Posts Tagged ‘Chevy Volt’

It’s a Volt!

August 11, 2012

About two months ago I wrote a couple of posts about my dying station wagon, the opportunity to buy a post-mommy car, and my waffling between a

  • Prius (familiar, safe; every single resident of the Bay Area has one; I’ve always owned Toyotas) and a
  • Chevy Volt (cool technology, green, cutting-edge but… AMERICAN??!).

Stork from; composite image by Ilana DeBare

News flash: It’s a Volt!

I spent the afternoon at the Chevy dealership yesterday and, after listening to more Classic Rock than I’ve heard in the past ten years combined, made my downpayment.

It hasn’t come home with me yet. I asked the dealership to hold it until we return from taking Daughter to college. I couldn’t bear the idea of this shiny new car sitting unattended for ten days under the Icky Sap Tree in front of our house.

Long before yesterday, the dare-I-buy-an-American-car question had become a non-issue. I went for a ride with one of my haircutter’s clients who LOVES her Volt. I heard about my neighbor’s friend who LOVES his Volt. Then, after I did my Volt-or-Prius blog post, I got a bunch of comments from complete strangers who don’t even live in the Bay Area but own Volts and LOVE their Volts.

I started to think they should have named this car the Chevy Cult.

In any case, there were enough rave comments flying around that I stopped worrying whether its American-ness meant that a Volt would be a poorly-made, piece-of-junk lemon.

And I love the idea of not having to buy any gas. My daily commute is six miles round-trip. On weekend errands, I do maybe ten miles. So with the Volt able to travel 35 miles on a battery charge, I’ll be able to go for weeks — maybe months — without entering a gas station.

I also want to support the development of better, more environmentally-friendly auto technologies in the U.S. A Prius is good on gas mileage and would have been cheaper, but I see my purchase as a personal vote for support for those people in Detroit who are trying to be forward-thinking. The future of our auto industry depends on this kind of ability to look ahead and innovate.

I sat on the decision for long enough that I got used to it and it was no longer scary. (A tried and true approach of mine for big decisions. Ask Sam how long it took for me to decide to marry him.)

There was also a little shove of impetus last week when Daughter couldn’t get my 17-year-old station wagon to start. Between the missing hubcap, stolen radio, power steering fluid leak, anti-lock brake system trouble, crack in the windshield and now iffy starting, it was pretty much time to get off the dime and buy the new car.

Now I’m actually excited. Over the car itself but also some of the minor features. Like – duh – a working radio. (Welcome back NPR!  Now I can stop singing Mamma Mia out loud to myself while I drive.)

Or like the dashboard electronics that tell you how much air is in the tires. No more rolling around in the dirt of the gas station with a tire gauge!

Now, just a couple of weeks until I pick it up and bring it home. Do midlife transitions get any more obvious than this? Day one: Leave child at college. Day two: Bring home new car. Maybe I should just park the darn thing in her bedroom.

I’ll give it a couple of months and let you know if I become a card-carrying member of the Chevy Cult.

Chevy Volt?

May 31, 2012

Since my blog post last month about the imminent demise of my old mommy-car stationwagon, millions of Midlife Bat Mitzvah readers have been clamoring to know what new car I wll be buying.

Well, okay, maybe two MBM readers made polite inquiries. But this has been an interesting thought process, so I figured I’d write about it.

I clearly want to get as environmentally benign a car as possible. (Yes, I know someone will say that going carless is the most environmentally benign option.  But I do want a car. And after 17 years with my current car, I feel I’ve earned a new one.)

A Prius is the obvious choice, perhaps the new plug-in Prius hybrid that Toyota is just starting to sell. It’s a safe choice. Nearly every other driver here in this bluest-of-blue-states Bay Area has a Prius. There are probably five on our block alone. My neighbors have one. My brother has one. Plus every car I’ve owned as an adult has been a Toyota, and they’ve all been sturdy and reliable.

But then there’s the Chevy Volt.

Chevy Volt, charging in a driveway

The Volt can travel up to thirty-five miles on its electric battery, without burning an ounce of gas!

My daily commute is only about six miles round trip. I could recharge the car at night in our driveway and go for weeks, maybe months, without visiting a gas station. And for longer trips, the Volt switches seamlessly into hybrid mode like a Prius. So there are no restrictions on how far I could drive. Averaging the no-gas battery driving and the hybrid driving, the EPA estimates that the Volt gets something like 60 miles per gallon.  (Battery driving uses the energy equivalent of 93 miles per gallon; hybrid mode gets around 37 miles per gallon.)

The Volt represents the future. It’s the Detroit we want to see — innovative, environmentally conscious, forward-thinking. Of course I want to encourage and support that trend. BUT….

It’s an American car.

This is where the thought process gets weird and interesting. In my parents’ generation, it was considered unthinkable to buy a car that wasn’t American. To me, it’s unthinkable on a gut level to buy a car that is American.

I bought my first car in 1978, the height of the oil crisis. Remember lines queued around the block to buy gas? Jimmy Carter wearing sweaters in the White House to save fuel? Japanese cars were small and cool. American cars were big gas hogs. And American cars were lemons — we heard all sorts of disaster stories about American cars falling apart after a couple of years, while Toyotas and Datsuns and Hondas just kept going and going.

So on a purely emotional level, there is a big fierce grizzly bear that rears up and growls and makes me stop short when I think of the “Chevy” part of “Chevy Volt.”

But then there is other emotional baggage too.

I have never been someone who bought a car on emotion. I’ve always been practical, down-to-earth. No shiny sports car to cater to my inner supermodel, no BMW for status, no Hummer for… well, why would anyone of my gender want a Hummer anyway? I bought useful sedans with no frills. No leather seats, no upgraded stereos, no moon roofs. Basically, I wanted a machine that would get me from Point A to Point B as safely, cheaply and efficiently as possible.

But now I have this emotional response of deep-in-the-chest fear when I think about buying the Volt.

And then I have another emotional response when I think about buying a Prius! It’s the safe, cheaper choice. But it feels so… boring!

Maybe if I lived in Texas, buying a Prius would be a statement of visionary nonconformity. Here in the Bay Area, it’s like owning a piece of Ikea furniture. Yawn. Another Prius on the street? How will I be able to remember which house is mine?

For the first time in my life, I have all these feelings roiling around about cars. Fear of Detroit. Desire to be in the green forefront.

And that’s on top of actual practical considerations. The Volt is about $10,000 more expensive than a plug-in Prius would be. The Volt has a bucket seat in back, so it can only hold four people. The Volt has a tiny trunk because of its battery.

Sounds like I should get a Prius.

But… shoot! I want a Volt!

Now if only I could get over this spasm of grizzly-bear terror at the prospect of buying American, I could perhaps buy a car.