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Sunday, December 14, 2014

There is no gas pedal in my car!

2012 Chevy Volt electric vehicle

When I take people for a demonstration drive in my Chevy Volt, I have to remind them that I am not using the “gas pedal”, I am using the accelerator pedal.  The pedal has no direct connection to the gas engine generator that GM refers to as a “range extender".  The pedal is hooked into the control computer of the vehicle and its only function is to modulate the amount of energy going to the electric motor.  It is interesting to note that when I punch the accelerator to the floor, my energy gauge shows over 80 kW of power going to the motor. Yes that’s Eighty. Thousand. Watts!  That is a truly enormous amount of energy capable of getting the 3800lb vehicle to 60MPH in 8.5 seconds with neck snapping acceleration in the 1st 40 feet!   And no gasoline involved unless I am running in "range extender" mode, in which case the four-cylinder 1.4L gasoline powered generator can contribute up to 50 kW to the battery to help maintain a safe battery level. There are times when that engine generator will ramp up to over 4000 RPM, and you really hear it, but most of the time it is barely audible.

Since we charge the vehicle largely from solar, the EV range of around 33 miles is literally a free ride for us (with zero carbon emissions!).  When the battery is low, the gas generator allows us to continue driving at about 40MPG.  

Observant passengers often notice that I leave the shift lever in "L" and not in "D".  Since this is an electric vehicle, the designations of Low and Drive are irrelevant, so GM just left the labels there as a convention.  "L" mode simply enables an aggressive regenerative braking feature that allows for one pedal driving.  By lifting your foot off the accelerator the vehicle slows so dramatically that you barely need to touch the brake pedal as you come to a stop.  This feature puts a great deal more energy back into the battery as it is recovered by the electric motor.

I have devoted a page of my web site to all the features of my Volt and it's performance and energy use/savings.  It is such an amazing vehicle - GM totally got it right with this one, and owners all agree by giving it the highest customer satisfaction ratings year after year.  With over 40K miles on my 2012 Volt I still consider it the best vehicle I have ever owned and love driving it.