16-month update on my Chevrolet Volt

February 23, 2015

It’s now been 16 months since I leased my Chevy Volt. I’ve driven just less than 10,000 miles. This is the third report since I acquired a 2014 model in October 2013. Previous reviews were written in January 2014 after 60 days and in June 2014 after eight months.

Why so much coverage? Because the Volt has been considered one of the most innovative and risky undertakings from GM, a normally conservative U.S. company, and it had to endure unfounded criticism from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-San Diego, who claimed the car was unsafe and falsely attributed its tax rebates to the Obama administration. He was proven wrong on both counts.

I thought it was a really well-engineered car that reduced dependence on oil and bode well for rebuilding our domestic manufacturing. I said at the time that when it came time to turn in my BMW X3, I’d consider the Volt and I did. Now I love it like so many other owners.

The Volt continues to meet expectations and live up to its high owner ratings, still among the very best. It’s been trouble free and performs just as it did on Day One. No rattles and no mechanical or electrical trouble of any kind. I’ve taken it back to the dealer just once for its first scheduled service, an oil change, tire rotation and topping off the fluids.

I’ve encountered only one minor problem: the display that shows miles driven on electricity and gas for each trip, sometimes erroneously shows 0.2 miles driven on gas, when I start from a fully charged car. The dealer and GM attribute it to a software glitch and have been unable to fix it; I’ve learned to ignore it. No gas is consumed, according to other readings.

On one other occasion, the Bluetooth lost connection with my phone, and the phone function in the car froze, preventing it from entering the pairing process again. I had to reset the function by turning off the engine and opening the driver’s door for five minutes.

The occasional freezing of the console display that I encountered over the first several months has not reoccurred, likely fixed by a software upgrade I had last year at the dealer’s.

In my update eight months ago, I noted I was averaging 144 miles per gallon. In recent months I’ve made about a half-dozen trips to Los Angeles, so the proportion of the number of miles driven on gasoline has risen significantly, resulting in the overall mileage now being 116 mpg. I’ve bought 88 gallons of gas since I’ve owned the car.

The Volt’s first 40 miles for the 200-mile round trip is battery powered, but 160 miles is gasoline powered at 37 mpg. The saving grace is being able to use the carpool lanes most of the way, which typically shaves a half hour off the more than 2½-hour trip during rush hour. If I put more battery miles on it and have fewer long trips, the number will go up

My range per charge continues to hold steady between 37 and 41 miles all year round. San Diego has been a good location for owning a Volt because we don’t have low temperatures that can reduce the battery’s efficiency.

I’ve never used public charging stations away from home, because I’ve just not encountered them at a time or location when I could leave the car for a long enough time. A one-hour charge would provide about 10 miles of range, and 3½ hours a full charge. I have charged the car while visiting various companies during meetings, using their chargers. I find many private businesses have added chargers for their employees.

On one occasion I parked my car at Wally Park at LAX, while traveling to China. They offered to charge the car while I was away. Surprisingly, they charged $10, which provided a full charge of 40 miles. I found this service overpriced, when $10 of gas provides 100 miles.

While I’ve encountered no issues with the car, I did have to replace my 240-volt wall charger due to a damaged cord in which the strain relief pulled out the nozzle. It was a model that GM had developed and sold through Bosch, a major manufacturer of car chargers.

The one-year warranty had expired several months previously, but with a little persuasion, Bosch was accommodating and replaced the entire charger. I paid $75 for re-installation, which was covered by the American Express Card’s extended warranty benefit.

I continue to be pleased with the Volt and love the fact that there’s never an issue of range anxiety, where I need to be concerned with running out of battery without finding a charger. Ultimately I’d prefer an electric car with a range of several hundred miles when they become more affordable and charging becomes more accessible. Tesla is making great strides on range and the availability of fast chargers, but its cost of more than $80,000 is way out of my range.

One of the other advantages of owning an electric or electric/gas car such as the Volt is that SDG&E provides lower rates for all my electricity. In my case, the rates have dropped by about $100 per month, more than offsetting the cost of electricity for charging the car.

In the next year or two, we can expect to see more and improved electric and electric/gasoline cars, including a newly designed Volt that’s more contemporary looking and has about a 50-mile range. Many of the new cars are also adding a built-in cellular wireless connection. The Volt has OnStar that connects to their service for assistance or emergencies. The service has been excellent; I often ask them to enter a destination into my GPS instead of typing it in.

A 2015 Volt fully equipped with forward-collision alert, rear camera, navigation, leather seats, lane-departure warning, cruise control, back-up camera, keyless entry, etc. costs about $39,000. Federal and state rebates of up to $9,000 are available.

Among all of the cars I’ve owned — including BMWs, Lexuses and Acuras — the Volt continues to be at the top of my list.


Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer," published by Financial Times Press. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published online or as Letters to the Editor.

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