Chevy Volt Unplugged: Initial Thoughts from Five Normal Indiana Guys

· · 10 years ago

I have been closely following the Chevy Volt's progress for as long as I have worked at Hare Chevrolet. So many things about the vehicle and the topics that surround it interest me that I jumped at the chance to go see it in person. The Chevy Volt Unplugged Tour was stopping two-and-a-half hours away in Chicago. After pulling a few strings with the wonderful social media folks at GM, I had secured an invite for myself and a few friends to the private Volt event at the Craftsman Experience. Listed in no particular order are our thoughts on the Volt after seeing it and driving it.

Chris Theisen--Director of Digital Communications, Hare Chevrolet

My main takeaway from the Volt was the silence I heard upon starting the vehicle. It was my first time seeing an electric car in real life and to press the start button and not hear the normal engine noises was an experience I wasn't ready for. The other big thing I enjoyed was the instant torque. Due to many reasons I can't explain coherently, electric motors don't have a lag time upon depressing the pedal like gas motors do. This made the car seem quicker and peppier than any measurement could convey. A neat feature that I've been told exists in other high end cars is the backup camera grid system. Basically the backup camera has a grid superimposed over it. When you are backing up and turn the wheel the grid shows you the trajectory your car will be traveling. For people who drive in the city this will be a great added bonus to owning a Volt. My last big plus was the leg room. As a 6'2" driver, it's hard to find a car that fits well but this did. The best part was the footrest where your left foot sits extended way higher than normal cars. It made for comfortable driving.

I was a bit dissappointed in the amount of back seat room, especially after reading all the articles about the backseat having enough leg room. I'm sure other cars in this class size have similar or smaller amounts of room but I (as did Tim below) thought it to be small. The other thing I didn't care for was the instrumentation panels. Perhaps it was because I drove the vehicle at night but the amount of buttons and dash options in the center console and steering wheel console were really distracting. I didn't have the time to alter the screen views, which may have helped, but I still feel it's a little much compared to the standard car.

That being said I can't wait to drive one again and get it out on the open road a bit.

Tim Pulliam--Project Manager, Energy Systems Network

Tim is a key player in Project Plug IN and has extensive knowledge of the electric vehicle market. Here are Tim's thoughts about driving and seeing the Volt for the first time.

The Volt is a great looking car that is a lot of fun to drive. Thanks to the low speed torque characteristics inherent to electric motors, the Volt has great acceleration from a dead stop. I was very impressed with the clean, modern LCD displays on the dash, although these did seem to be a bit of a distraction due to the amount of information they display. One other small complaint is the lack of interior space in the back seat and the awkward motion required to extract oneself from that location.

In my opinion, the Volt will provide a smooth transition from traditional internal combustion (IC) powered cars to electrics. It can provide a 100% electric daily commute for a large percentage of customers, while still being able to offer long trip capability. This will be very important for many customers as they make the transition to alternative fuels.

As someone who is trying to help with public adoption of EV technology, I am frustrated with the lack of knowledge surrounding the technology (both from the general public and even some of the GM employees at the event). At this point, there is a lot of opportunity for public outreach and awareness campaigns related to emerging vehicle technologies. The Volt Unplugged Tour is a nice start, but there is still a lot of work to do here.

GM has done a great job of making this car ready for prime time. As with other EVs at this point, the price is still quite high, however I am confident that we will see prices drop over the next several years and the next few design turns as volumes increase and the technology matures.

Tyler Burgardt--CMO, Whalaa Coupons

Tyler is the do everything person for a startup here in Indy. I invited Tyler not realizing he had been following the Volt's progress. He has some great background knowledge of the green energy world but is a marketer and designer by trade. Here are his thoughts after the event.

I think one of the most memorable things I experienced about driving the Volt was that the vehicle actually felt light and responsive to the touch. It kind of felt like there was some kind of kinetic joy waiting to be released. I'm very happy with the way the vehicle has turned out. Its set a precedent for the industry and will certainly make an impression on drivers.

Shawn Plew--Co-Founder, Blog Indiana ; Developer at Formstack

Shawn is a huge Izod IndyCar fan and has lots of knowledge of cars and even pretends to know how to fix them himself.

The Chevy Volt is exactly what I did not expect it to be: a good looking, fun to drive car. I thought weight-saving and cost-cutting measures would be easy to spot, but that just wasn't the case. Instead, I was struck by the Volt's clean lines, futuristic instrumentation and familiar feel.

Tyler Lipa--Contributor, Auto Bird Blog

Tyler is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to the inner workings of a car. He had some very good insights into the Volt.

The Chevrolet Volt in my mind is a revolutionary car because it changes the relationship between ICE (internal combustion) and electric motors. The gasoline powered 1.4L engine is mainly used as a source of electrical power instead of kinetic power. With a full charge the Volt is driven solely by the 150hp electric motor. This is a truly eerie experience because the car is practically silent at low speeds compared to the typical vibration and sound of gasoline engines at low rpms. Handling was excellent with dry steering easy and light on the streets of downtown Chicago. Overall it was quite an interesting and intriguing experience that was quite thought provoking.

My biggest qualm with the Volt comes down to the generator motor under the hood. It is a simple naturally aspirated 1.4L EcoTec engine. I feel that gas motors are the least efficient choice when it comes to electricity generation. But I understand it comes down to cost and right now Chevy is implementing their 1.4L engine in multiple forms across multiple models. I hope that in the future there will be other generator options that offer better power and torque to help greatly extend the range even farther than the Volt.


My final thoughts; This car is well deserving of all the hype and awards it has received. Here's hoping that initiatives like Project Plug IN and the already ramped up production levels allow us to see some in Indiana sooner rather than later.

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