Monday, February 28, 2011

Consumer Reports Just Doesn't Get It

     How important are initial reviews of a new technology?  Let's hope for GM and the Volt not very.

     Consumer reports, the patriarch of supposed non influenced reviewing recently came out with their best and worst cars twenty eleven issue.  The Volt did not place at the top, like the Corvette Z06.  Nor did it place in the bottom, such as the Toyota FJ Cruiser.  The Volt however should have done better.

     David Champion, director of Consumer Reports auto test center speaking with Reuters had this to say.  “It was fun to drive and the ride quality was pretty good.  But when you look at the finances, for us it doesn’t make any sense.” “We would have really liked to have loved it.”

     Under the coldest temperatures of the winter, Consumer reports made the assessment that the Volt underperformed on it's electric range.  The Volt Consumer Reports bought and tested ran for just 26 miles before kicking on the gasoline engine.  On top of testing the car in the worst possible conditions for an electric,  CR's David Champion acknowledged that the car may,  I repeat may, perform better in temperate climates and in more city-like conditions.

     "There needs to be a greater sampling of driving conditions that mirror the typical consumer experience," said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman.  “The technical reviews have been positive and it was unusual to have a snapshot under the most cold and snowy conditions this winter in the Northeast.”

     "Driving an electric car in sub freezing weather with the heat on and calling it an objective review is rediculous," said Scott Robinson, an I.T. specialist and electric car enthusiast.  "No one drives an electric car only in the dead of winter.  This seriously makes me doubt the intelligence of Consumer Reports."

     Greg Martin, in a much more subtle way I feel agrees.  “There needs to be a greater sampling of driving conditions that mirror the typical consumer experience.”

     Consumer Reports did not test the Nissan Leaf.

     Hopefully, GM didn't make a mistake releasing the Volt in the dead of winter.  I like to think as they roll out the Volt over the course of the year, reviews during milder weather will help balance out some of the rare early misinformed ones.

      Regardless of how one review of a new technology turns out. We here at The Chevy Volt Blog are still convinced the world is changing, and the Volt is leading the way.

If comments aren't showing click the comments button below.   No registration required to post comments!

Leaf, Not Volt To Pay Washington State EV Fee

     Doing a bit of investigative journalism over the weekend I decided to take a deeper look into the proposed Washington State EV Fee.  If passed, Senate Bill 5251 would impose a 100 dollar annual fee on all registered electric vehicles that travel over 35 miles per hour.

     There had been some talk on the net as to whether this would apply to the Volt.  The Volt is mainly an electric vehicle that happens to have a gasoline range extender.  Now up until just a few months ago GM had led us to believe the Volt was always powered by electricity, even when the battery had run out.  We all assumed that when the generator kicked on it's sole purpose was to provide electricity to the battery.  Then the battery would continue to supply energy to the Volts electric motor.  If this had turned out to be the case then one could argue the Volt would not be fee exempt.

     To protect the corporations intellectual property, GM kept secret the advanced drivetrain that should eliminate Volts from this particular fee's contention.  Once the battery is drained and the generator/engine has kicked on,  the generator/engine provides electricity via a second smaller generator/electric motor to sustain a minimal state of charge in the battery. However, according to an October 12th article, Lyle Dennis wrote that when the car passes the 70 mph mark and the battery is at the minimum charge level, "the engine becomes coupled with both electric motors and all three work together to turn the driveshaft. Thus the gas engine participates in turning the wheels mechanically although indirectly."

     In this low charge high speed state the Volts main electric motor is the main driver of the car.  However, the direct mechanical connection of the gas engine to the smaller generator which then connects to the driveshaft ads 10 to 20 percent more efficiency.  In short, when the battery is very low the Volt is at least minimally powered directly from gasoline.

     How does this convince me that the Volt will be eliminated from the fee?  Section two paragraph one of the Bill states.

Before accepting an application for a vehicle registration for an electric vehicle that uses propulsion units powered solely by electricity, the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent appointed by the director shall require the applicant to pay a one hundred dollar fee in addition to any other fees and taxes required by law.

     "Solely by electricity" is the key phrase.  So if this Bill passes in it's current form the Chevy Volt should be excluded.  Whether or not the politicians want the Volt to apply is a mystery.  If they do, they're gonna have to hire an engineer/lawyer to help them decipher how to include this brilliantly designed car.

If you'd like a refresher on how the Volt's drivetrain works here's a link to the Lyle Dennis' explanation at, but make sure to comeback and leave a comment!   Photo borrowed from dherrera_96's at

If comments aren't showing click the comments button below.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Volt Site Gives Back!

Update:  This is the original posting in which I pledged 70 percent of ad revenue raised going back to charity and readers via prizes, 35 percent for each category. If you scroll down to the very bottom of the page you will see the total amount the site has raised.  

     In anticipation of the first 100 dollars coming to me from Google, maybe in a couple months, (100 is when they first send you proceeds) I have made a preemptive donation to the Red Cross for 35 dollars.  Below the article is a screen shot of the donation.  It's truly a blessing that in my spare time I can write about something I enjoy and you can read and comment about something you enjoy.  By doing this we are raising money for those truly in need.

     On this beautiful Sunday, The Chevy Volt Blog is taking a day of rest.  This may be a permanent Sunday ritual who knows.  Something I do know is that The Chevy Volt Blog will be, like I was taught in Sunday School, a giving soul.

     70 percent of the proceeds that this blog generates, which are all earned by our readers visiting Google ads, will be given to charity and visitors via prizes.  Now I don't anticipate this to be a lot of money.  So far the blog has had about 1400 hits and 12 ad click throughs generating a little less than 10 dollars.

    So please by all means feel free to visit some of the advertisements Google chooses to post on your particular computer, maybe you'll find something interesting.  I know this could seem as if I'm simply trying to increase revenue for the site, but I'm a man of my word and the 70 percent will be going to a charity such as the Red Cross and back to the fans of this site.  That's a promise from me to you.


For all of you fellow Volt Heads who just can't get enough Volt news, since I'm not writing a related post today here's a link to a blog article with a couple rather humorous videos attached.  Enjoy!

Click Photo to Enlarge

If comments aren't showing click the comments button below.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Volt Knows All. At least more than I do.

     Scouring the net for breaking Chevy Volt news these days is like trying to find a music video on MTV (really really old joke).  What is out there however are lots and lots of reviews.  From the way the car drives to how it's drag efficiency thrives.

     The latest review I read was posted at 3:14 p.m. yesterday and comes from Naureen S. Malik, a blogger at The Wall Street Journal.  Her review focused on the Smart Phone Apps that are companions to the new electric cars.  In actuality it was based solely on the Chevy Volt's OnStar App.  Her piece was positive overall and I found a couple parts humorous, such as her surprise at a ten second lag from phone to car.

"Meanwhile, some of the other functions on the OnStar app require a bit of patience. It takes 10 seconds from when you press a command to unlock a door or warm up the car before the car reacts.  

The command is sent to OnStar, which relays the commands to the Volt. I didn’t realize there was such a lag so I kept pressing buttons in rapid succession. I accidentally cancelled my request to start the engine to warm the car"

     Perhaps many of us would make this mistake.  Being so used to pressing the lock/unlock buttons on our key-chains and having instant gratification.

     What I did find very interesting in the review was the Volt instantly knowing, even before the car was started, the outdoor temperature and how the battery's range would be affected.

"The night before, I kept checking the status of the 240-volt fast charge, which took about four hours, on the Droid. I got status updates emailed to me. You can choose text messages as well.

The car was ready by the time I left my apartment the next morning. The app informed me that I had 24 miles on the charge. That’s more than 10 miles below the Environmental Protection Agency estimate, and because of the cold weather and engine idling I barely got 23 miles."

    I can't say I'm happy with her mentioning the engine idling without informing her readers that this is only necessary in sub freezing weather as to condition the battery for a long life span.  Moving past that, I'm wondering if the Volt uses an outdoor thermometer to adjust it's range forecast?  Does it remember the range of the last charge and the temperature in which it was driving?  Or could the Onstar system possibly locate the car, send the car the weather forecast and base it's future range off that?  Ok, that last one is probably a stretch.

     I know it's the job of the journalist (myself) to find the answers out.  I guess that's what I'm doing, in a lazy you tell me kind of way.  So if anyone who has a Volt reads this, or just knows the answer to how this technological VooDoo works, let us know!

To read the Blog by Author Naureen S. Malik in it's entirety here's the link.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Thank You To Dreamers And Achievers

     It may have started with a commercial for the Pickens Plan.  During the pre-bust days with gas prices over 4 dollars a gallon and pushing 5 in some locations.  700 billion dollars a year T. Boone said.  700 billion each and every year leaving our country and making us that much less wealthy.

     CNG was his plan, Compressed Natural Gas to power our heavy truck fleet.  Then, to offset the percentage of power on the grid that we created using Natural Gas, wind turbines as far as the eye could see.

     Cynics said. "Of course he wants us to use Natural Gas.  He has huge interests in the stuff."   I however try to see the good in people first.  When he said on a financial news network, and I'm paraphrasing here, "What do I need more money for, I'm already a billionaire" I believed him.  Frankly,  I liked his plan and still do.

     Now I'm not sure if I saw the Volt first or Honda's Natural Gas vehicle.  I'm fortunate enough to have Natural Gas piped right into my home, a rarity down here in Florida.  The beauty of this is I have a potential gas station right in my own garage.  But regardless of which car I heard about first, the concept of GM's Volt won out.

     The Volt will be made right here in the country I love, and unlike using Natural Gas all of the time, the Volt and future cars like it are capable of being the near final solution we need for light cars and maybe even light trucks.  Over 15,000 miles a year you could drive the Volt on direct energy from the sun, wind, or other renewable resources.

     So I guess today's post is a thank you.  A thank you to T. Boone Pickens for trying to do something big.  A bigger thank you though to the men and women at GM, for achieving something big.

Photo borrowed from Mrshorrgakx at Flickr.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Volt Battery: Temperature, Temperature, Temperature

     Location, Location, Location.  The three most important rules in real estate.  However, when it comes to the "fifth passenger" in the Chevrolet Volt, the 435 pound battery, the brilliant engineers at GM may have their own mantra.  Temperature, Temperature, Temperature.

     Not only does the Volt's battery have to flawlessly operate daily for a minimum of 8 years or 100,000 miles.  It has to move you and your loved ones safely in America's driest, hottest, deserts.  As well as our most brutal wet, icy, and snow covered winters. The Volt's battery is arranged into nine modules, all situated into a large T-shaped battery pack.  Within these modules are 288 individual cells held in pairs by plastic frames.  In each frame the two cells sandwich an aluminum cooling fin manufactured by Ohio's Dana Corp. Manufacturing company.

     "The Dana Corp.-manufactured cooling fin consists of two lightweight aluminum plates joined by a proprietary clean nickel-brazing process. The grooves stamped into the plates form channels that allow battery coolant that is pumped through the pack to flow over the entire cell surface. The design and construction of that aluminum plate is critical to ensuring an even temperature distribution with no hot or cool spots across the flat, rectangular cell. Batteries that are too cold are reluctant to release electrons, while batteries that run too hot can see a significantly shorter life."

     GM's director of global battery systems Bill Wallace had this to say.  "Every battery has a temperature sweet spot where it provides the optimal blend of power output, energy capacity and long life and we keep the Volt right on that target."  "When the Volt is plugged in and charging in cold weather, an electric heater at the front of the battery pack is used to warm the coolant and pre-heat the battery. During normal operations, the coolant is passed through a heat exchanger at the front of the car, while a chiller in the air conditioning circuit can be used to dissipate heat from the battery when temperatures really climb."

     Wallace went on to say, "Three different systems are used to regulate the temperature of the coolant, when the Volt is plugged in and charging in cold weather, an electric heater at the front of the battery pack is used to warm the coolant and pre-heat the battery. During normal operations, the coolant is passed through a heat exchanger at the front of the car, while a chiller in the air conditioning circuit can be used to dissipate heat from the battery when temperatures really climb."

     16 thermal sensors placed throughout the battery help maintain no more than a 2 degree range from the packs optimal temperature.  15 years of testing batteries and fuel cell stacks has taught GM engineers almost all they've needed to know when it comes to circulating coolant to maintain temperature.

Temperature, Temperature, Temperature.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Helping Country and Environment, Not Good Enough

     In the State of Washington where politicians rule, (as an online poker player I can tell you, it's the only state where you can't even get on a poker site) electric cars with their non emissions and ability to travel solely on domestic energy just isn't good enough.

     Washington state Legislature is considering Senate Bill 5251.  If passed, a flat $100 annual surcharge will be imposed on all street-legal electric vehicles in the state.  The Washington DOT estimates with the states gas tax of 37.5 cents per gallon someone who drives 12,000 miles a year pays on average $204 in state gas taxes.

     "It's a matter of fairness", said Mary Margaret Haugen, lead sponsor of the bill and Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman.  "Electric cars will be driving on the highways right along with all the other cars. One of our biggest issues is preservation and maintenance of our existing highways.  We believe they should be paying their fair share."

     Jeff Finn, a volunteer serving as the legislative-issues coordinator for the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, said he opposes the bill. "I don't believe it's fair and equitable."  His association is recommending a tax on electric cars based on miles traveled, adding that such a tax would most likely be less expensive than the current proposal.

     It's not clear if the bill can make it out of the Senate, or how it would fare in the House.  A similar measure died in the Senate last year but Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she likes the idea.  "I definitely support it," said Clibborn, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee. "This isn't a big fee. It's enough to say they are doing their part."

     The state budget office projects the number of electric vehicles will increase from 1,800 today to more than 8,900 by 2016.

     If the fee is approved, the governor's budget office says it would bring in around $400,000 in 2013 and $1.9 million by the 2015-17 state budget cycle. The proposed Washington Department of Transportation budget for the next two years is $6.9 billion.  The bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the Senate Transportation Committee.

     We here at The Chevy Volt Blog will let you know how it turns out.  Who knows, this could have ramifications for the rest of the Union.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Better Weather and a Better Volt Warranty! No Fair!!

     Rumor has it that GM is working on a modified (improved?) Chevy Volt to be delivered in the Golden State no later than 2013.  Many Californian Volt fans were no doubt disappointed when in October the California Air Resources Board tagged the Volt as an ULEV or Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle.  Why would one be upset with a car being labeled ULEV?  Well, because in California ULEV is soooooo 20th century.  All three of the following ratings are ranked higher than the Volts current status.

SULEV       Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle
PZEV         Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle
AT-PZEV    Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle

     It seems the sole reason GM's vehicle is in the fourth spot and not the first is an extra 2 years or 50,000 miles of warranty.  Your guess is as good as mine as to how a couple years of warranty can make a car greener.  Perhaps they feel a vehicle with a weaker warranty will hit the junk yard quicker, thus making it not worth taxpayers money.  Regardless, it's that states near bankrupt government handing out the checks so I guess they get to call the shots.

     As soon as GM decides to offer the Volt with a 10 year or 150,000 mile warranty it will officially be designated as an AT-PZEV qualifying for an extra 5,000 dollar California state rebate.  This is in addition to the federal rebate of 7,500 dollars, potentially bringing the Volts price down into the high 20's.  The current warranty backs the electric drive, battery and battery components with an 8 year or 100,000 mile warranty.

     Let's just hope the rest of the union won't be having to subsidize this deal.  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Korean Engineer Endures Hardships for the American Dream

     Since he was a young boy, GM engineer In Ho Song had dreamed of working on American cars. Sexy adrenaline pumping beasts such as the Corvette, the Camaro, and the Mustang.  Even Song himself wouldn't have guessed someday he'd be part of a top notch team, designing possibly the most important car the world has ever seen.

     A graduate of Seoul National University Song spent several years at Korean automobile companies Hyundai and Kia.  In 2006 when GM was going through some rough times the "Korean engineer that could" took a shot and applied to what was still the largest auto company in the world.  His dream came true, but like many immigrants who come to the land of the free, change proved difficult.

     "I spoke no English at the time, and it was a real struggle to adjust to life in an American company," said Song.  With a grasp on English that was less than fluent there were more than just cultural difficulties to deal with. "When the boss spoke to me, I'd nod my head and say yes, then turn to my co-workers to find out what was actually said."

     As most good companies should be run however, results are what matter most.  Song's exceptional engineering skills earned him a spot on GM's most important engineering project in their 100 year history. Almost 4 years later the Chevrolet Volt is being delivered to customers all over the United States and winning nearly every major award.

     We here at The Chevy Volt Blog want to thank you In Ho Song, and all the other engineers who are helping our environment get just a little bit cleaner.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Future Just Keeps on Coming

Well it looks like the 2011 model of the Chevy Volt will have yet another option for techies like myself to play with. It's called Mylink.  With the Android and Blackberry operating systems MyLink will connect hands free through bluetooth enabling you to control apps, make calls, and just maybe (but probably not), play against Watson on Jeopardy. All by using your voice or by touch on the Volts 7 inch center console touchscreen.

Iphone users don't sweat.  The system will also be available however bluetooth is not yet supported, you will have to use your 24 pin usb cord which you use to sync at home to access the MyLink features.

So far the only apps that will be available are Pandora (a fantastic internet radio site) and Stitcher (from what I gather is basically a podcast site.) However, GM promises to be adding the ability for more sites very soon.  They've also said they will be adding a GM app store at some point in the near future.  The option will be available in the Volt and Equinox later this year and in the Cruze shortly thereafter.

Note for readers:  I'm really just doing this as a replacement temporarily, If GM Volt starts blogging again daily then I'll almost surely stop, so feel free to keep the party going here for now and lets hope can continue to be our source for Daily Volt news.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prius More Green? You Must Be Delusional.

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy's 2011 list, The Chevy Volt came in as No. 12 on this years top green cars list.
Factoring in fuel economy, emissions at the tailpipe and power plants, also, the vehicles impact via manufacturing and disposal based on the car's weight. The organisation arrived at their controversial rankings.
The first place award went to the natural gas powered Honda Civic GX (a full time fossil fuel burner) with Nissan's all electric Leaf coming in at number 2.  Based on a ratio recommended by the Society of Automotive Engineers the ACEEE assumed the Volt was driven 64% percent of the time on plug in electricity and 36% of the time on gasoline.  
Shruti Vaidyanathan, a spokeswoman for the ACEEE said, "As a gasoline vehicle, the fuel economy's not stellar."  Of course all of us here at The Volt Blog know this revolutionary vehicle isn't meant to be used regularly as a gasoline powered car!  The genius of the Volt is that gasoline need only be used when necessary, and if you need to use it regularly well then, the Volt is probably not the car for you.  Of the Volt's overall score 40% was based on the car's weight.
"I find it kind of laughable," GM spokesman Rob Peterson said when told of the organisations ranking system.  "It's one group's interpretation of a measurement of 'green'."  Peterson objected to the rational that the Volt's weight should count so heavily against GM's revolutionary vehicle.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's annual ranking of 'green cars' 

1 - Honda Civic GX

2 - Nissan Leaf

3 - Smart ForTwo
4 - Toyota Prius
5 - Honda Civic Hybrid
6 - Honda Insight
7 - Ford Fiesta SFE
8 - Chevrolet Cruze Eco
9 - Hyundai Elantra
10 - Mini Cooper
11 - Toyota Yaris
12 - Chevrolet Volt

So, time for you all to chime in, what do you think of the ACEEE's rating system? My rebuttal is, try driving anyone of these cars except the Volt and Leaf 15,000 miles a year without carbon emitting fossil fuels.
Thanks for reading the first blog on my new site and come back everyday for new stories on the Volt!