Chevy Volt No Good Because You Have To Rearrange Your Garage?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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After a rough period last year, the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car has settled down and is now the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S.

General Motors is continuing a program, launched a year ago, that makes Volts available for loan both to interested buyers and members of the media--even those who don't usually cover the car industry.

One such writer is George Anders, who's worked at the Wall Street Journal, written several books, and presently writes a column for Forbes Online.

DISCLOSURE: This writer worked at a previous job with George's better half, and has had dinner at their house--so while we may disagree with him, we respect his views.

In Anders' first column about the Volt in mid-July, he wrote that "the car itself is quite nice" at the end of the first page of his column--and that, "From an engineering standpoint, GM can be proud of its work."

You might well have missed those conclusions, though, because Anders led off with full details on his discovery that there wasn't a charging station convenient to his house. (There are about 10,000 public charging points in the U.S., of which 6,000 have been added this year.)

Much of the rest of his article was taken up with his annoyance and irritation at having to move a basketball hoop in his driveway, rearrange some bicycles, and otherwise make provisions to plug the Volt into an electric socket to recharge it in his own garage (as most owners do for most of their charging).

Anders seemed to be quite perplexed by the charging process, saying owners were "locked into a protracted recharging ritual every day or two" and calling that a shortcoming "too significant to paper over."

2013 Chevrolet Volt

2013 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

The ever-growing number of Volt faithful sprung into action, deluging him with comments on what at least some felt was an overstated concern.

The response was so great, in fact, that Anders felt compelled to follow up with a second column, in which he called Volt owners a "smart, generally friendly bunch" and noted that he'd been offered a host of practical advice on charging--along with paeans to the car's good points, as seen by its owners.

He was rather less charitable toward a GM communications representative who took umbrage with his column.

We're not sure we agree with Anders that, "Getting the Volt recharged is testing the patience of first-time drivers across America." In fact, it's entirely possible to drive the Volt without ever recharging it--though that rather defeats the purpose of the car.

But we can't help but agree with his conclusion that, "We all have personal circumstances.  It wouldn’t hurt GM to see the world through our eyes."

And, indeed, it may be that Anders simply doesn't share the enthusiasm or motivations of the various groups of early adopters who are buying plug-in cars today, despite his residence in Silicon Valley.

In the end, we think his first column was a bit unbalanced. Yes, to plug in a car in your garage, you may have to rearrange it. That seems a small price to pay if you've just spent $40,000 or more on a plug-in electric vehicle.

Perhaps the whole affair underscores three points:

First, the Volt's biggest asset (in addition to being fun to drive and cheap to run) is its passionately dedicated base of owners. They are so dedicated to their plug-in cars that they even create commercials to replace the underwhelming efforts from GM's own marketing department.

Second, the best way to convince someone of the merits of an electric car is to get that person into the driver's seat. Recharging or not, Anders liked the actual car and its performance.

Third, you can never quite predict what odd reactions people will have to their first electric-car experience--but a continuing conversation seems to be the best way to overcome qualms, whether long-held concerns or quick first impressions.


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Comments (25)
  1. Anders sounds old, grumpy, and set in his ways. Most people under 40 are programmed to plug anything and everything in to recharge. Laptops, phones, iPads, GPS devices, etc. The Volt, or any plugin vehicle isn't much different. And I'd much rather spend an extra 2 seconds plugging in every day than stopping off at a gas station once a week.

  2. Hey... I'm old and grumpy and set in my ways AND I OWN A VOLT!

    Anders just sounds biased to me... Oh, I also have a degree in this business of "communications" and I strongly dislike it when Faux News slams the Volt and slants their reporting and I also dislike it when CNN slants their reporting... but this Anders guy (if he has a degree) must have done his through a correspondence course... This is really lousy journalism on his part.

  3. Well, he can park on the driveway and install the charger on the outside wall...

  4. That is exactly what we did. That way we can share the charger between the Volt and the ActiveE.

  5. Hey John,

    How did you get a picture of a 2013 Volt with the Green HOV sticker in CA? That is pretty fast considering the 2013 only avaiable recently and you can't have HOV sticker until you get your license tag and registration.

  6. @Xiaolong: We have our ways! [evil chuckle]

    Actually, it's a GM publicity shot.

  7. I thought you guys photoshopped one of those 2012 models... :)

    That sucks. So, GM "took" up one of those precious 40,000 HOV stickers for their "publicity" shot. Great! Well, with the Pip and Volt sales the way they are, those 40,000 stickers will be around for at least couple years...

  8. I just read Mr. Anders's blog on the Volt. I would have to say that M. Anders is a "terrible" journalist in terms of getting facts straight before writing a comment (If everyone can be like J Voelcker, I will be much happier).

    He complained about the cord. Well, if he actually read the owner's manual, he would have know that GM does allow extension cord. It just has to be properly rated. Most of the public are terrible in terms of electrical knowledge. So, in order to prevent injuries, fire and death, GM discouraged it. But a heavy duty extension cord (10 gauge or 12 gauge) with a good wall connection and heavy duty plug is more than fine for the 12A EVSE. Also, his understanding of PGE rating is lacking as well..

  9. His garage was overdue a rearranging anyway.

  10. Well if you're using your garage as a storage shed, then yes, plugging a car into it is going to be a challenge, duh.

  11. I'm a Republican, and this is why I bought a Volt as seen on my Flickr account...
    When I was fresh out of Vietnam from my volunteering there and an Army volunteer, I finally was old enough to vote in my first presidential election and I voted for Nixon... And yes, I'm voting with my Volt now too... and I last voted for McCain, a guy who endured more in Vietnam than I can ever imagine... And read my blog about why Republicans should buy a Volt and why Faux News needs to wake up about this amazing car!

  12. OK, I have to admit, I'm a Teddy Roosevelt Republican not a TEA party radical... Call me a moderate... but the Volt is the perfect car for Democrats, Republicans and those in the middle...

  13. According to Glen Beck, you are one of those "progressive" people, the root of all problem in the Republican party and the nation...

    Teddy was awesome.

  14. I suspect Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh hate Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon too... can you imagine a Republican candidate supporting the EPA and OSHA as Nixon did, and Teddy started the National Park system... and supported environmental measures to prevent exploitation of these treasures... Palin "drill baby, drill" and her TEA Party pals are so far "right" that nothing is sacred in regard to environmental concerns. Global warming, to a TEA Party person means free-roasting of eggs on the sidewalk, long before the sun is at high-noon.

    Can you imagine Mitt riding in a Volt? (He is too rich anyway...)

    Yep, I'm a dirty-old progressive that most people on the far right would say is an anomaly.

  15. Guess you should listen to automotive reviews by Journalists that don't know "breaking" from "braking."

  16. Ah, sigh. Make that "shouldn't"

  17. John, I liked it the sarcastic way. Ah, sigh.

  18. i forgot i was on the Gm Car Reports site

  19. @EV Enthusiast: I take it this is another of your posts in which you propose that "Green Car Reports" should never, ever cover any vehicle with an internal-combustion engine?

  20. We have a Leaf, and I can talk about plugging a car in every day. You get out of the car and plug it in. You are walking right by the plug and the front of the car anyway, so grab the cord and plug it in. It is not really rocket science. Do you think we miss going to the gas station on a cold rainy day? Not so much.

  21. That sounds so inconvenient and you might break a nail. And what if you forget to plug in? Your car won't work!! well if it's a Volt it will because it has that gas engine thingy to extend the range but still you have to move a bicycle to reach the plug in and what if you have a latte in one hand and a poodle in the other... which one do you set down to plug in? Gas cars are soooo much better because they are convenient when you need gas because you will have to get a latte and let your poodle out to pee when you fill up.

    I don't believe those people that say they get 200 MPG because they must be actors... you know... Faux news said that its the worst car in America and they are always "right".

  22. Hilarious, just what I needed on a boring Friday morning... Thanks!

  23. It is SO much easier to plug the car in within the comfort of one's garage at the end of each driving day. It has become a comfortable ritual in it's own right, as we have both the Leaf and the Volt. By the way, those impressive legs reflected in the lead picture are mine, since I provided this photo for an earlier EV piece on this site.

  24. I say if its that much trouble plugging the car in then dont. The car drives awesome on the generator also and still gets 40 miles to the gallon.

  25. Most Volt buyers see the ability to plug in as both an opportunity as well as a privileged perk. Mr. Anders wouldn't want to miss seeing his pals at the filling station, on those cold, wet, windy days in January, and couldn't to bothered with sending less hard cash to Hugo Chavez and the Saudi Oil Ministry.

    "We all have personal circumstances. It wouldn’t hurt GM to see the world through our eyes." - George Anders

    Oops, my bad...GM should have had the foresight to send a few folks to organize his garage for him! Great tag line; "Chevy Volt - We Organize Your Garage for You." Much better than Chevy Runs Deep.

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