Would You Buy a Chevy Volt?

Would you buy a Chevy Volt hybrid vehicle if you could lay your hands on one? Would I? While test driving the vehicle over a period of four days last week, I sought the views of a few regular folks.

They generally liked the car, found it comfortable, and thought the technology inside amazing. Everyone thought the absence of sound at start-up was eerie, and each time I opened the hood to show off the engine, I was tickled silly by the head scratching that followed: This car is powered differently than conventional gasoline-powered engines, and it shows. The only disappointment was that it couldn't drive further than 40 miles on a single charge in electric mode. (See: Driving Miss Volt and Chevy Volt: A Jolt of Reality.)

My test-team didn't include engineering experts but consisted primarily of regular folks, the types who buy vehicles for the pure pleasure or functionality. I'll share here the response of two of them. Samuel Adunyah, chair of the department of biochemistry and cancer biology at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., was visiting a colleague and mutual friend in Pennsylvania and got a ride from me to the train station in the Chevy Volt. He wanted more mileage in electric mode but was fascinated with the quietness of the ride.

Adunyah and I watched in quiet amazement as a young girl chatting on the phone sauntered across the road, totally unaware of our approach. I didn't honk the horn, waiting until she crossed, and meanwhile thought of a world — perhaps a mere two decades from now — populated with soundless cars coasting past unaware humans. Will we have to embed software in hybrid cars to ensure they make the kind of sounds gasoline engines emit, or should we steer humans gently but firmly into a future that has more of the innovations our ancestors could only have imagined?

That's what the Avnet Express co-sponsored Drive for Innovation project is all about: a world recognizing no limits and that sees only the thrills of new, empowering discoveries. The Chevy Volt might have disappointed Adunyah in its electric mode, but he was also thrilled at the seamless transition from electric to gasoline power.

“This car certainly has a lot going for it,” Adunyah said, “but we need to keep up the pace of innovation.” As someone who explores new frontiers of the human body, I thought Adunyah nailed both the essence of what the Chevy Volt delivers today and what it promises for tomorrow.

That was also the focus of Obalolu Ojo, a friend, (not a relative), pharmacist, and entrepreneur visiting from Nigeria, a major exporter of crude oil to the United States. Lolu, as we call him, was intrigued by the thought that if properly implemented and if the technology becomes efficient enough, countries like the US could wean themselves from oil exporters like Nigeria. Troubles in the Middle East may then be of lesser concern to the US, Lolu said.

“Oil exporters should watch these technologies closely,” Lolu said. “It's going to reduce them to bit players in the economic arena.”

He may be right. Rather than repeat what others have written or said about the car, I would like to point EBN readers to the information GM has online about the Volt, as well as comments from one satisfied buyer who also happens to be a reader of EBN. “RobertinHouston,” as he calls himself, had some pointed comments about the Volt, and they are worth checking out. (See Actual Volt Owner.)

On Sunday, when I delivered the car to the exhibition staff at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston, I was feeling nostalgic already, and I wasn't so eager to let the old girl go. So, I got a towel and wiped down the Volt again. The only other vehicle I've given a similar cleaning was my first car, a Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle, with its hard pedals, manual transmission, rear-engine, crank-up windows and mechanical gauges, is hardly comparable with the Volt.

As I walked out of the convention center, I recalled the smooth drive in the Volt from Philadelphia to Boston, the easy acceleration, the digital information it spewed out on two separate LCD screens about my acceleration and deceleration efficiencies, the mileage left to electric or gasoline power, the beeping sensors when I reversed or moved too close to another object — in short, all of the dazzling electronics in it. These are the innovations electronics engineers have given us, and they foretell more to come.

So, I walked out knowing I had an answer to the question at the top of this page. Yes, yes, and yes, I would buy a Chevy Volt.

23 comments on “Would You Buy a Chevy Volt?

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 26, 2011

    Evs like the VOLT are the cars of tomorrow and they will certainly change the economic scenario of the world with less dependence on oil producing countries.  But this ialso may be a reson to create a strong lobby against these new technologies to maintain the current power balance. So we have to be watchful  about the intones of the people when they start to criticise this technology.


    Regarding these new EVs not making noise at all , I think with modern sensors it may be possible to detect the pedestrains crossing in front of an EV and automatically slow down the car and give a sweet “excuse me please” instead of the loud and uncourteous honking!

  2. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 26, 2011

    These are the innovations electronics engineers have given us, and they foretell more to come.

    Owing an electric car is definitely in my future plans. I would buy a Chevy Volt right away If I could. But this is only a postponement. 

  3. Adeniji Kayode
    September 26, 2011

    @Bolaji.Good to read from you again on Volt It is true that volt might reduce total dependency on oil and therefore raise the economy. But some how, this car still combine the use of fuel and battery(electrical charge), now is the fuel facility  in the car the main drive or the battery or the two?

    Also, how much fuel does volt requires to move 40 miles?

    Does it mean that volt right now is not intended to give total freedom from fuel as the main source of energy but just to reducd it?

  4. Himanshugupta
    September 26, 2011

    Bolaji, would you please post some pictures on the interior and engine for bloggers to appreciate the qualities even more.

  5. Tim Votapka
    September 26, 2011

    I wondered about the pedestrian safety with these ultra quiet cars, but then, that represents an opportunity for other component developers including those in the audible devices or imaging sectors. Hey, you could even modify those stick on warning whistles used to alert deer on country highways so that they can be heard by humans. Point is, any criticism or issue on these cars represents a solution waiting to be delivered. And yes, let's see some images from this road trip!

  6. AnalyzeThis
    September 26, 2011

    If I still lived in Southern California, I think the Volt might be perfect for me: I had a short commute (maybe 5 miles each way? Tops?) and if I kept the car long enough, I might be able to cancel out the additional cost of the vehicle with the money I saved from not buying gas. I'd really have to sit down and do the math, though.

    Now that being said, there is that whole rule about how you should never buy the first generation of anything because they're always buggy and kinks need to work out. So maybe I would wait until next model year. Given the expected demand for the Volt, maybe I wouldn't even have a choice and would HAVE to wait, anyhow.

    Anyhow, thanks Bolaji for your coverage of the Volt and the Drive for Innovation project… it was all enjoyable reading! I very dearly hope that the Chevy Volt is a smashing success and a harbinger of things to come.

  7. Nemos
    September 26, 2011

    “Would you buy a Chevy Volt ? “ It depends from the price, for instance, if I had to choose between two cars, a compatible one and a Chery Volt, I would choose the second if the price would be near the price that the compatible has. Because the price it is the key factor among other criteria that the acquirer have. 

  8. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 26, 2011

    Of cource the price matters a lot. But as RobertinHouston said:  one does not buy this car for cost savings. You buy it because you like the car and like the fact that you can drive – like we do – 70% of the time on pollution free electricity and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

  9. Mr. Roques
    September 26, 2011

    Well, what's the cost of the Chevy Volt?… ummm… sure, I want one too.

    And regarding the mileage, I thought it was longer, what needs to improve? Batteries? or is it because it can't generate much more energy?

  10. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 26, 2011

    @Mr. Roques:

    “what needs to improve? Batteries? or is it because it can't generate much more energy?”:

    For sure the battery needs improvement. But we will need to wait a while to see electric cars that would match the mileage of conventional oil-powered cars.

  11. Ms. Daisy
    September 26, 2011


    Great post! the post truly summarized all I felt and saw when I test drove the Volt. My worry was aptly described in your observation of a pedestrian walking into the path of the Volt totally unaware of the car. We are all used to the noisy cue of a running car. Thanks for taking the task of enumerating the elctronic opportunites available to the supply chain.

  12. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 26, 2011

    “My worry was aptly described in your observation of a pedestrian walking into the path of the Volt totally unaware of the car”

    That is a genuine concern. Most of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the driver who should be more cautious when driving. But there are Electric vehicle warning sounds designed “to alert pedestrians to the presence of electric drive vehicles such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs) travelling at low speeds.” (see Electric vehicle warning sounds)

  13. Anna Young
    September 26, 2011

    “Oil exporters should watch these technologies closely,” Lolu said. “It's going to reduce them to bit players in the economic arena.”

    Bolaji, great feed back. Technologies like the Chevy Volt proves we can rely less on oil consumptions and reduce environmental pollution. It's clear further innovative works are still required, i.e battery limitations, seamless sound etc.

  14. JADEN
    September 26, 2011

    Considering the hefty price and its low fuel economy when running on gasoline, a neighbour has it, I heard him complaining that its fuel economy is far lower than other hybrid cars, may be I won't go for it, but for other reasons and if have the money I may go for it, at least to have the soundless smooth ride.

  15. elctrnx_lyf
    September 26, 2011

    congratulations on completing your road trip successfully and happy to see your got emotionally connected to the car so fast. But the decision of buying purely depends on mileage and type of use because the electronics like dashboard, proximity and parking sensors.

  16. jbond
    September 27, 2011

    Congratulations on a successful trip with the Volt. Would I be in the market for one, the answer would be no. With a price tag of $45k, less than 50 miles on electric only and reasonable gas mileage there are other hybrids that cost less money and get better mileage. The concept is great and is definitely the future for vehicles, but until the price becomes more reasonable or the distance becomes much greater, I'm not in the market.

  17. Taimoor Zubar
    September 27, 2011

    “Will we have to embed software in hybrid cars to ensure they make the kind of sounds gasoline engines emit'

    I think this is a very interesting point. The lack of sound in hybrid cars may actually turn out to be a big negative factor in terms of safety on the road – at least in the short run. In the long run, I feel people will get adjusted to it.

  18. Taimoor Zubar
    September 27, 2011

    I think the price factor is very important while making the purchasing decision. However, the initial price of the car cannot be considered in isolation. It has to be looked together in conjunction with the day-to-day running cost as well the maintenance cost to get a true picture of the cost.

  19. Ms. Daisy
    September 27, 2011

    @Hospice_Houngbo, thanks for the link. I found it very informative. I wonder why GM has not added this technology to the Volt.

  20. elctrnx_lyf
    September 27, 2011

    bolaji, I think you will publish some more details on the service and maintainance part of the volt. I feel the gasoline cars require additional maintainance for engine and other parts like carborator and engine oil replacement. These costs are really high and with the the use of EV's there would be huge savings in the maintainance expenditures. This may be one big positive for the EV's.

  21. electronics862
    September 28, 2011

    yes,price is definitely a big factor while buying a car, it would be better if you buy a car after having a clear picture about the price and maintainance costs of the car..

  22. Mr. Roques
    October 31, 2011

    I have an iPhone and I need to charge it every couple of hours (at least twice per day). It doesn't stop me from using it but it charges rather quickly. 

    Can we expect the same for electric cars? That charging stations become more mainstream or are we only going to see better batteries that can last the entire day?

  23. felipealonso
    August 13, 2012

    The Chevy Volt is the North American Rival of the Nissan Leaf! If I'm gonna be patronizing and electric car it should be made by GM. I like Nissan but in terms of charging networks to be established you need to have a car that is supported by our own electric grid. Besides the Volt is better looking than the leaf, all it needs is a apc mirror so it can extend the viewing at the rear end.

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