2014 Chevrolet Volt with owner Ben RIch
2014 Chevrolet Volt with owner Ben RIchEnlarge Photo
I recently leased a 2014 Chevy Volt to replace my Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and I expect that it will free me even more from using gasoline than the i-MiEV--which was a battery electric car that used no gas at all.
At first glance, this would seem counter-intuitive.
The Volt has a range-extending gasoline engine to charge the battery after the first 40 or so miles of all-electric driving, while the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is always powered by a battery pack recharged with grid electricity.
However, I like to take road trips once or twice each month. When I had the i-MiEV, I had to rent a gasoline-powered car for any journey of more than the minicar's range of 62 miles.
2014 Chevrolet Volt blended gas mileage, photographed by owner Ben RIch
2014 Chevrolet Volt blended gas mileage, photographed by owner Ben RIchEnlarge Photo
With the Volt, though, I can take my electric vehicle with me, charge up at my destination, and have a useful electric car with me wherever I go.
I will soon embark on a journey from NYC to New Hampshire for some good old-fashioned camping and hiking in the mountains.
To illustrate the point, here's a comparison of road trips when I had an electric car compared to those in the Volt, with its range extender.
Planning i-MiEV road trips
When I had the i-MiEV, I would look up whether cars were available at the rental-car location near me. I can walk there, so it's handy…in theory. But on popular weekends, they would often be entirely booked--and this happens frequently, not just on holiday weekends.
Then I'd need to make more complex plans to pick up a rental car elsewhere. I always looked for the highest-mileage car, and rented that one.
But wait...once you get to the rental location, that car isn't always available. So they would "upgrade" me to an SUV.
From my perspective, that's a downgrade, since using less gasoline is my goal.
This happened a couple of times and it was frustrating, to say the least (although it did once let me drive 300-plus-horsepower Ford Mustang, which was pretty fun).
2014 Chevrolet Volt with owner Ben RIch and electric-car advocate Tom MoloughneyEnlarge Photo
Also, rental-car locations are rarely open on Sundays, when I return from my weekend trips, so I had to figure out how to return the car before getting to work on Monday. Except my workday begins within minutes of the time the rental sites open, so that was always tricky…and it cost more for the extra day, too.
The bottom line is that renting a car cost money, took time to plan, and took precious time to execute--when all I wanted to do was take a road trip and have some fun.
Worse, usually my rental vehicle got around 22 mpg--and it certainly never got up to 30 mpg.
Volt planning now
Now that I have a Volt, my planning involves finding the best hiking trail and deciding which gorgeous lake to swim in.
Instead of doing one marathon drive from New Jersey through the legendary awful traffic on I-95, my plan is to drive to central Massachusetts, stay overnight, then finish driving in the morning.
That means about 80 miles of my 321-mile journey will be all-electric. In addition, the Volt is rated at 37 mpg combined, so the miles I cover will use much less gasoline than that 22-mpg rental car.
2014 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
But the electric miles in which I use no gasoline at all will boost my blended gas mileage to less than half of what it would be if I drove an all-electric car around town, but had to rent a conventional gas-powered car for road trips.
Assuming 100 miles of driving after reaching the destination (the trip totals 742 miles), here are some numbers. There will be at least four charging opportunities for the Volt during the trip as it's planned now.
So on this trip, I will use less than half of the gasoline in a Volt than I would have needed to use a rental car--even if all my local miles were driven in the gas-free i-MiEV.