Why The 2011 Chevrolet Volt Encourages The Use Of Gasoline

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt may be an extended-range electric car--or a plug-in hybrid, take your pick--but it's designed to promote the use of gasoline.

Well, older gasoline, anyway.

In the case of owners who have short daily commutes and plug in their cars regularly to recharge at night, the Volt’s 25-to-40-mile range may be all they need each day.

That could lead to cases when the car’s Driver Information Center would actually prompt the driver to give the car permission to start its gasoline engine.

There are two scenarios in which the Volt will ask for permission to start the internal combustion engine.

The first is Engine Maintenance Mode, which is activated when the gas engine hasn’t been off the couch for 6 weeks or so. This mode forces the engine to run even if there is enough charge in the lithium-ion battery pack to power the vehicle.

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

The message to the driver reads “Due to low use, your engine needs to run for approximately 10 minutes to perform engine maintenance.”

The driver then responds "YES" on the Information Center, and the engine starts.

Should it not complete its 10-minute cycle, it will start itself again on the next trip. While it's in Maintenance Mode, a status bar on the dash display indicates the percentage of maintenance that has been completed.

The idea here: use it, don't lose it. There's a saying that there’s only one thing worse than too many hours on a car’s engine, and that's too few hours. Every car needs to get its moving parts moving and its fluids warmed up, so that such long periods of idle time don’t start to affect the car’s integrity.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The second scenario is called Fuel Maintenance Mode. Have you ever replaced the gas in your lawn mower in the springtime, for fear that it might be stale?

The same concern exists over the fuel in the Volt. Fuel Maintenance Mode tracks the average age of the gasoline, and prompts the driver when it reaches one year.

The message on the Information Center reads, “Your fuel usage has been so low that the fuel is becoming stale.” It also advises the driver to add fresh fuel at a half of a tank or less. The Volt 's fuel capacity is 9.3 gallons.   

If the driver procrastinates about the trip to the gas station, or is truly obsessive about not using gasoline, this mode too will fire up the gasoline engine directly. The owner’s manual cautions that when the Fuel Maintenance Mode is in control, the system will empty the tank completely if new fuel is not added.

So, in some cases, the plug-in Chevy Volt actually insists upon burning gasoline--even if owners don't want it to.

[Chevy Volt Owner’s Manual]                

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