Previous to my Volt I was driving a 2009 BMW 335XI Twin Turbo coupe. I loved the car. It was sleek, sporty and a blast to drive, but I’ve never really been the sort of driver to appreciate all that speed and handling. My favorite thing about the BMW was the torque and the feeling of *oomf* I got one when I hit the gas from a standstill. After that, I’m not one to speed or drive very aggressively. To be fair, the BMW really was wasted on me.
While some people may laugh when I talk about “flipping the Volt into sport mode”, it really can make the car zip off the line! The Chevy sales rep says the 0-30 (for what thats worth) is the same as the Camaro – I believe it! With 236 lb-ft of torque, it can certainly push you into the seats, which was my favorite part of the BMW.
My BMW was loud, and was manufactured right at the edge of when cars were starting to get interesting electronics, like navigation, bluetooth and cameras. The used 2012 Volt I found is fully loaded with XM Radio, rear view camera, dimming mirrors, bluetooth and navigation. On top of that, the Volt is super quiet, feels solid on the road and is all-around a pleasure to drive. The brakes can feel a little ‘spongie’ at times, but I’ve come to expect that from regenerative braking systems. Its really my only complaint about the actual driving experiencing.
I’ve driven nearly 4,000 miles in my Chevy Volt since purchasing it in mid June. At one point I saw my lifetime MPG reach 190. Right now, I’m hovering around 140 mark. Doing the math, thats 4,000 miles on only about 28 gallons of gas! I traded in my BMW for $21k, bought the gently used 2012 Volt (the owner upgraded to a Tesla) for $26k. According to my calculations, the Volt will have paid for itself in gas savings alone in about 2.5 years. When I factor in estimated maintenance costs for my out-of-warranty 2009 BMW and compare it with those of the Volts as well, it pays for itself in about 1.5 years. I’m not making an assumption that electricity is free either; my calculations take into account the estimated costs of those 45 electric miles as well.
Its worth pointing out that my lifetime MPG is lower than they could be because of how efficient the vehicle is. Even when drained of battery and running on gasoline, I often time get 40 MPG. For this reason, when Amy and I need to take longer drives well over 45 miles, we take the Volt.
There is speculation about whether plugins and hybrid vehicles are truly environmental due to their increased carbon output from production. According to studies however, the lifetime carbon footprint of the Volt – that is from manufacturing and lifetime driving of the car – is 19 tons. Compared to 24 tons of a standard vehicle, its a pretty nice environmental benefit.
Its worth pointing out that the Volt is a plugin vehicle with an onboard gas-generator. It doesn’t have two engines like many hybrid vehicles do. The generator converts the gasoline to electricity to power the one motor. The fact that the Volt gets me 45 miles of pure electric driving (more than I typically use in a day), and still has gas when I run out of electricity, really makes the Volt the only car I need. Fully electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Telsa-S suffer from range anxiety and most likely require another car for long distance trips. In my opinion, this drastically reduces the “environmental” argument for the electric cars. For a family that will have two cars anyway, an all-electric car coupled with a fuel based one can probably make sense.
The Big Bad Battery:
The vast majority of questions I get on my Volt have to do with the car’s battery. Chevy loaded the Volt with lots of technology to serve one purpose: Give your Volt’s battery a long and happy life.
You might notice that your cell phone battery doesn’t last as long as it did when you first bought it. Months of fully charging and fully depleting the battery has reduced its overall performance. It’s the extremes that harm battery life – fully charged, and fully depleted. The Volt’s battery has 16 kWh but only ever uses about 10. This makes sure that the battery never fully depletes, and never fully charges – keeping it in the sweet spot for maximum total life.
One is supposed to keep the Volt plugged in when not in use – even if its fully charged. This is because the onboard computers will periodically run cooling and heating systems around the battery to make sure it never gets too hot or too cold due to the environment. Again, its the extremes that damage the life of the battery, and the Volt tries to protect itself from this.
I charge my volt on a standard 120v outlet in my garage. It takes about 8 hours to fully charge, and I have mine programmed to do so in the middle of the night when electricity is cheapest (about $.06 a kWh). If I drive all 45 miles a day, it costs me roughly $.60 a day in energy! At around 25mpg, my old BMW would have used about $5 in fuel to drive that same distance. With a 26 mile roundtrip commute, I’m paying under 40 cents for electricity instead of $3.60 for a gallon of gas. Thats savings of about $66 a month.
I thought about installing a 240v charging station in my garage to cut the charging time down to 4 hours, and give me more electric miles. The most affordable solution I found for this was roughly $800. Considering that most of the time when I go way over my electric miles and into gas, I’m no where near my home charging station anyway, it didn’t make sense. By my estimates, I would need to drive about 9,000 ‘bonus electric miles’ to make the charger pay for itself. I say ‘bonus electric miles’ because these need to be miles that I get from additional charging after I’ve depleted my 45 miles from the nightly charge. With that in mind, it just didn’t seem very likely to make a huge difference in my overall energy usage.
I have zero regrets about swapping my BMW for a Chevy Volt.