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Monday, March 22, 2010

Driving the Chevy Volt at SXSW2010

I was one lucky chick on Monday during SXSW.  Exceptionally lucky.  I got to take the new-under wraps-still in prototype mode Chevy Volt for a spin.  Here's the report of the fun along with some photos and information.  Since the Volt is not yet released, I wasn't privy to some information.  This is piecemealed from the bits of information that I was told or have read.  I apologize for any misinformation.  
The Volt isn't a hybrid vehicle or is it; this topic is highly debatable. We'll stay away from the debate for now.   From what I know, it is essentially an electric vehicle with a gas generator that powers the battery when need be.  The Volt was designed run on the battery for the first 40 miles, and then use the gas generator to power the battery.  The explanation for the seemingly arbitrary 40 miles is because the average American commute is 20 miles.  40 miles using only electricity would mean a round trip commute to work without using a drop of gas.  And thusly, the Volt was designed with a 40 mile battery pack.  I wasn't even given a ballpark estimate on the size of the gas tank, however, a full tank should get about 300 miles.   
Cool Features:

The interior was very modern and the buttons were all "touch" buttons. You didn't have to actually depress the button, rather it functioned like a touch screen. It had a very Ikea feel to it.  I was told that the transmission shifter would be redesigned, so it won't look like what's in the photos. 

In addition to the regular horn, there's a "friendly" horn to warn pedestrians who can't hear your car because it is so quiet. I do mean quiet. That car didn't even have a detectable hum (I was in a semi-noisy area). The car also had a rear backing camera with video built into the dash.

There are smart phone apps connected to OnStar so that you could program the volt to charge at a certain time or to start air conditioning in the car before you actually turn the car on. You can also use the smart phone app to honk the horn.  I did download the application on my iphone, but since I wasn't connected to the car, I couldn't play with the features. 


This car is so quiet that I'm afraid I wouldn't remember if the car was on or off.  Driving the Volt is exactly like how Josh Bauer describes driving his Tessla.  There is no Vroom Vroom.  You just get on the gas and it goes.  While I didn't get to see what the Volt really had, I did get to try the turbo button.  I wasn't clear on the technology of it, but it does give your ride some "OMPH!"  

The dash also has a monitor on it with a green ball in the center, if you accelerate too hard, the green ball moves out of the "happy zone" and turns yellow.  If you brake too hard, the green ball moves out of the "happy zone" and turns yellow.  While I'm familiar with many of the tools that have this type of user interface, I'm not sure about the technology behind this one.  

Some issues to ponder: 

The dash of the Volt didn't have a Miles per gallon or MPKilowatt indicator on it that I could see.  I think I was told that there was one, but I didn't get a chance to see it.  The battery gauge did have an indicator with how many miles were left, but I'm not sure how that is calculated.  Presumably, more rough driving should consume , but how does the battery know how rough you'll be driving for the next few miles?
The Volt does have an OBD port for the scan gauge, but I'm not sure if the scanguage would be able to give miles per gallon readings as there is no gas engine.  I'm not sure if the scanguage would be able to measure CO2 output from a generator.  Additionally, I was told that the generator can turn on to power the battery randomly.  In that sense, gas used by the generator isn't a function of the current electricity used.  The numbers may be inaccurate.  Again, since I wasn't given all the details, I might have some misinformation on this.  I didn't have my scanguage on me (I decided to not drive in Austin that day due to SXSW traffic), otherwise I would have tested it.  

The plug.

Woozers.  It sure was bright out.

The front.

The back.

The very modern interior.
I also attended the Chevy Veggie drive in which a group of Austin Food Bloggers drove down to Pearl Farmer's Market in San Antonio, ate lunch at Farm to Table, and then back to Austin in a variety of 2010 Vehicles.  A big thank you to Chevy, @gmtexas, and Yeti Coolers. Enjoy the pics below! Photos by John Knox

Camaro and Donna


Tasty Touring and I sample some candied nuts.

I like big paella pans.

Where we ate.

The crowds. 

Big enough for a body.

 Yummy Sammich at Texas Farm to Table. 

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