Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Volt

As Alison has said a bunch of times, "It's a good thing Tyler's dream car is only a Chevrolet!"

I've had my eye on the Chevy Volt for the last few years.  It was originally introduced as a concept car at the 2007 North American International Auto Show and I've kept a loose eye on the development of the car ever since.  The Volt has been available in other markets since late 2010, but it only arrived in Utah in the last 6 months or so.

The Volt is a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle.  Basically, I charge the batteries of the car every night in my car and I can get 40-45 miles on battery power.  This is perfect because my commute is only 9.9 miles from my garage to my parking spot at work.  After 40-45 miles when the battery has been fully depleted, the Volt's gasoline engine powers an electric generator that allows the vehicle to continue as long as there is gas in the tank (just like a normal car).

While the car is quite heavy (due to all of the lithium-ion batteries) it is quite zippy.  This is due to the fact that the car always has instantaneous torque available from the electric motor.  I'm not typically a car guy (considering that I'm upgrading from a 17-year-old Geo Prizm with 198,500 miles on it), but I've has a blast driving this car.  I've heard that no other car has spent as much time in a wind tunnel (for aerodynamics) or under the design microscope as this one.

Many of you know that the Volt was also subsidized by the government (referring to the government bailout of GM) and the car has come under fire from many due to the support that President Obama has shown for the vehicle.  What I can tell you is that the Volt is the most technically advanced car ever developed by a major automobile manufacturer and it seems that all of the details were well-thought out and usually well-implemented.  Here is a link to a fantastic US News and World Report article "In Defense of the Chevy Volt."

I've had the car for just over two weeks now.  I've driven the car almost exactly 400 miles since we brought it home from the dealership and I've only used 0.4 gallons of gas (that's 1000 miles per gallon!).  I won't keep that kind of mpg up as I've got some longer drives scheduled for work over the next few weeks.

One of my favorite things about the car is the smartphone app that allows me to program the charging, warm-up/cool down the car remotely, check battery life, oil life, tire pressure, etc.  Additionally the car will text me if charging is interrupted and when charging is complete.  Thanks to Salt Lake City, there is a free 2-hour charging station on 300 South, just outside my office.

The good news is that we have $7,500 tax credit from the federal government and a $605 tax credit from the state coming back to us for our purchase.  This puts the cost of the car that we purchased right in the mid-30's...  I was committed to paying more for the red, but the one that we got also had leather, upgraded wheels and an upgraded Bose stereo.

Any other questions?  Let me know in the comments.


Fred said...

Sweet ride.

Cheryce said...

You crazy tree hugger! ;)

Sabrina said...

Congrats on the big purchase! It looks really nice. I actually do have a couple of questions for you. First, a few years ago I had read that a downside to the Prius was that the battery technology was new enough that they were certain how long the battery life actually was, but they estimated about 3 - 5 years and then the battery would need to be replaced. That wouldn't be a big deal except the batter cost another $10k. I don't know how batteries are now, or if their estimates came to fruition, but it did make think that kind of built in maintenance cost was a little steep. Have you heard / do you know anything about that?

Second, obviously you saving a bundle in gas. Do you have any idea how much more you pay in electricity to charge the car? Our electric bills are already obscene in the summer because we have to do so much cooling. I am curious what kind of effect it would have on an electric bill.

tysqui said...

EDIT: Our power bills increased $11.94 per MONTH (not per day)...

@Sabrina - When the Prius first came out in 2000 (2001 model year) everybody expected the batteries to be the weakest part of the vehicle. When we purchased our Highlander Hybrid last year this was also a concern of ours. We found a Consumer Report article following up the Prius after 10 years of sales in the US. They re-evaluated the 2001 Prii and found that less than 2% of the vehicles had required battery replacements. In addition, the averages for all of the other tests on the vehicles were within 1-2% of their original benchmarks. After that article and others, we felt comfortable purchasing a vehicle with a large battery system.

On the Volt, the battery is obviously much larger, but it has the benefit of a decade of R&D as well as a liquid cooling and heating system that runs throughout the battery compartment to ensure that the batteries never get too cold or too hot. With the coddling the Volt's batteries receive I expect them to last a long time. If they don't though, then the battery system is under warranty for 8 years/100,000 miles. We felt this purchase was low-risk as well.

On my 9.9 mile drive to work, I used just under 2.3 kWh. At $.087/kWh, my costs are $.0199/mile. In comparison, on the last fill-up of my Prizm (at 36 mpg) my costs were $.0999/mile. I probably average 30 electric miles per working day. At $.0199/mile I expect our electric bills to increase around $11.94 per month. If Rocky Mountain Power had reduced rates during the night-time hours, then I could save even more by setting the car to only charge during those hours. You've got to remember that electric rates in Utah are some of the lowest in the nation, thus making an electric vehicle even more palatable.

tysqui said...

Alison just reminded me that I failed to mention in this post that we are off-setting the electrical charging of our vehicle with wind-power purchased through Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program. This will add a few bucks to our monthly bill in addition to the costs already outlined.

Steve said...

That car is awesome! I would love to own one especially here in Canada where gas is at about $1.35 a litre. When I get settled in with a job after school I think this will likely be the direction I go because not only will it be about time for a new car, but it fits my lifestyle and future financial goals with family expenses.

Not to take this into the political realm too much, but I am afraid we would take some serious heat from a few of our extreme right wing family members who believe anything "green" is evil, which still boggles my mind how wanting a fuel efficient eco-friendly car can be considered a bad thing. Have you caught any flack from driving a eco-car in a state where "green" is a swear word?

I think it was a wise purchase on your part and it will save a ton on gas and also lowers your carbon footprint to boot, not bad at all!

Jenn said...

You are awesome. And it's awesome that you have a place to park it right outside your workplace! I'm so impressed.