A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take advantage of a promotional opportunity with GM. I could pick from a long list of cars to borrow for a period of time. This opportunity was kind of magical as Kamel and I have been kicking around the idea of getting a second car. It takes us forever to make large purchases – tons of research, tons of back and forth, tons of “how badly do we really need said purchase” and on and on and on. So getting the opportunity to play with a car, for free, and in the midst of our normal lives (as opposed to just driving it around a lot) sounded awesome.
Instead of going with a Cadillac or another luxury option that would’ve put us a few notches below the Kardashians, we were super excited to try out the Chevy Volt. Behold! Our ride for 4 days! Color: Silver Ice. (Ice baby)
The Volt is the next stage of hybrid. It can be all electric, or all gas, and if you are using the all electric side and you run out of batteries it will automatically shift into gas usage. Initially this idea seemed like a great option, as the Volt only gets 40 miles (on average, depending on how you’re driving) of battery use before needing to be recharged.
Kamel and I carpool to work and our commute round trip is about 20 miles, including our stop at daycare for drop off and pick up. Kamel has a charging station at work so it would be pretty simple for us to never use gas ever during the work week.
We got the car on a Friday morning. A rep from GM dropped it off at our apartment and then Kamel went to work. He picked me up like usual and we both drove over to get the baby from daycare. My initial thoughts on the car were surprise at how low it was to the ground, how deLorean-y it looked (and not in a bad way!!) and how smooth/quiet it was. Everyone talks about the quiet of electric cars, but it’s just so… peaceful. Not having music playing was nice. And when we did have the satellite radio on (and you know we had it on the 90s station the whole weekend!) we didn’t have to turn it up very loud to get a good sound. Lovely.
I was also super surprised at how much I loved the white accents in the interior. So space age-y, so clean looking. I’m not even a car person and I just… liked it!
Because I am really not a car person (Does it go when I hit the gas? Excellent.), I’m going to get the car stuff out of the way first.
The Volt handles way better than a Prius (Which we’ve rented before). Kamel and I have both found the Prius to be insanely sluggish with no get-up-and-go ability. We also thought the dash was insanely large in the Prius and left us feeling super encapsulated in the front seats. The Volt is not like that at all. It is really open inside the cab, plenty of leg room and gave, what I thought to be, a really comfortable ride.
Turn radius was great. Our Yaris’s fucking sucks.
There was a rear-view camera which was awesome, something I had never experienced before. Very handy. I even backed into a diagonal parking spot – which I avoid like the plague.
The windows were small and squished. I didn’t feel like it had quite the visibility I am usually comfortable with.
The dash was nuts. Too many buttons to push, too many options, most of the time I couldn’t find what I was looking for and lord help me if I was driving and needed to adjust the air or something. Not going to happen. It’s super futuristic and pretty, but user friendly it was not. Maybe I am too old school, but give me some nobs and buttons any day, I can do without the touch screens and shit.
The car seat fit comfortably and the stroller fit better in this trunk than in our Yaris. All good things.
It’s amazing how open it feels and how accessible everything is (except the dashboard. Grrr.) and for someone who is always digging into some bag in the back seat for a pacifier or a toy or a sippy cup, it was nice to feel like nothing was blocked from my reach.
But how was it owning an electric car? The big stress for us going into this was the mileage – how would we handle the car involved with an electric? And I had worried it would feel sluggish or lame to drive.
And remember how I said that initially I was excited that the car had the option of gas? Well it turned into a pretty competitive game with ourselves to not ever have to use gas for the entire weekend. Even though, realistically, it’s not a big deal, I felt like if we ran out of batteries we had failed. For a person who really… really really really hates disappointing the made up rules she has for her own life, this became problematic.
The car has the ability to charge while you’re driving, so Kamel and I both became obsessed with getting the car to actually increase its mileage by the end of each trip. If we didn’t increase we at least wanted to cut the mileage we did use in half of the actual distance.
Then! Wherever we went we wanted there to be a charging station.
Having an electric car is a total shift when it comes to car maintenance. Not the oil changes and the tire rotation kind of maintenance, but the daily grind of making sure you have enough juice to get from point A to point B, making sure there are charging stations around, making sure the charging stations work, and so on.
We were pretty sure that within a few weeks we would have had our routine down. We would know where to park to charge, how long it would need, and so on. But again, there was that game – never use gas. And now on top of it was the game – never park somewhere that isn’t going to refuel us. It meant more walking, it meant more travel prep (With an already insane amount of travel prep that goes hand in hand with dealing with a toddler), it meant carrying around a certain constant level of stress that we may run out of juice and not be in a place where we could plug in.
And yes, we COULD use gas. We COULD. But when you’re in it, when you’ve made the choice for electric, using gas just feels like such a waste. It is such a waste.
Kamel will tell you that he loved the car. LOVED IT. Did not want to give it up, had mad trepidation on having to return it. And we talked a lot about, “Could we do this, could we do this, could we live this way permanently?”
Never having to buy gas for our normal commute? Amazing.
Think of all the money we’d save.
This is the future of driving, this is going to spare the air an immense amount.
10 years from now having a gas car is going to seem backwards!
We talked and talked and talked. And Kamel was glued to his charging app. And we were discussing mileage and range and if we had enough and where we needed to go and where we were going to put the car throughout the entire weekend. Even though charging stations were really not that hard to come by. Even though we live in an area where just a few blocks down there is a charging station. (And, even though, if we had a HOUSE it would be even easier… we could have just literally plugged it into the wall.)
Ahhh! It was making me crazy! Kamel was loving the obsessiveness of it and I was desperately not wanting to think about it. So yes, maybe having that back up gas tank is a nice thing, but honestly? Get rid of it and give me more mileage and I would have felt so much better.
When almost every parking lot has pay stations, when you can go to the mall and charge your car for cents, when you can go 100 miles or more on a single charge, that’s when this car becomes doable for me, personally.
As a commuter car I think it’s top notch. It’s only about 35k (as compared to the Tesla at 69k with no bells or whistles… but that sucker gets 208 miles per charge!) so it’s a pretty average sedan price. Factor in the electric car tax break + little to no gas, depending on how you play it and it’s awesome. It really is a nice drive and a lot of fun to see the battery recharging itself as you coast.
But it also made me crazy. It doesn’t work right this second for my family. I have too many other things to think about, I can’t also be thinking about feeding and housing and caring for my car pretty while needing to make appointments and stay on nap schedules and meet deadlines pretty much on the daily. It put me over the top.
Do I want my next car to be electric? Yes, absolutely. But I need the tech to speed up a bit. I need a better range than what the current Volt can get me, even though it’s reasonably priced. I want the trunk space and the new tech, I want the environmentally friendly part (minus the question on what to do with all of these batteries when they need to be replaced), but I want it with a little more flexibility. I want to be able to jump in my car and just go and not worry about having a plug when I get there. There is still room for improvement.
Nineties satellite radio, though? You stay exactly as you are.
Thank you GM for the opportunity to live an electric life for a few days! It was an amazing experience and I encourage everyone to buy American as much as possible (Or wherever you are from! Keep it local!).
What do you think of electric cars? Does anyone have the Volt? Prius? Leaf? Tesla? I am dying to hear other people’s experiences.