This afternoon I had some free time between appointments so I stopped by a Chevy dealer to test drive an electric blue 2017 Chevy Volt.
My wife has owned a Prius for a few years, and I’ve also test driven the Lexus CT 100 hybrid, the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Sportster and the Cadillac ELS electric car.
My wife’s Prius is slow compared to the V-6 in my Toyota Avalon. This has been a common complaint of hybrid owners, we want something efficient, but we don’t want to give up speed. I liked the power of the Cadillac ELS and the Tesla, but I wouldn’t spend more than $50,000 on a car, even a really great car.
The Cadillac ELR is $65 to $75K. I loved driving it, it was super smooth and very fast… but not worth the 65K. The Tesla was even faster, I felt like my eyeballs were being pushed back into my skull, but over 100K for a car?
The 2017 Volt is a plug-in electric car with a gas generator. This means that on battery power alone you can drive 53 miles, but if you top off the gas tank you can drive over 400 miles.
If I owned a Volt I could plug it into my house electric and never use any gas, except for the occasional roadtrip. With a 400 mile range the Volt goes much farther than my Avalon on one tank of gas.
With a full electric car like the Tesla you have to charge up every 250 to 300 miles. This means that on a drive to Atlanta I would have to stop for an hour at a charging station to top off my Tesla, with the Volt I could gas up anywhere along the way. The range issue with full electrics will be solved when better battery technology comes out, but there is no telling when that will happen.
There are still far more gas stations than charging stations.
With a 400 mile range the 2017 Volt is the perfect compromise. Hook it up to your solar panels when you are just driving around town, gas it up for longer trips.
I drove the Volt on a combination of city streets and the highway and it was fast and sporty, similar to a car with a strong V-6 engine. It was smooth, comfortable, and exciting to drive. It felt very solid at highway speeds. The Volt felt very similar to the Cadillac ELR, and it probably shares many of the same components and technology.
I wanted to keep driving it, the test drive ended too soon! This is a car that I could drive to the grocery store and also drive to Atlanta. I loved it. It was not tinny and underpowered like the Prius.
In all fairness I haven’t driven the 2017 plug-in Prius yet, it might be very different than the 2010 model, but in a side by side hybrid comparison in Car and Driver magazine the Chevy won out over the Toyota, even though they have similar specs.
The new 2nd generation Chevy Volt costs $30,000. I could buy a used 1rst generation Volt from previous years, but the 1rst generation was slower with a smaller battery. In a couple years there will be used 2nd generation Volts on the used car market, probably for less than $20,000. I’ll find a used one then.
The kicker is that I’m going to be tempted to install some solar panels on my roof if I have a Volt in my driveway. What is the ROI on solar if you don’t have to gas up your car anymore, except for long trips? Gas companies should fear the Volt.
The Volt really is the car of the future, with the right price and the right performance. I hope Chevy sells a million of these cars! You don’t have to be a greenie to love the 2nd generation Volt, this is a great car for anyone.
-Benjamin T. Alexander
UPDATE: I bought a used 2017 Volt in 2019, and drove it 30,000 miles per year selling solar! Still own it as of January 2022.