I love these screens on the Chevy Volt's dashboard. This one shows the ratio of electric miles verses gas miles between charges. These are helpful as you hone your driving patterns to get the most efficient mix of electric and gas powered driving. As gas prices go up, obviously you want to fuel up at charging stations. If you are plugging in at home it's best to be equipped with a PV system or else you will be refueling with expensive HECO gas generated electricity. I was impressed with the overall performance of the Volt. I can't compare it to other EVs but relative to my Acura TSX, the Volt had pretty good pick up. Something I did not expect from an electric car. As far as the ride goes, the Volt was not as smooth as my TSX. Let's face it, I am spoiled. One of the things you need to consider is whether you are dependent on the air conditioner. In the summer the AC is a must, especially in afternoon rush hour traffic. Keep in mind this will sap your electric charge. The AC will in consume 16% of the power from the battery. With the AC off the climate electrical consumption was 3%. I drove the car around with the AC off most of the time. For recharging, one of the dashboard screens gives you an estimate of how long it will take to charge up from a 120V vs. 240V outlet. Generally speaking if you plug it in at home you will need about 8-10 hours to fully recharge. A full charge was taking about 4 hours from the Better Place charging station at Topa Tower. Overall it was a fun experience driving the Chevy Volt. I must thank Chris Colquitt from GM and especially Shauna Goya from Comm Pac for allowing me to park at Topa Tower, easily accessing the charging station. That made all the difference. An electric vehicle is definitely in my future. It will just depend on price point and relative ease of recharging. Now I know what to expect.
Driving around town during Thanksgiving will easily take you beyond the 44 mile range of the Volt's battery pack. When driving an electric car the first thing you will notice is how quiet it is. There is no revving of the engine and the car moves as silent as the wind. So I was curious what it would sound like once the engine kicked in. Let me tell you, it was pretty uneventful going from battery to gas generator. I would not have noticed had it not been for the change in the power flow graphic. As soon as the gas generator engages, the engine appears in the graphic. Up until then it was just the graphic of the battery. In the Volt, the gas generator is not an engine per se. It is not connected to the transmission. Instead the gas generator is used to generate electricity to move the car. It does not fully recharge the battery although I did notice a small charge in the battery when idling. The gas generator works in tandem with the battery and in this mode gas efficiency seems better than a purely gas powered car. Once I pulled into the garage, I did notice the gas generator running. It made me think about the next time I would be able to charge up the battery to save my gas. Day 5 - Overall performance.
There are obvious driving patterns that conserve battery power. I noticed when driving around town, where there is a lot of braking and accelerating the battery will deplete faster than when you are on the freeway. Another observation is that the battery us used less if you are going downhill. But if you are doing round trips like be back and forth to town, then going downhill one way will result in going uphill on the return trip. It evens out in the end. I did notice that if you could minimize rapid acceleration and braking, battery power is preserved. At the end of the day, the Volt used more battery miles from town to Pearl City and less from Pearl City to town. This due to the downhill effect going from Pearl City to town. Much of the car's battery performance is visible real time. The Chevy Volt has a power flow screen that is addictive to watch. It shows when the battery is feeding the transmission and when it is getting a regenerative buffer. Unlike the Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt does not recharge the battery. Regenerative buffer is just a small charge flowing back into the battery. Day 4: Activating the gas generator.
The main thought that crossed my mind was to come up with a plan to get recharged each day. When Chris Colquitt (GM) gave me the overview yesterday, we were in the parking garage of Topa Tower. The building conveniently provides 4 stalls with EV charging stations from Better Place. The good thing is that Better Place is providing free charging until the end of December 2012. The bad thing was only 2 EV stations were working. To hedge my bets I left home early and claimed a stall at 6am in the morning. I usually go for a run first thing in the morning but I did not want to take a chance that the two working stalls would be occupied. Lucky I did that since stall 3 & 4 were still out of order. I went for my run after parking at Topa Tower. Lesson of the day, you become very conscious of the battery charge. Fully charged you get 44 miles. As soon as you go beyond 44 miles the gas generator kicks in. Psychologically the system makes you want to minimize the use of gasoline as much as possible. It's as if that tank is held as a precious reserve. When I picked up the Chevy Volt at the end of the day it appeared the Better Place stalls 3&4 were repaired and operational. The BP promotion is a timely one and if you can take advantage of it, you should. To find EV charging stations near you, including the BP ones you go to this site built by local app developers, Mavens LLC. Day 3: Optimal driving patterns
It's the classic "chicken or the egg" problem. Which came first? Is it the electric car or the charging stations? As Mike Leone of HIEV explains, customers are weary of buying an electric car because of the lack of charging stations and businesses are hesitant to install charging stations because there are so few electric cars. Enter into the picture, Frank Rogers of Green Energy Outlet (GEO). Together with Leone, they install solar panels on the roof of GEO, tie it into the electric grid and install the first ChargePoint smart plug-in for recharging. It's the first in Hawaii and the first of a wave of charging stations that, if you imagine one-day, being as easily accessible as gas stations currently are. The idea is that these charging stations can be anywhere the electric grid is. These can be installed in parking lots, gas stations and businesses. A driver simply pulls up to one of them and plugs in their car. Understandably the adoption rate is slow. You can think of it like when we went from horse and buggy to the automobile. (I'm too young but I can image.) The infrastructure to install a gas pump must have been substantial. Each gas station requires a huge tank to be buried and the plumbing installed necessary to dispense the gasoline. Now look at the proliferation of gas stations, there's one on and across every street. It will one day be the same way with charging stations, if of course the electric car takes off. That may still be a ways off. Hybrids extend the life of gasoline as a portable fuel source. Cars like the Toyota Prius recharge their batteries through regenerative braking and the gasoline engine. They never need to be plugged in. The major auto manufacturers have put so much development into the gasoline powered car it will be some time before they transition completely away from that fuel source. Honda has hinted about a 100% electric vehicle (EV) to be available in 2015. So perhaps by mid-decade we will start to see a sea change of EV automobiles on road. Nevertheless, this charging station at GEO is a significant first step in the right direction. Hats off to the pioneers like Mike Leone and Frank Rogers who are bold enough to make their vision real.