Jim Seko's picture

My Chevy Volt May Outlive Me

Chevy Volt will have a lifespan much longer than an ordinary gas car or even a hybrid. The implications of this are much less life cycle emissions and a car with more value than people realize

Before taking possession of my 2013 Chevy Volt, the least of my worries was the lifespan of the battery.

The Volt battery has an active liquid cooling system. Chevy Volt does not use the full capacity of the battery which is another reason the battery will easily outlast the warranty. The battery warranty is 8 years/100,000 miles.

If the Volt battery has less than 70% of it's original capacity before the end of the warranty, it will be replaced. The worst thing that can happen to a Volt owner is having 71% battery capacity at 8 years/100,000 miles, which equates to 27 miles of all electric range (AER). This is more AER than a brand new Ford Fusion/C-Max Energi and more than two times the AER of brand new Prius plug in.

When the battery capacity is almost completely gone, I could choose to just drive it as if it were a brand new Prius plug in or I could choose to replace the battery. By that time, I could probably get a battery with more capacity for less money than batteries cost today.

The icing on the cake is this: If I'm like the average Volt driver, who only uses the gasoline engine for one-third of miles driven, the effective miles on the gasoline engine will be roughly 33K miles when it's time to replace the battery. When the battery is replaced with a larger capacity pack, I will use the gasoline engine even less.

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Nice article Jim S. You know I was thinking about trading in my Leaf and getting a Volt. As I read your article I realized you were 100% right. By the time most Volts have 100,000 miles on it them the gasoline engine will have be much fewer miles on the engine. I never thought about it that way I always looked at it in terms of miles on the EV drive train.thanks

If I understand the spec's correctly, when your battery pack diminishes, you could drive in "Mountain" mode and simply draw deeper on the remaining battery. Don't know for how many years, but it should give you another 10 or 20 percent for another couple years, I'd guess-timate.

Actually mountain mode doesn't draw deeper on the battery, it just maintains about 40% of the normally usable charge by running the ICE. If ind the only real difference between mountain mode and hold mode is that you can activate mountain mode below 40% and the ICE will fire up and charge the battery right away (and surprisingly quickly)

Mike W. You said you were thinking about how many miles there would be on the electric drive train. How do we know how long an electric drive train lasts? I pretty sure we can't use engine drivetrain parts as a model for figuring out how long electric drive train parts last. The drivetrain in an automatic transmission has clutch packs which will necessarily eventually fail because they slip and eventually wear out. The best model for an electric drive train wearing out I think will likely be gears in a manual transmission. Not the clutch, the gears. In real life I think this will translate to the drivetrain is bulletproof. It will likely last 700k or more. We will no longer get rid of our cars because there's something wrong with the drivetrain. We will get rid of our cars because they are too old, they have outdated safety features, they quit making parts for it, and basics of things like air conditioning and steering pumps fail.

I cannot imagine trading in a Leaf, but surely you cannot go wrong either way. Thank you for the article to Jim.

Actually, even as the battery loses capacity, you may not notice it. The battery uses less than 2/3 of its total capacity. If that's split evenly between the upper and lower buffer, you could lose 15%+ of battery capacity and it might not have any effect on AER. This assumes that capacity loss comes off the top and that the useable capacity doesn't remain a fixed percentage of total capacity. Do you know if that's true?

Usable capacity % (SOC window) is the same as the battery ages. It won't open up as capacity degrades. That's what the rep said on the Chevrolet Volt Facebook page when I messaged that page