The first Chevrolet Volt known to have traveled 100,000 lifetime gas-free miles on battery power alone did so today.
Belonging to Erick Belmer of Bellville Ohio, the 2012 Volt registered as “Sparkie” on Voltstats.net, a site tracking GM OnStar data, has traveled over 281,320 total miles, of which 100,000 were EV miles with no perceived degradation of the battery or range.
“I’m 110 percent satisfied with this vehicle,” said Belmer, a millwright employed by GM at the Chevy Cruze factory in Lordstown, Ohio, to which he daily travels 110 miles each way in the Volt.
“This is the only vehicle I ever purchased that I feel like I got more than I paid for,” said Belmer, pictured above with his daughter Erin.
Though the plug-in Volt is often considered a better value for distances of around 100 miles or less per day, Belmer said the Volt has proven the most cost effective.
The key has been intra-day charging to multiply all-electric range beyond the rated 35 miles – though Belmer says he gets 40 miles per charge in fair weather, and 37-38 miles in the winter.
With charging stations at home, plus offered free at GM’s plant, and strategically placed in his daily orbit including at his mother’s house and his church, he and his wife – who drives a 2013 Volt – can keep their Volts in the EV zone far more often.
Maximizing EV Miles
Of Belmer’s 281,320 total miles, 35.5 percent has been in EV mode, and Sparkie is atop the stats for a Chevy Volt.
A GM OnStar customer service rep suggested to Belmer there may be higher mileage Volts out there, but an inquiry by HybridCars.com to GM media reps was unable to determine any higher. If there are any, they are not known, and it’s believed this is the highest EV mileage Volt in the world.
Purchased new in April 2012, Belmer’s Volt has averaged around 6,388 miles per month. His average EV miles were 2,272 per month, or an average 27,264 gas-free miles per year – all from a car with only 41 percent the rated electric range of a Nissan Leaf.
This feat considering 110-mile trips would have been tough for a Leaf rated 73-84 miles – though Nissan did celebrate in December 2013 the first 100,000 mile Leaf . Belmer credits the Volt’s range-extending engine as making it possible.
As the Idaho National lab has observed, the gas range-extender means 100-percent of a Volt’s EV range can be used every time before seamlessly switching to gas operation, whereas a pure EV must maintain a range buffer to get to the next charging station.
The Volt: Still A Well Kept Secret
Belmer, although employed by GM, is not an official representative for the car, but like a lot of Volt owners he has come to love it, and winds up being a sort of ambassador.
It’s a good thing too, as Chevrolet pulled the rug out from its “EREV” a couple years into its product life after conceding inability to explain the Volt to mainstream consumers, the company told us January 2014, and it ceased advertising it outside California and tech fairs.
Five years since the first Volt was sold Dec. 15, 2010, people in markets where the Volt could make sense still entertain serious misconceptions about it.
“I can’t tell you how many people stop me and say ‘you know the thing only goes 40 miles, why would you even want something like that?’ Belmer said adding that people have not understood the Volt has gas backup, and think it stops cold when the 16.0-kwh battery runs out.
At other times, he might pull into a rest stop, “and people ask me how did you make it all the way out here? Yeah, and they are actually serious.”
One guy once told him he was driving a “science experiment.”
“And I said, ‘yeah, and I’m the test mule,’” Belmer recounted laughing.
But, one might say, maybe only a few people living under a rock are that clueless about the Volt? Since Belmer travels far, he meets more than the average number of inquirers, and conversations reveal many are still puzzled by the Volt.
“I bet I’ve had about 65 people tell me that that was a foolish investment in buying an electric car,” he said, “but once I got to explain to them, you know they had a totally different outlook on the vehicle. They were just misinformed.”
Patiently, Belmer explains to people how the Volt really works – and their eyes are opened as if given a revelation.
“I say yeah, they go 40 miles on a charge. This vehicle has a built-in generator,” he said recounting one of his conversations. “So it’s basically unlimited as far as its capability, it just has to use a generator to accommodate that.”
“Oh so it uses gas like a hybrid?” might come a typical response.
“It‘s not a hybrid, it’s an extended-range electric vehicle,” Belmer would reply of the car more akin to a series hybrid when not in EV mode, “its basically the wheels are typically always still being powered by electric motors. It’s more like a locomotive than a hybrid.”
The Volt’s smooth, always available torque, and competent handling has spoiled his family for regular gas vehicles, Belmer said. The pre-production Volt had been a dream car, but he only got one when he realized nothing else would work as well.
Why He Bought It
The decision to purchase the Volt was not because Belmer is an avid environmentalist, or energy hawk, or tech geek, he said, though those motivations may have played a minor role.
His actual reason was because the Volt made the most financial sense given its inexpensive electric operation, 35-40 mpg on gas, and he and his wife anticipated a low total cost of ownership for his long commute.
When the plant he was working at closed, he found himself faced with either moving closer to Lordstown where they transferred him 110 miles away, or commuting. Because his aging parents lived nearby and he wanted to stay close to be of help to them and remain in his community, he and his wife decided he would need to commute
Initially, he looked at a Chevy Cruze.
“That was our first choice,” said Belmer. They also did cost-benefit analyses of the tiny Spark, the Sonic, and other eco cars – anything to save costs as they looked to replace a hybrid GMC Sierra that at best got 21 mpg on the highway.
“That’s where the Volt just totally dominated everything we looked at,” said Belmer. “The Volt was by far with the charging option at work, the best choice; it was the only choice.”
Since then, the mega-mile driver only needs oil changes every 38,000 miles because the engine does not run as often when the electric motors are doing the work.
“I couldn’t ask for a more maintenance-free vehicle than this,” said Belmer. “The only reason why this vehicle goes into the shop routinely is for tire rotation. And I don’t really do that very often because this vehicle has two sets of tires.”
Standard are low rolling resistance three-season tires, and for winter, he uses Bridgestone Blizzaks that may sap 2-3 miles EV range, and squirm more on dry pavement, but make up for it with much better inclement weather control.
But Belmer does have a touch of the environmentalist in him as well, and said he routinely recycles, buys rechargeable batteries, and does myriad other things to be frugal, and not wasteful.
“I am always concerned about the environment. I have a young daughter she’s only 11,” said Belmer of Erin pictured up top, “and the things that I put forth now, showing how we live by example, she’ll carry that on.”
Also recycled eventually will be his Volts. When this one finally quits, though there’s no sign it’s ready to yet, Belmer said he plans to take his wife’s 2013 Volt, and buy her a new generation two.
Since he is the high-mileage driver, and the 2016 Volt is rated for 53 all-electric miles, one might ask why he won’t take the new one, but Belmer, a family man, doesn’t think like that.
“I need my wife and child in the safest car that I can possibly afford,” he said of the third Volt planned for when it’s time for Sparkie the Volt to finally retire.
But so far, with no extraordinary maintenance needed, and no range loss approaching 300,000 total miles, the Volt is still humming along fine with no problems to report.