Forget Range Anxiety, Chevy Volt Owners Have Gas Anxiety

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Charges

2012 Chevrolet Volt Charges

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When General Motors launched the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid back in 2010, it chose to emphasize how it differed from electric cars by highlighting how its gasoline engine meant folks didn’t suffer from range anxiety.

Now, almost two years after the Volt launched, charging data by a charging infrastructure company suggests that Volt owners have exactly the opposite problem: gas anxiety.

In short, Volt owners do everything they can to avoid using their car’s built-in gasoline-powered range extending engine.

And that means plugging in more often than all-electric cars, like the 2012 Nissan Leaf.

The data comes from electric car charging provider Ecotality, which has been tracking the charging habits of around 6,000 plug-in car drivers in the U.S. as part of a $230 million research project part funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Known as the EVproject, Ecotality offered plug-in drivers a free home charging station, as well as access to its nationwide public charging network, in exchange for collecting anonymous data on charging patterns. 

The EVproject was set up to see the viability and demand of electric vehicle charging, but its findings so far confirm what many electric car advocates predicted would happen. 

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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First, the EVProject’s data shows that those with electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf tend to charge at home most of the time, with a single nightly charge providing more than enough range for daily driving duties. 

“If you have a home charging station, you don’t really need to rely too much on commercial infrastructure,” Colin read, Ecotality’s vice president for corporate development told The New York Times

“Home charging meets a lot of our needs,” he continued, pointing out that 89 percent of all Nissan Leaf charging takes place at home. 

Second, plug-in hybrids, like the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, tend to spend more time charging their cars than their all-electric counterparts.

Moreover, those with Chevrolet Volts are 11 percent more likely to charge away from home than Leaf owners. 

With gas prices reaching unexpectedly high levels in parts of the U.S., it is logical to expect plug-in hybrid owners to prefer using electricity over gasoline wherever possible. 

Although the data corroborates what GM, and Volt owners--already knew about the Volt--that it was primarily an electric car--Read, and Ecotality, were surprised by the data. 

2012 Chevrolt Volt Gas Station Advert

2012 Chevrolt Volt Gas Station Advert

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“We never anticipated that a 40-mile[sic]-electric-range plug-in hybrid would charge more than a 100 percent electric car,” he said. “You have that gas engine that you’re paying an extra premium for a reason.”

We’re not surprised to learn that Volts charge more often than Leafs, but are you? 

Do you own a Volt? And how would you describe your charging habits? 

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (82)
  1. I am totally lost here.

    Plugging in "more often". What does that even mean?

    If most of the charging is done at home, does that mean that LEAF owners are sometimes coming home and NOT plugging it. In contrast, Volt owners are plugging in after every little errand to the local store, so they are "plugging in more often."

    Surely this is a silly way to look at it. The LEAF owners are doing 100% EV miles and the Volt owners are doing 70% EV miles. In that context, I see the LEAF owners as "plugging in more often."

    Why are we making a big deal out of slightly more plug/unplug action on the Volt side? It has a monogamous relationship with its home outlet. So why object?

  2. The Volt has a smaller battery pack than the Leaf, hence, the Volt would need to be charged up more often (unless you want to activate the gas motor which many Volt owners are trying to avoid).

  3. As much as they might deny it, if every Chevy volt had acces to a battery switch network covering their drive areas, they'd prefer a fully electric car. Fast charge is not enough, I know I wouldn't take a Leaf today even if there were fast chargers on all my routes.

  4. i see no real difference between battery swaps and fast charging.

  5. They feel bad they are still on gas so they plug in to feel better...

  6. If you think the Volt is always 'still on gas', like a Prius, then you don't understand how it works.

    I at least am *not* on gas except very rarely, when I go on longer trips. You can look at my stats at and see the trips (the steps in the blue part of the graph). If I didn't have the trips to do, I might have bought a Leaf, but given the state of the charging/battery swap infrastructure now and for the next few years, the Volt is the perfect car for me.

  7. or mine
    16,000+ miles on under 65 gallons. I have an engine as a backup because I want to be able to go on longer trips when needed, but drive on electricity 99+% of the time otherwise.

  8. Any reason why the amount of electricity consumption or the electricity efficiency is not reported?

    For a vehicle that mainly use electricity, I find it strange!

  9. I drive a Volt.

    Getting from 23MPG (Impala, my last car) to 106MPG (Volt) saves me 80%+ in gasoline costs. Going from 106MPG to infinity MPG (Leaf), at best will only get me that last 20%. I am perfectly happy with "only getting 106MPG" and having a car that has a 360 mile range whenever I need it. To me the Volt represents the "sweet spot" of performance and economy.

    That being said, I will plug in at public stations to boost my MPG to 150 or 200 for the day and I can see why Volt drivers would be more interested than Leaf drivers in using public stations.

  10. I agree. A plug-in hybrid allows you to decrease the majority of your gasoline use without the downside of disconnecting you from the current system of fueling cars, gasoline.

  11. if they could get the Battery range up a little more, to say 50 or 60 miles it would do a lot, but yeah, it's a pretty sweet deal, doing 80%

  12. Problem is that you would be logging around a bigger battery that you don't need most of the time. I think GM got it just right w forty miles. We go to Cape Cod with a stop at a charger for lunch and can just make it on electric. Perfect. If I were driving to CA I would get a rental.

  13. totally agree with you,who wants a car that can go less than 200 to 300 miles what do you do if there are no charge stations or they are all busy just wait, what then? no one wants to be hung out there and cant get home. also what difference about how many charges a person does if it doesnt bother him charge away

  14. I'd say the article is spot on, but not really news. I've owned my Volt for a year. I plug in whenever I get home, and maybe once a week plug into a free charger near my work when I go to lunch...just because I can. It's not so much 'anxiety' as it is that I just prefer to keep it topped up. I rarely ever use more than half my battery in a day, and almost all the gas I've burned has been on the ~10 longer trips (100+ miles each way) I've taken over the past year.

  15. Very interesting, and rather amusing, finding. I imagine PIP's hopping from one charger to the next to stay on electric.

  16. based upon the reviews, I think the PiP is just not a sweet vehicle.
    The electric engine is a tad undersized, and the range just short.
    The Volt seems to be in a good spot, and if they could add a reverse flow inverter for Vehicle 2 Home and get a few battery options, like an LE or XR model, so we could buy 50 or 60 Miles of electric, it would increase sales.

  17. I agree, Pat. I suspect Toyota will do much better with its next PHEV, but we'll see. My wife and I looked seriously at the PIP two months ago and that was considered almost a done deal (I drive a Volt), but there were zero incentives via the dealer, no low loan rates, and the drive is just worse than the Volt, not surprisingly. My wife ended up just getting the regular Prius instead. I wanted her to wait 2-3 more months to at least check out the C-MAX but she wanted a new car then. Now, she rode in a friend's new C-MAX two weeks ago and is complaining that she should have waited...

    I don't like the Prius to drive, but I respect it overall. The PIP, however, really poor work, Toyota. Do much better next time.

  18. they will: they are licensing Tesla technology for the RAV4

  19. But the RAV4 is almost meaningless. It's a compliance car only with extremely limited sales. And the fact that Toyota is using Tesla now for a very limited release does not mean Toyota will do the same for a volume vehicle. I don't see Toyota using Tesla long term, although at least one volume EV/PHEV would be nice. Note that Toyota did not use Tesla for the Scion or PIP.

    I hope Toyota uses Tesla longer, but the idea is to learn from Tesla and eventually do it in house. Seeing the PIP, however, perhaps Toyota should stick with Tesla a little longer...

  20. Not quite. It depends entirely on your drive cycle, my 1 way commute is 15 miles, 11 of them are in EV. I plug in at work in the garage, 11 of those 15 miles are also in EV. My average is 103MPG, see my fully page, it the "notes" I also track the KWH of charging as well as gasoline, Fuelly doesn't track MPGe yet though.
    I have only filed up 9 times since April, 6609 miles.

  21. I am surprised that John Briggs hasn't unleashed his furor on your "fake" 103 mpg yet....


  22. Yep, should be 103 mpgBS not 103 mpg. Still getting 103 mpgBS is much better than my 50 mpg on my Prius. Of course my mpg will drop soon with winter coming.

  23. as a Volt owner getting a fake 260MPG, I think we should dispense with MPG numbers and instead use cents per mile. My Volt now has 16703 miles on it and my total fuel cost, gasoline (64.8 gallons, $239) and electricity ($364) makes my cost of driving $603/16703= 3.6 cents per mile. Figure out how much you 50mpg average Prius will get at your average price of gasoline and it is about double, just for fuel. add in your oil change costs. Mitchell is right with me, very close to my cost per mile by virtue of driving on electricity part of the time

  24. I have a home based business and make outbound trips so I charge my Volt more often than the Leaf that my wife drives which is used for commuting to work. It is absolutely done to avoid using gasoline and I frequently charge at destinations. The gasoline engine is really used for "out of range" trips and then only sparingly. I do not see the choice as paying more for a gasoline generator but for flexibility. Our Leaf simply does not make any longer trips as they are too inconvenient.

  25. Agreed on your point that Volt owners pay for the option to drive long distances, not to use gasoline.

  26. Looking forward to some Chevy sponsored Adopt a Charger locations. Stay tuned!!

  27. they can pay me to adopt mine!,, etc.

  28. Based on the user behavior described above, I believe GM should use a bigger battery pack and a small turbo gas motor in future models. It appears people don't want to use the gas motor and I don't blame them.

  29. Well, GM would have to either find a new way to make the battery smaller or make the car larger and heavier... It is already a "porky" and smallish car.

  30. Volt was NOT carefully thought out when the wEIGHT was considered,,,TOO HEA+VY for a gREEN car without a doubt...Prius on the other hand was CREATED around GREEN in mind.....ONLY 3,100...and the interior MAY BE less attractive BUT it was also created the same way...light/green and recyclable....SMART TOYOTA....

  31. Well, even with the "so called reduced" weight, Prius still handles poorly, brakes poorly and acceleration is "slow"...
    I guess Toyota Prius owners don't really care about anything other than MPG...

  32. "porky"... I don't agree. The VOLT is a wonderful car to drive. Real fun. Very zippy in the city. And if I wanted blistering acceleration I would have stayed w the 300HP ICE I replaced.

  33. At 3,800lbs it is on the heavy side for the size of the car. It still handles better and accerlate better than any of the EV/plugins under $45k...

    But there are rooms for improvements.

  34. C-Max Energi costs less than the Volt and it'll be faster with much larger interior space.

    Volt sure has plenty of room for improvements.

  35. I call you on your BS. C-Max Energi has yet to show any speed faster than the Volt yet.

    It certainly can NOT do that in EV mode for sure.

  36. The "gas anxiety " thing is oh, so true. It kills me to burn gas in my Volt.There has been a time or two when I chose not to make a trip beyond the Volt's electric range because it would burn gas and raise the mpg readout. (Obviously, I didn't want to make the trip very much in the first place.)

    I'm still getting over a 600-mile round-trip to Cape Cod, which knocked my lifetime mpg from 180 down to 140.

    The Volt is a great car, and a great concept. I agree it's the "sweet spot" for plug-in cars. A real electric car for 95 percent of my trips, but unlimited range when necessary. I originally bought the Volt as a "compromise" because the Leaf was so slow in coming to my area, but now I wouldn't dream of trading my Volt for a Leaf.

  37. I don't think "anxiety" is the right term because wanting to go without gas is very different from concern that you're going to break down before getting to your destination.

  38. Right on... "gas aversion" might be better.

  39. "Second, plug-in hybrids, like the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, tend to spend more time charging their cars "
    The owner 'spends' the time doing other things. Right now my Volt is tethered but 'I ' am spending my time here on line. I 'spend' very little time 'charging'. twenty seconds plug in and out per day.
    I used to spend ten minutes/week 'gassing' and driving to 'inconvenience stations' (inconvenience to be out of gas)(50) wks. 9hours/yr of my time. 9 hours a year for ICE fueling, 2 hours/yr spent plugging. (20sec(350) 7000 sec/3600 = 2 hours. Volt saves 7 hours/year in time not 'spent' fueling around.
    Volts plug more than EVs,logical. Some also keep our tanks with just a couple gallons to shed weight. Cant wait to shed gas completely.

  40. Also, time is a bad measurement because of the different charging speeds. I charge with the standard 110, so I charge all night. That might take more time than charging a Leaf with a faster charger, but who cares? It'd be far more shocking if they said that Volt owners are getting more electric miles than Leaf owner, or use more electricity.

  41. With a smaller battery capacity, one will "fill it up" more often. Volt owners have a smaller capacity. A study isn't need to see that they would fill up more often outside the home. I've ordered a C-Max Energi because I like the larger vehicle. My trips tend to be quite short (I'm retired) or very long (300+ miles). I like the larger space of the C-Max and the good MPG of the traditional hybrid (47 MPG) for the longer trips. I've been blogging about it here:

  42. Not using gasoline and leaving it in your tank for any length of time will wreak havoc on the fuel system. My guess is Volt drivers probably don't even think of using a fuel stabilizer.

  43. @Tim: Actually, if it's run only on grid power and the engine doesn't start for many weeks, the Volt is set up to request permission of the driver to switch the engine on to keep the fluids circulating.

    Not sure what the interval is exactly, but perhaps a Volt owner can tell us?

  44. I haven't reached that point yet... I use gas once per week.

    It is also stated that Volt can use regular gas. it will just impact efficiency. But I don't know how much yet...

  45. John: EMM (Engine Maintenance Mode) runs every 6 weeks. FMM (Fuel Maintenance Mode) runs when the average age of your gasoline approaches a year. The tank is sealed and pressurized to prevent evaporation of the more volatile components of the gasoline, but one of the reasons that the Volt requires premium fuel is because it is more stable. another reason is that the ICE runs close to the knock limit when running. Xiaolong Li, DON'T run regular fuel for the reasons I just stated..

  46. I haven't yet. But I imagine every time I fill up there might be 1/3 gallon of regular in the pipe (according to GCR reporting). So, my gas will never be 100% Premium... So far, it is running just fine. But once a week we burn 3 gallon of gas in the 190 miles trip.

  47. It is automatically managed by the computer...

  48. And why Volt "requires" premium gas..

  49. That makes sense.
    Most Volt owners are those who want to drive EV but for whatever reason, they can't own a 100% EV. So, Volt is by far the "most electric" plugin there is.
    That is why they plugin as often as they can to NOT use gas. That is also clearly showing that Volt is more "EV" than other "pretenders" such as Prius Plugin.
    That is why I think that is a good thing. I imagine most of those Volt owners will consider a 100% BEV if the charging is faster and network coverage is sufficient for "all" their needs...
    I have been wishing that GM to come out with a Volt that has 60 miles range.

  50. The PRIUS PLUG IN works VERY WELL if u have better access to a chargerand BTW....THE PHEV is 95 % ELECTRIC if you appreciate the thought in 4 years of comparing the results before the finl PRODUCTION MODEL was decided on....I get alomost 48 days from one 10.6 gal tankful and over 200 MPGE or NO VOLT IS NOT the ONLY 90 % ELECTRIC...its how you drive/habits especially and using the EV MODE and ECO MODE correctly....a proud PHEV owner....well worth the 39,000 advanced model especially since the standard has NO give you the 5 stars.....a VERY SAFE ACCIDENT AVOIDANCE PLUS when the SAFETY of this Toyota is considered.....

  51. You mean the fact that you prefer an ugly, slow and 4 star rated Prius Plugin?
    Yeah, Prius driver's best accident avoidance is by driving slow and having their eyes fixed on their MPG...

  52. Prius PHV never claimed to be an EV. You might be confusing that with Volt.

    Prius PHV is a plugin hybrid that uses both fuels depending on the driving conditions, not range. It operates under the idea that both fuels have superior benefits under different conditions. It is optimized for both fuel while enabling synergy between the two.

    If you are EV bias, Prius PHV is not for you. However, if you are fuel neutral and want to enjoy the benefits of both, a plugin hybrid like C-Max Energi or Prius PHV provides the best bang for the buck.

  53. Get a clue dude, this article is about Volt owners NOT wanting to use gas...

  54. There is no anxiety with the cleanest and most efficient 50 MPG gas engine here.

  55. Still using gas more often... You can't deny the fact. Not to mention the substandard safety, ugly look, poor handling, poor braking and slow acceleration.

  56. LEAF driver here - Volt drivers hog-up the chargers. Someone needs to enable Volt's to utilize more than 10kw of it's 16 kw battery. All electric driving takes precedence over the periodic 'long-range trip' which is why I chose the way that I did.

  57. Well, just until those Pip and C-Max Energi (hog-up) the chargers even more...

    Don't those cars also help to increase the demand for public chargers?

  58. Maybe topping up plug-in hybrids is the finest use of public chargers. Perhaps the BEV people don't need charging as often.

  59. First, make that KWH rather than KW.

    Second, GM did they homework here. They are purposely limiting the SOC (state of charge) to something like 20-80% to improve the battery life. Let's hope that works and they Chevy does not suffer the battery issues that "other" manufacturers have had.

  60. SO far that appears to be the case, John. I know a couple of guys who are over 40,000 miles on their 2011 Volts who have no battery degradation at all at this time.

  61. Brian: Most Volt drivers will defer to BEV cars if you need a charge. You see them hogging chargers because there are far more of them out there than there are any other plug-in vehicle. On various Vplt fora we are addressing how to inform Leaf and iMiev drivers that it is OK to unplug us if they need a charge, or in some cases to call or text a cell phone to come move the car out of your way. We get it, and want to make all plugin vehicles successful to get off gasoline

  62. I don't have gas anxiety, I have OPEC anxiety. The high price of oil, wherever it happens to be produced, allows OPEC countries to fund terrorism, develop nuclear weapons, and stir up religious hatred around the world.

    Expensive production methods like off-shore and arctic drilling and fracking depend on high oil prices. The only way to bring oil back to $10 per barrel is to stop buying gasoline.

    My Volt and I do our part.

  63. Right...why bother to use the sun for power, which has been giving energy to our planet for billions of years and is responsible for all the life on it, when we can drill into the crust of the planet and burn decomposed lifeforms? There's a long-term strategy! We will look back on this era as a species and shake our heads...remember when we used to think the world was flat and was the center of the universe? Fast forward a couple of hundred years and we'll be laughing about our ancestors who thought it was a good idea to burn crushed dinosaurs for energy.

  64. My (fantastic) Volt can run on gas, but as a matter of principle, I try to run on electric. It is also a bit of a game. I am definetly motivate to visit shops which offer free charging. The gas savings is not really a motivation as the car gets 40+ MPG.

  65. Per GM, 39.5% of all Volts miles were driven with gasoline (see link below).

    As much as Volt owners focus on their "gas free miles", they are not vocal about their gas miles with the 37 MPG gas engine that runs on premium gas.

  66. Dennis, how about after 30-40 posts you and Xialong give it a rest already? We understood 30 posts ago that you prefer the PIP, which few here do. You specialize in pointing out the few areas where the PIP fares well, while never once acknowledging where the Volt does better. It drives better, accelerates better, looks better, etc...

    Vocal about our gas miles? Since I'm using gas only about 20% of the time, a very credible 37 MPG is fine with me. I average 165 MPG overall and that's fine with me, even if it bothers you for some irrational reason. Yeah, that $1.80 extra premium cost per fillup is killing me. Let's see, four fillups per year is a whopping $7.20. I'll take the looks and acceleration, but to each his/her own.

  67. 165 MPG overall is great. How many kWh of electricity did it take to boost it from 37 MPG?

  68. You are totally missing the point that doesn't have to use his so called "37mpg" mode b/c his superior EV range. Unlike your PIP which is HEAVILY dependent on the gas mode...

  69. To answer your question. Here is the way to calculate that.

    Using your MPG, divide it by (1- percentage of EV miles).

    So, if Volt is 60% Electric, then its MPG is 37/(1-0.6) = 92.5mpg.

    @ 92.5 mpg, it is higher than PIP's average MPG of 80...

    I think the data so far proves that Volt uses less gas due to its electric% being far higher. The higher the electric % , the most efficient it will be since electric miles are about 2x more efficient or 1/2 the cost...

  70. @Dennis Chin (aka Volt hater).

    Another fact that you don't understand. Once the Volt is its "extended mode", it behaves as a hybrid. Some of those miles will be electric only but it is NOT being recorded as "EV only" miles.

    In your slow PIP, you keep bring up the fact that PIP record all "electric" miles whether it is IN the hybrid mode or plugin mode...

    Also, this article is about Volt owners "avoid" those gas miles and try to be on EV as much as they can. So what is your freaking problem?

  71. Just pointing out the real-world data of all Volts from GM.

  72. You point out a lot of things that you have NO freaking clue about...

  73. @Xiaolong: This is your friendly site moderator here.

    I'm afraid I have to remind you to keep it polite. No direct attacks on other commenters, especially on individuals.

    It's possible to disagree without targeting the person. We try for respectful discussion in the comments here. Just try to keep it polite, and treat others the way you would like to be treated. Thanks in advance.

    I appreciate that you frequently back up your points of view with actual data. Keep it up, and we're happy to have your frequent comments on different stories.

  74. electricity is cheaper. Save wear and tear on gasoline powered parts.Keep the air clean. They really spent that money to researchers to figure out what people who don't even have Volts could tell you? what a scam that was.

  75. I purposefully try to not use gas with my Volt, it is somewhat of a game to see how long I can go without fueling. I have really changed my driving habits and continually review the data my Volt provides me to "up" my battery distance. I am currently up to 43 miles on battery power. I think if "regular" cars had the data like a Volt provides, we would all bet better fuel economy.

    You really think about turning on the AC or heat when you "see" your economy go down. The visuals are terrific in the Volt.

  76. A fully charged Volt battery has less than a third of energy in a gallon of gasoline.

    If you need to use the gas engine, use it. Otherwise, it'll warn you to run it anyway (engine maintenance).

  77. Agree 100%. With a traditional ICE vehicle you can drive in the middle of winter with your windows down and heater cranked with no indication on how this is impacting your efficiency...we think that because it's in our car that wasting energy doesn't count. Every power using decision you make in a Volt immediately lets you know what impact it is having on your efficiency and ultimately your range on battery. Owning a Volt has changed the way I drive my Odyssey. I even find myself being more calm and courteous when I drive because being agressive (tailgating, passing, rapid acceleration, etc) dramatically affects your range. My record is 58.5 miles from a single battery charge and have averaged 240mpg over my first year of ownership.

  78. ps, I get 45 mpg on gas by employing the same "tactics" I use to extend the battery mileage

  79. Don't tell Dennis Chin that b/c he will ONLY believe that Prius is the ONLY car that will get better MPG than its EPA rating...

    He happens to get 12 miles in his EV mode in his PIP. I happen to manage only 38-40mpg with my short time with Prius and I managed easily a 36-38mpg in my driving with my Volt and 40+ EV range per charge...

  80. Having a smallish battery (relative to non-range-extended EV's) pack such as the Volt encourages plugging in more often to avoid relying on the gas generator. As EV's become more mainstream and late adopters realize the pleasure of driving an EV, the push from the market will be for larger battery packs. We must avoid the temptation to replace our high horsepower ICE's with high horsepower EV's. Having a small battery pack changes the way I drive; forces me to be light on my power usage...we must be sure that during this transition to electricity for propulsion that we use the electricity efficiently. If people have huge battery packs and motors they will still drive with a lead foott which will undermine the reason to move to electric.

  81. Volt Owner. It is a game to see how much a driver can extend his mileage by topping up the electric charge as often as possible. It is also a game to increase the miles per KW Hr used number (5 miles per KW Hr in my case) and to calculate the cents per mile cost (2 cents per miles in my case) while driving with electricity and compare that to the cost per mile on gasoline. Driving on the electric battery at 2 cents per mile equates on a cost equivalent basis with gas at $3.50 per gallon to 175 MPG (350 cents cost of gas per gallon / 2 cents per mile cost of driving on electricity = 175 MPG cost equivalent mileage). If gas is $3.00 per gallon the cost equivalent mileage would be 150 MPG (300 cents / 2 cents = 150)

  82. My hubby and I have had our Volt for over two weeks now and we are very happy. Right now I am at enjoying the local public library while my Volt charges at the adjacent public ev-charging station.
    Most times, we charge the car overnight at home. We are happy.

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