Chevy Volt: Review

by John Latner, Baker College of Owosso, Director/Instructor – Auto Diesel Institute of Michigan

Craig, as you are aware I was a General Motors Employee for 20 years finishing my career at the Milford Proving Grounds. So when the opportunity arose to visit the MPG Open House I was not very interested in attending, not interested that is until I heard you could drive a new Chevrolet Volt for a $5 donation. I was the first person in line at the ride and drive. I along with two other instructors from Baker College of Owosso/Auto Diesel Institute hopped into the vehicle with a GM Hybrid Engineer. I was the first one behind the wheel and the questions spewed out of me like a kid learning to drive for the first time. The questions started out simple and regarded the design and the performance of the vehicle; they became more in depth as the ride progressed. To say the Engineer was overwhelmed would be an understatement. By the time the three of us were finished with the test drive the engineer was ready to call it a day. When we returned to the starting pad there was a line of 30 or more people waiting to drive the Volt.

The vehicle is pretty normal by today’s standards. There is a center stack that flows from the top of the dash to center console shift area. There are numerous screen modes and buttons which may overwhelm the non-automotive enthusiasts.  The vehicle is a hatch back design with seating for four. It came equipped with a four cylinder Eco-Tech 1.4 liter engine and seated a total of four passengers. The vehicle is equipped with a push button starting system and has a very impressive dash display. It has the ability to be charged either at 110 or 220 volts with the 220 volt charge cutting the overall charge time in half to four hours. I received two different versions of the vehicles electric/generator mode. One engineer stated that the vehicles ICE does not provide power to the drive wheels, while another engineer stated that it indeed did propel the vehicle when necessary. I hope to have this quandary cleared up soon.

(Craig’s comment: The ICE turns a generator that makes the electricity to run the electric drive motor that drives the wheels until you reach about 70 mph. The ICE kicks in after the HV battery looses it’s charge).

I started the vehicle and proceeded to shift the vehicle into drive. The first thing I noticed was the shifter automatically dropped all the way to low and I had to find the proper drive position on the display. Once in drive I accelerated the vehicle and the response was very impressive. I turned to the engineer and informed him that I had received High Speed Advanced Drivers Training while at MPG; I asked what was the speed limit was and he informed to keep all four wheels on the ground! I proceeded to put the vehicle through some very challenging maneuvers and quick accelerations. The vehicle performed flawlessly and by the time the other two drivers completed their allotted time behind the wheel the battery was 90% depleted.

It was an exciting drive experience for all of us and I look forward to seeing what the future brings for this very special vehicle. The OnStar Mobile Application that allows you to use a Smartphone to monitor and command different actions was very impressive. I think I will wait a few years before purchasing a Volt for the college; a $41k price tag is a little steep and we may investigate the used market in a couple of years. Thank you for allowing me to report on my driving experience with the New Chevrolet Volt!

Regards,

John W. Latner
Director/Instructor – Auto/Diesel Institute of Michigan
john.latner@baker.edu