Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting excellent range!

I finally took the Volt on a longer trip to my in-laws (15km each way). The temperature was around 18-19 C so no heating or fan was required. The trip to my in-laws allowed for a good amount of coasting/regenerative braking. Using "L" in traffic is a life-changing experience! Not only do you get intense regen (according to the DIC upwards of -10kW), but one-pedal driving is so comfortable and natural. The tires are quieter than I expected at 80km/h so that was a pleasant surprise. We had the windows opened and there was no wind buffeting in the cabin. The driver's seat is perfectly comfortable for me, despite the lack of lumbar support. Granted, a 25 minute drive isn't not the same as a 7 hour drive but so far the seat is very comfortable. Montreal has a few good radio stations but XM radio is nice for longer trips. There is always something on if you have the patience to search for it.

Roundtrip (including stop at my parent's house) showed a total of 39.6km on about 48% of battery! I don't know if the battery level indicator is accurate though (unlike the Mazda3 gas tank where the top half of the gas tank burns much slower than the lower half !). If it is then I can hit 80km on a charge at that rate! That's 50 miles on a charge! I will be perfectly happy with 60-65 km on one charge, so 80 would be a nice bonus. In any case, 50 cents of electricity for a round trip to my in-laws is amazing!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Range estimation changing as I drive the car more

When I first got the Volt, it estimated I can do 50km on a full charge. When I drove the Volt 9km to work, the number only dropped to 46km! The range is estimated based on previous driving. I guess the initial 472km involved aggressive drivers because it looks like I am much smoother on the throttle. The range now estimates 52km and this will keep going up as the weather improves.

Honestly I do not put much effort in driving economically since my normal driving style keeps the green leaf-ball in the center all of the time. I need to improve braking though, I still expect regular regen to slow down the car more, but the Volt coasts even further than my Mazda3! They were not kidding about low-rolling-resistance tires!

My goal is to join the 50-mile (or 80km) club this summer! Not sure what it will take to get that kind of range but there's only one way to find out! I am against extreme hypermiling (tailgating/drafting, driving through stops etc.) so only normal driving for me.

Review after first long (9km) drive

I finally took the Volt for a "longish" drive (to one of our Montreal offices). It was about 9km, early in the morning and it involved driving on the highway while in traffic. I experimented with Sport mode, "L" mode and played with the navigation system.

Sport mode is addictive! The throttle response is virtually instantaneous compared to "Normal" mode! You can easily feel the difference.

Driving in "L" instead of "D" allows for more aggressive regen (feels exactly like engine braking when downshifting a manual tranny). It also allows for "1-pedal" driving when stuck in traffic and I am sold on the concept! I literally drove 3/4 of the trip without touching the brakes in stop-and-go traffic! This will extend the life of the brakes by a significant amount! When I got off the highway I switched back to "D" to coast longer. Needless to say, driving in traffic has become a lot more bearable!

As for the navigation, I still find the interface a little busy (still used to a tiny old Garman). Initially the view was zoomed out so far I saw the whole island of Montreal. It did not automatically zoom in when I started driving either. While driving it was not obvious how to zoom in, and I accidentally figured it out when I turned the "Tune" dial instead of the "Volume" dial. Tuning allowed me to choose the visible distance so I zoomed in to 100 meters. Much better. I really like when the right-half of the screen shows what the next turn looks like really zoomed in, while still leaving the route on the left. Nice touch. In general the navigation works well and I just need to get used to how much more information it can provide.

The Volt came with a 3 month XM satellite radio subscription. Given that my commute is short, it is not worth $16 per month to me (although I hear you can get massive discounts when you tell them you do not want to subscribe). However, the channels are great and there was always a song I liked on one channel or another. I find the quality has improved from when I remember listening to XM on rental cars. It usually sounded like low bitrate mp3 files. Thankfully not anymore. If you have a big enough data plan on your cellphone you can just use internet radio streaming though.

Of course I have to mention how quiet the cabin is. It is so serene and almost Zen-like to drive the Volt! Everyone who has been in the Volt finds the quietness strange, but in a great way! I drove 3 colleagues around the parking lot and they were all pleasantly surprised at the ride quality, the interior look-and-feel and the complete lack of NVH. When people see the interior, they all react the same way: the 4 bucket seats look fantastic!

I think Volt owners are the best marketing tool for this car. Chevy has had a winner since 2011 yet it is not on anyone's radar. I am glad I took the plunge and I hope to get at least 3 people (my aunt, my friend and a colleague) to buy a Volt by the end of this year!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back from Vacation

Just got back yesterday and checked up on the Volt (stored at my parents' house in their garage)! Looks good! We brought the Schneider Electric EV230WSR outside to see where it can be installed. The charging connector has a 20ft cable so we think we will just install it on the side of the house. The connector is long enough to reach the front driveway easily. I was worried about how the charging station would be secured to the wall but it is very well thought out. Now I still have to figure out how to charge the Volt where I am currently renting. I will worry about that later since we still have winter weather and I did not install the winter tires on the Volt.