Electric Cars

Parent Q&A

  • Chevy Volt - Is it a good car? Buy or lease?

    (3 replies)

    Hello BPN readers anyone have a Chevy Volt or thinking of buying one?  If you have one, what do you like about it?  And what don't you like?

    If you are looking at Volts what are your thoughts?

    I'm from the era when American cars were horrible.  My parents had a Chevy's and I remember it being cheap, and having all kinds of problems.  As a result I've never even considered purchasing a Chevy or American made car.  But apparently GM is the only one making an plug-in hybrid electric car.  After seeing the long line of Tesla's waiting to get charged  at the mall there's no way we would even considering buying an all electric car.  Volt is supposed to be the next best thing.

    I've received quotes from four dealerships and they all seem to be selling Volts for the same price.  Looks like there are no deals to be had on Volts.

    For the financing dealers were all offering the same deal which worked out to be about $600/month for purchase or lease.  But one dealer offered a lease with $350/month payments for 36 months with about a 50% buyout option at the end of the lease.  Trying to figure out if that's a good deal.  For a gas powered car I know it would not be.  But apparently this is what everyone is doing with the Volts and it's a "really" good deal as the car at the end of the lease is worth a lot less.

    We were considering used Volts but from what I've read the batteries wear out and cost too much to replace making the car worthless.  If we financed a used Volt, the payments work out to be the same a new Volt.

    It's looking like cars are like cell phones.  The technology is changing so fast it just doesn't make sense to keep a car for more than 3 maybe 4 years especially if it uses batteries for power.  

    Wondering what others are doing?


    I--I have a 2014 Volt and have been very happy with it. Fun to drive--great pick-up, good handling, and QUIET!!! I mostly drive around the East Bay so use only the battery, but occasionally visit family on the Peninsula and Santa Cruz, so I love that the car just switches over to gas and I don't have to hunt up a plug....I charge at my home (mostly overnight using my household electricity service--I didn't bother to get a fast charger/separate panel--but am on an old Time of Use electricity rate). I had your same concerns about American cars, but in fact the Volt has been pretty solid--and the electric motor/drive is  lower long term maintenance than gas powered internal combustion engines.

    I would probably get a new model rather than used because the new models have batteries with substantially longer range than the earlier cars (NOT because the older batteries are failing--just improved tech)--my 2014 is somewhere around 34 to 40 miles on a full charge.  However, if you regularly drive relatively short distances, I would guess you could get a really good price on a used Volt. 

    Two negatives--there is a substantial rear blind spot--I would check that out on test drive, plus get a back-up camera option.  Also, on the 2014 the user interface/touch screen is pretty poor for all the controls--but I've been told that the new models are much better.  But on the balance, I've been really pleased with the car

    I never ever thought I would buy a Chevy and I gave up my 99 Subaru Outback and bought a Volt in October. 

    The advice that I got is that leasing only makes financial sense if you really can't afford to buy. When I heard that, I didn't consider leasing and decided to buy. We were able to get the best financing deal through our credit union. The dealer was also offering $1500 and went slightly below the price listed on their website, so we ended up out the door with taxes and fees paying less than the MSRP.The real deals are in the rebates and tax refunds. We got $1500 back from California and will receive a $7500 tax refund (plus the expense of installing a charging station) on our federal taxes. Because of that and because of the upgrades in the newer models, it didn't make sense for us to consider one that was used.

    We love how quiet it is, we love not buying gas, we love lessening our ecological impact. It is fun to drive, it felt like driving a hovercraft when we first got it and our Outback feels like a tank now. 

    The fifth seat, in the center of the back is not a practical or comfortable seat. It is only good for a small child or maybe 3 very slender adults or medium sized children could sit back there, but probably not for long trips. The cargo space is also very limited. It is our only car, although we do have a van that we can borrow for camping and trips. It would be tough to camp in this without a roofrack. I was able to do it by putting the back seat down on one side, but it was tight. 

    The bottom is very low and even though I know it is not the car itself that scrapes all the time, but some sort of plastic thing, it is still annoying.

    The electric only range varies depending on how and where you drive. We tend to drive on the freeway and in hills more often, which uses more battery per mile, so our car is learning that we have a lower range than the advertised 56 miles. We are at about 50. You can also get more miles out of it if you drive slower on the freeway and more gently in city conditions (slower stops and starts, more coasting). So you use up a ton of the miles getting to the tunnel, for example, but then none coming back through.

    We did a diy charging station by having a higher powered outlet installed in our garage and buying a portable station from Clipper Creek. Less than $1K and it is safe on our otherwise old electrical system to charge up completely in less than 5 hours, without it, it was 16 hours! We also switched to a EV plan with PG&E and charge it at night. 

    One of the things that I like about Volts is that they are trying to expand the life of the car and the batteries. The batteries are warrantied for 8 years. We hope we can keep it at least that long. We were told that they only do major upgrades on car models every 6  years at the earliest and the last major upgrade was 2016, so we felt like the car would hold onto most of its value until at least 2022. The timing was right for us to need a reliable car that met as many of our family's needs as possible, and so far, we are very pleased with it.

    If you buy it at FH Dailey in San Leandro I recommend Jim Moran, he has a Volt and he answered questions we didn't know we had.

    We bought a Chevy Volt at the end of August.  We wanted a high mileage car.  We ruled out the Tesla based on price, and not being able to wait.  The other plug-ins all had much smaller electric ranges than the Volt.  We tested the Prius, but preferred the Volt.

    Things I like about the Volt:

    • Electric car are fast!  I didn't know until I drove one.  Normal cars seem sluggish to me now.
    • We get great mileage.  (Using the Chevy conversion for electric miles to gas miles, it's over 100 miles per gallon.)
    • We bought the enhanced safety package, so we have a backup camera (might be standard), and lots of sensors that warn you if you drift out of your lane or are too close to something.
    • I find the seat very comfortable.  

    Things that I don't so much like about the Volt:

    • Visibility (unenhanced by technology) isn't as good as some, though smaller windows seem to be common these days.
    • Back seat only seats three in a pinch, and there isn't much headroom in the back.
    • It leaked oil after a couple months, though it was fixed under the warranty.

    My husband called around to many dealers.  He played them off each other, and got a good deal.  We paid cash. As for batteries wearing out, it depends.  My parents' Prius battery is going strong 8 years in, but the battery on our previous car, a Honda Civic Hybrid failed under warranty, and had to be replaced.   The Volt battery has a 8 year/100,000 mile warranty.Feel free to contact me if you want more details.karenzukor [at] gmail.com

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  • Advice about home charger for electric vehicle

    (0 replies)

    Hello Electric Vehicle Owners -

    We are leasing a Nissan Leaf and our free charge to charge time is coming to an end. We are looking into purchasing an EVSE to charge at home. Does anyone have any advice on which model to choose? Might anyone have a charger that they are finished with and would like to sell?


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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Electric car?

Aug 2015

Hi, all -- my husband and I are in the early stages of evaluating our options for second car and are trying to decide whether we can swing an all-electric. I'm interested in reviews from people who have a Leaf or a Volt (or others?) -- what has your experience been in terms of feasibility/manageability in the Bay Area? If we did it we would probably attempt to coincide with installation of solar panels to avoid just transposing the carbon footprint to PG&E... but I'm not sure about range. Is there a rapid falloff from the 80-mile radius over time (thinking of computer batteries here)? How long does it really take to charge? What about get-up-and-go on the highway? Would love to hear about your experience -- thanks! Hannah

I've had my 2014 Volt since last October, and I love it. Has plenty of pep, fun to drive, and REALLY quiet. Worst problem is large side-rear blind spots--I was told by a friend to be sure and get the back-up camera option for visibility and safety. I do much of my driving around Berkeley/Oakland, essentially all on the battery--mine goes approximately 40 miles on a charge. And I love that it can shift to gas when I'm going further, so there is no range limitation. But overall my ''mileage'' is 119 miles per gallon. I have solar panels so feel like I'm using clean energy--but the calculations I've seen show that even with PG&E electricity, electric cars are better for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. My electricity use has gone up about 150kwh per month. I try to charge only at off-peak hours-- you won't save nearly as much if you are paying peak rates (on time of use) or high tier rates. I didn't bother getting a fast charging station --you can set the Volt to charge at a higher power on a regular circuit, so the car charges overnight, even if the battery is totally out. I also was already on Time of Use for my solar panels, so didn't go on the electric vehicle rate. never thought I would have a cool car...

We've had a Leaf for 15 months and really like it. It drives like any other car - highway acceleration is no problem. The range is still the same (and closer to 100 miles, if you believe the dashboard - depends on speed), but we're only 15 months in. We have another vehicle for longer drives to places we can't charge, but use the Leaf as a family on most weekends, and for a commute daily. We generally charge overnight (offpeak), but I believe we can charge about 25 percent in an hour with a 220v charge.

I have a Nissan Leaf. It's been wonderful for daily use. The only issue is road trips, because of the short range and how long charging takes. But otherwise the Bay Area is a great place for it. You do have to do a little more planning around car usage. I recommend looking at some common routes you take and seeing if there are charging stations nearby. http://www.plugshare.com/ If the battery is completely empty, charging takes about 21 hrs with a regular 120 V outlet, and about 2.5 hrs with a 240 V charger (this is what you would use at public charging stations - you can also get a charging station installed in your house but it costs). (There are Quick Chargers now which can charge your battery to 80% full in about half an hour, but they are not everywhere.) I will just add that, at least for us, the car is rarely completely empty. So normally I plug it into the outlet in our garage when I get home from work, or even later like 10 or 11 at night, and it's ready to go in the morning. My car is 2 years old and I haven't noticed any change in the charging range. ''Get up and go'' on the highway is great. The Leaf has an ''eco'' mode (turned on and off with a button) which uses less energy and gives you a little less accelerating power, but in the regular mode especially it has great acceleration. It feels like a regular car. Electric Mama

I have a 2012 Volt and commute to the South Bay from El Cerrito. Because all electric vehicles like the Leaf would not get me to work and back, the Volt was a nice option. I used to drive a Prius, which seemed a bit lightweight and the Volt is definitely a heavier, stronger car. I can get about 48 miles from a charge (which takes 10 hours in a regular 110 volt plug) driving on the freeway. It is extremely handy to have the gas back up since I do not get a full charge while I am at work. A huge benefit is being able to drive in the carpool lane and this saves me time on the commute. A couple of drawbacks: there are only four seats vs. five and when you switch from electricity to gas, the car starts to have this kind of loud rumbling sound. Overall though, the Volt fits the bill until I can get an all electric car that is less expensive than a Tesla. Happy Volt Owner

Electric Car Charging Port

July 2011

Hi, I would love to hear about people's experience installing a charging port at home. I'm thinking about getting a Leaf and have concerns regarding the ability to install a home charging station because our house has no garage and no driveway. Thanks. Andrea

Larry Giustino of A1 Sun has been working in solar for 30 years (he installed my friend's solar array), and he is now installing charging stations for Leaf and Volt. I've heard him give presentations about solar. He's very knowledgeable, but can explain things very directly and simply -- so he's a good source of info. Lory


Looking to buy an electric car

June 2005

I'm looking to buy an electric car, the plug in kind, not a hybrid. Any experiences or info appreciated. We have recently put a solar electric system on our roof. We hope to use our own solar powered electrcity to run around town and stop buying gas. Kathleen

There is a website ''ev finder'' that has listings for all sorts of electric vehicles and accessories. Lnd