Sunday, December 18, 2011

December OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics report

Got my monthly report a few days ago. Just now getting around to posting it.

OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics from your Chevrolet Volt as of 12/15/2011
Mileage at this report: 4708

Fuel Economy: 220 mpg
Electric Consumption: 33 kW-hr/100 miles

Electric Miles: 626
Gas Miles: 130
Total Miles: 756
Percentage on Electric: 83 %

Estimated Gallons of Fuel Saved: 26 gal
Estimated CO2 Avoided: 505 lbs

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Road Trip 2

So made a second trip out to Redlands and this time I tried something different. I put it in Mountain mode most of the time I was on the freeway. Total drive was 163.7 miles so I did a bit more driving in Redlands than I did on the first trip. Used 3.34 gallons of gas and got 49.2 MPG for the total trip. Still had 11 miles left on the battery when I got home so I should have taken it out of Mountain mode somewhere between Pasadena and Eagle Rock instead of waiting longer. Would have helped my mileage a lot. Have now used 7.1 gallons of gas. About 74 miles of range left in gas.

Interestingly, the range for the gas varies between 68 and 74 miles, maybe due to temperature. We've been having some pretty cold weather (for us). Overnight lows are down in the 30s, days in the 50s and low 60s. Range has been affected by a few miles and running the heater also cuts range a bit. I'd guess I loose 5 to 7 miles off the electric range due to temperature and heater use.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fires in the News

There's been a lot of activity lately about a crash test that was done and then 3 weeks later, when the batteries were never discharged as they should have been, there was a fire. GM has contacted me by email and even overnight FedEx giving me lots of options, up to and including turning my car back in to GM if I am afraid of it. I will be doing no such thing, of course, but it's been interesting to hear some news shows who have the story so screwed up that one crash test has turned into "several" that resulted in fires. Gotta love the local news writers. In any case, there is a nice article that someone on Facebook told me about, linked here, that kinds sums up the reality a little better. (Thanks Stefan!) It is pretty universally understood by anyone with any sense that if a car is involved in a crash, you remove all fuel as soon as possible, and get the car inspected. If it's not going to be repaired, you don't drop it off at the crusher with a tank of gas or whatever it uses for fuel, in this case a battery full of electrons. There are some things to get used to on cars that run primarily on electricity, and everyone from first responders to tow truck drivers need to learn some new rules. But really, it comes down to many of the same principles you would apply to any car. Hundreds of thousands of cars burn every year. a tank full of gas is highly explosive, as anyone who remembers the Ford Pinto can tell you. Come to think of it, I saw a late model Ford pickup that self ignited and was burning just a few houses away from ours a couple months ago. Not that Fords are the only cars that burn.

It's always good to review the facts (not the crap on the news) and be careful if something is questionable. If some new procedures and training come of this, then it's all good. No one has been harmed and hopefully we can keep it that way.

car and driver blog

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Volt/EV Focus Group

A few weeks back I was contacted by a group that conducts research for companies and they wanted me to participate in an event today. It was hosted at the Edison facility in Rosemead and they offered a nice little incentive payment of $250 to spend a couple of hours with them answering questions both in a group and individually with a major automotive company's engineers, plus maybe take said engineers on a short drive to demonstrate the car. They had charging stations available to use while we were in the group session and my car was nearly at a full charge when I unplugged it to take the engineers on a drive. Round trip to the event plus the demo drive was about 56 miles. There were fellow Volt owners present as well as Nissan Leaf owners with a nearly even split in the group. My group had around 12 people. Luckily, the big rain forecast for today mostly sidestepped our area so light sprinkles were the worst I got while going there, and none happened during the actual activities. So I left the house a bit after noon and was home by 4 PM.

The most interesting aspect to me was, the Leaf owners all talked about how they plan for trips, thinking about the details of how far they were going, what charging stations might be available and how much time they might need to use them. By contrast, none of the Volt owners gave any of that much thought but all the others Volt owners seemed to be just as interested as I am in trying to operate only on electricity as much as possible. One guy said he always feels a bit disappointed when it switched to gasoline, which I can agree with to a certain extent. It's great to have the extended range, but you feel a little sad when you need to use it... or something like that.

So it tore a good sized hole in my Saturday, but it was kinda fun and interesting. I'd enjoy doing something like that again. I did have an offer from another research company who wanted me to go down to Long Beach for an event, but they only paid $225 and it was scheduled to be Sunday (tomorrow) and frankly, I didn't want to give up my whole weekend. Travel distance was slightly more and the incentive less, but the big thing was doing similar events two days in a row.

Another completely different event is planned for this coming Tuesday, but I am not planning to attend.

Chevrolet would like to invite you and a guest to an exciting evening to kick off this year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show. To show our appreciation to you for being a special member of the Chevrolet family we are bringing together a small group of Volt owners to celebrate its one year anniversary. We’ll have members of the Volt team and celebrity Volt owners in attendance and a few other surprises as well.

While it sounds like fun, the location is near crowded Staples Center and it is on a weeknight. While my folks at work are very happy to let me leave early or do whatever is needed to make it there, I am going decline. Having been to a number of such gala events I know they can be as hassle and even though this is for something that is dear to my heart, I don't feel like it would work out well for us at this stage of the game. So I just now went to their web site and RSVP'd as being unable to attend. I'm already sure I'll regret it. :-(

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1st Road Trip

Today I wanted to go visit my sister in Redlands for a few hours and it's a good bit further away from home that the maximum electric range of my Volt is. So I knew I was going to be using some Dino-Fuel today. Question was, how much? So with only 0.8 gallons of gas used from the free full tank that was in the car when I got it back in May, and a full battery charge, Bob and I set out. It was about 86° and sunny, so the A/C was definitely in use. (ECO mode) We got to the Pomona area on the 210 before switching to gas, and we plugged into a regular 110v for the roughly two hours we were visiting. Had we had access to a 240v portable charger, I could have used it as my sister has a 240v outlet not being used in the laundry area. But this was fine. We showed 10 electric miles available when we went back out to the car to leave. We got to Fontana before it switched back to gas again.

When we got back near the house, we took a small detour over to our usual Saturday night dining spot, Harry's in Burbank. Me for the fried chicken special and Bob for the clubhouse. Upon arriving back home, I snapped this:

So drove a total of 157.8 miles. 46.3 of them were all electric and 111.5 were on the gasoline generator. I drove at relatively sedate 65~68 MPH most of the time, since I like to stay at the back of the pack. It would have cost us less than $13 to make this trip, if I had paid for the gas in the tank. I still have more than half the tank of that free gas left now.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fully Charged Pilot Episode

Seems like I keep referencing this little video to people I'm chatting with so decided I should have a link to it here:

Or to go to the YouTube page, try this:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fisker’s Karma car lands in U.S.

Ok, not exactly competition for Tesla, Chevrolet or Nissan, let alone Toyota, but still a very welcome entrant in the club of manufacturers shipping PHEV/EV products that just scream!

Why buy a boring BMW 7 series or Mercedes S-class, let alone an Audi A8 when they are more money and have non-innovative, old-school piston power? And with them you still have to buy gasoline, pay for very expensive maintenance, and breathe the same fumes people have been breathing for over 100 years.

Audi's 60 second TV spot says goodbye to the age of old luxury, but it still drinks Dino Fuel. Lincoln's spot asks if you are going to buy a new car, shouldn't there be something new about it? Yes there should and Lincoln doesn't have it. So if you really want to say goodbye to old luxury and get a *new* car, think electric. Think extended-range electric.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics report

This monthly email shows that I've driven 655 miles this month, all of them electric, and am supposedly using 29 kW-Hr per 100 miles. The *advertised* rate I stupidly *thought* I was going to get on EV-only night time charging was about 2-1/2 cents a kWH. But now I know there are all sorts of add-ons to that advertised rate, so I really pay about 15 cents a kWH after the dizzying array of taxes, surcharges, aquisition fees and EV discounts, which is still good, just not as breathtakingly amazing as I thought it was going to be. I'm better educated now, if not driving quite as cheaply as I thought. So it still works out to be $4.35 to go 100 electric miles. Meanwhile, the rest of the report shows nothing notable, and nothing needs maintenance.

While some efficiency numbers were included in the email, logging on to the MyVolt web site it looks like the sections on "efficiency" and "mileage" are turned off again. The numbers were definitely off the last time it was working, so I think they've decided to pull it back under wraps.

So I'll take this opportunity to show the graphic from my ChargePoint account:

This shows off my charging pattern and kWH used each day, along with the green house gas savings. Kinda interesting.

But more interesting is looking at the charging totals in a spreadsheet format, so I can see how many kWH each day time my rate (.15/kWH) comes to per month. And so far it's running around $30 each month to drive 5 days a week to work, or about $1.50 per day, just as GM predicted in it's advertising materials. Guess they knew what they were doing. Checking this against the figures on the OnStar report, they seem to match up. $4.35 per 100 miles is .0435 cents per mile, times the reported 655 miles, is just $28.49 for the month. Driving 20 days out of the month that is $1.43 per day.

So, like I say, not as utterly fantastic as I had first thought when I naively believed the advertised rate was what I was really going to spend. But still a lot cheaper, and of course cleaner, than petrol.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small Rant

Hey, just want to send a memo out to my fellow morning commuters on the 134/210 freeway between North Hollywood and Pasadena. (Hi everyone!) The designated car pool lane is *not* your personal passing lane. Using it to dodge around cars that are not going fast enough in the "fast" lane because all the other lanes are going even slower, is not the proper use of that lane. Sorry. You already know that crossing over the double-yellow line is a violation worth over $300 and doing it twice as you cross in to pass, and then back out to resume, is going to get expensive if you get caught. Add to that the fact that you only have one occupant in the car instead of the required two, and you have a hefty bill to the state or locality that benefits from such fines. I'm glad I wasn't the person in the fast lane that offended you by going too slow...

I'm not a fast driver and I use the left-most lane only on a very limited basis. I likewise avoid the car-pool lane because I don't believe in them and don't like the fact that some other drivers feel it is the "go-even-faster-than-the-fast-lane" lane. I'm one of those strange people who actually measured the amount of time it takes me to get to work doing the speed limit and measured again doing "flow-of-traffic" speeds, which tend to be at least 10 to 15 MPH over the posted limits. And I found that the number of minutes saved were in the lower single digits. I also measured my fuel and energy use of going the speed limit and it saves me considerable money without making me late. Go figure. :-)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Volt Spotting!

Saw a pearl white Volt parked along Hollywood Way near Verdugo in Burbank on the way home tonight. It was parked under the edge of some trees and at first I wasn't paying much attention so it could have been under the first set of trees, or the next bunch after the editing suite offices there on that corner. (One of the two arrows.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Note About Availability

I've been reading a bunch of stuff that says the Volt isn't selling and that it's a flop because the Nissan Leaf has x-number of times more sales. I have mine and I'm happy with it. I don't want to proselytize but at the same time I try to take the time to correct misinformation when I hear it and see it. I think a lot of folks would find the Volt would really be a good fit for them, if they only had the chance to try it and see how amazing it really is. Some sources are reporting that production is still low and the ones in the pipeline are going largely to dealers as demonstrators with a provision that they can't be sold (for x-amount of time, I think 6 months) so that people can test drive them even if they can't actually buy one yet. I tend to believe the supply is still pretty limited. I remember how tough it was for me to find one and I had a feeling it was still about like that. Just because GM is now making more Volts, doesn't mean there are more at individual locations. They've opened up more states and so they are still spread very thin on salable models.

Well this month is my birthday and my buddy Oscar at Bunnin Chevrolet sent me a nice little email greeting about it and I took the opportunity to ask him about the supply of Volts they have and he replied that they don't have any to sell, but that business has otherwise been good." This is a major dealership in a very major market of Southern California. They sell a lot of cars. And they can't get any Volts. I think that pretty much says it for me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Revenge of the Electric Car

New movie opening up from the guys that did the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car". It's called, of course, "Revenge of the Electric Car", and let's hope it really is time for EVs to get their revenge. :-)

From the web site:
In Revenge of the Electric Car, director Chris Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, and the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors to chronicle the story of the global resurgence of electric cars. Without using a single drop of foreign oil, this new generation of car is America’s future: fast, furious, and cleaner than ever.

With almost every major car maker now jumping to produce new electric models, Revenge follows the race to be the first, the best, and to win the hearts and minds of the public around the world. It’s not just the next generation of green cars that’s on the line. It’s the future of the automobile itself.

Revenge of the Electric Car is narrated by Tim Robbins. The primary cast includes CEO and President of Renault and Nissan Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk, Former Vice Chairman of GM Bob Lutz and EV do-it-yourselfer Greg “Gadget” Abbott.
Sounds pretty good and they also have a Facebook page.

Another EV-related bit I came across is a podcast/YouTube channel called "Fully Charged" and it's a series of 10 minute episodes debunking the mis-information about EVs and looking into specific cars. I've only watched a few episodes so far, but it's great and the host is funny. He's British so he has a non-American viewpoint but we're all in the same boat when it comes to the future of petrol-based cars.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tesla Model S Beta 1 (photos)

Saw some pix of the new Tesla today:

With a base price tag of $57,400, this is getting to be much more mainstream. I can't wait to see these rolling off the assembly line!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Article in "The Street"

Here's a neat article my friend Sal just passed on to me, asking the question: can the Volt handle a 1,100 mile high-speed dash through the deserts and mountains of the American West?

Testing Chevy Volt's Endurance


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Charger AOK

So when the electrician left yesterday, the charger was functional except that it wasn't really connected to my account. I emailed Coulomb about it and today all is well again. It seems to be more in tune with the car overall. When I attach the charge cord, the horn beeps right away where it used to take as long as 10 to 15 seconds. Also now the charger seems to recognize that the car is on delay charge and indicates it is ready where before it would say something about the car not accepting the charge. Wish I could remember the exact wording but it definitely seems smarter about the Volt now than the old unit. And that was the whole point!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Electrician Schedule Mixup

So the electrician was supposed to come out this morning between 8 and 10 am to swap out the charger... 10 minutes after 10, I called SPX and they tracked down the problem. Now, I don't know if I buy this or not, but the story is that the electrician thought the charger was shipping to them, and as they hadn't gotten it, they just didn't do anything. (There's this thing called a telephone?) The charger came directly to me... which is funny because when the original charger was to be put in, they shipped it to the electrician. But the electrician showed up without it and assumed I had it... then they called their office and someone told them it was there... but at least that time they showed up, though they were late the first day due to a scheduling screw up. The guy had an iPhone 4, you'd think they could coordinate better. But what do I know. Anyway, Christie at SPX said they could now come out between 1 and 2 pm today. Not a big deal. These things happen.

I am glad (and keeping my fingers crossed this fixes the problems) that this is going in today though. I've been getting several of the GFCI trips lately. I don't mind it so much if it trips when I first plug it in. It's nastier if it trips later, when it starts to charge. I've never had it trip in the middle of charging though. And never had it not charge after a few plug-out/plug-in cycles.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Volt Featured on "The Mentalist" TV Show (CBS)

Tonight at 10 pm the season premiere of the CBS show, "The Mentalist" aired and a new member of the cast was cleverly tucked in several scenes in a very unobtrusive way. Nothing screamed product placement at all. Very subtle and just slightly under the radar. There were some scenes where Agent Lisbon is driving and we hear... almost nothing because of course the Volt is very quiet. Looks pretty good in "Cyber Gray Metallic".

[Note that I didn't actually see the episode until later, 10/03/11]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

GF on Four Month "Anniversary"

[2500] Ground fault tripped again after I plugged in for the night. But today it's the 4 month mark.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics report

Highlights of OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics from my Chevrolet Volt as of 09/16/2011:

Something is off with the electric economy number... only 1 KWh? No way! Likewise with the 88 KWh for the month, that's just whack.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home Charging Station To Be Replaced

And here is the latest from ChargePoint/Coulomb:

Regarding ticket IDXXXX , this confirms Coulomb Technologies has determined that your home charging station is under warranty and requires replacement to provide you with the unit having volt enhancement so that it does not get frequent GFCI trips. Within two business days of this notice, we will be shipping an advanced replacement CT500 unit for delivery to your home at the address provided below.

0000 Xxxxx Xxx North Hollywood California 00000
Daytime Phone: 0000000000
Cell Phone: 0000000000

I am also sending a copy of this ticket to the SPX EV Support team in order to coordinate replacement by a qualified electrician in a timely manner. The SPX support group may be contacted at or at 877-805-3873 'press option 1'.

Please ensure the original station is packaged and returned to Coulomb Technologies as soon as possible after the electrician installs the replacement unit. Package the defective unit in the original packing material that was used to ship the replacement to you and locate the prepaid FedEx return label in the plastic pocket on the outside of the box. Please contact Fed Ex for pickup at your home.

You may register on our help desk (Zendesk) and view status updates on ticket XXXX by clicking on the url below.

We appreciate you as our customer and apologize for the inconvenience to you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Best regards,

Xxxxx Xxxxx
Coulomb Technologies | Network Operations Engineer
V: 000.000.0000
"Fueling The Electric Transportation Industry"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ChargePoint Gets Back To Me

Funny, I was just thinking as I got home tonight that I wanted to check with ChargePoint to see if they had updated my ticket on the GFCI trip. (Which hasn't happened since the last time when I reported it.) Then I checked my email tonight and there was a message from them!

Hello Joe,

This email is a response to the ticket that you opened on Zendesk( # xxxx ) to notify us about the GFCI fault triggers that you get on your charging station. We need to RMA this station to replace the current station with the one having volt enhancement. Please confirm the shipping address so that we can ship you the station. Soon after the shipping address is confirmed by you, you will get a notification from us confirming the RMA and SPX will be notified  at the same time. SPX will then set an appointment with you to install the new station sent. The shipping address that we have in our database is :

0000 Xxxxx Xxx North Hollywood California 00000.

You can refer to the ticket opened by you by clicking on the following link

<URL removed>

Xxxxx Xxxxx
Coulomb Technologies | Network Operations Engineer
V: 000.000.0000
"Fueling The Electric Transportation Industry"

Well! So the charging station can't be serviced over their wireless network with a software patch or something, apparently.  So I've sent my confirmation back to them and now I should hear from SPX soon.

Higher Range?

This morning the fully charged range indicated 39 miles... maybe it is going back through a learning process since the new software was installed? It will be interesting to see if the range eventually rises to the old level from before the upgrade. Of course, what the number says is of little meaning ultimately. The driving conditions really determine your range. The opening figure is just a guess on the computer's part.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


So the first indication that something is different was when I went out to my car this morning to go to work, and instead of the usual 41~42 mile range indicated, it says 37. And I'm thinking, did the charge get interrupted or something? But I can see no indication of that. So I drove on to work and it seemed like I arrived with about the same range left that I always do, 22~23 miles to get me home. It did seem like the accelerator pedal was a tad more responsive from a stop than it was, but it was already very good, especially compared to a gas car. I'll be watching how it goes on the way home.

UPDATE: Had 15 miles of range showing when I parked at the house. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Software Update

[2367] Voltie got his software updated today. I dropped him off at Community Chevrolet around 8:15 am, they took me over to Enterprise and then I got a Malibu for the day. The Malibu is a bit bigger, but it felt cheaper, especially the steering. It had decent power, good brakes and ride, so no real complains. But I was glad to be back in my Volt when I picked it up. It seems peppier, but may just be from driving a gas-powered car today.

They didn't find any issues with charging so any ground faults I get would appear to be due to the charging station. But I haven't gotten one lately.

Spotted a black Volt in the 134 freeway at Eagle Rock on the way home!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Obama Speech Includes Volt Graphic

Hey I noticed during President Obama's speech tonight, they used a graphic showing the Prez driving a black Volt with an excited passenger next to him...

I'd love to know what he thought of it. Clearly his passenger is enjoying the moment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ground Fault and Software...

So I got that ground fault thing again yesterday, only this time it happened right as I plugged the car in when I got home from work. No biggie, I just unplugged it and plugged it in again. Click. Same thing. Three times! Fourth time it was happy. I kept an eye on it around 8 PM when the charging cycle started and all was well. But this had me a little concerned. So I dropped a note to ChargePoint and copied my Volt Adviser as well. I said I'd never seen this happen with the 110 charger.

The ChargePoint folks got me set up with an online help thing where I could go to see the progress of my request for help. But my Volt Adviser, I should say my *new* Volt Adviser, as Brittany is now advising the Illinois region, sent me a direct email. So Erica is now my Adviser and she advised me of the change, asked a couple of questions and told me that recently General Motors and Chevrolet had released a software update for my 2011 Volt. She said, "This will improve the driving, charging, and ownership experience of your Volt through updated calibrations. The update will take two to three hours once the technician begins working on the vehicle."

I replied, confirming that Community Chevrolet in Burbank is the most convenient place to go, and she said, "What I'd like to do is work with you, Community Chevrolet and our Volt Technical Team to diagnose your Volt, just to ensure the issue you're experiencing is being cause by your 240 volt charging unit. We could have your Volt looked at and the software update performed at the same time." Great! She also assured me there is no cost associated with the update and asked if I would like to have her assist in scheduling an appointment, advising them of the charging issues as well.Very nice hands-on experience. 

So Voltie is going to get new software! Cool!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Funny Day at Toyota

A couple weeks back, partner's Escalade was broken into and some damage was some to the sheetmetal around the lock and a door panel inside. We got it covered by insurance and used their preferred shop, which turned out to be the North Hollywood Toyota Collision Center.  Well today we picked it up from the shop and they seem to have done a very nice job. Definitely as good as new. Funny thing was, as soon as we drove in to the shop parking lot (this is down the street from the main Toyota dealership and only does body/collision work) we saw heads turning. When we went inside, people were talking about someone driving up in a Volt. The guy helping us could barely stop asking questions about it and from inside we could see guys come out from the work bays to check out the parked car. When Bob drove off with his Esky, I was still out in the parking lot answering questions. Amazing how little people know about the way these cars work. It was pretty funny when I called work to explain why I was going to be so late getting in. :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I've been reading news articles and various comments on the Volt's pricing, and it got me thinking. The Volt offers a lot of options in the basic package and you can add some things to make it really well equipped, certainly well on the level of many mid-level luxury cars such as Lexus and Buick. (We'll avoid discussion of the lack of a power seat option for now.)

Some commenters say that the Volt is priced too high, that commuters won't spend that much money for a ride to work. But I started paying attention to what my fellow commuters are driving around me on my route between North Hollywood and Pasadena, and while there are a range of cars from expensive to poverty rides, the deck is definitely stacked towards the higher end. AND, more importanly, the level of luxury SUV/truck drivers who have decked out their rides to prices way over the sticker price of a Volt is quite high.

Case in point: BMWs are everywhere. You can't drive 50 feet without seeing at least 3 of them. Heck, my next-door neighbor has 3 of them parked in his driveway along with a Mercedes and a Jetta. (Huh? Go figure.) Well, what does a *lower-end* Beemer 3 Series Sedan go for these days? And how does it compare? Here's entry level:

The base MSRP for a 2011 model is less than a Volt, but I went to Edmunds to see what a car outfitted similarly to my Volt would run in real world pricing. And here's what that respected web site showed me.

MSRP is close to the Volt sticker price (actually higher after incentives). As I say, I tried to configure the car as closely as I could to the Volt, but there are some things the BMW doesn't offer, such as the DVD entertainment system (unless I missed it) and free OnStar. A lot of items that came standard on my car are extra-cost options on this BMW, such as the Park Distance Control, Satellite Radio, Bluetooth and the Navigation system. But as long as it's offered, so what. Still, this car only gets up to 18 city/28 highway mpg. So you get to pay around the same price for the car, get a couple less features, and then have to pay for gasoline to do all your driving. Advantage: Volt!

How about a Benz, I went looking at those next. Again I went to the Edmunds price guide and here's what I found: The lowest priced offering is the C-Class and the C-300 Luxury Sedan seems to be the lowest of the low priced offerings. Here's the list of features:

More stuff here is standard but you still have to go with some options to bring the car up to the level of features on my car. Looking at the price guide on Edmunds site, this is what I found:

And again keep in mind nothing matches up exactly on the options. It looks like the sound system and keyless options are a snad ahead of the Volt's, but still comparable. But the options on this model Mercedes do have one very glaring shortfall. Can't get it in red! Nope, no red exterior color at all. Buzzer! (Probably *can* get it on a more expensive model.) And once again the MSRP is close to Volt's and even the "true" pricing is about where the Volt is after credits. As with the BMW, not terribly great gas mileage so you are spending big dollars on foreign oil. Once again, advantage: Volt!

Another car I see a lot of is the Porsche Boxster. Looks like a new 2011 model MSRP starts at $48,100 so I don't even need to see what the options are. I see Nissan Z cars see going to work alongside me a lot on the 134 freeway too, which start at a cool $63,205 sticker price while getting 18 city/26 hwy mpg. I guess there's no point in mentioning the occasional Bently I see.Yes, these are very different cars but the point is that this is what commuters are willing/able to spend for a drive to work.

It's true that a Chevrolet Cruze or Malibu is a good deal less than a Volt. And they are good cars, especially the Cruze which is selling like hotcakes right now. But, Kiplinger's Personal Finance ran the numbers comparing such cars to both the Volt and a Nissan Leaf to determine the cost of ownership for an average driver over five years. Does the fuel savings make up for the higher sticker price? Well, they were surprised at how well the two electric vehicles did compared to their closest gas-powered siblings. Volt vs. Cruze LTZ and the Leaf SV vs. Versa S Hatchback. Both cost roughly $18,000 more than their gas-only brethren. But over five years of ownership, the Volt comes within $500 of Cruze's total costs, and the Leaf is only $800 more to own than the Versa because they save so much on fuel. [Note that Kiplinger revised this a bit later because they did not take occasional gasoline usage into account on the Volt. But if you do use much gas, the numbers are still within about $1500! also, After evaluating all of the Volt’s real costs, Vincentric named it the best value in America 2011 in its new “Eco” classification.] And all the while you can use U.S. made electricity which is centrally produced and emissions scrubbed in a way that can't be done on individual cars, and thumb your nose at foreign oil.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here's some fun...

Rush... what can you say. He is an "entertainer", pure and simple. Nothing he says has to be based in reality (sound like any Christian Fundamentalists you know?) so there's never any point in taking him seriously or arguing. Still, some folks do believe every word just as they think soap operas are reality television. So it's nice to hear a little slap back:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics report

I got the new report this morning and they've added the economy information that has been promised for awhile. I have a low tire alert as well, with 2 tires registering 32 PSI. But the excitement here, just like with the country, is all about the economy... well, fuel and electric mileage economy at least.

So here it is:

To highlight the important aspect of this report, it's the KiloWatt hours - KWh that's important to me. Not surprisingly, since I have used less than one gallon of gas, all the miles pretty much add up to the MPG rating. But I roll on electric so getting 31 KWh per 100 miles of driving is a big deal. If the current power bill is indicative of a typical month, the base TOU rate minus the EV discount plus the "Adjustments" add up to about $.08292 per KWh. Doing the math, that means it costs me about $2.65 to go 100 miles. At today's $4.25/gallon it would cost over $13 to go that distance on gasoline if your car got 32 MPG. Bob's Escalade gets more like 20 so figure on over $21!

That's right!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

3 Month ODO Check

[1685] Well, almost 3 months. Time for a check of the ODO:

Been roughly three months and I'm still not putting the miles on this car I could. I'm allowed 12,000 miles per year or about 1000 miles per month, so I've got extra miles to burn.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rebate Check Arrived!

As I expected, the rebate check arrived a few says from the date I got notified by email that the rebate was approved. I will take it to the bank this evening when we go out to dinner. Sweet!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ChargePoint Network Notification: GFCI Trip

The station at which your vehicle is charging, CHEVROLET VOLT / FREDERIC FOER01, has detected a Ground Fault and has suspended charging. This could occur when the station detects an abnormal diversion of electrical current that may be flowing to ground. A GFCI fault indicates an abnormality which could be caused by faulty circuitry, wiring or connector in the charging station or in the vehicle. When detected, the station will stop delivering power to the vehicle. The station will retry after a 15-minute countdown, but give up after three occurrences. Please contact ChargePoint customer support or the manufacturer of the vehicle if you receive this notification again.

Thank you,
The ChargePoint Network!

So, I found this about 9:45 and it must have made the three tries. I just unplugged the car and then gave it a few seconds before plugging back in. Started charging right away. <shrug>

Rebate Approved!

Got an email tonight from LADWP EV Home Charger Rebate Project Team telling me my paperwork I submitted was approved and a rebate check for $2000 will be mailed out this week. Whoopie! So the charger and the installation ended up costing me about $300 out of pocket total. Not bad at all and certainly well worth it to get the special charge rates.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Volt Sighting!

I spotted another Volt today on my way to work... I was late because of a doctor's appointment so this was around 12:30 PM in Burbank, at the intersection of Victory and Burbank Blvd right next to the 5 freeway. I didn't notice if it had plates or not, but since 2012's are not yet shipping, I'm guessing it must still be a 2011 model. It was a dark gray color. I waved but not sure if the driver saw me.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I got this cool two year calendar from Bunnin today. It includes a pic of me with the new car the day they delivered it. I grabbed that pic off the web site shown in the calendar to post here...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Plates Arrive!

It only took 2 months but today they finally arrived. I had to remind myself I got the car on May 20th because at first the "MAY" month sticker surprised me. And just over 1200 miles in those two months... I need to do more driving!

When is a Headrest not a Headrest?

When it is a head restraint! Any fool should know that, but apparently I am not just any fool.

I was asking my Volt Adviser how to get my rear seat headrests off for those times when I might want to fold down the rear seat backs for extra cargo space. I could not get them to come off and we keep the front seats so far back that the rear seats won't fold down. Since I normally want to be able to carry two people in back, I don't want to leave the headrests off all the time, but want to be able to pop them off quickly as necessary. I tried using the search feature of my PDF owner's manual, but got nowhere. That's because I was too braindead to think of alternative names for those little things. My Volt Adviser was patient and walked me through it, and I now can do this little chore on my own without any help. I even went back to the owner's manual and found the information I knew had to be there. All you have to do is look for Head Restraint Removal and Reinstallation. Key part being "Head Restraint", not "headrest" or "head rest".  D'oh!

Here's what it looks like in the manual:

And here's a photo of my car that makes it even clearer:

You can see a secret button on the left side that needs to be depressed the same way as the easily visible button on the right in order for the "head restraint" to pop off. Easy when you know how.

While out there taking pix for this, thought I would mention the cargo net accessory. I don't like where GM thinks it should go because it gets in my way. I have moved it to the front of the cargo bay, farthest away from the hatch. It isn't really designed to go here, but works just fine this way. I latch the side clips to the seat back to keep it from swaying.

Yes, I have the seat barrier and the window shade accessories too, all included in the car's invoice. I don't think I would have paid GM's prices for them if they had not already been on the sticker, but they are very useful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics

Every month now I will get these reports from OnStar automatically. I can also get one on demand, if I want to. Here is some of the information from the report.

That's only a part of the report. And then there are links that you can click to drill down deeper, but this is just a screen shot so none of them work here. Get your own Volt and Diagnostic Report if ya wanna see the links. ;-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Volt Myths Debunked!

Read an interesting article this morning called "Top 10 Myths About The Chevrolet Volt – Debunked!" by Alex Luft. Of course, I had to comment:

Interesting mix of comments to a nicely done article. I’m a Volt owner, as well as a GM enthusiast going way back. Naturally I’m going to defend my decision to go with a Volt. I could have gotten a Leaf, as the range is within my commute. But I get all the Leaf’s advantages and still get a car that can go to Vegas or Portland (from Los Angeles) whenever I want without worry. And it’s every bit a real car. You can’t say a word against its cred as a real car until you’ve driven it. Then, if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Nothing wrong with having a preference. But I bet you will like it because it’s a nice mix of sporty and comfortable. The fit and finish are really excellent, quite comparable to the STS and DTS Cadillacs I had before this car. Mine is fully loaded and it feels every bit worth the $41K price tag even without all the advantages of the Voltec powertrain. But I bought it for the Voltec, make no mistake. I’m a computer guy and a car enthusiast, and this car combines the two interests in a very elegant way. Simple enough for a housewife to operate and geeky enough for Linuxheads.

I do have to comment on the guy who got upset over the question, “compared to what?” That guy said GM just lost his business… over a question posed by a person who is not a GM employee and is not financially affiliated with GM in any way I know of. How do you get through life buddy? People must offend you every five seconds! More importantly, the question explained itself a few words later in the sentence by illustrating there is no direct comparison possible with any other car since there is no other car with this type of system. (The closest I can think of are diesel/electric trains, except I don’t think they have storage batteries.) So the question is semi-legitimate. But, the author of the article must know the comparison is going to be made between the Volt and other vehicles that are not in exactly the save category so perhaps he could have phrased it differently.

Oh yes, I had a great dealer (Bunnin Chevrolet) who was extremely exceptional to work with. I also visited one dealer who wanted $5K over MSRP. I reported him to my Volt Adviser. I opted for the lease because in three years technology will have advanced quite a bit and I’m going to want to have the latest GM has to offer.

I also have extremely low EV electric rates due to LADWP incentives and a Level 2 charger on a Time-Of-Use meter. It costs me about $6 per month[*] to drive my 32 mile round trip commute. No gas required except on weekends when I go visit relatives in Redlands.

;-) (Link to actual comment page)

* I had not actually seen the electric bill for charging at this point, so it was a guess based on the base TOU advertised rate. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

The TOU meter came in and a guy from DWP called this morning to see if he could put it in. I gave him permission, of course. It's cool because it flips through information sequentially, so you can read what you're run up in each rate.

They thoughtfully put a sticker on the side so I can tell what I'm reading. So far all zeros except for the date and time displays.

Meanwhile, over at the charger, the display there also shifts between the car/owner identifier and the charge state. The cord would look much nicer in the Corvette Orange that the Chevy charger cord comes in. :-)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This morning, the doorbell rang and two handsome men from LADWP were standing there, wanting to hook up the electric power to our level 2 charger! Now the fun part is, they said the meter itself had not even been ordered yet and it would be 5 to 7 days until that came in. But the plan is to hook up the wires to the overhead line and put bars across the terminals of the meter box. This will effectively give me free juice to the charger until they put the meter in.

Tonight when we got home, the charger was ready to go as soon as I flipped the breakers on. I had to go onto LADWPs web site to determine the rate times to go by so I could set my charge times in the car. Here's the deal:

From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM M-F is a Mid Peak range.
From 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM M-F is the High Peak time.
From 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM M-F is another Mid Peak range.

All other times are "Base", or the lowest rate. On top of the base rate, there is a discount for EV use.

Currently my Tier 1 rate is 0.07020 per kWh, while Tier 2 is 0.08520. So far I stay out of Tier 3. (Until August!)

Time-Of-Use rate during the Base period is 0.04655 per kWh from June to Sept and 0.05045 from Oct to May. On top of that, EV charging gets a discount of -0.02500 per kWh. That means my EV Base rate is 0.02155 from June to Sept and .028900 from Oct to May.

BUT... There are things called "Energy Cost Adjustment" and "Electric Subsidy Adjustment" that raise that rate substantially higher. Still, it's much lower than the regular Tier 1 rate, which is also subject to those "Adjustments". Until I see an electric bill over a span of a couple of months, I won't really know for sure, but it will probably be about $0.75 a day to charge up.

I have not had a way to measure yet but folks on the web site say it takes about 12 kWh to charge a fully depleted battery.

UPDATE: I logged into my ChargePoint account this morning (7/8/11) and I used 9.808 kWh last night to charge.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thinkin Miles...

So I'm thinking the other day, it's about 1-1/2 months I've had the Volt now. I have less than 900 miles on the ODO, and some of those miles were from the dealer driving the car to deliver it. If I'm supposed to get 12,000 miles per year on my lease, I can be putting 1,000 miles per month on the car, right? I'm not great at math but I think I can figure out that I've been very conservative with putting mileage on the car. I'm not going to get a refund for any unused miles, so I will need to do some more driving to use the miles I'm paying for. So in two weeks time, I can see I'll need to put 1,100 miles on this baby girl to catch up.

Road trip!

Friday, July 1, 2011

LADWP - Again

Now is a good time to practice my patience and lessons in anger management. Things happen in our lives that we can't control and there is little point in getting all upset about them to the point that they ruin a perfectly good upcoming three-day weekend.

Juno, the EV rep at DWP had asked me to call him this Friday if the service had not been connected by then. So this morning I called... got no answer but left a voice message. I also dropped him a quick email, figuring I'd try to reach him from both angles. I got a call a bit later from Walter Smith, who I hear is Juno's boss, explaining that the job had been released and sent over to the guys that do the actual setting of the meter and splicing the wires on the 24th of June. Now keep in mind, Juno (and the DWP web site) indicated it would be 5 to 10 days from that date to being live. And Walter did not say mention in his call back to me (which I didn't get live, I got it as a voice message) that anything was different. But he did say that it was now handed off to this other department and he gave me their phone number along with all the information I'd need to get an answer from them as to when it will be connected.

So I called today - twice. The first time, I got a messaging system and realized it was the lunch hour. I did not leave a message but I called back after 1 PM. This time I got a nice lady who told me they had received it on the 24th, and it was handed off to "the crew" on the 27th and that it was *not* scheduled for today but would be completed from 7 to 15 work days, no weekends or holidays included, from the date of receipt, which was the 24th. She told me the schedule is made up daily, not in advance, so she can not tell me what day it will happen, other than the 7-15 day range. I thanked her and then hung up.


So it could take up until July 15th for this to go live. Then again, who's to say it couldn't take longer?

Oh well. Here's a fun video I found today:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New York Times Link

The opinion pages of the New York Times had a decent commentary on the Volt this morning, called "Is This Our Future?".

The Volt is an amazing accomplishment. It's about time people started hearing more about it. I had to add my own comment to the Times article, as quoted below:
Some commenters don't quite seem to get it. Is the Volt a perfect solution? No, but it's a great solution for TODAY.

A pure electric car is not practical right now. Lack of infrastructure, lack of range, charge time... You have to carefully manage your energy usage while driving. Volt has enough range that it can be all electric for most people most of the time. After that, it will operate in extended range mode just like any other car. Driving more conservatively will get you more miles of all electric range, but if you don't, you can still drive anywhere (even without ever plugging it in) at a very tidy 36 MPG estimate.

Using electricity to fuel up the car does transfer the pollution from the car to the electric plant, but generators run day and night whether the electricity they produce is used or not. Most people will charge their car at night when much of that power is not being utilized.

To the commenter who is waiting to see the plug-in version of the Prius... That's great, but it will reportedly get you only 10 to 13 miles on pure electric. That tells me they did not put the thought into their design that GM did. Their plug-in part was grafted onto the old Prius design. The Volt, by comparison, is a clean sheet of paper. They looked at how people use their cars and designed the electric range to fit into 80% of use patterns. Then they added the generator to fill in the gap. So most people can drive gasoline-free five days out of the week. But they can drive further whenever the need arises. And the beauty is the seamlessness when switching from electric to gas.

And yes, I drive a Volt. I've used 1/2 a gallon of gas in 700 miles of driving.
There is so much more that could be said. The little details they thought of that never get mentioned... like the fact that, if you open the hood while the car is powered on, the engine will start up and run until you close the hood. Why? Because what if you had the hood open, stuck your hand into some crevice somewhere, and then the electric management system decided it needed to use the generator? Suddenly, with no warning, you might loose a part of your body you would prefer to keep. But if the engine starts as soon as you open the hood, you are forewarned that stuff in there has the potential to hurt you. That's just one small example. There are many, many more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It Passes!

OK, DWP is happy with the little red sign now and Juno has signed off so that the DWP techs can come out and "heat up the can" which I guess means put the meter in the socket and splice the wires from the weatherhead into the overhead lines coming from the pole, making the meter box live. They may or may not turn on the breakers so when I get home I may see the charger is lit up or not. If it's not live by next Friday, Juno wants me to call him. He did apologize for the delay. This is all new stuff and the program has only been in place for two months. "LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa just announced a new pilot program this week that will provide rebates of "up to $2,000" on home EV charging stations -- to the first 1,000 applicants, that is." Well they did expand it to cover at least 5000 charger applicants. I've submitted my paperwork for the rebate so we'll see how fast that happens.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Will It Pass?

Yesterday, the electrician put the requisite red sign on the breaker box for the EV line... he didn't get out til something like 7:30 pm, but that was fine. I went out later and took a couple of pictures to send to the DWP Rep.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ah The Joy of Working With the City

So a few days have passed since the charger has been installed and electrically inspected. I thought I'd give the Electric Service Representative (ESR) a call at DWP and see where we are. Well, someone checked a wrong box or something so Juno didn't know we were ready for the finishing bits he needs to do. But my call alerted him so he said he'd come by today or tomorrow. And he did come by today, only to find that a little red sign that is supposed to be on the box is not there.

Naturally,I had pointed this out to the electrician when he was here but something fell through the cracks. Anyway, I wasn't home but Bob got an earful from Juno about the sign not being there, and then Bob called me later to pass the earful along. :-) I did my part by calling SPX who knew nothing about it but then called the electrical subcontractor. So Scott, the electrician, calls me later this afternoon and he says he doesn't know anything about it. He had talked to Juno's boss, Walter, before starting the work and he said Walter never mentioned it... probably because Juno had left a freakin diagram and description right here with me... I mean, OK, it got overlooked. But I did give Scott the clipboard and showed him the pages. Anyway. Scott was going to call Walter and I imagine I will hear some further news tomorrow. Gee, and it was all going so smoothly up until now! Whoopie!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Volt Spotting!

I was at the Buena Vista offramp of the 134 freeway tonight when in my rear-view mirror I spotted a red Volt coming up the lane to my left. A red one like mine! He honked as he went by and I waved. I would have liked to chat but, you know, just not possible with traffic. Still, cool to know there is another Volt in town. Another red one, no less!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Inspection and a Surprise!

So today the inspection happened, as planned. Scott called me a bit after 8 am to tell me the inspection was scheduled for between 11 am and 1 pm. Scott got here a bit before 11 and had to hang out til the inspector showed up, but that happened before 12 I think. Easy peasy, everything looked good so there were no corrections to make. I got Scott to show me how to get the permit info from the LA Department of Building and Safety web site, so I can cover that requirement for the rebate. (I sent an email off to SPX for the other two items I need.)

So DWP will need to connect the wires to the line coming to the pole and install the meter in the meter box. That should happen within a few days. (I think no later than the 21st.)

BUT... then a FedEx delivery arrived completely unexpectedly... I got this Thank You package from GM with some informationals and stuff, also a bitchin book on the Volt from concept to production, and also... wait for it... a High Definition FLIP video camera to record my trips near and far in my new Volt. And these guys took care of the details... fresh batteries already loaded (Duracell, no less). Just turn it on, enter the language and date, and start taking HD video. All in a nice display box with magnetic latch you could set on your coffee table... if we had one. I knew at one time they were giving out FLIPs, but had heard they had stopped the offer. Apparently not!



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Charging Station Installation

This morning the electrician showed up bright and early at about 8 AM and started setting up my charger. There was paperwork to fill out and there was some confusion at first because at one time the chargers were being sent directly to the home, but now they are sent to the installer. So someone from the office had to bring the charger over but there were things they could start on without it so they didn't loose any time.These guys were great to deal with. On time, friendly, and the work looks good.

The electrician told me that I was going to get a visit from GM, and I thought he was kidding. But before too long, a GM rep, Margarita, *did* show up and spent about 4 hours here watching over the installation and talking with me. She was great! She had driven a Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered Chevy Equinox to get here, and she insisted I take it for a spin. I was really impressed! It's a nice van/crossover/whatever, but it had a lot of power and it uses hydrogen to directly power an electric motor that drives the front wheels... I am going to have to read up on the exact technology... very nice! Bob to came out and checked it out too and he was impressed as well. Meanwhile, she took lots of pictures of the installation to take back to GM with her.

So it was about 2:15 or so when all was finished. They said they could jumper it so I could use it without the meter but I didn't see a reason to. The inspection will be tomorrow and I should be able to use the charger within 5 days.

I spent the rest of the afternoon putting together the LADWP rebate paperwork. Long form to fill out and copies of things like the lease contract, the work order for the electrical contract, the permit and inspection sign off... some of which I don't have yet. But I put together what I do have and made a quick list of what I don't. Fun stuff!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Way to Wash!

I tried out a waterless car wash product today for the first time and WOW! I am really impressed. It's called AQUANIL-X.

I thought it might be something I'd use like a quick detailer product but no, this stuff really works even on a fairly dirty car. I think if I had really heavy dirt and mud, I'd want to spray that stuff off a bit, but otherwise just spray, wipe, then follow up with a buff  when it dries. It works pretty much like a spray wax product only it doesn't leave white crap in the cracks and crevices. I don't know if it can be used on glass, but I used Invisible Glass with rain repellent to do that. Now I just need an easy to use car vac.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Hybrid Drive

My salesman, Oscar, let me know my accessories* were in and this morning I went to Culver City to get them. I missed the cutover from the 101 to the 405 due to traffic, so I took the next exit and ended up on the scenic route back to the 405. But I missed the traffic jam, which was good. I used up a lot of range going up hills on the way to the freeway, but once I was coasting down the Sepluvenda Pass, it was funny to watch the range increase again, putting about 15 more miles back in the battery. Oscar was not at the dealership but I got the goodies from Juan and I proceeded home. Traffic was slow but steady coming home and I thought I would quickly see the range drop going back up the Pass, but it wasn't until I got back on the 101 between Van Nuys and Woodman that the green battery on my instrument panel was replaced by the blue gas tank and the gas engine started up.

It was interesting because I couldn't really hear or feel any difference. And when I came to a stop sign after exiting at Vineland, the engine was off. I realized it shuts off after you go below a few miles an hour and doesn't start again until you are going something like 5 or 10 miles an hour. Did that at each stop so it never uses gas at an idle, apparently. Idling wastes a lot of gas so this is a good thing. But strange when you aren't used to it.

*[The car was supposed to have a cargo net, a barrier between the rear seat backs and the cargo area, and a sunshade as "dealer installed" accessories. They were listed on the invoice but were not with the car at the time of delivery. Oscar followed through and made sure they were on order.]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Electrician Scheduled

So looks like Tuesday the 14th is when the Level 2 charger gets installed. They seemed to think it might take 2 days since a meter is being put in too. Will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Engine Startup!

Hey! This morning I got in the car and booted up like usual. Right away a message popped up saying that since the gasoline engine has not been used, it needed to run a bit for maintenance. It offered to let me defer the maintenance, but I said yes and it started right up. I think the coolest part was, it popped up a little percentage indicator on the speedo and counted up to 100% complete. Lasted about 5 minutes or so. Hearing an engine run should have seemed normal in a car, but it was out of place after 2 weeks of silent running. Then too, when accelerating, the engine speed didn't change... as you would expect when you know the engine doesn't drive the car directly. But still odd when you are used to a conventional gasoline powered car. Fun!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Wash

I used my (apparently now discontinued) Mr. Clean car wash device to wash up the Volt this afternoon. Took the opportunity to snap a few pix.