2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010Enlarge Photo
Change is definitely eminent in the automotive industry; in fact, some would tell you that the industry is changing fast now than it has in the last couple of decades. It isn’t just the powertrains or the safety equipment—it is everything down to how often you might have to do an oil change in the future or if you will have to do an oil change at all. With the arrival of plug-in hybrids like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and fully electric vehicles like the 2011 Nissan LEAF, maintenance will be very different for the next generations of car buyers.
A recent article published on GM-Volt.com talks about how the Chevrolet Volt may extend oil life to the point where were you would need your first oil change after two years. Two years! Of course, this is under the right conditions and is probably not going to be the norm. The two-year number is based on the company’s patented oil life monitor system. “We have adapted our patented oil life monitor (used on most GM vehicles the last 8-10 years) to the Volt’s unique operating conditions and its interactions with the engine oil quality,” said GM’s executive director of EVs and batteries Micky Bly. “We have added a maximum calendar life of 2 years as a cap on the oil life…so that would be the maximum period before an oil change is needed.”
Sounds pretty good, but won’t that oil get stale from just sitting if you run primarily in EV mode? The answer is yes, but GM has though of that and created a solution. All Volts have an engine maintenance mode. If the engine hasn’t been run in six weeks, a dashboard message will come on asking the driver to allow engine maintenance mode. “Oil likes to run at a certain temperature, and to burn off some of the water and some of the ligands that gather in oil,” says Bly. “We call it engine maintenance mode. We’ll ask if you mind if we run the engine a couple of miles just to freshen up basically, and then that will be fine.”
This is just the first phase of how the automobile could change; at some point oil changes could be a think of the past, unless you own a classic or late model car that is.