How the Chevy Volt will be the future of driving, mosquito hawks and all
I'd been suffering through a particularly dispiriting run of luxury SUVs. I realize that's not something to normally complain about, but when guys start dropping new cars in your driveway every Wednesday morning, your conception of reality shifts. You find yourself critically evaluating big-booty "crossover" vehicles with overcomplicated control panels and drive modes that one in a hundred buyers even know exist, much less use regularly.
Yet all the big cars start to seem the same after a while: Indulgent, pretentious, and badly antiquated, like you're taking a triceratops for a spin just before the comet hits, or $4-a-gallon becomes permanent. That 17-mpg starts to feel like a burden. By Sunday night, the SUVs get parked in the driveway, and stay there until someone replaces them.
That's why it was such a relief when the Chevy Volt showed up two weeks ago, after a run of particularly bad press. We were damn glad to see it enter our lives, however briefly.
On the morning it appeared like a gift from enviro-Santa, my wife had to leave for work quickly. She teaches twice a week at a community college in the Hill Country, and has a 75-mile commute each way, which creates a perfect test for an electric car. In that, we were instantly disappointed. The Volt battery only carries a 34-mile charge, and they'd brought it down from Dallas, so the battery had drained before the Volt even cleared the Metroplex.
So my wife was off to Fort Hood, using the 39-mpg gasoline engine. Fifteen minutes later, as I sat at my desk, I got a text: "I want." A bit after that, she called. "It makes all these cool sounds inside," she said. "I feel like I'm in Star Trek." After weeks of testing cars that made us feel like soccer parents, we were suddenly driving on the Holodeck.
Regina got home around 8 p.m. that night, having burned through less than four gallons of gas, not bad considering she'd gone 150-plus miles. It was time to break out the charge cord. Unfortunately, the cord is designed to accommodate people who live in modern houses. We live in an outdated, garageless rental. There were no outlets on the outside of the house, and the power cord didn't reach our front door. We had no extension cords.