Jan 04

Apple to orange: Volt compared to Karma

 

Chevrolet’s Volt and Fisker’s Karma couldn’t be any more different yet alike at the same time. The Volt is techy, but otherwise a sensible compact family car. The Karma is a high-line chariot for those wanting something much splashier than a Volt.

On any other day they’d have little reason to be compared except for one thing. For now, they’re America’s only extended-range electric vehicles capable of driving 25-50 miles solely on electric power but with gasoline backup when needed. This is within limits of what studies say a majority of Americans travel each day. Thus, if kept within their recommended daily allowance of prescribed electric range, the Karma and Volt can blissfully bypass gasoline stations for months on end. This means they could cost far less to operate than regular hybrids let alone ordinary cars, all the while saving petroleum and emitting next to nothing.
 


 

We’re highlighting these attributes front and center as they’ve been known to be under-emphasized by some assessing these cars according to different priorities. While everyone is entitled to determine what’s important to them, it is these cars’ EV capability with “no range anxiety” that enables proponents to look past other critiques including their relatively high prices, and just-OK gas-only mileage.

Fisker Karma Stone House

About Those Plug-in Powertrains

The rear-wheel-drive Karma is the only pure series hybrid passenger car available. Unlike a parallel hybrid – such as a Toyota Prius which uses its engine to mechanically drive the wheels along with its electric motors – the Karma’s engine never mechanically drives its wheels. Its GM direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine instead energizes matched twin electric motors offering combined output of 403 horsepower and 959 pound-feet of torque. This power is channeled via a single-speed transmission and the gas engine can augment the electric supply in Sport mode, or the car can run in battery only Stealth mode assuming its 20.1-kwh A123 Systems lithium-ion pack has more than 15-percent charge remaining.

Fisker Karma powertrain cutaway

Fisker Karma Powertrain

The front-wheel-drive Volt uses a naturally aspirated 1.4-liter four cylinder feeding a 16.5-kwh LG Chem li-ion battery to send current to its two differently sized electric traction motors. It is a series hybrid most of the time, but its planetary gearset transmission under certain conditions does mechanically assist the front wheels. GM decided to occasionally use the engine in parallel hybrid mode because it proved more efficient under certain conditions. Unlike the Karma, the Volt’s engine cannot be used to augment electrical current to its traction motors beyond standard EV power settings.

Chevy Volt powertrain

Chevy Volt powertrain

In attempting to live up to its extroverted exterior, the Fisker is faster, but it’s no pavement shredder. Its 0-60 mph time of 7.9 seconds in Stealth mode, and 5.9 seconds and high-14-second quarter mile in Sport doesn’t crush many lower priced sporty cars let alone the elites for which it presents a green alternative. It does outpace the Volt though which can run to 60 in around 8 seconds.

The Volt’s top speed is governed to 100 mph. The Karma is limited to 95 mph in Stealth mode, and 125 mph in Sport.

Fisker Karma Chevy Volt Back

Both cars are portly, having dual drivetrains and dual energy storage merged into one. Both place their batteries in a center tunnel inboard from crash zones. This mass centralization self-compensates to a degree by augmenting handling along with suspension calibrations that help conceal the Volt’s nearly 3,800 pounds, and the Karma’s over 5,300 pounds.

Suspension and Brakes

Chevy Volt LRR GoodyearThe Volt’s suspenders are comprised of front control arms, struts, coil springs, and anti-roll bar, and a rear torsion beam with coil springs.

Managing the Karma’s extremely rigid alloy frame are front and rear control arms designed and calibrated with input from engineers that set up the Ford GT.

Set stiffer and using sticky Goodyear F1 sport tires, the Karma’s lateral acceleration figures average 0.92g. The Volt, ever the more sensible, is set softer, equipped with less-grippy, but more fuel-saving low rolling resistance Goodyear Assurance tires, and averages 0.78g on a skidpad.

Both use ABS-equipped regenerative braking. The Karma’s Brembo monobloc calipers – six piston in front, four in rear gripping 14-plus inch rotors – are world class overachievers and the Volt’s brakes work well also, stopping on good pavement from 60 mph in under 120 feet, compared to the Karma’s 110.

Interior Space

Fisker Karma kneesUp front, both cars offer enough legroom, headroom and adjustability for most full-size Americans. The Volt saves weight with manually adjustable seats, and the deluxe Karma adds to its body mass index with electrically adjusted seats.

Fisker says it copied a military powertrain design, but where it mirrors the Volt further is its battery tunnel separating front and rear occupants also eliminates the middle rear seat. What’s more, both cars only provide so-so rear seat space.

The Karma’s rear legroom is a bit shorter, and both cars can trap larger feet attempting to squeeze under the front seats. This is not unusual for cars of the semi-practical crowd to which the Karma belongs. It may be less excusable for the Volt which cannot plea the usual alibis only supermodels get away with, and compared to the Prius it was supposed to beat, it comes up short in this area.

Chevy Volt hatch

The Volt offers more storage space than the Karma being actually a hatchback disguised as a sedan. Its 10.2 cubic foot rear cargo capacity exceeds the Karma’s 6.9-cubic foot trunk and lack of fold-down rear seats.

Controls and Interface

Chevy Volt interior

These cars are represented as the new vanguard of an electric future. Alternately, one could contend they are only now catching up with art as old as members of the AARP. Their gee-whiz factor mimics imagery prophesied by movies, stories, cartoons and pictures since before the 1950s. With technology now able to bring fantasy to reality, their design and operational controls are a step closer to satisfying expectations that long lay dormant within society’s collective unconscious.

To wit, from the Volt driver’s seat you’re faced with connectivity plus a plethora of buttons, and two digital LCD screens – one in the instrument location, the other on the center stack. Look up and there are more buttons for OnStar and more in the ceiling. The gizmos are all pretty user friendly too. There is learning curve dependent on how technically literate you are, but it’s reasonably intuitive.

The Volt is a humble family car but the family can feel more like the Jetsons family in a cooler ride than the Volt’s platform-sharing cousin, the Cruze.

Chevy Volt OnstarNow contrast that to the “timeless” design in the concept car turned production reality, the Karma. Far fewer buttons are visible for its personal command center, and what’s more, all interior materials are decidedly upscale. Where are the swaths of decent-grade plastic, rubberized materials and serviceable cloth as found in the Volt?

Plastic, smashtik. Our Karma was the mid-level EcoSport – not the base-level EcoStandard or environmentally super-sensitive top-shelf EcoChic which opts for only tasteful synthetic and recycled materials.

Nope ours had sacrificed cows for leather, but it at least is tanned with a 100-percent environmentally friendly process. It covers the dash top, seats in an asymmetric mix of leather and suede, and parts of the battery tunnel where you rest your elbow. Beyond that is recycled hardwood, alcantara, metal and acrylic.

Fisker Karma dash

As for the Karma’s unapparent controls for HVAC, entertainment, navigation, backup camera and more, this simplicity is in keeping with the discrete theme. They’re actually all integrated into a single 10.2-inch haptic feedback touch screen in the center stack.

Point-Counterpoint

Fisker Karma 10.2-inch screenBoth cars provide satisfying experiences albeit of two very different flavors. Of the two, the Volt is probably more suitable to take the dog to the vet, or bring home the medium-large haul from the store.

Its is designed to satisfy mainstream America and grandmom may ingress and egress somewhat more easily than she would for the low and long Karma.

Both cars get started with a pushbutton. Both deactivate their electric parking brake with a similarly designed pull switch. The Volt uses a traditional gear selector whereas the Karma has an avante garde backlit, pyramid-shaped pushbutton gear selector.

Keeping to the futuristic theme, from 0 to 25 mph the Karma emits a pedestrian warning sound that is reminiscent of an extraterrestrial’s landing vessel that came to earth and sprouted wheels. It’s actually kind of cool, and fits with the Karma’s stage presence.

The Volt also warns pedestrians when needed by commandeering the horn, emitting a friendly chirp, not an impolite “get out of my way” tone.

Outward visibility is somewhat better in the Volt with exception of the A-pillars which impede view a bit more than the Karma’s. The Karma is easy enough to see out of, but does have that long hood up front with “muscular” fenders concealing its 22-inch wheels.

Punch the accelerator in all-electric mode, and the Karma is quicker but not amazingly so. With torque available off the line, both hit 30-45 mph quickly, and highway speeds acceptably also. Above 70, the rate of acceleration drops off.

Physics 101: Wind resistance increases exponentially at speed meaning the faster you rip toward “the ton,” the more drag must be overcome by the limited energy supply. This saps efficiency and while both cars have slippery aerodynamics, they’re set to perform best at ordinary speeds.

Chevy Volt S-bend

Contrast that to Tesla’s 85-kwh Model S which out drag races a 560-horsepower BMW M5 to 100. Do that a lot, and we suspect it won’t get near the EPA’s efficiency numbers.

As for steering the Volt and Karma, feel is much different also. In the Karma you know you are in a big machine and its fat tires – 255/35WR-22 front; 285/35WR-22 rear – need plenty of help from the electro-hydraulically assisted steering at parking lot speeds. At a walking pace, the Volt is nimbler with a tighter turning radius. Once rolling, either car goes where it’s pointed with minimal fuss and their weight helps each provide a comparatively complaint ride.

As the road gets twisty the Karma is arguably more rewarding. Even though it weighs as much as the Volt plus four 375-pound occupants, its chassis, suspension and tires make up the difference. But the Volt is agile too and would be even more so if its suspension were stiffer with perhaps beefier anti-roll bars or spring rates and given stickier tires too.

But the Volt is not pretending to be a sports car and balances suspension settings toward comfort which means more body roll. It is sporty though, and 85th percentile cornering antics at extra-legal, but not insane speeds are rewarded by crisp handling.

The Karma is set up like a grand touring car, and its grippy rubber slightly compromises mpg and all-electric range in favor of maximizing traction offered by its flat-cornering suspension.

One does wonder what would happen if the big car let loose if pitched too hard into a corner. All that mass sliding sideways might not be pretty. But it’s not really concerning, and it actually encourages you to push the corners. In sharp, slow bends, mashing the accelerator can induce rear sliding oversteer for some tire- and mpg-ruining fun.

Chevy Volt bridgeSpeaking of which, these are ecomobiles and while sneak previews of what it’s like to play with them are fine, what about that all important green factor?

As U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) numbers already reveal, the Volt blows the Karma away. To a point. The lighter weight Volt relies on a 16.5-kwh battery, and uses only 65 percent of its capacity until the battery management system switches to charge-sustaining gas mode. The Karma uses 85-percent capacity from its 20.1-kwh battery. Thus their all-electric range (AER) is within a stone’s throw of each other.

Drive it sedately, and the Karma can do the whole 38 miles the EPA says the Volt’s battery provides. Actually the Karma is EPA-rated for 33 miles, and we’ve seen that and more. Both cars can hit 50 miles AER, but the Volt requires less nursing.

With finite battery reserves, you are encouraged to drive these cars “responsibly” (read: not like sports cars). If you do drive them hard with jackrabbit starts, speeding on the highway and anywhere else, expect AER to suffer.

Fisker Karma horse and wife crossing

This said, the EPA rates the Volt as 76-percent more efficient. That is, it’s MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent – see sidebar) is 98, whereas the Karma’s is 54. This means Karma electric costs are higher assuming the EPA cycle is correct. The German TÜV’s more lenient test says the Karma is good for 112 MPGe. You can take this for what it’s worth but it at least suggests easy going will mean better efficiency than the EPA estimates.

In gas-only mode the Volt again outscores the Karma with an EPA-rated 37 mpg vs. 20. Twenty is about what a comparably heavy Cadillac Escalade Hybrid musters but it cannot touch the Karma’s electric-only capabilities.

Again, efficiency numbers are dependent on how you drive. If you keep a cool hand, you can exceed estimates. Drive aggressively and you might think this energy saving talk is mixed with green wash.

What is the Right Choice?

Four possible answers: 1) The Volt. 2) The Karma. 3) Both. 4) Neither.

Of the two, the Volt obviously costs less, is cheaper to operate, thus promises a better return on investment.

Both cars are full EV subsidy eligible, and the Volt’s MSRP including $860 destination charge starts at $39,995. The Karma’s MSRP including $1,000 destination charge starts at $103,000.

The Karma – compared to an exotic V8 or V12 powered luxury car – is also inexpensive to purchase and operate. It’s half the price of an Aston Martin Rapide, for example.

Fisker Karma Ferrari Dealership

Though not exactly affordable, the Fisker Karma is a bargain compared to many luxury cars.

But without a doubt the Volt has had far fewer quality issues – as in almost none. Actually, it has topped Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction survey the last two years since its launch, displacing the Porsche 911 from that spot in the process.

The Karma has been recalled a couple times and has had reports of poorly fitted body panels, interior work, and electronic controls. However, its Finnish boutique maker Valmet also produces Porsches and Mercedes among other first-class cars, so we suspect it can get the quality control in line, and may have already.

Aside from this, both cars have been politicized, represent new technology, and there are plenty of fence sitters and detractors bandying various viewpoints.

Our take? If the cars really are viable – and many say they are – the market will vote its pocketbook, and veto unwarranted critical observations, real and imagined. Equally true is neither is perfect, both are first-generation examples and due to be followed by improved versions – but then that is always true of technology and both have their fans who say jump in, the water is fine.

The bottom line? The Volt and Karma are not right for everyone, but are meeting needs now. So, the only right answer is the one you decide.

What is MPGe in layman’s terms?

Simply put, it is how to compare the efficiency of electric vehicles. The Volt has a MPGe of 98, and the Karma gets 54 MPGe. So the Volt is 1.76 times more efficient, or the Karma will go 54 miles on the same electricity the Volt goes 98 miles. Efficiency is nice to know, but what about cost?

Fisker Karma front and back

Without a little more information this MPGe number doesn’t give us what we can quickly equate when we see the MPG of a typical car; cost of the “fuel” we will be using. This MPGe number is based on 33.7 kilowatt-hours of energy usage. Why? Because the EPA has determined the energy in one gallon of gas is “equivalent” (the e in MPGe) to 33.7 kWh of electricity. So if we know what 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity costs, we could calculate the electric vehicle “fuel” cost.

Chevy Volt Front and Back

If you know the cost of a kilowatt-hour at your home, the above information is enough to compare the fuel cost between a gas versus an electric vehicle, but for most consumers, the information in the tables below will paint a clear enough picture:

fig1_Volt_e_vs_gas

fig2_Volt_percent_e_vs_gas

fig3_Karma_e_vs_gas

fig4_Karma_percent_e_vs_gas

 

Related Reading
2012 Karma Review
2013 Volt Review
Karma Certified For Delivery
Volt Battery Reinforced
Fisker: Puts Out Fires, Makes Progress
Fisker Atlantic
Cadillac ELR

This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 34


  1. 1
    GSP

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (7:29 am)

    Very nice write up and great photos. Thanks.

    I only could find one quibble:

    “The rear-wheel-drive Karma is the only pure series hybrid passenger car available.”

    In most contexts “pure” is assumed to be better. But just like steel alloys being stronger than pure iron, the Volt’s series-parallel or “split power” architecture is much better than a series-only powertrain. Well, that is my firmly held opinion at least.

    GSP


  2. 2
    MrEnergyCzar

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (8:01 am)

    Great job Jeff. One of the best Volt vs. other comparisons out there. Doing these reviews may be your calling….

    MrEnergyCzar


  3. 3
    joe

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (8:23 am)

    I don’t see much of a frame on the Karma. I wonder how well this car will do in a crash test.


  4. 4
    George S. Bower

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (9:03 am)

    Just one comment on controls and interface.

    While the Volt may have lot’s of buttons, it makes for much less distractions from the road. If you know where the button is (and you should because it’s your car) you can just go there and hit it and be done.
    If you have to fuss with a screen it takes too long to get to the screen you want and it distracts your attention from the road.

    Want to turn fan up? button on center console bingo done. Change temp? same thing. turn on radio? big knob just push. My only complaint is that the buttons are sometimes hard to target.

    It would be interesting to hear Mark Z’s (or Jeff’s) comment on this since he has had both the Volt and the S (or Karma in Jeff’s case).


  5. 5
    George S. Bower

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (9:21 am)

    Jeff,
    Really an in depth comparison and well written piece. I can tell you put lots of time and effort into it.


  6. 6
    lousloot

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (9:32 am)

    The all-electric Telsa sure seems like a better car than the Karma.
    the PIP and C-MAX, and the L.E.A.F as well as all the others are going to give the Volt some competition.

    I am not sure what buyers are just considering Volt/Telsa.

    PUre ParAllel? is that a classification? How bout a L.ElA.F. pulling a generator trailer? Telsa pulling a generator trailer?

    Ive gotta get this wet blanket into the dryer… :( sorry for the attitude. I enjoyed the read.


  7. 7
    Dave K.

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (9:51 am)

    Having had a good look at the Karma in a trade show. The car definitely has the “I just got to have one of these” vibe going for it. Much like the Cadillac ELR. For some drivers either of these are the car of a lifetime.

    As for the Volt. My initial impression was one of pet attraction. The Volt has a “I can see myself driving this” vibe. And is within reason on the sticker price. Most owners of Volts will be upgrading to the newest thing in the future.

    As pre-owned Volts enter the market. Sales of all types of plug-ins should pick up. Recent news of a plug-in Accord is a major event as some Americans are hard core Honda fans who would not otherwise consider owning a plug-in.

    2012-Cadillac-ELR-Side-View-gallery-car.jpg

    photo: The Cadillac ELR


  8. 8
    Kent

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (11:02 am)

    “The Volt’s top speed is governed to 100 mph.”

    I thought I had read in the past that the top speed was governed at 105? Not that it really matters to me since I haven’t gone over 75.


  9. 9
    BLIND GUY

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (11:47 am)

    There is no doubt that the Karma is a head-turner. If I could afford a Karma, I would probably buy a Tesla with a 60kwh battery instead, despite a reasonable range limitation. We took a recent trip from Tucson to the L. A. area in our Volt. We had no issues with the Volt and were quite comfortable. So far, nobody we have talked to have really understood how the Volt works and why we would pay that much money for it. Now, my wife has a good enough understanding of the Volt and does a pretty good job explaining the Volt’s features and advantages. Is the Volt perfect? No, of course not but I think it is over-all the best plug-in out there for the general public JMO. I think the lower gas prices will hurt the Volt sales more than the competition will.


  10. 10
    Noel Park

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (11:49 am)

    Inside EVs reported this morning that Fisker is suing its insurance company which has denied its claim for the cars that got submerged/burned in Sandy. Something about they were insured “in transit”, but that Fisker was actually letting them sit there waiting for buyers, so no coverage.

    They also reported that Valmet has not assembled any Fiskers since July citing parts shortages. They speculated that the “parts” in question are batteries.


  11. 11
    Noel Park

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (11:53 am)

    BLIND GUY: I think the lower gas prices will hurt the Volt sales more than the competition will.

    #9

    Well I comfort myself by thinking that we are doing our parts to keep gas prices low by not buying any, LOL. Plus even if I only fill up every 2 months I would rather pay $3.50 than $4.00.

    We’re just slightly ahead of our times, hahaha.


  12. 12
    Loboc

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (11:55 am)

    I’m thinking there is no ROI since that would need appreciation to be a positive number. TCO is a better way to think about depreciating assets.

    Although Volt has appreciation, it’s not monitary. ;)


  13. 13
    Jim I

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (12:17 pm)

    The Karma is just pure beauty.

    But I would rather have the might of a real car company behind me – like GM, if I was ever going to pay that much money for a car….. If I bought one of those, and they they went away, it would be a very expensive paperweight!!!!


  14. 14
    Jeff Cobb

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (12:38 pm)

    George S. Bower,

    RE: While the Volt may have lot’s of buttons, it makes for much less distractions from the road … If you have to fuss with a screen it takes too long to get to the screen you want and it distracts your attention from the road … It would be interesting to hear Mark Z’s (or Jeff’s) comment on this since he has had both the Volt and the S (or Karma in Jeff’s case).

    ###

    I’d tend to agree the Volt could be less distracting. But it has potential to distract depending on the person behind the wheel. Other people can be just fine with it.

    Karma’s screen is down in the centerstack, so it could take one’s eyes off the road too looking down, maybe more so.

    That said, whenever an automaker piles in tons of data displays that could be looked at instead of the road, I think the driver needs to be accountable him or herself to know the limits.

    This is a can of worms that will see a survival of the fittest scenario played out.

    Where the line of personal responsibility versus legal liability for regulators and industry is drawn is an ethical and legal push pull debate. And the responsibility is being seen less on citizen drivers, and the onus appears to be weighted toward those in charge to make cars more idiot proof, if possible.

    Infotainment – not to mention smart phones – are making driving even more so into a secondary endeavor for a lot of people, realistically speaking.

    Does anyone remember when cars did not even have cup holders? And German cars that did not have splash-proof electric window switches because it did not occur to the Germans that a Big Gulp could be dumped on the door panel by mistake?

    The Americans have long-been pushing this paradigm and now it’s a rush toward more and more.

    So, automakers keep trying to add technology to help keep the driver in lane, and situationally aware to compensate for technology that is designed to … add to situational awareness, etc.

    On the extreme end of things, they are pushing for semi-autonomous cars before the end of this decade and driverless cars not long after. Not saying this will happen, but the push by such enterprises as Google and now Continental is an indicator of a sticky wicket dilemma.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/cars-doing-stop-go-driving-autonomously-by-2016/

    They want to rule out the possibility of human error and the final solution some see is to eliminate humans from control of their own vehicles altogether …


  15. 15
    Noel Park

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (1:15 pm)

    Jeff Cobb: They want to rule out the possibility of human error and the final solution some see is to eliminate humans from control of their own vehicles altogether …

    #14

    That’s why I cling so strongly to my old cars. It’s so refreshing to go back to the stark simplicity of a 1917 Chevy or a 1959 Suburban. I was raised in a simpler time in the world of engineering.

    “Keep It Simple Stupid”

    “Simplicate and add lightness”

    “No washer gets a free ride”

    “What ain’t there don’t give you no trouble”

    Although there ARE plenty of possibilities for human error, LOL.


  16. 16
    Jeff Cobb

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (1:49 pm)

    Noel Park,

    I’d never let those go either. I really like the old cars too. Have given thought to being one of those people who has an anachronistically outdated cool old American car from the 60s. It’s more common where you live (I know because I lived in Belmont Heights, LB for a year). Here in the Phila. suburbs (and all winter salt states), unless you want a rust bucket within several years, you have to go to the self-serve spray wash and hit the underside during winter, and maybe proactively jack up the car in good weather and look for and treat rust pre-emptively.


  17. 17
    Noel Park

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (2:11 pm)

    Jeff Cobb: unless you want a rust bucket within several years, you have to go to the self-serve spray wash and hit the underside during winter, and maybe proactively jack up the car in good weather and look for and treat rust pre-emptively.

    #16

    Aha, a kindred soul. +1

    One thing you have to say for modern cars is that they are WAY better on the rust front. Our 59 Suburban – actually a Stageway airport limo – came out of the southeast, and it had fair amount of rust issues for sure. We worked really hard to fix them, but I’m sure that you never really get it all. So I’m sure that the periodic maintenance you mention will be a fact of life going forward.

    Too bad young drivers today don’t get a chance to try these old crocks, if only to show them when they are well off. I tell my passengers that you have to sacrifice a little comfort for style, LOL. Quite a contrast to step out of that thing and into a Volt!


  18. 18
    kdawg

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (2:13 pm)

    George S. Bower: Just one comment on controls and interface.
    While the Volt may have lot’s of buttons, it makes for much less distractions from the road. If you know where the button is (and you should because it’s your car) you can just go there and hit it and be done.
    If you have to fuss with a screen it takes too long to get to the screen you want and it distracts your attention from the road.
    Want to turn fan up? button on center console bingo done. Change temp? same thing. turn on radio? big knob just push. My only complaint is that the buttons are sometimes hard to target.
    It would be interesting to hear Mark Z’s (or Jeff’s) comment on this since he has had both the Volt and the S (or Karma in Jeff’s case).

    I want voice commands (that actually work).

    I should be able to say “set temp to 74 degrees” and my car just does it. I’ve played with the Volt’s voice commands for the stereo, but they seem cumbersome and only work about 1/2 the time.

    I’d like to be able to just say “set charging to 12 amps”, vs going to the screens and doing it. (or just have it stay at 12 amps).

    I also don’t like hitting a button, then waiting for it to beep or tell me “say command”. Why not just make it like a walky-talky. I hold the button down when I’m giving a command. No waiting. Just hold the button and talk.

    Finally, I want some programmable buttons, shortcuts to do things I like and do often.


  19. 19
    kdawg

     

    kdawg
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    Jan 4th, 2013 (2:24 pm)

    Jeff Cobb: They want to rule out the possibility of human error and the final solution some see is to eliminate humans from control of their own vehicles altogether …

    I don’t see this as a bad thing. As long as you have the option of going to manual control (remember Will Smith in I Robot?), people should be OK with technology doing a better job than they can.

    I saw Mythbusters episode on landing passenger jets, and they said almost all pilots let the planes land themselves. In fact, if you ever were in the movie-situation where the pilots were unconscious/dead, you would not have to be talked down via radio. Just push the “auto-land” button.


  20. 20
    kdawg

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (2:40 pm)

    Noel Park: That’s why I cling so strongly to my old cars. It’s so refreshing to go back to the stark simplicity of a 1917 Chevy or a 1959 Suburban. I was raised in a simpler time in the world of engineering.

    Noel, you should check out the Chevy Volt Facebook page today. I think they are talking about you.

    This Fan Friday we’re celebrating the old and the new! Check out Ellen C.’s 2011 Chevrolet Volt next to her husband’s 1957 Bel Air! Do any of our fans have classic cars sitting next to Volts in their garages?

    https://www.facebook.com/chevroletvolt

    252144_10151229237926009_445034955_n.jpg


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    Noel Park

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (3:26 pm)

    kdawg: Noel, you should check out the Chevy Volt Facebook page today. I think they are talking about you.

    #20

    Thanks for the heads up. +1 I did post a short comment.

    You can see the car if you do a Google search for Noel Park 1917 Chevrolet


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    kdawg

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (4:01 pm)

    OT: George S, remember my question the other day about regenerative braking with a full charge at the top of a hill? Well apparently someone had it happen to them. Their Volt charged up to 60 miles of range.

    See below. (not sure if this person reads this website, but if so, please chime in)

    Christopher Hewett
    OK, anyone experienced this:
    Coming down the mountain with 3/4 charge, apparently met max charging (60, wow), low range, mountain mode, and regenerative braking appear to have been disabled until some charge was used.

    418143_10151442365582289_1935878523_n.jpg


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    Noel Park

     

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (4:28 pm)

    kdawg: Their Volt charged up to 60 miles of range.

    #22

    Mine routinely goes up to 50 miles when I get to the end of the hill going down from my house in the AM, but I’ve never seen so much as 1 mile over that in almost 2 years. I always wonder if that number is only because of the regen going down the hill, or if part of it is just the range predictor taking into account the minimal energy demand in the last 10 miles of driving and extrapolating it ahead. Some of both I assume.

    I had always assumed that 50 was the max it would show. I wonder if the newer models have a higher max?


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    kdawg

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (4:37 pm)

    Noel Park: I had always assumed that 50 was the max it would show. I wonder if the newer models have a higher max?

    That’s why I wish the Volt would come with a digital kWh meter. Even if its just an approximation, I would like to see what the Volt’s computer thinks is the available energy in the battery pack. I can do it w/my OB2 reader, but it would be better to just put it on the LCD screen somewhere.


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    Jim I

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (6:03 pm)

    kdawg: I want voice commands (that actually work).

    I should be able to say “set temp to 74 degrees” and my car just does it.I’ve played with the Volt’s voice commands for the stereo, but they seem cumbersome and only work about 1/2 the time.

    I’d like to be able to just say “set charging to 12 amps”, vs going to the screens and doing it.(or just have it stay at 12 amps).

    I also don’t like hitting a button, then waiting for it to beep or tell me “say command”.Why not just make it like a walky-talky.I hold the button down when I’m giving a command.No waiting.Just hold the button and talk.

    Finally, I want some programmable buttons, shortcuts to do things I like and do often.

    ===================================

    kdwag has it right! +1

    We all think our old cars were so cool. And back then, they were. But as I recall, my cars broke down a lot more than they do now, I had to paint my 73 Mach 1 twice because the lower body panels rusted out and had to be replaced/fixed and then painted, and the interiors has no cool things liketouch control screens, bluetooth connection to my smartphone, or any kind of voice control, etc. Plus it got 11 mpg!!!!

    No thanks. I’ll keep my Volt. At least until Volt Gen-2 or Gen-3 comes along and REALLY dazzles me!!!! :)


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    George S. Bower

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (7:09 pm)

    kdawg:

    1957 Bel Air! Do any of our fans have classic cars sitting next to Volts in their garages?

    https://www.facebook.com/chevroletvolt

    I don’t know kdawg,

    I think I like the 55 best. There are subtle differences between the 55 and 56, but of course no subtle difference in the 57. Probably my favorite years for chevy. I still want a 55 only no little mouse motor. I’m thinking 502 or just maybe an after market aluminum block.

    I really loved the 3 chevy big blocks I had!


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    George S. Bower

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (7:12 pm)

    kdawg,

    ps great photo of the 57 and the Volt.


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    Jeff Cobb

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    Jan 4th, 2013 (8:24 pm)

    kdawg: I don’t see this as a bad thing. As long as you have the option of going to manual control (remember Will Smith in I Robot?), people should be OK with technology doing a better job than they can.

    I don’t see it as bad on the surface either. The issue I wonder about is will there be many skilled drivers left? Driving as a skill is not exactly emphasized today. And … could there come a day when the powers that be decide it’s illegal to drive your own car because that’s a safety risk given humans will never measure up to the robotic vehicles in the brave new world three decades from now?

    All this is admittedly wide open for speculation …


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    Eco_Turbo

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    Jan 5th, 2013 (8:09 am)

    Jeff Cobb,

    It’ll probably be equivalent to driving your own train or subway today.


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    Mark Z

     

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    Jan 5th, 2013 (9:26 am)

    George S. Bower
    …Want to turn fan up? button on center console bingo done. Change temp? same thing. turn on radio? big knob just push. My only complaint is that the buttons are sometimes hard to target.

    It would be interesting to hear Mark Z’s (or Jeff’s) comment on this since he has had both the Volt and the S (or Karma in Jeff’s case).

    Finally reading the thread of comments and can answer the question in detail.

    A touch screen is only as good as its design. The Tesla Model S had some scary pre-production screens many years ago and they got the beta and production ones right. The temperature controls, radio volume, seat heat, defrost (front plus rear) and climate on/off are always displayed in the same place at the bottom of the touch screen. (A static positioned pop up screen is used for AC on/off, circulation, air location and fan speed) Same “always visible” buttons at the top of the screens for charge display, HomeLink, user selection, info screen, Bluetooth and other info displays. They are always there. The screen buttons or areas are big enough to press easily. (Web links are not easy as a good example of what still needs some improvement.) I am happy to report that it all works beautifully and with precision.

    In answer to kdawg’s comment about voice control. Tesla just added that with version 4.0/4.1. I sometimes forget, you must HOLD the button before finishing your command. It is the right way to do it, but the GM way must be unlearned! The results are spectacular and saying “Drive to Tesla SuperCharger California” or any other location is understood and perfectly spelled out on the navigation screen. The results are displayed and you just press the selections shown or drag the list for the hidden results. It’s effortless and the fastest navigation entry I have ever experienced. Reason enough to visit a Tesla Store and try it without the need of a test drive!

    (Forget to add California and you may see the SuperCharger locations around the world!)

    The huge keyboard at the bottom when needed is easy to press keys. I avoid using it in a driving situation, but it is about as easy as finding a dashboard control because its in the same place. The voice control will lessen the keyboard use as the engineers add the feature where needed.

    While the screens are intuitive, they do require a bit of training or study before one should just start driving. The controls screen appears complex because they hide the lesser used functions on well designed screens with huge easy to use buttons with full text labels. No “Volt like” abbreviations needed. With the latest software release, the driver can now change many of the controls with the right scroll wheel on the steering wheel. While the left scroll wheel is for volume, the right one can now do multiple tasks or be assigned one task. I prefer it for display brightness, but it will also adjust, climate temperature, fan speed, sunroof (open, close, vent or multiple positions!) and media source. All this with a single scroll wheel displaying the choice on the driver display. Off the chart futuristic wonder ability, yet user selectable to just one choice or all of them! These brilliant improvements will appear in every Model S no matter the year of manufacture.

    One major comment. All desired information is shown on the driver display. Tesla Motors encourages the drivers to avoid looking at the center screen, because you don’t need it since the turn by turn map and other user selected information (like energy use or song title) is shown in the driver display. It works; I am able to safely concentrate on the road ahead at all times.


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    haroldC

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    Jan 5th, 2013 (11:23 am)

    beautiful piece Jeff, have to send this to the naysayers…
    just a little OT but check this out……http://www.wimp.com/futuristichighways/
    haroldC


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    George S. Bower

     

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    Jan 6th, 2013 (4:59 pm)

    Mark Z,

    Glad I checked back in on this thread.
    Thx for the info Mark Z.


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    Jan 6th, 2013 (10:50 pm)

    haroldC: just a little OT but check this out……http://www.wimp.com/futuristichighways/
    haroldC

    What’s funny is they concentrated on the glow in the dark street, but that was the least impressive feature I saw.


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    nationaltransportllc.Com

     

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    Jan 10th, 2013 (11:16 pm)

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous
    blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!