Test-driving the Chevy Volt

Those regenerative brakes, which are augmented with good old-fashioned “Oh, %&#!” anti-lock discs, are spongy and take some getting used to. The blind spots are more like blind blotches. And the driver’s seat accommodates a 6̋ʹ2″ buffet enthusiast like this reporter only at the expense of the circulation in the rear passenger’s lower extremities. But the Volt is tight and responsive through turns. Its 149-horsepower (that is, 111-kW) Voltec electric motor considerably overachieves, since it requires no transmission and therefore delivers its 273 foot-pounds of torque all at once. After barely a few miles at cruising speed I figure I could get used to this. It sure beats my usual ride — a dun-colored ’94 Cherokee with a failing transfer case — if for no other reason than that its right rear bumper isn’t held on by duct tape. Oh, and it is quiet. Ghost quiet. U-boat-full-of-mutes-in-cotton-booties-coasting-through-an-ocean-of-mineral-oil quiet…

See, I had initially planned to go electric for the entire endeavor. That was, as it were, a non-starter. As Americans, we’re spoiled in our ability to crisscross the country at will, thanks not only to the arteries and veins and capillaries of the interstate highway system but also to the ubiquity of filling stations. By contrast, planning a 300-mile trip in an electric car is a logistic feat, and like Rommel pushing east across Libya into British-held Egypt, you have to take care not to outrun your supply lines. This means finding a series of commercial charging stations roughly 30 miles apart for as many as ten charges. Before I ever hit the road I realized that not only would this operation be onerous and time-consuming, it would be nigh impossible, owing to desert stretches of the New Jersey and Delaware turnpikes unenlightened about the requirements of green locomotion. The alternative — using the onboard 120-volt plug and siphoning power from whatever regular-old-three-prong outlets I could find — would have required even greater chunks of time, along with a sleeping bag, an extension cord, and a cultivated taste for rest-stop food.