6/30 3:00 p.m. 6:30 p.m. Ann Arbor (240 V) 10 mi 38 mi 25% 100%
6/31 12:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. Home (120 V) 13 mi 37 mi 33% 100%
6/31 2:00 p.m. 3:17 p.m. Warren (240 V) 11 mi 20 mi 28% 51%
6/31 4:30 p.m. 3:00 a.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 38 mi 0% 100%
7/1 10:15 p.m. 12:30 a.m. Home (120 V) 33 mi 38 mi 84% 100%
7/3 7:00 p.m. 6:00 a.m. Home (120 V) 0 mi 38 mi 0% 100%
7/4 4:15 p.m. 7:00 p.m. Ann Arbor (240 V) 6 mi 34 mi 15% 87%
7/4 7:30 p.m. 8:30 p.m. Schoolcraft College (240 V) 8 mi 17 mi 20% 44%
7/4 9:45 p.m. 3:00 a.m. Home (120 V) 13 mi 31 mi 33% 80%

Related Story: Sales of electric vehicles are set to take off soon, panelists say




Graphic credit:

The ChargePoint website indicated that my Chevrolet Volt was being charged in Ann Arbor, Mich.


PHOTO BY GLORIA RZUCIDLO / ©'s Jason Rzucidlo poses for a photo with the Volt in his garage.



I charged the Volt at home with one of the free home charging kits that came with the vehicle.



Three country stations in metro Detroit. Which should I choose?


Graphic credit:

The blue dot indicated the Volt was charging at Schoolcraft College's north parking lot.


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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.