The Best-Loved Car in the World

Reader Contribution by Staff
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I’m feeling
missionary tendencies these days. I have found love and I want to share it with
the world. As I travel around I keep my eyes open for people who share my
beliefs, scanning their cars for signs that they are part of my flock. When I
see them, I say a silent “Good On Ya!” I pray for the hordes of unenlightened
people, still laboring in darkness, driving conventional internal-combustion
automobiles.

I think everyone
should have a Chevy Volt.

I was gratified
when, two weeks ago, Consumer Reports announced that the Chevy Volt was the
best-loved car in the world among people who drive one – for the second year in
a row. I felt gratified, but not surprised. I got my own Volt in August. I have
never loved a car like I love this one.

And I have loved
some cars.

There was my
rusty, shag-carpeted 1969 Toyota Land Cruiser, vessel of my teen-age dreams.
Then I had a 1967 Dodge Power Wagon crewcab pickup. Best truck ever.

A decade ago I
developed an obsession with Audis. I blush. They weren’t the most reliable
cars; they weren’t the most fuel-efficient; they weren’t the most affordable.
They just felt so, so good. They’re pretty, too. If you love driving, don’t get
in one. Stronger men than me have fallen.

 Then I met the Volt and it won my heart.

And my head.

I’ve had mine for
four months. Symmetrically, over the course of 7,760 miles I’ve averaged 77.6
miles per gallon of gasoline.

Personally, I
sacrificed nothing to achieve this efficiency. The car and I took long
interstate trips. I habitually drive eight miles per hour over the speed limit.
Mea Culpa. In town, I set the Volt
for “Sport” mode and myself for “Mild Adrenaline.”

In my normal
routine of errands and commuting, I use no gasoline at all. When I go a little
too far, like my 110-mile round-trip to the airport, I need the gasoline
motor’s assistance to recharge the batteries.

Yet in spite of
my lack of personal effort, my fuel savings made my lease cheaper than a
sub-compact. Look at the math:

The average
passenger car sold in the U.S.
in 2011 got about 34 miles per gallon on the highway. So if I had driven 7,800
miles in an average car, over the last four months, I would have burned 229
gallons of gasoline. At $3 per gallon, that’s a cost of about $688. Instead, I
burned about 100 gallons of gasoline and $10 worth of electricity. So I’m
saving $90 a month in fuel costs compared with an average car, or 25 percent of
my lease payment. With the tax incentive and the fuel savings, the Volt’s lease
now actually costs me about the same as a typical lease on a $20,000 new car,
or maybe less.


And the Volt is
no $20,000 car.

I think the car’s
interior and driving qualities compare favorably with a BMW 3 Series or an Audi
A4. It’s beautiful and comfortable. The cabin is snug but well designed. I’m
happy in the front seats. I’m 6’2”; 210 pounds. And that’s not a lean, compact
210 pounds, either. I feel great in the Volt, even on an 800-mile drive to see
my in-laws.

If you’re not
familiar with the Chevy’s hybrid technology, it differs from other hybrid
automobiles in that its propulsion system is strictly electric. There are two
electric motors that drive the wheels. The gasoline engine under the hood is
simply a generator. When the batteries are depleted to about 25 percent of
their capacity the gasoline-powered generator replenishes them.

As a result, the
Volt gives very little indication that the gas engine has started. It doesn’t
change the car’s driving characteristics at all. And that conserves oil life.
With about 8,000 miles on my car I’ve only used about 20 percent of the oil
life, because most of the time the gas engine isn’t in use. I may go 40,000
miles or more before my first oil change.

Naturally, I was
excited to see that other Volt owners feel the same way I do. We’re the
happiest new-car owners in the world. And that, apparently, makes some people
angry.

I read about the
satisfaction survey on the Wall Street
Journal
’s website. In addition to being one of the world’s best sources for
economic and business news, the Journal
maintains an editorial preserve for the antediluvian opinions of several
species of dinosaur – not extinct, just obsolete.

The skeptics
appear to have two fundamental objections to any claims of success regarding
the Volt:

  1. Government subsidies played a role in its
    development.
  2. Volt owners are smug.

Someone called
Charleen Larson wrote,

Satisfaction survey? More like
a self-satisfaction survey.
 

There aren’t enough Volt owners in the entire United States
to fill the seats of a small stadium, yet their smug satisfaction at driving an
electric car (it isn’t) and having gotten a huge government subsidy is
obvious.”
 


And a person self-identified
as “Skeptic” wrote,

Do you really think someone who
bought one of these feel-good machines would admit they made a mistake?”
 

“Ellen” took a more proactive approach:

“…the buyers of the Volt think they are ‘saving the planet,’ i.e.,
they are left-wing nutcases. So what do you expect, they sure as heck aren’t
going to say they were wrong, liberals never do.
 

Personally I am going to buy a BMW 640 next year, because I can,
and I don’t care about the gas mileage or ‘saving the planet’ for a bunch of
liberals to live on.”
 

Obviously, Ellen is angry
about something other than the existence of a nice electric car.

There was one comment from an
engineer whom I instinctively wanted to have over to share a bottle of bourbon
and a couple of grass-fed burgers. He called himself “EAP,” and here’s what he
had to say,

I’m … a right-wing nut, smoke
Marlboro’s, despise Priuses with unmitigated passion, but engineering is
engineering. The biggest stain on the Volt (which began engineering in 2006)
was Obama’s seal of approval in 2008, which has stigmatized it ever since. It’s
a passenger vehicle, not a suppository with wheels, so it doesn’t have much
panache with the greens. Conservatives are afraid they’ll be labeled greens, so
there the Volt sits in limbo — unless you actually do research and learn before
running one’s mouth. Or as some here have, pony up for one and discover their
uniqueness and pleasure.”
 

Well, Amen.  Unlike “Ellen,”
I do want the save the planet for a bunch of liberals – and conservatives and
reactionary brutes – to live on. But even if I didn’t, I would love that darn
car.