Celebration of Life: The Story of My Volt

I eyed the Volt since it was a concept car in ’08 before finally leasing my “dream car” in December 2012. An influential builder donated funds to his alma mater to build a solar parking canopy with an EV charging station on campus, and our company built the array and installed the station. At the “ribbon cutting” ceremony, I admired his Crystal Red Volt with longing looks that were apparent to its owner. “You want to take it for a drive?”

Last day of ownership

“Can I?” I asked with hopeful glee. “I would actually love that.”

As the event settled down, we climbed into the car together, me my first real time driving a Volt. (In full disclosure, I went to the St. Louis Auto Show several years before and waited in line to drive a 2010 Volt at < 5 mph around the inside of the convention center.)

When we got on the Parkway, I started out slow and then had a brief opportunity to accelerate with no one in front of me to the next light. “Do you mind if I punch it?” I asked. “Go for it!” he said.

I was dazzled by the silent surge of power that quickly brought us from slightly under the speed limit to very much over the limit. I certainly don’t need/want a race car; this was all the quick I needed. Quick, quiet and clean.

I was still triggered by the thought of paying $40K for a car. That’s just not how I roll. But this car was how I wanted to roll! I wasn’t sure how I could afford it, and my new friend told me about the lease he got.

At less than $340/mo, I could rationalize and cost-justify the car payment less the gas savings with a little math. I came to learn that the electricity costs so much less per mile – like 3-5 miles per kilowatt-hour, or about a dime for 4 miles. So $1 for 40 miles vs. a car that gets 40 mpg paying anywhere from $2.50 to $4.50. (After a few months of driving experience in cold weather, I enthusiastically documented my experience in another blogpost My ReVolt Against Fossil Fuels.)

Within months I leased a 2013 Silver Ice Metallic Volt with Pebble Beige interior, and it felt just like I’d envisioned all those years ago. Vision manifested.

This has been my Favorite Car Ever, and has served me and my family well. With 93xxx miles and a full 10 years of loving care, fun and reliability, I was (as GM put it) among the Happiest Drivers on the Planet. When the lease was up in 2015, I planned to lease a 2016 Gen 2, but was unable to due to GM’s decision to limit distribution to the 11 CARB states. So, with some creative thinking, I turned in the car and my wife bought that same Volt from the dealer (for $10K less than I’d have had to pay the lessor!) Anyway, other than tires, I’ve had to do minimal maintenance on this vehicle. Over 80% of the miles are electric, and I’ve burned fewer than 500 gallons of gas in 10 years of driving. I shared My Volt Love Story that was stuffed in a book about Volts that circulated among their owners, each recipient adding their own love stories as the book made its way around the country. 

My most recent Facebook post in December ’22 was about a diagnostic code related to the Hybrid System Voltage whereby the fully charged battery was not accessible for electric propulsion. That issue mysteriously resolved itself, though leaving me somewhat uncomfortable about when it might happen again and what might have been the cause and what might be the required fix. Two years ago before the warranty expired I took the car in to have the traction battery pack inspected, and the dealer said that everything was within working order. The degraded performance, they speculated, must be because I didn’t drive the car enough during Covid. My performance has since further degraded, with a range as low as 23 miles in the cold winter, but more normally around 30 in mild weather. I used to regularly get 40+ when it was “younger” – never clipped 50 as some did. Alas, the car remains as spry as can be, but the batteries are getting tired.

As it goes, in 2019 another colleague was sharing his appreciation for his Tesla Model 3, and I admitted that I was certainly intrigued with the car. Again, I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend $50K on a car, but I was certainly keen on the machine if money were no object. Like my Volt matchmaker, my Tesla evangelist asked me if I’d like to take it for a drive. Now I’d ridden in a Model S before, so I was certainly aware that their acceleration was in a different league than my Volt. But the sleek sophistication and minimalist but functional approach to hardware was attractive. And the Autopilot was flat-out amazing. This car could literally drive itself. Now I wanted one of these. And like in 2008, when I wondered how in the world I’d ever manifest a Volt, I wondered how it would come to be that I’d be able to rationalize and cost-justify this new vehicle.

Covid quickly quieted any need for a new car, and I just continued to love my Volt. But then, when my new employer offered a car allowance for the travel I was expected to do, and the car couldn’t be older than 4 years old, I now had a raison de croire that the Tesla Model 3 was to be my next car. Again, the lease was a reasonable option, but I decided purchasing my previous three vehicles brand new (and driving them each for ten years) I would pick up a ’22 with low mileage. I had a limited number of colors and options to choose from, and the internet loaded with possibilities. After some discernment, I decided to opt into the long range AWD for additional safety and security. And, while I liked the Deep Blue Metallic, I compared it side-by-side with a Pearl White Multi-Coat, and the blue showed so much more soiling than the white, which I’d always been lead to believe showed everything. So white it was. If I happened to find one with the 19” sport wheels, I’d have sprung for that upgrade, but I was limited to the aero wheels. I was aware that these hideous hub caps that add slightly more (~2%) range could be removed, and under it was a nice alloy wheel could be dressed up a bit with a Muge Racing Wheel Center Cap Kit. I was happy to pay the reduced price on a car with < 5000 miles from Vroom, and simply had to wait for shipment of the vehicle from Florida.

Welcome home!

So here begins my new journey with the Tesla as I grieve and celebrate the passing on of my Volt. I trust that the next owner will continue to enjoy the benefits of electric driving, perhaps with an urban commute that will allow them to burn as little gas as possible. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the batteries last. This is the big challenge facing electric vehicles – making battery testing and replacements cost-effective. I trust that technology will emerge as economies of scale make it more economically feasible, and hope my honest assessment is helpful to buyers who are considering a used Volt.

And so a bid farewell and blessings to all of my Volt family! I will miss you, but still honk and smile when I see you and your Gen 2 siblings on the road! Ride on!!

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