Testdriving the 2011 Chevy Volt Electric vehicle in Alaska

Last month, I was invited by GM Canada up to Alaska to try out the 2011 Chevy Volt ahead of the Canadian launch happening this fall. My first encounter with the Volt was during the 2010 Winter Olympics when I got to drive a pre-production model on a test track.

Chevy Volt Prototype Electric Vehicle

Earlier this year, I also got to briefly drive a production Volt during SXSW as part of their ‘Drive a Chevy’ promotion where they basically offered taxi service to all attendees in Austin and let you drive the car to your destination.

Chevy Volt

This time though, I got to really try out the production model over the course of the better part of a week. As soon as we landed in Anchorage, Alaska, we were given our ‘own’ cars for the duration of the trip.

I’m actually a target consumer for the Volt. My current commute is just under 70 kilometres roundtrip from Port Coquitlam to North Vancouver each day. With the Volt’s electric range being around 86 kilometres on a single charge, I could easily go to and from work without charging and still have some range for some shopping trips on the way home.

Once the electric battery is depleted, the Volt will seamlessly switch over to power the electric engine using a conventional gas engine where it can continue for nearly 400 more kilometres. Unlike some hybrids, the switchover is unnoticable since the Volt just maintains the electric batteries with the gas engine and doesn’t directly drive the vehicle.

Chevy Volt

There are more and more options for charging an electric vehicle. Many hotels now offer at least a couple of stalls with power in their parking lots and recently in Vancouver, local parking company, EasyPark announced a pilot program to have a handful of electric outlets designated for electric vehicles in their lots around the city.

Chevy Volt

While it is possible to charge the Volt via a regular household outlet, it takes about 10 hours to fully charge a depleted battery. If you have access to a 240V outlet (like what your washer/dryer would use), you can charge the battery in about 4 hours. A 240V outlet can easily and cheaply be installed in your garage. The trunk of the Volt has all the connecting cables you need to plug in anywhere using the outlet on the opposite side of the vehicle from the gas tank.

Chevy Volt

I really enjoyed driving the Volt while in Alaska. As you can see in this short time-lapse video of the road trip, it’s a beautiful place and reminds me quite a lot of BC:

The roadways around the peninsula were surprisingly flat considering we were in quite a mountainous area. So while the Volt has a number of drive handling modes, I couldn’t really tell much difference between them considering the roads were pretty consistent the whole trip.

I’m looking forward to the chance to check out the Volt again once it launches in Canada later this year…and seeing how it really stacks up on my own daily commute. According to GM Canada, the costs of operating the Volt in BC is 1/5 the cost of a comparable gasoline only vehicle. That seems to be a pretty compelling reason to look into this technology closer, not to mention the environmental impacts of using less gas overall.

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