We made a long vacation trip this summer to North Carolina, driving our Volt. We had a lot of fun on the trip and all of us in our family found the Volt a very very good touring car. We had always had a minivan or SUV on past trips, so driving any car was a different experience. But I must say that the Volt feels so solid and safe, and it handles super well in all the driving conditions we experienced. Long segments on the Interstates were not bad at all – the seats were comfortable and the cruise control and voice controls made the trip easy when driving.
In the mountains itself, the EV drive better than any vehicle I have ever driving there. There was superior power in climbing, and the regen brakes were fantastic going down. Not only did the car recharge the battery pack on the way downhill, the ‘engine braking’ also meant that I hardly had to use the brakes at all.
There is a mountain mode program that you can select as the driver that helps use the battery and ICE to boost power on really steep grades. I did test it, but the normal power of the car was super! I went up gravel driveways where people in normal ICE powered trucks, cars, and SUVs have to rev up the engine to climb, building up speed to take on a steep grade. The Volt could climb those at any speed. In fact, an EV electric motor has maximum torque at zero RPM, so climbing at 5 MPH of whatever is as good as any speed. I was very impressed with the over all performance.
If you do want to use mountain mode, you need to use the hold mode to save a little battery power. We usually switched to hold mode anyway, when driving for long distances on the Interstate. Saving the battery for in-town driving makes for better energy stewardship.
Places to charge:
We were able to make reservations at the Hotel Indigo in Athens for the trip up. It is a ‘green’ hotel and was itself fantastic. I had selected it though, because it had EV charging stations. In fact, they had 3 rental EVs (a Volt, a Leaf, and one other type). Very cool place.
On the way back, we stayed at a B&B that had advertised it had a charging stations. It was a great place as well, but the staff had to work hard to make the Blink charging station work properly. It was my first experience with Blink, as here in Tampa Bay we seem to have mostly Chargepoint. I did get a full charge by the next morning.
We did also charge at an odd place – a Burger King (honestly we hadn’t been at one in a decade ) on the Interstate in South Carolina. It was like 100F that day (we eventually had temps as cool as 53F in the mountains). I had seen from my smartphone app that there was this fast food place ahead of us that had a charger, so we did stop there. It was in a parking spot with no EV sign – a level 2 charger just sitting there. I don’t think anyone had ever charged there in recent memory – a staff person ended up moving their car to a different spot so I could charge (that was really appreciated by us). So maybe we educated a few more people on that stop about what an EV is, etc. That is part of the adventure. Oh yeah, they had vegi burgers – which I commend Burger King for doing.
Everywhere we go in one of the EVs, we meet people who are interested in the cars. If you are willing to take a little time to map out your charging opportunities and just like to do something a little bit different, I highly recommend an EV