Emmer column: At 50,000 miles, columnist is charged about his Volt | PostIndependent.com

Emmer column: At 50,000 miles, columnist is charged about his Volt

Vince Emmer

Columnist Vince Emmer's Volt.

The Chevy Volt was a sparkling jewel in GM’s new product pipeline. Then Tesla stole the show like a gyrating beefcake duo smuggled into a League of Women Voters meeting.

Nevertheless, Chevy built a strong, practical electric car. We bought a copy in 2013. My family put it through a real-world, 50,000-mile test.

A battery powers the car for the first 38 miles. Then a small gasoline engine automatically and silently kicks in, generating electricity for another 340 miles of travel. Electric range varies, primarily between 32 and 44 miles. The battery in the new generation 2017 Volt is rated for 53 miles.

The 110-volt original equipment charger takes 10 hours to recharge the car from a normal household outlet. Our aftermarket 240-volt charger takes 3.5 hours.

As a fuel, local grid electricity is cheap, equivalent to a gas price of $1.50 per gallon. When the car is running on the gasoline generator, the EPA rates it at 37 mpg. That is consistent with our experience.

Overall mpg depends on miles driven between charges. Short trips use less gasoline, long trips more. Trips less than 35 miles between charges will use no gasoline. Take that, jihadis. On my family’s regular 55-mile round trip, the Volt averages 80 mpg.

We zap to the Front Range and back at 45 mpg without recharging en route.

The dual-system Volt is more capable than electric-only cars. Range is a real-world issue. Waiting for a charge is like waiting for a bus. Wasted time is wasted time.

The Volt’s interior has a tech look. The central panel is a bit crowded. Temperature controls are distracting to use. Its cruise control is a dream, however. The Bluetooth is easy to set up, and the sound is great.

Our biggest complaint is that the interior seats only four. The battery takes the space of a fifth passenger.

Excepting a couple of minor issues, the car has been highly reliable. The hatch door latch loosened. It was a quick fix. The dealer has had trouble extinguishing the check engine light. C’est la vie.

We took some technological risk to buy the car. It does not take much for a cutting edge to become a bleeding edge. Yet, real Volts are rapidly racking up real miles in real life. Battery issues are almost nonexistent. One couple has rolled over 300,000 miles in a Volt. Their smiles are as wide as a windshield.

If one is late, it is not the Volt’s fault. Sport mode is a kick in the pants. The car romps up Vail Pass. The feel of the Volt on the road is dreamy. It is substantial. It is nimble. A bit like an anvil on ice skates.

Many mountain people who otherwise would own a Volt have been seduced by all-wheel drive. Practicality often shreds principles, as presidential voters of both parties know.

Not with the Volt. Much of the winter traction of AWD can be gained by swapping those “all-season-but-snow-season” tires for premium snowies in the winter. The right tires make a huge difference.

How does the Volt stack up on the carbon front? Chris Hildred over at Holy Cross Energy says that his company’s electricity is 30 percent renewables, 60 percent coal and 10 percent natural gas. That reduces the Volt’s C02 output to roughly 70 percent of a 35 mpg gasoline car. That assumes 65 miles between charges, our family’s pattern. Shorter trips use less gas, potentially down to zero, with similar reductions in C02 production.

Further, Chris can set you up on all-wind or all-hydro electricity for a very modest 10 percent to 15 percent bump-up in cost.

A typical three years’ worth of fuel is $2,400 for the Volt versus $3,200 for a 35 mpg car, and $5,600 for a 20 mpg SUV.

Is the Volt a terrorist pacifier? If petroleum money supports Islamist violence, the answer is yes.

The federal and state poli-bureau-sphere shifts a monstrous $13,000 from general taxpayers to buyers of Volts and other electric cars. The after-tax price of a new $35,000 Volt drops to an attractive $22,000. Check to make sure you are eligible for the whole enchilada.

The Volt is a solid, fun, full-range car. From narrow, personal perspective, it is extremely cost competitive. It can reduce one’s personal carbon production dramatically. It cripples jihadis as well. Chevy deserves a big round of applause.

Global warming has generated lots of words. Now, taking personal action is easy.

Vince Emmer is a financial consultant in Gypsum. He can be reached at vince@forestisfinancial.com.

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