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Volt owner shares negative experience at a public charging station

Scott Brown, a 2013 Chevy Volt owner shares his perspective on ownership and achieving high efficiency. But read what happened to his Volt when he left a friendly note to a Prius owner who had parked his vehicle on top of the electrical cables.

Scott Brown reports from California.

This 2013 Chevy Volt is the "Extended Range" vehicle produced by General Motors. When GM announced that this vehicle would have a full electric range of approximately 40mi and a gasoline engine that could be used to extend that range I became deeply interested for two reasons. One is the fact that my commute into work everyday is 37 miles. The second reason is twofold; by trade, I am an automotive service technician with a keen interest in alternative propulsion systems, and years ago, I had a customer that had two of the early GM electrified vehicles (EV1, first generation & second generation) that he allowed us to explore a bit.

For me, this Chevy Volt is used to get me back and forth to work and approximately 98% of the time I do this 100% in EV mode. In the city where I work, they have multiple Level 2 charging stations that I have had access to over the past year and so far, there has been no cost to me in order to charge my vehicle. Although the vehicle is equipped with a 16.5 kWh battery, the system is designed to only allow access to approximately 10.2 kWh's. On my commute into work (which is slightly downgrade) I typically consume between 7-8kWh and approximately 10.1 on my commute home. At home I have a Level 2 charger installed in my garage and the utility company has my residence on a special plan that allows for a "Super-off Peak" period (between 12:00-6:00am) where I have my vehicle programmed on "Delayed Departure" mode set up to have the vehicle completely charged by 5:30 am each day. This results in an average cost of approximately $0.18/kWh. My daily fuel costs with my previous vehicle that achieved 22MPG cost me about $13/day and now with pure electric, my cost is under $2/day.

I purchased this Volt in September of 2013 and now have 29k miles. In that time I have consumed approximately 126 gallons of fuel. I have been on several long trips, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Vegas etc and on fuel only the vehicle gets about 40 MPG. Currently the onboard system is reporting lifetime average of 237 MPG.

One day when arriving for work at my usual destination I found that there were two vehicles parked at the public charging station that has a total of 3 parking spot designated for charging and one public spot that could be utilized by most plug in cars. Of the two vehicles (Leaf and a Prius), the Leaf had completed charging, but I was unable to get the charge cord to reach my vehicle because the driver of the Prius parked his RF tire on the cord, limiting reach. I then decided to park my vehicle on the opposite side of the Prius to see if I could get the cord to reach my car. Well I found that my only option was to unplug the charging Prius and attempt to swap the cables. While I was able to plug in my vehicle, the cable the Prius was parked atop of was just too short to reach his car.

Toyota Prius Parked over Electric Cables

I ended up leaving a note for the Prius owner that was straight forward advising him of my dilemma and that he should be careful not to park his vehicle on top of the electrical cables. When I returned to retrieve my vehicle a few hours later, the Prius was gone and I found that my passenger front door had been keyed. Although I don't have a witness, there is a high probability that this was the work of the Prius driver.

Fortunately I took pictures of his parking skills that also captured a picture of the license plate. The local police took a report and I am still driving around with a signature mark in my RF door.

2013 Chevy Volt Keyed

As I indicated above, I am an automotive service technician by trade, but I currently run an on-line service that provides valuable resources for professionals operating in the automotive service industry. The company International Automotive Technicians Network - iATN, is headquartered in Brea, Ca.

A few days after I purchased the vehicle I discovered that the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light - AKA, Check Engine Light) was illuminated shortly after I had plugged in my Volt at a mall where one of the Level 2 chargers was not operating properly. I decided to call OnStar, but prior to that I decided that this might be a good opportunity to video my session. I can honestly say that it was pretty cool to be able to have the OnStar adviser retrieve the error messages (DTC's) and provide a little perspective on the situation. Here is that video.

This Chevy Volt is fully loaded and very cool to drive.

Written by


tru (not verified)    January 21, 2014 - 6:57PM

I'm not quite sure what happened here. Did you leave his car unplugged? If so, while I deplore the keying, I can see why he'd be steamed.

Wallace (not verified)    January 21, 2014 - 8:20PM

I have a 2012 Volt and I bought a mirror with 2 car cameras on it and an extra front facing car cam. I connect these to an auxiliary portable battery. This gives me 360 degree recording. When my Volt leaves my garage, the cameras go on. If anything happens to my Volt, I will have a video of it.

David Gilmore (not verified)    January 21, 2014 - 9:44PM

In reply to by Wallace (not verified)

I'd like to know more about these cameras. I live in a hostile environment for EVs (known as the deep south) and never know what to expect from some folks who have the wrong idea about the Volt. A little extra security sure would be good for my piece of mind. Can you provide a link to where I might find more information about or purchase these types of devices you mention?

james (not verified)    January 23, 2014 - 12:56AM

I have found that where I live, people do not care about EV reserved parking.
I al always driving to the mal, and expect to be able to get a charge, and find Mercedes and BMWs parked in the EV reserved stalls.
I used tp leave nasty notes, but found it much more fun to call the parking security, watch the attendant write them an 85.00 ticket, and then bring in a tow truck. Recently I had a Mercedes AMG that parked in a stall I needed. Mall security had the car removed, and I proceded to park in the stall. I was nervous, thinking that the guy whos car was pulled would be pissed, so I just sat by and watched and let the wife do the shopping. About 20 minutes later the Merc owner returned, to find my volt in his stall, and a leaf in the stall next to me. The guy bent down between the 2 cars, and as I approached I heard a hissing. He had just slashed the leaf tires, which I got on video, and he was about to do the same to my car, so without approaching (he had a knife) I hit the panic button on and set off the horn. The guy went running, but if I handn't been there, I probably would have a slashed tire too. I turned the video over to the police.
Now, when I find ignorant a55holes parked in the EV spot, I leave them, a nasty message, printed on a large, permanent sticker plastered right over the drivers portion of the window. You know, the type that takes about 45 minutes scraping with a razor blade to remove. Then I call mall security to get them towed, and park my car as far away as possible, and burn a little gas to get home.
The last guy I did this to was not very happy as he attempted to remove the sticker.
It only takes a second to apply, and because there is no damage done they can't really charge you with vandalism or anything, but it is sure funny to watch the reaction of the driver as he desperately tries to get the sticker off.

Steve Rock (not verified)    January 23, 2014 - 2:07PM

You broke rule number one - DON'T TOUCH SOMEONE ELSE'S CAR, THAT MEANS ANYTHING CONNECTED TO IT. I see that a few months in the Volt on the taxpayers dime has your sense of entitlement at an all time high. Don't unplug someone else's car - don't jack with someone else's car in any way shape or form. If you cannot find the owner of the offending vehicle, tough it out and drive home on the gas. You're not impressing anyone but yourself with your perceived gas mileage figure anyhow - so who cares if it drops a tad. I love your comment 'never park on the electrical cables boss' as if that's my problem. What about the person who left the cable trailed across a parking spot in the first place?

Wallace (not verified)    January 23, 2014 - 10:13PM

In reply to by Steve Rock (not verified)

Taxpayers dime? Everytime you fill up with gas, it is a well known fact that taxpayers are paying to help you fill up. A few examples, storing all that oil in the national strategic reserves costs us. Patrolling oil shipments costs us. Your taxes are directly affected by this. On the other hand, there is no proof that anyones taxes went up a penny by giving an EV buyer a tax break. In fact Conservative republican economic theory has long been that tax breaks are helpful to the economy and therefore break even or better for tax revenues.

JohnyVolt (not verified)    January 24, 2014 - 8:20AM

In reply to by Wallace (not verified)

I disagree Wallace. Volt and EV buyers are the early adopters of electric cars. This in turn helps the automakers to develop better electric cars and a better environment for your children and grandchildren. In turn as taxpayers (I am a taxpayer too) we help each other for a better future. Do you want to be dependent on foreign oil and oil lobby all your life including your offspring?

Aaron Van Wagner (not verified)    May 25, 2014 - 12:26PM

In all honesty, if you were pure EV, I would condone unplugging the Prius, or if he was topped off and left him a note. It is pretty frustrating though to see ICEers taking up charge spots or EV cars not charging just to park closer to the door. Being a Volt owner, its a perk if the spots are open, but if they aren't, Ill make it home either way.

And Steve Rock, calm down dude.