My New (to me) 2013 Chevy Volt
Once I decided to put the truck up for sale, I started
looking at the used electric and hybrid car market to see what the price ranges
and availability were. I have always
liked the concept GM used in designing the Chevy Volt. It is a true plug-in electric car which has
an engine/generator to take over when the electric range is used up. It always drives as an electric vehicle, the
power source just varies between the batteries and the generator. The Nissan Leaf is an all electric car with
around 100 miles of range, but when that is exhausted, you stop! The Prius had come out with a plug-in version
of their hybrid, but the electric-only range was just 7 or 8 miles, although their newest version, the Prime has about 25. As a comparison, my truck was calculated to
have a 40 mile range, but in reality, in hilly Prescott, it had only about 25
to 30 miles.
I quickly narrowed the field down to the Chevy Volt, and as
I studied it more closely, I found out that it is much more complicated than
just an electric car with a backup generator.
It has a highly engineered system of two motors, one of which can also
be used as a generator, a “transmission” which can connect the various
components in different combinations to provide the car with the highest
efficiency at a number of different combinations of speed, power needed, uphill/downhill,
etc. For the generation 1 Volt (model
years 2011 through 2015) the electric-only range is typically 35 to 40 miles
and the gasoline engine will yield from 35 to 40+ miles per gallon. With a 9.3 gallon fuel tank, this gives the
car a typical range of about 360 miles.
I started logging all the Volts I found in advertisements by
price, year, features, and special conditions listed. I talked to our local Chevrolet dealer about
the Volts and asked them to let me know if they found any good ones. After I sold the truck, but before it was
picked up (payment and paperwork were complete), I decided to stop by the
dealer on my way home from being out most of the day. The salesman asked if I got his message, and
I explained that I had been out and no, I had not. He had called to tell me they had a 2013
Silver Volt with under 26,000 miles that just came out of the certification
process in the shop, and was now available for sale. In discussing the details I realized that
there were only 3 cars on my list that were less expensive than the asking price of this car. Two of them were
rebuilt wrecks with salvage titles, and the 3rd was just a few
dollars less and had over 40,000 miles –all were in the Phoenix area, about a 2
This car has the “Safety
Package #1” which I really wanted, as it was the only way to buy a factory
backup camera. It
also provided an auto-dimming rear view mirror and ultrasonic alarms
while backing up warning if you get close to
anything. The other "package" on this car is the Comfort Package
including heated front seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
To make a long story short, by the time I arrived home that
night for good, I owned the Volt. I had
to make a couple trips home during the course of the negotiations, one with the
salesman driving my Jeep to get it home, and for me to get on my computer to transfer some money, and
then another solo run to pick up my trust documents. Of course I drove the Volt
for these round trips of about a dozen miles each. Since I had promised the truck buyer I would
keep the truck garaged until he could pick it up, the Volt got the Jeep’s spot
in the garage, and the Jeep spent the night out. That lasted only one night, as the truck was
picked up the next day. The buyer of my
truck is also the owner of a 2013 Volt he purchased new.
And here is my 2013 Chevy Volt (my truck is in the garage for its final night)
Volt is a very high-tech car. Pretty much everything in the car
is computer controlled. The instrument and radio/HVAC panels are
each 7 inch LCD display panels. Most of the radio and comfort
controls, besides being touch sensitive on the display, have touch
sensitive buttons on the panel below the display. It
contains all the latest electronics such as Bluetooth for both music
listening and hands free cell phone use, Homelink garage door openers,
keyless entry and driving where if your keys are on your person, you
can unlock the doors and press a button to run.
the car is a total pleasure! To start it, you get into the car
with the keys in your pocket, touch the start button and it comes
alive. The main display lights up with all the icons showing
initially, then it goes to a functional display, where only the active
items are shown. The center console also starts, beginning with a
Volt logo while the computer starts up. It then displays which
ever display was last on. The parking brake is electric. It
took me a little time to get used to that. There is a tab on the
console which if you press it forward, releases the brake. To set
the brake, you pull the tab out. I had a problem initially
remembering which was which, until I related it to a conventional brake
handle. Back is on, forward is off! Problem solved.
main "Instrument Panel" screen contains the speedometer, icons for
estimated battery range remaining,
estimated gasoline range remaining, all
the normal warning icons, and an area under the speedometer which
displays warning and notifications. You can also select items to
display here such as tire pressure, % oil life
and trip odometers, showing both electric and gas stats. There is
also a rotating ball which is
really an accelerometer, to help drive
efficiently. Optionally you can switch this for a larger gas pump
icon. If the
engine starts and supplies you power, it swaps
places with the battery symbol and turns green. You always can
tell at a glance which power source you are using, as it is often not obvious when the engine starts.
Entertainment / Comfort display has about a dozen different screens for
The main ones are the radio controls, and the
heating / cooling controls. It also has several screens for
flow and power usage. All the items below the display with small
bumps are touch sensitive areas
for directly activating functions which can be activated using the touch screen display.
was initially annoyed by the ultrasonic back up sensors, as they would
see the wall next to the garage door and beep as I backed out until the
rear bumper cleared the door opening. Now I am used to it and it
is only for a few seconds, so it really does not bother me now.
The backup camera is one of the car's weak spots. The
picture is grainy and of too high a contrast, but is satisfactory for
Once out in the street, stepping hard on the "gas" really
pushes me back into the seat. The low end torque is fantastic!
Electric motors have maximum torque at zero RPM, very unlike an
internal combustion engine (ICE), or as my dad used to say "infernal combustion engine" - he was a steam power enthusiast! Driving on a smooth
road is almost totally silent. Of course most of the roads are
not that smooth, so you hear the normal road noises, but that's about
all. I love driving this car!
As you drive, you can select any of 4 different modes: Normal, Sport, Mountain, or Hold.
Normal mode sets the car's parameters to average values for general driving.
mode makes the car seem much more responsive. I don't think you
actually have better performance, it just makes the throttle give you
more power with less travel. I believe that if you "mash" the
throttle in Normal mode, you get the same as if you do the same in
Sport mode. I may be wrong.
battery reserve for better performance in climbing grades. It
allows the battery to discharge to only about 45% of its normal range,
then starts the engine. The engine keeps the battery at about the
45% level then shuts off, cycling as needed to maintain this level.
This assures adequate battery power will always be available for
the steepest, longest grade in the United States. This is the
only mode where the engine actually increases the SOC of the battery.
If you enter Mountain mode with less than 45% battery remaining,
it will gradually increase it to the 45% level. At all other
times, the engine will only charge the battery back to the level it was
to replenish the energy used to supplement the engine's output.
Hold mode will
maintain whatever level of battery you have when you enter Hold mode.
This allows you to use the engine for freeway driving, where the
engine is very efficient, leaving your battery for city driving when
you arrive at your destination. If you were to make the drive in
Normal mode, the first part of the trip would discharge the battery,
then the rest would be with the range extending engine.
are two sets of batteries in this car, the typical 12 volt
battery which powers the lights, radio, power windows, etc., and the
12 volt battery is a maintenance
free AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery which powers all the electronics
and computer systems in the car in
addition to the lights, and other accessories typical of the ICE
powered cars. The main item it doe NOT power, is a starting
motor. More on that below.
The traction battery is where all
the magic originates. It is a 360 volt, 16.5 killowatt hour
lithium ion battery. This battery of course powers the main drive
motors of the car, but it also supplies power for the heater and the
air conditioning. Using one of the two driving motors, it also
starts the IC engine - there is no starter motor per se on this engine.
There was an immense amount of engineering involved in designing the
battery for this car. One of the main driving forces behind this
effort was to assure that the battery has a very long life. The
primary things which shorten the life of this type of battery are
temperature, either too hot or too cold, charging to and operating from
too high a level of charge, and discharging the battery to too low a
To assure the maximum life, the engineers designed a
liquid cooling and heating system for the battery. The battery is
held to a fairly narrow band of operating temperatures, with an electric
heater, powered by the traction battery, to warm it when needed, and
the main air conditioning system is used to cool it as required.
Also the operating range is restricted to about 65% of the
battery's actual capacity, so the working capacity is about 10.5 kWh.
When the driver sees that the battery is all the way discharged,
there really is still 22% charge left, but he cannot use power from
this range.* By the same token, when the battery is fully charged,
it is really at about an 87% level. These steps have been very
successful at maintaining nearly full capacity on even the earliest
Volt batteries with very high mileages on them.
is one exception to the minimum operating level of 22%. If the
vehicle is at 0 charge (22% actual) and it runs out of fuel, an
emergency mode activates which limits the car to "reduced power" and
will allow the battery to be used until it discharges to an absolute
minimum of 15% of actual battery capacity. This allows several
additional miles of low performance driving to hopefully allow making
it to a gas station.
Charging the Batteries
is an example of the main traction battery from a Volt. The insulated,
protective cover on the
left has been removed. (There is a second
complete Volt battery still in its cover under the top cover.)
In operation, the battery is located under the floor of the car,
with the main left hand portion located
under the center arm rests, and the cross portion on the end, under the rear seats.
batteries belong to a friend whom I met when he bought my electric
truck from me. He purchased
these two batteries from a salvage
yard shortly thereafter. These batteries
are destined to to be disassembled
and installed in the truck as its
future source of power.
charge the traction battery of the Volt, an accessory known as an EVSE,
(Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) is used. This is a device
which plugs into the main AC supply and provides a cord and a special
connector to plug into the car when the battery needs charging.
Many people erroneously call these chargers, but the charger is
built into the car. This device is only a safety interface to
plug in the car. The special connector has 5 pins. Two of the pins are the actual AC power to supply
the charging current to the charger in the car. One pin is a
ground wire. The other two pins are a special communication link
between the EVSE and the car to allow them to negotiate the proper
current and voltage. Only then is power actually supplied to the
two power pins. This way, the driver is never holding a connector
with high voltage at the connector, and it is safe to use even in a
driving rain storm. It must be fully plugged into the car before
power is applied.
the left the charging connector is plugged into the car. The
charge port is on the right. The top 2 large
pins transfer the AC
current to charge the car. The center bottom pin is the ground
connection. The two smaller
pins are shorter than the others to
insure that the power connections are made before the negotiation
charging rate can begin. There is absolutely no AC power on
the connector until the connector is securely fastened in place.
The volt can use two types of EVSEs, a Level 1
and a Level 2. The EVSE which comes with the car is a Level 1,
and uses only standard 115 volt power. If the outlet is a
dedicated outlet, the owner can set the car to charge at 12 amps.
If the outlet is shared with other loads, the default setting for
the car is to charge at 8 amps. A level 2 charger operates from
230 volt power and can charge the car at up to 15 amps.
charge a fully depleted (22% SOC) battery with a Level 1 EVSE at 8 amps
takes about 15 hours, and at 12 amps about 10 hours. A Level 2
EVSE will charge a fully depleted battery in about 4 hours. Of
course normally the charge times are less as the battery is not usually fully
depleted each day.
Until I think of something else, this pretty well describes the main elements of this fine car.