I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Electric cars, trucks, ATVs, NEVs - things bigger than a motorcycle.
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Syonyk   10 kW

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I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 12 2019 12:27pm

Shamelessly copied from my blog: https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2019/07/i-b ... d-too.html

I give myself permission to use my work in this way. ;)

For those who don't live in a place where a short range BEV is a valid option - consider a used Volt! It can do everything, though if you don't have any charging capability, don't buy a Volt.

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Some while back, I tossed in a (little noticed) comment at the end of a post that we'd obtained a Chevy Volt. We picked up a used 2012 Volt with under 30k miles, and have been using it quite a bit, because, well, it's our car.

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Since it's my blog and I can post what I want, I've decided to talk about the Volt for a while. I think it's the "sweet spot" for electric transportation at this point in time, I think it's rather significantly more environmentally friendly than a pure BEV for most use cases, and I think that, for most people, it's a really, really good car and highly worth considering if you're interested in cheap, (slightly) environmentally friendly car transportation. Plus, they depreciate like mad (just like all other electric cars), so you can get one cheaper than you might think!


The Chevy Volt
If you're not familiar with the Volt, you may be in the process of confusing it with the Bolt - which is also a Chevy product. And some marketing people at Chevy should be strung up for that bit of cutesy confusion, because it doesn't help anyone. It's confusion for the sake of confusion as far as I'm concerned.

The Bolt is a pure electric car (EV). The Volt, on the other hand, is a "plug in hybrid," a "series hybrid," a "range extended electric vehicle," or... probably half a dozen terms I've seen over the years. It's somewhere between a pure electric car and a hybrid - but, in reality, it's far better than either!

The Gen 1 Volt (2011-2015) has a 30-40 mile battery only range in the summer - plus a decent little gasoline engine and a useful gas tank (9 gallons) that can run it down the highway pretty much as long as you can find a gas station every few hundred miles. The Gen 2 (2016-2019) upgrades to about a 50 mile battery only range, a larger gas engine, and a different transmission design, but works out to the same thing - some battery range and then a gasoline engine for longer travel.

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This means that you plug the car in at night (or during the day) to charge the main battery. When you set off, you run in a pure electric mode for the battery range - 20-60 miles, depending on which version you have and the outside temperature. Once the battery runs out, the gas motor kicks on, and you can drive it across the country on gas. Or, more commonly, make it home without having to find somewhere to charge.

But, on the flip side, it uses a far smaller battery pack than pure battery electrics - and it makes far better use of that pack!

BEV, PHEV, Hybrid, ICE... Oh My!
If you're familiar with electric vehicles, hybrids, and such, you can just skip this section.

If not, I'll explain a few of the various terms in common use you might run across, and what they mean.

We'll start with what everyone is familiar with: ICE. That means "Internal Combustion Engine." It refers to pretty much every vehicle that doesn't have a battery pack for propulsion (a "traction battery"). The phrase "Getting ICE'd" does not mean getting killed, in the context of electric vehicles. It means someone with a non-electric vehicle parking in a charging station. Don't do that.

Presumably, if you're the type of person who thinks a steam car is genuinely cool, you might hear the term ECE - External Combustion Engine. As someone who thinks steam cars are awesome and yet doesn't own one, well... I've not actually run across this term. But you might!

A "Hybrid" is a car that uses both a gasoline engine and a battery pack for propulsion - and doesn't allow you a way to recharge that pack (from the factory - I know people have added external charges to some of them). The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius are the most commonly seen versions of this sort of vehicle. When you decelerate, the car can recover the kinetic energy into a battery pack, and can use that energy to accelerate away from a stoplight. It improves fuel economy, and the Prius, in particular, uses some creative valve timing on the gasoline engine to improve efficiency more, at the cost of power production. A typical hybrid has a battery pack in the 1kWh range. It's not designed to propel the car down the road for long, just to store braking energy and use it for acceleration (though some will allow use for a bit of low speed driving).

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Beyond that, you have PHEVs - Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles. The Volt sits in this category, as do things like the BMW i3 with the range extender, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the Prius Prime, and scattered other vehicles. This is similar to a hybrid, except that it has a far larger battery pack - and, importantly, a charge port. Most PHEVs have a battery pack in the 10-15kWh range, which means they can drive 30-50 miles on battery. Beyond that, there's a gasoline engine that kicks in and allows you to drive until the gas tank is empty. Details vary wildly - the BMW i3 has a tiny little peanut gas tank and a scooter engine for the range extender. The Gen 1 Volt has a smaller gasoline engine than the electric motor, which means mountains can be tricky (if you don't use "mountain mode" for hard climbs). The Gen 2 Volt has a large enough gas engine to run the whole vehicle on gas. The plug in Prius is similar. And, for what it's worth, I'd consider electric bikes to fit in here as well - you can still ride with the pedals if the battery pack is drained!

Finally, at the far end, you have BEVs - Battery Electric Vehicles, or just EVs. There's no gas motor anywhere in these cars. Just a large battery pack, an electric motor, and... well, that's it. If you're out of battery pack charge, push. Or hope you're on a mountain top and can use regenerative braking on the way down. This includes all the Teslas, the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and quite a few others.

Average Daily Driving Distances
At this point, I'm going to delve off into the weeds of statistics - and if your first thought isn't "How to lie and cheat with..." - well, let's just say that most statistics are calculated for a purpose.

Here, I'm going to quote an AAA study - "On average, Americans drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of 46 minutes." This is, of course, an average, and averages are mostly worthless, but it scopes the problem somewhat. The Office of Highway Policy Information has some data from 2009 (a bit dated, but still useful) that shows trip mileage and total miles driven by trip length.

While the vast majority of trips (by trip start count) are short, if you look at the mileage by trip length, the total mileage pie is more evenly split. This makes sense - longer trips, sort of by definition, chew up more miles than shorter trips!

Also, you should be horrified that 10% of car trips are less than 1 mile. Walk! Bike!

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But the reality is that long distance driving is the minority of trips for most people. People still make long trips (greater than 50 miles is 3% of trip starts), and it's a use case that has to be handled, but it's not the typical daily trip for most people.

The "common case" is a short trip (less than 20 miles) - and the Volt handles those perfectly on electric.

Battery Packs, Embodied Energy, and Longevity
There is no battery fairy that waves a magic wand and blinks batteries into existence. Batteries require raw materials and quite a bit of energy to produce, and those have to come from somewhere. Lithium batteries, in particular, take a lot of energy to produce, and battery production is still quite limited globally (compared to global energy use, or even transportation energy use). This means we should be using batteries as efficiently as possible (while production constrained - and, I'd argue, for the long term as well to improve resource utilization) - and long range BEVs don't do that at all.

If you assume that people want one car to cover all their needs (from driving to the store next door, apparently, to driving across the country), that car needs a long useful range. For a gas powered car, this is no problem - we have a network of liquid fuel stations to refill from. For a battery powered car, making this work requires a rather large battery pack, and a network of fast charging stations. Tesla covers this use case decently (depending on where you want to go), but it means their cars have far more battery than is needed for most daily trips. A 100kWh Tesla can drive over 300 miles on a charge. When average daily driving trips are only 30 miles, this means the car has 10x the battery required for regular daily trips. I did some math a few years ago and estimated that the energy to produce a Tesla battery (before you ever use it) would power about a lifetime of electric bike use (https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2015/11/how ... ke-on.html). The numbers are almost certainly better now, but there's still a lot of energy that goes into building battery packs that don't get heavily utilized.

Another concern is battery longevity. Cell phone batteries die inside a few years - why don't car batteries do the same? With a few exceptions (the Leaf's air cooled pack), EVs do a great job of managing their battery pack. They keep them cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and don't charge them fully. Not fully charging a cell really helps improve the longevity, and the data from most (not-Leaf) EVs shows that range loss just isn't that large a problem.

But what happens if you pick a far less battery intensive solution? That's what Chevy did, and it works really, really well!

Smaller Packs With a Backup
What Chevy has done in the Volt is to use a smaller pack (16kWh in the Gen 1), take good care of it, and use the middle 85% or so. The Volt pack is never fully charged according to the cell chemistry. It doesn't charge past 384V for the 96S pack, or 4.00 V/cell. You can pull 10-11kWh out of the Gen 1 pack before it's "empty" according to the car, but there's still a few kWh left at the bottom. The Volt uses this capacity to help with acceleration, to allow the engine to shut down at stoplights, and generally acts like a standard hybrid, even with "zero" battery range left.

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If you do the math, the cells that would go into a single 100kWh Tesla can build over 5 Volt packs. Those packs can be run conservatively for an incredibly long life, and those cells will offset far, far more gasoline use in 5 Volt-type vehicles than they would in a single long range EV.

Yes, you run out of battery range more regularly, but since there's a gas engine that kicks in, it just doesn't matter. The transition in the Volt is seamless, and if it weren't for the dashboard showing that the mode had switched, I wouldn't know most of the time.

If you assume 5 Volts can do 30 miles a day on battery, that's 150 miles of electric range from those cars - every single day. Putting them all in one car (as you would with a long range BEV) would only replace a small fraction of that gas use (for most people). They're just carrying the cells for those occasional long distance drives that the Volt uses gas for.

Plus, with a normal EV, people never run the pack to empty. The car would stop moving if you do that. With the Volt? Running it "to empty" is just a normal part of operation, and the motor takes over to get you home. So you can regularly use that 10kWh of capacity and not worry about range - there is no concept of range anxiety.

"Empty" (no EV range remaining) works out to around 329V for the pack - or about 3.4V/cell. There's a bit of capacity left that the pack might use for various reasons, but the Volt really is gentle on the cells. A normal lithium cycle would be 4.2V fully charged to about 2.5V empty (or 3.0V if you care about longevity at least a tiny bit). The Volt cycles the cells from 4.0V to 3.4V - and that's squarely in the middle of their range, so they're not stressed at either end. It's an insanely conservative solution, but the pack longevity isn't a problem at all! Plus, the pack is thermally managed. Even on a 95F day, the pack is 78F when getting home. It's heated in the winter, cooled in the summer, and doesn't see extreme temperatures. The car will use energy to heat/cool the pack when plugged in, so keeping the car plugged in whenever possible helps longevity as well.

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Numbers: A Year of Efficiency
As much as it might surprise people, I'm not keeping detailed statistics on the Volt. I don't like cloud services, so I'm not using the OnStar service (which is going away soon anyway - the Volt's cell modem only talks to towers that are getting shut down), and I haven't bothered to put local logging in. It's mostly my wife's car, and knowing detailed numbers doesn't really change anything - it's going to operate how it operates, and I'm not about to ask her to do things like turn the heat off (with kids in the back) to save a nickel in fuel on a trip.

We got the Volt to cover our common case trips on battery. They're typically 20-30 miles a day, round trip, into one of the nearby towns. We might do this multiple times on some days, but frequently it's one major trip. This is mostly on 45-55mph rural roads in a grid.

We've found that the Volt gets a pretty reliable 35 miles of battery range in the warmer weather. The air conditioning doesn't really impact the range a noticeable amount for our driving. However, in the winter, the battery range is far worse - sometimes as low as 20 miles. The whole car gets far less efficient in the winter (gas cars do as well, you just don't typically notice), and the car will use a ton of energy to heat both the car and the battery pack. If you've been driving long enough, things warm up, but that takes a lot of energy - and so the gas motor turns a lot more in the winter.

Of course, you can do better in certain conditions. If you're, say, following a bunch of antique cars around at 30-35mph, without HVAC, and there's a bit of a downgrade at the start of the trip, my personal best in a Gen 1 Volt is 53.3 miles on battery.

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If it's cold enough, the Volt will run the gas engine for cabin heat. The car will get some electrical energy out of this, but mostly, the goal is hot coolant to cycle to the heater core. There are hacks to bypass this behavior, but for our driving distances, we'll use the engine at some point on a town trip in the winter, so I haven't bothered bypassing it.

On battery, the Volt will get 2-3.5 mi/kWh - you can get it slightly higher, but not by much (and it typically involves descending terrain). On the gas motor, fuel economy, warmed up, on the highway... is about 33mpg. I know it's rated higher, but this is what we get on standard E10 premium with a warmed up engine, doing 75mph (in other words, refueling during a highway run). Gas miles are consistently in the 30-35mpg range for any length travel, though they're worse in the winter when the engine block is cold.

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It's not great - but it's also not terrible for a good sized four door car loaded down with four people and luggage, running on pure gas. Yeah, a Prius will do better - but running purely on gas is not at all the intended use case for a Volt!

More typically, we see 300-400 miles per gallon of gas used (in the warmer weather). The gas is used for days with multiple trips into town that exceed our charging capability, and for longer round trips (some of the places we go on occasion are 50-60 miles around - that's a gas day). Even on the longer trips, though, it's rare to drop below 70-80 miles per gallon of gas used - the 35 miles on electric really help bring the total up.

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Charging: Yeah, 120V is Fine!
All of these numbers above? They're charging on 120V. It takes us 9-10 hours to charge the car from empty, and that means that mid-day charging almost never makes up the total used. If the car makes an early morning trip, it might be charged by the afternoon, but typically? Our evening trips start out half-charged. Sometimes I can top off in town, usually not.

I'll eventually add 240V charging to the property, but for nearly the last year, we've charged on 120V - and it still works fine. Even on nights when the car comes back late, it's still charged by the morning. If I had 240V charging, the car would be charged from empty in a hair over 3 hours - which would mean our evening trips were always starting with full battery. That would offset a good bit of our gas use - especially in the winter, when the battery spends a lot of energy producing heat.

One downside of 120V charging is that the preheat mode (when you suggest to the car that it might want to warm up with grid power) doesn't really save much energy - most of the energy for heating the systems comes from the battery, and though the car can use 5kW heating, it only gets 1.4kW from the wall. A 240V charger will help a lot on that front.

Volting About the Mountains: Antique Car Meets
I've talked about antique cars in the past (https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2017/09/dri ... night.html). This year, we went to a meet, but took the Volt. It's not antique, but it is well suited to hauling a 1 year old boy around - several experiments demonstrated that he wasn't able to sit by himself in the back of an older car, and that he wasn't at all happy with his car seat back there. We'll try again for an old car next year - but this year, I got a chance to run around some back roads and mountains around Pendleton with the Volt. It's the first time I've had a chance to really play around with the car in the mountains and on twisty roads - and it's an awful lot of fun!

One of the things you might run into (that drives some Volt owners nuts) is that the Volt's accounting of power to battery vs gas motor can feel a bit inaccurate at times. The car is either in battery mode or gas engine mode - and it won't swap back from the gas mode until the battery is sufficiently charged. Even if you charge for an hour or so on 120V during a trip, the car will still consider things in gas mode - even as it runs off the stored charge.

For this particular day, we started off by heading up a winding mountain road, then driving around up on top. The battery range is fairly poor because it was a hard climb up - but I was able to charge up on top. Even though the car never switched back from gas mode to electric mode, I got an extra kWh shown in the battery power used statistic. Then, coming down the mountain, I was able to regenerate about 2kWh into the pack (I had to check with a separate monitoring device - the car won't show this), and run around at the bottom of the mountain purely on electrons - even in "gas" mode.

This worked out to a gas "miles per gallon" of 64mpg - even though the car gets nowhere near this in reality. It's just a quirk of how the accounting system keeps track of things. Again, some people get annoyed by this, and I just don't care, because it's busy not using gas (and I'm not really keeping track of the statistics anyway). For normal driving, it's quite reasonable.

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I've driven plenty of vehicles in the mountains - cars, motorcycles... well, mostly motorcycles. But they all are a lot of work to drive. Lots of shifting, braking, etc, and with cars, there's often some excitement as you go around corners.

The Volt is actually really boring in the mountains - but in a good way. If you put it in "L" mode, it's possible to single pedal drive the car for the most part. All the way off the gas is pretty aggressive deceleration, and otherwise it works as normal. You can just play with one pedal and zip around with the fury of electric torque (at low speed - the car is somewhat gutless at higher speeds). Plus, with all the weight down low from the battery, the car simply doesn't exhibit much body roll. It just corners.

Coming down mountain grades is also fun. Instead of having to worry about downshifting, maintaining one's brake temperatures, and the other (well, admittedly fun) aspects of mountain grades, I was just putting it in L, setting cruise control, and heading on down. Regen more than covered the energy from gravity, and stored it away for later use!

Reasons Not to Buy a Volt
I've been talking up the Volt for a while - and I really do think it's a great car, for almost everyone. But there are several use cases where it's simply not a good option.

The first is if you can never charge it (or can only rarely charge it). Yes, it'll behave like a hybrid and get tolerable fuel economy - but if you don't have a regular place to charge (at home or at work), you'll just burn more gas than a hybrid designed for that operating mode. A Prius manages north of 50mpg without being charged, and the Volt almost certainly won't get past 40. You won't damage the car not charging it - but it's really not how it's designed to be operated, and you'll miss the best parts of it.

The other use case it's not ideal for is really high daily miles. If you're a traveling salesman and do long days, the Volt isn't a great option. For long highway miles, you're (again) better with a Prius type hybrid. Or, if you're doing something on major highways, a long range pure battery electric might make sense. They're quite a bit cheaper to run, and DC fast charging (both Tesla and otherwise) is common enough that you can make most trips without too many detours.

Reasons to Buy a Volt
However: For the rest of us who do regular daily trips in the sub-30 mile range (if you're a bit over, get a Gen 2) and take the occasional longer trip - you really should consider a Volt.

It covers the common case on cheap electricity (if you live in CA with $0.25/kWh power, sorry - charge at night), and you can still drive across the country with the current gasoline-based infrastructure. It's two cars in one - an EV commuter, and a gas powered long range traveling vehicle. No, it's not quite as efficient as other long range options, but if long trips are a fraction of your total driving, the blend works out very, very well.

You can find a used Gen 1 for $8k-$10k these days, and a Gen 2 should be down around $15k for a reasonable one. Shop around, of course, but they're not that expensive - and they are a lot cheaper to run than a gas car, with much less uncertainty in fuel costs.

The long term reliability is pretty solid (look for a 2013 or later to avoid some stator bearing issues that require a bit of work to fix around 100k miles), and pack degradation is simply not a concern on these cars. The battery is never fully charged, it's very well thermally managed, and there's buffer on either side to stretch into if needed. Even if you do lose a bit of battery range, all it does is slightly increase the gas use - it doesn't make the car unusable for your driving, like losing range on a pure EV would.

PS: Install a Cabin Air Filter
A dirty little secret of the Gen 1 Volts (and possibly the Gen 2s - not sure, but I can't help with those) is that they didn't come from the factory with a cabin air filter. Supposedly it helps reduce the energy required for the climate control, but the difference is tiny. Put a cabin air filter in - and I'd suggest getting one that has the activated charcoal or carbon to help absorb smells. There are cases where the Volt can burn off some road debris if the engine hasn't run in a while, and it's got an odor. Or, say, if you're following a line of old cars that smoke under certain conditions, one might have been nice.

Adding a cabin air filter is quite easy - the access is through the glove box. You can find videos on the usual suspects, or just follow this quick guide.

With all the stuff out of the glove box, there should be a rubber mat on the bottom. Remove it.

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Towards the top of the rear, there's a little finger grip - you can look for it, or just feel for it. Pull it. The rear and bottom of the glovebox now lift out.

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You'll now see this - the cover for the air filter. Why does one go through the glove box for the air filter? I have no idea, but it's actually less annoying than on a lot of other vehicles.

There are two clasps on the side and one on the top. Some guides suggest using a small screwdriver to pop them, but they're not exactly stiff - you should be able to pop it by hand unless you have huge hands. Pop the top one first, then gently work the sides out, and you should see either an air filter or a huge gap!

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Replace the filter (arrow pointing down, according to legend - I didn't verify airflow direction), close things back up, and enjoy the somewhat quieter and, hopefully, somewhat less smelly air!

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Why a Volt? It Fits Our Needs.
I'd originally planned on getting a used Leaf out of Seattle or Portland and keeping the Mazda 3 we had. However, paying attention to driving miles indicated that we'd be putting quite a few miles on the Mazda 3 - just days where things wouldn't fit in the Leaf's range profile (an older Leaf, not the new 200+ mile ones - those are expensive). Even with fast charging, the total lack of useful charging infrastructure out here just limits what moderate range EVs can do. We would either be putting a ton of miles on the truck (which rapidly eats up the savings of an EV), or we'd have to keep another car around.

A long range BEV would work - but they're quite expensive. One annoyance of mine is that no sales person around here bothers asking how much one pays in federal taxes before asserting that the actual cost is $7500 less than the actual price - and I don't know many people paying $7500/yr in federal income tax out here. Yes, you can create "taxable events" with IRA conversion and the like (if your finances line up to let you do that), but don't tell me a $40k car is $32,500 without asking questions first, because it's not.

My views on Teslas haven't changed over the past few years. They're not a car I can work on. A car I own free and clear, that I can't access the full diagnostics on, is simply not something I'll consider. Tesla could change this by opening up their service software and giving owners the ability to get at the diagnostics, but until they do that? Hard pass, sorry.

Or... we could get something that covers the common case on electric (most of our miles), still can do a long trip on gas (rare, but happens often enough that it's worth considering), and get the Volt.

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I can get parts, I can work on it, and I can (with the right hardware) access the dealer diagnostic interfaces. I can even flash the firmware on it myself, as the software to talk to the car is available for subscription access. It's not quite as open as I'd like, but for our needs? It's the best option out there.

Consider one!
Battery packs, Sunkko Welders, and more. http://syonyk.blogspot.com/

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ZeroEm   100 W

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by ZeroEm » Jul 12 2019 2:03pm

No no no buy a Used leaf!

just kidding, last year went EV shopping and there was only one EV car in town and bought it. I had other options to have some shipped in. The strangest thing was sales persons trying to talk me out of buying it. once you have one and figure out how cheap they are to drive. I will never go back.
The journey is more important than the destination!
2013 Nissan Leaf S 8 bars 4.9 miles/Kw

Syonyk   10 kW

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 12 2019 2:30pm

ZeroEm wrote:
Jul 12 2019 2:03pm
No no no buy a Used leaf!
Donate me one and I'll mess with it! :p
just kidding, last year went EV shopping and there was only one EV car in town and bought it. I had other options to have some shipped in. The strangest thing was sales persons trying to talk me out of buying it. once you have one and figure out how cheap they are to drive. I will never go back.
The attitude about the Volt from the salesmen was... interesting. It was literally, "There's no point in me learning about this car. The only people who are interested know way more about the Volt than I do, and nobody else wants it." Odd attitude, but quite consistent.

There's not much in the way of used EVs out here - I've considered hauling a few in to resell from Seattle or Portland (work with someone who has a dealer license and auction license, ideally).
Battery packs, Sunkko Welders, and more. http://syonyk.blogspot.com/

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ZeroEm   100 W

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by ZeroEm » Jul 12 2019 9:48pm

People should at least go look at used EVs, mine is 2013 and still has less than 40k and looks like new.
EV owners take care of there cars or just don't drive them but they look and drive like new. If there was a Volt in town not a Leaf then I would be a Volt owner or is it Bolt?
The journey is more important than the destination!
2013 Nissan Leaf S 8 bars 4.9 miles/Kw

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 12 2019 11:45pm

ZeroEm wrote:
Jul 12 2019 9:48pm
If there was a Volt in town not a Leaf then I would be a Volt owner or is it Bolt?
The Bolt is Chevy's long range pure electric.

The Volt is Chevy's plug in hybrid with a gas engine.

Whoever thought that was cute should be stuck explaining it to everyone, because it hasn't done anyone any favors.
Battery packs, Sunkko Welders, and more. http://syonyk.blogspot.com/

LeftieBiker   10 kW

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Jul 13 2019 12:32am

You correctly note that the Volt doesn't do very well as a plain hybrid once the charge is depleted, but you neglect to mention the plug-in hybrid that does fantastic as a hybrid once the EV charge is depleted: the Prius PHEV, aka "PIP" (Plug-In Prius). The PIP, which was the forerunner of the Prime, is rather like the mirror image of the Volt: it has a very modest (9-13 mile) electric-only range, but it uses its bigger battery to store energy from braking, coasting, and low-load engine generation so well that it will still get 55+ MPG with the EV range exhausted. This is down from the charge-assisted fuel economy most get of about 70MPG or more, but it's still great, to put it mildly. The PIP also has the advantage of having a cargo area like that of a small station wagon, with no lift-over lip to interfere with loading. We once loaded a boxed 7500 watt dual fuel generator that looked as if it couldn't possibly fit, into our PIP, with room to spare. I drive a 40kwh Leaf, but when I need to haul something, I take the PIP.

In conclusion: the Volt is the car to get if you need an EV range of at least 20 miles, and won't do much driving over 40 miles (or 50 miles for the last version). The Prius PHEV is the car to get if you do a lot of longer trips, but still want an EV to run local errands. The Volt has the disadvantages of being cramped inside, with poor visibility, and with mediocre hybrid fuel economy. The PIP has the disadvantages of having a small EV range and no electric cabin heater. As long as you choose wisely for your needs, they are both great cars.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 13 2019 9:59am

Thanks for the info on the Prius option - I didn't mention it except in passing because it didn't really match our driving needs (20-30 mile round trips into town, infrequent highway trips).
LeftieBiker wrote:
Jul 13 2019 12:32am
...so well that it will still get 55+ MPG with the EV range exhausted. This is down from the charge-assisted fuel economy most get of about 70MPG or more, but it's still great, to put it mildly.
That's nice if you're doing a lot of longer driving (which I list as one of the reasons that you might want to consider something not-a-Volt), but it's still quite poor compared to our average with the Volt.

Even living in rural farm country with a Gen 1 (so a good bit less battery range than the Gen 2), having put 10k miles on since we got it, our average fuel economy is over 175 miles per gallon of gas used. It was up around 220 until we took a highway trip and burned about 15 gallons of gas. We've put somewhere around 55 gallons of fuel through the engine since we purchased it, and the various Prius options would have used quite a bit more.
The PIP also has the advantage of having a cargo area like that of a small station wagon, with no lift-over lip to interfere with loading. We once loaded a boxed 7500 watt dual fuel generator that looked as if it couldn't possibly fit, into our PIP, with room to spare. I drive a 40kwh Leaf, but when I need to haul something, I take the PIP.
That's a fair criticism of the Volt, but there are plenty of pictures of insanely large items in Volts as well. If we're getting something large, I just take the truck, mostly because it's easier than taking out the child seats from the back of the Volt. I've been pretty impressed by how much you can cram back there, though.
In conclusion: the Volt is the car to get if you need an EV range of at least 20 miles, and won't do much driving over 40 miles (or 50 miles for the last version). The Prius PHEV is the car to get if you do a lot of longer trips, but still want an EV to run local errands. The Volt has the disadvantages of being cramped inside, with poor visibility, and with mediocre hybrid fuel economy. The PIP has the disadvantages of having a small EV range and no electric cabin heater. As long as you choose wisely for your needs, they are both great cars.
If you're doing a lot of longer trips, for many use cases, a long range pure BEV starts to look reasonable in terms of costs - they're more expensive, but the per-mile operating cost is far lower, and you're not dependent on gas prices staying low.

At 55mpg, $3.50/gal gas is $0.063/mi in fuel costs. At 3mi/kWh (a tolerable average for year round BEVing) and $0.10/kWh power, you're at $0.033/mi - almost half. Though I also recognize that a lot of people might not have power that cheap. It still is likely to come out ahead if you're putting a lot of miles on.
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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by spinningmagnets » Jul 13 2019 10:27am

I live about 12 miles from my current job, and my wife is retired...so we are ideal customers for a Nissan Leaf / Chevy Volt-Bolt.

I have a coworker with a Leaf, and I am impressed. My son has also purchased s Chevy Volt a few years ago, and I am also impressed with it.

I am a huge fan of the Volt, and I was deeply disappointed when it was discontinued. My ideal configuration is a Chevy Volt, where the backup engine is a series-hybrid bio-diesel.

When the combined fuel mileage is only a few gallons of diesel per month, then bio-diesel (*made from soybeans?) Becomes very viable, and it has the capability of divorcing US foreign policy from oil in the middle east...

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 13 2019 10:47am

spinningmagnets wrote:
Jul 13 2019 10:27am
I am a huge fan of the Volt, and I was deeply disappointed when it was discontinued. My ideal configuration is a Chevy Volt, where the backup engine is a series-hybrid bio-diesel.
Either GM wasn't able to make money on it, or they couldn't sell it - one of the two. I suspect the second more than the first, because the experience at dealerships when I was looking for them was truly depressing. It's a car that makes a ton of sense for just about everyone who needs a generic car, and the consistent attitude of the salespeople was, "There is literally no reason for me to learn about this car. Everyone who wants one comes in knowing more than I would and I can't talk them out of it, and nobody else has any idea what it is or why they'd want it, so why bother learning about it?"

I expect a knowledgeable salesmen could have sold an awful lot of them, but I sure didn't run across any. I was also quite irritated by their tendency of simply assuming (in a lower cost of living area) that everyone, of course, pays at least $7500 in federal taxes, so they automatically discount the price by that amount - when it's fairly easy to not pay nearly that much if you have a kid or two.
When the combined fuel mileage is only a few gallons of diesel per month, then bio-diesel (*made from soybeans?) Becomes very viable, and it has the capability of divorcing US foreign policy from oil in the middle east...
I agree, but the complexity of making a modern diesel emissions compliant is substantial, and probably not worth it for an infrequently used engine. On the other hand, having a 75hp starter motor does solve a lot of cold weather starting issues...

I think a simple engine is probably the better choice for a range extender type motor than a complex high pressure diesel.
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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by spinningmagnets » Jul 13 2019 11:25am

I believe diesel has gotten a bad rap. The main issues have been a result of the RPM's speeding up and slowing down, leading to occasional lean and rich conditions. In the lean mode (which is what got VW in trouble), the engine is getting fantastic mileage, but the unburned oxygen is heated enough to form nitrogen oxides (NOx). In the rich condition, all of the oxygen is consumed, but some of the unburned hydrocarbons make it past the catalytic converter.

A series hybrid has an engine that runs a generator at a fairly stable RPM. If you start with a full (but small) battery, the generator can extend the range. Lets say you program it to kick on if you drive past your typical 40-mile commute. In this way, you are all-electric five days a week, when to you go to work and back. But on the weekend (or at the prompting of the computer), it asks if you want to run the diesel gen for a few minutes as the monthly maintenance.

If your system uses the engine regularly, it is more efficient for it to drive the transmission directly. In this way a tiny 4-cylinder has the power of a large V6 (engine and electric motor both kick-on as needed for conditions).

However, once you commit to a vehicle that can easily attain its normal daily commute with the battery alone (60 miles or less?), you have the option of the less-efficient series hybrid, because the back-up engine-generator is rarely used at all. It simply exists for those times when you need it, alleviating "range anxiety". You know that you will always be able to get home, even with a dead battery pack.

As a side note, I am amused by the arguments of "pure EV vs hybrid", as if the government should back one of them, and squash the other. I think the world is a better place with both of them being selected by the purchaser for the application that suits it...

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Jul 13 2019 2:21pm

Just to be clear, I'm an EV proponent, and with many 120+ mile BEVs available now, a PHEV isn't my cup of tea. I'm just saying that the Volt is a more special use case than the OP implied: it is best for those who have to make 150+ mile trips regularly, but who still mainly drive less than 50 miles most of the time. I once worked it out, and 100 miles is the dividing line between the Volt being better and the PIP being better for trips. If you regularly drive more than 100 miles the PIP uses less fuel, and if you regularly drive less than 100 miles the Volt uses less fuel.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Grantmac » Jul 13 2019 4:33pm

We are going with the Outlander PHEV once they start showing up on the used market. It will fill the role of wife's daily commuter while still being a comfortable road trip machine (which we do monthly in a very inefficient subaru).
If subaru made a PHEV we'd likely look at that. AWD plus cargo space is a critical requirement.

For my use a Model 3 AWD might work if I could afford it.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 13 2019 5:08pm

spinningmagnets wrote:
Jul 13 2019 11:25am
I believe diesel has gotten a bad rap. The main issues have been a result of the RPM's speeding up and slowing down, leading to occasional lean and rich conditions. In the lean mode (which is what got VW in trouble), the engine is getting fantastic mileage, but the unburned oxygen is heated enough to form nitrogen oxides (NOx). In the rich condition, all of the oxygen is consumed, but some of the unburned hydrocarbons make it past the catalytic converter.
Short of either pulling trucks or the coal rolling morons (most diesel truck owners hate those idiots as well), a normal diesel is never running rich of stoichiometric - it's all lean side operation. You can get up close to stoich, but your EGTs head up in an awful big hurry and you run a very real risk of melting the turbine blades. This is why it's so easy to make more power from a diesel - just add more fuel until either you're happy or you break something.
A series hybrid has an engine that runs a generator at a fairly stable RPM. If you start with a full (but small) battery, the generator can extend the range. Lets say you program it to kick on if you drive past your typical 40-mile commute. In this way, you are all-electric five days a week, when to you go to work and back. But on the weekend (or at the prompting of the computer), it asks if you want to run the diesel gen for a few minutes as the monthly maintenance.
Despite people arguing that this is a more efficient way to operate, I don't know of any vehicles that actually do this. Maybe the i3? The Volt definitely runs the engine up and down as needed in gas motor operation - it's a bit odd as what it does has ~no relation to what you're asking of the car at the moment. The Volt will just run the motor when it feels like it for maintenance - it's very much a hands-off car that always does something heavily resembling the right thing.
However, once you commit to a vehicle that can easily attain its normal daily commute with the battery alone (60 miles or less?), you have the option of the less-efficient series hybrid, because the back-up engine-generator is rarely used at all. It simply exists for those times when you need it, alleviating "range anxiety". You know that you will always be able to get home, even with a dead battery pack.
The other major time the Volt uses it is in the winter for heat. Behavior varies - in the earlier models (which I have), it'll run the engine and make good power with it for coolant heat. In newer models, I believe it runs closer to idle in that mode, and is more or less spinning to make heat (I don't know if it plays with the ignition timing to optimize heat production or not - not sure you can get away with too much fiddling before you head out of the emissions window).

Battery range on anything sucks in the winter.
LeftieBiker wrote:
Jul 13 2019 2:21pm
Just to be clear, I'm an EV proponent, and with many 120+ mile BEVs available now, a PHEV isn't my cup of tea. I'm just saying that the Volt is a more special use case than the OP implied: it is best for those who have to make 150+ mile trips regularly, but who still mainly drive less than 50 miles most of the time. I once worked it out, and 100 miles is the dividing line between the Volt being better and the PIP being better for trips. If you regularly drive more than 100 miles the PIP uses less fuel, and if you regularly drive less than 100 miles the Volt uses less fuel.
That sounds about right - we typically hit around 55mpg at 100-ish miles, though it depends on the conditions (I've seen it far shorter, but we climbed a several thousand foot grade at the start of the trip - economy sucks when you do that no matter what the drivetrain is).

And you'll notice I do mention that longer range driving is a weak point of the Volt. But if you look at the general driving statistics, those trips are rare - most people are covered by the 1st gen's battery range, and a good number of those who aren't are covered by the 2nd gen's battery range. It's a good bit more efficient on battery cell use than a long range BEV as well.

Though, I'm curious - which 120+ mile range BEVs are you referring to? The ones I've found on the used market are very, very expensive compared to what the Volts are going for, and the new ones are even worse. The common brand is rather end-user-hostile in terms of maintenance as well. If I own it, I want full dealership diagnostics available to me. Plus, in the winter, that 120 mile range isn't 120 miles anymore - it's maybe 80 miles. I couldn't get an older Leaf to Boise and back in the winter without charging out there, and we just don't have the charging infrastructure yet to manage it.
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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Jul 13 2019 5:42pm

If subaru made a PHEV we'd likely look at that. AWD plus cargo space is a critical requirement.
Subaru just came out with a PHEV that uses the Prius Prime ICE and battery, and a Subaru drive system. It has, IIRC, a 20 mile AER range.
Though, I'm curious - which 120+ mile range BEVs are you referring to?
The Hyundai Ionic (very efficient even in Winter), the VW eGolf, and in the 150 mile range, the 40kwh Leaf and one or two others that I forget at the moment. The era of the sub 100 mile BEV (when new) is ending. They will still be around used for a few more years, but that's about it. The 30kwh 2016-2017 Leaf, although there are problems with a substantial number of the packs, will provide a solid 100 mile range if you get a good one. I can post my used Leaf buying guide, which focuses on pitfalls to avoid with used Leafs, if there is any interest here.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Hillhater » Jul 13 2019 6:59pm

........If you're doing a lot of longer trips, for many use cases, a long range pure BEV starts to look reasonable in terms of costs - they're more expensive, but the per-mile operating cost is far lower, and you're not dependent on gas prices staying low.
That is very debateable , depending on your definition of “long range” ...150, 250, 350+ miles ?
When you take into consideration the vehicle choices , you are pretty limited with not much outside the Tesla range, and even used they are not cheap. ( new would be a killer for depreciation).
There are few $20k Teslas around.
The total cost of ownership of a “long range” BEV, with have a large portion of up front capital cost to recover.
For many living in a country area and working outside the City , a pure Hybrid or PHEV are the only practical options to an ICE.
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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Syonyk » Jul 13 2019 11:55pm

LeftieBiker wrote:
Jul 13 2019 5:42pm
The Hyundai Ionic (very efficient even in Winter), the VW eGolf, and in the 150 mile range, the 40kwh Leaf and one or two others that I forget at the moment.
Those aren't generally available on the used market, are they? I haven't really seen, well, any of those used.
Hillhater wrote:
Jul 13 2019 6:59pm
That is very debateable , depending on your definition of “long range” ...150, 250, 350+ miles ?
When you take into consideration the vehicle choices , you are pretty limited with not much outside the Tesla range, and even used they are not cheap. ( new would be a killer for depreciation).
In the realm of "200 miles and DC fast charging" starts to look useful for a long range car on the highway. If you're putting a ton of miles on, the delta in operating costs starts to look... well, math time.

If you've got, say, 150 mile days, 300 days a year (45k miles/yr), at 55mpg and $3.50/gal, that's $2833/yr in fuel costs. At $0.10/kWh and 3mi/kWh, that's $1500/yr in energy costs.

Hrm. Yeah. I see your point, actually. The delta is a good bit less than I'd actually assumed. They'll eventually come down on the used market. However, if I were doing a ton of highway miles, there's probably more than just pure operating costs involved.
For many living in a country area and working outside the City , a pure Hybrid or PHEV are the only practical options to an ICE.
Being in that situation, I do think the PHEV is far superior to a straight up hybrid. Some neighbors have a Prius, and we've compared notes - they burn an awful lot more gas than the Volt does, though you can also get a used Prius for a good chunk less than a Volt. I suppose it mostly boils down to how much you want to avoid burning gas.
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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Jul 14 2019 12:07am

Syonyk wrote:
LeftieBiker wrote: ↑
Jul 13 2019 6:42pm
The Hyundai Ionic (very efficient even in Winter), the VW eGolf, and in the 150 mile range, the 40kwh Leaf and one or two others that I forget at the moment.
Those aren't generally available on the used market, are they? I haven't really seen, well, any of those used.
eGolfs are available now, as they've been in production for quite a while. 30kwh Leafs are readily available now, and 40kwh Leafs will be available as leases start to end in 2020. I think that with "RapidGate" you will see quite a few 40kwh Leafs becoming available next year and the year after. I'd be happy with mine, were I not forced to get an SL - with forced leather interior - to get Around View 360 degree parking cameras. Maybe I should start taking bids on my car, which will likely have about 5,000 miles total on it in 2021, before then. ;)

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I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Raketemensch » Aug 07 2019 6:22pm

We’ve got a Honda Element, which we love. Our 2 boys are just starting into their teens, and there’s still a ridiculous amount of leg room.

I have really wanted to switch to a PHEV, but they’re all been sedans pretty much up until late 2018. Now, though, that seems to be changing — and as sad as I am to see the Volt go, I really would never buy a sedan.

I’d buy a wagon at a minimum, but would prefer a small SUV, and now with ~10 of them either on the market or about to hit, I’m hoping to get another 4-5 years of of the element (it’s 8 now), and find something good, proven and used at that point.

That’s a long-ass time to wait. Not sure if I can do it.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Aug 08 2019 5:48am

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or Kia Niro PHEV may work for you.

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I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by Raketemensch » Aug 08 2019 9:57am

LeftieBiker wrote:The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or Kia Niro PHEV may work for you.
Yeah, I was checking them out, they look pretty cool. At first glance I thought that neither brand struck a chord with me, but then I remembered I’ve been driving an Eclipse Spyder for 6 years now... Somehow, the Mitsubishi brand just doesn’t stick with me.

I got all excited about seeing that there were 10 new electric SUVs, but 8 of them were Mercedes, Volvo or BMW. I could probably afford one, but I’d never spend that much on a car.

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Re: I bought a used Chevy Volt - and you probably should too!

Post by LeftieBiker » Aug 10 2019 12:59am

At first glance I thought that neither brand struck a chord with me, but then I remembered I’ve been driving an Eclipse Spyder for 6 years now...

Hah! "Mitsubishi: the brand you'll forget you're driving!"

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