This past week I had the pleasure of test driving a new 2012 Chevy Volt four-door sedan. The Volt was painted “Viridian Joule,” the silvery green color that is the official color of the car. The color was so named by David Thomas of Sanford, FL over two years ago. Viridian means a bluish-green pigment and joule is a unit of electricity, like a volt. Fine. Also fine is the styling of the Chevy Volt, which is a knockoff of the top-selling Cruze. It’s dressier than the Cruze, with fancier mirrors, extra trim, and a substantial tailfin on the rear.
The Volt I had possession of had a base price of $39,145.00, with additions of audio/nav upgrade ($1,995), premium interior trim ($1,395), rear camera/park assist ($695), polished alloy wheels ($595), Bose premium speakers ($495), and the aforementioned Viridian Joule paint ($995). With freight and a cargo net, that brought the M.S.R.P. to $46,210.00. Such a price screams “pride” on the part of the General, but reportedly a federal tax credit of $7,500, along with a Colorado state tax credit of $6,000, serves to lop off a third of that sticker price.
Now that we have the purchase price back down to earth, let’s talk about driving the car. I took off for Ogallala, Nebraska, to visit relatives last week, and the trip up there was 185.5 miles. Leaving town with a charged battery and full fuel tank, upon arrival I couldn’t get two gallons of premium fuel into the tank. The computer said I obtained 61.8 miles per gallon, but my calculations came out better. The car ran on electricity alone for 40.2 miles, and then imperceptibly moved to gasoline engine power. Actually, it was gas power generating electricity to power the front wheels. It was impressive. Coming back to Greeley, I bucked a wind and didn’t do as well on gas, despite the fact that the Rodeway Inn clerk let me plug in the Volt, out by the Kenworths and Peterbilts.
That premium trim package on the car included black and white leather seating (seats four), leather-trimmed steering wheel, and heated buckets up front. I didn’t suffer discomfort driving the roughly 400 miles in 24 hours; the ride is sumptuous. The car weighs about 3,800 lbs. with its big battery, and that gives it a luxury ride. Handling is great, as well. All the electronics were on board – backup camera, nav, Bluetooth, 30g audio storage, DVD rom, pushbutton/remote start, and Sirius XM radio. The dual 7” screens on the dash are dazzling, and the sound system is superb. To charge up the car, you use an extension cord that is about 20 ft. long and plug it into a 120v outlet for ten hours.
The gas engine is a 1.4 liter, 83 horsepower four, and the Voltec electric motor provides 149 horsepower and 173 lb. ft. of motoring torque. The fancy wheels are 17”, and are shod with 215/55R17 Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires. The warranty for the lithium-ion, 16 kWh, rechargeable battery is 100,000 miles or eight years.
Forty-five years ago I worked in Ogallala, on the Union Pacific Railroad. I handed up train orders (on a stick) to the big diesel-powered trains that whizzed through town around the clock. Those big locomotives operated just like the Volt – internal combustion engine generating juice for the electric motors to power the wheels. Back then I couldn’t have imagined a vehicle such as the Volt (or me at the wheel.) I must admit I would have thought it was a pretty neat deal.