From Lindsay: Thanks to the folks at Chevy for inviting us to the pre-auto show preview. I have been really impressed at how eager the team at Chevy is to work with local bloggers. They were kind enough to not only giveaway Steeler’s tickets last fall but they were also very happy to help turn the test drive party into a fundraiser for the CHS holiday drive and they even loaned vehicles to the CHS folks to use for delivery of holiday gifts. I just can’t say enough about how amazing the Pittsburgh community was in coming together to support CHS for the holidays. In talking with them more yesterday at the Auto show I think there will be more opportunities for Chevy to partner with local organizations this year too. Check out this great post and photos from Andrew who kindly helped document the auto show and Chevy Volt yesterday.
At the Auto Show
I Heart PGH was invited to the Chevy Volt Press Conference at the Pittsburgh Auto Show, taking place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend. The event started with GM Executive Director of Research and Development Walt Dorfstatter presenting Carnegie Mellon University with a $70,000 scholarship grant from the GM Foundation. GM will be at CMU today, February 11th, doing test drives of the Volt (we think this is open to the public).
The presentation was followed by a walk around tour of the Volt.
During the walk around tour of the the car, it was explained to us that the Volt was a new type of hybrid car that placed more of an emphasis on using electric power as opposed to gas. This is accomplished by charging the car over night through a wall outlet (charger pictured above), and then having it run entirely on an electric power with a back up gas generator that engages when the car’s battery charge gets too low.
During the walk around tour @newsunrising asked us a question over Twitter, paraphrased the question was, “how will the cold Pittsburgh weather affect the battery charge and range?” Well, @newsunrising, while charging and operating in cold weather, the Volt has a battery heater that will keep the battery in its ideal temperature range, and when it gets hot during the summer the car’s air conditioner will keep the battery cool. So outside temperature should not effect performance. You can read more about this here.
Driving the Volt
First off, let me just say this car is loaded. Loaded. With a capital ‘L’. Heated seats that automatically (automagicly?) turn on when the car detects its cold outside? This car has it. Key-less ignition? Has it. Advanced sound system with a built in hard drive for music? Yup. DVD player? Sure, but only in the front, so you can only watch movie when parked. I could keep going with this list, but the car I drove seemed to have every interior feature ever, so just picture that.The only thing it didn’t have in the interior was a rear middle seat. When we asked the GM rep why it was missing he explained that the battery is located where the ‘hump’ is in traditional cars, and they needed to sacrifice the seat to make more room for the battery.
What sets the Volt appart from other hybrid cars – if you can call the Volt a hybrid – is that it will use its electric motor for as long as it has a battery charge, while other vehicles like the Prius only use their electric motor to get the car rolling then switch over to gas. When the Volts battery runs low, a gas generator will kick in to maintain an electrical charge. What this means is that if you charge you car over night with the somewhat optional charger and then drive to work the next day, you can potentiality use no gas AT ALL, depending on the length of your commute. However, if you are driving long distances the gas motor will only engage to charge the battery enough to keep you going. This means that you never need to worry about finding a place to plug in when you are on the go.
Starting the car takes some getting used to coming from driving a gas powered vehicle. You get in, sit down, press a button, and some lights come on — that’s it. There is no whining noise, no vibration, nothing. For a moment it felt like I had just put it into ‘Accessory,’ until the GM rep riding with me told me to pull out into the street. Actually driving the Volt is surprisingly ordinary, which is a good thing. It really feels like you are driving a car, as opposed to the sluggish golf cart feeling I was half expecting.
The car’s CVT transmission offers a smooth, shift-shock-less drive, another plus. In addition to the standard ‘Drive’ mode, there are also low-range, sport, and mountain functions. Low-range acts like downshifting in a regular car, allowing you to have more cohttp://iheartpgh.com/wp-admin/options-general.phpntrol going down hill, while also recharging the battery. Sport greatly increases acceleration (I had the most fun in this setting) at the expense of battery life.
Twitter user @Klun_PA asked “Will they be powerful enough to drag race?” That depends on what you want to race against? While I didn’t get to drive on a road where I could really open that bad boy up, I would say that you could go to head to head with most economy cars.
Finally, mountain mode tells the car that you plan on driving up hill for a while and that it should start charging the battery earlier if it gets low so you are sure to have enough power to get to the top. Just to be clear; you will never ‘run out of juice’ in this car, and it goes up hill just fine. This feature seems to be more for additional efficacy and peace of mind.
All in all, I feel like the Volt is an exciting and capable machine, loaded with features. It seemed geared for daily commutes, not using gas for the first couple dozen miles, but is fully able to go on long road trips without needing to stop an recharge. I am hoping to see many of these on the road in the near future and I am hoping that they will pave the way to an all electric/alternative fuel (ex non-fossil fuel) vehicle.