Lately, I’ve been talking an awful lot about my car. My pride in my ride is the kind most men have with their fine set of wheels. At grocery store parking lots, heads turn, and perfect strangers grin curiously. I park and eagerly invite them to take a peek inside. When I spark up the engine, they smile with awe and wonder at the technology as it boots up around them. When it comes to my car, you’d think I was a teenaged boy with his first hot-rod. But the truth is I’m a middle-aged mom who’s an “eco-preneur.” It’s probably not the picture you envisioned, is it?
Being a renewable energy advocate is never a smooth ride. I found this out when my son Nikos directed his global warming PSA “Save It” four years ago and suddenly everyone was asking me for my expertise regarding clean technology. Either that or they accused me of – god forbid – being a “hippie environmentalist” or “brainwashing” my kid. But I had been neither. I was just a divorced, stay-at-home mom just trying to honor the concerns of my children and the effects our polluted air and water is having on them.
My children worried about their future. And when your child is having nightmares to the point that he creates a PSA to let the world know of the terror he feels, you try to soothe those fears. The least I could do was buy a Prius. Big step for me, but a good way to begin to address his concerns about the world he and his brother will inherit. It was a great move then, but alas, cool is what matters when a teenaged boy is ready to drive. According to my son, our Prius was “just plain embarrassing” and he “didn’t want to be seen” driving it. So a year ago last week, when it was time to trade it in, I knew I had better consider the “cool” factor.
I called my local Chevy dealer and I asked if they had any Volts left. I was dubious, because General Motors had just cut down on production due to slow sales. They had only one, so I got there immediately. By the time I test drove this awesome vehicle, which reminded me of the thrill I had driving my 2002 Saab 9-5, I was sold – or rather leased. I brought my sexy, red machine home and my teens loved it. It was agile, powerful, and when we switched into “mountain” mode, the engine went from an almost silent whirring to a macho sounding muscle car. My boys thought it was even better than the Chevy Camaro because it hardly uses any gas.
Cool it was. When I pulled up to the world famous Polo Lounge an entire platoon of valets swarmed my car, and I was inundated with questions: “How do you like it?” “Do you mind if I take it for a spin around the block?” When I would walk back out to retrieve my Volt, it wasn’t in the garage out of sight –oh no – it was parked in the No. 1 spot, usurping the Rolls Royce, which moved to spot #2, and the Bentley to #3. This happened whenever I valet-parked in Beverly Hills and the greatest part was that the public parking structures had installed EV charging units in the most preferential spots, too. Driving a Chevy Volt in Beverly Hills made me feel like an actual VIP.
At home, I forsook the tax incentives and never installed a level 2 charger, since I’m currently renting. Instead I just used the provided 125V charger and would plug my car in overnight like I do my cell phone. At first I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea. Would my electric bill skyrocket? Surprisingly, it hasn’t. My energy bill has actually stayed within the same range over the year. Because of the Volt, I was finally able to convince my environmentally conscious kids, who somehow couldn’t seem to remember to turn off the lights when they left a room, that this was important for keeping our car off of fossil fuels. So now, they’ve gotten in the habit of doing what I nagged them about for years. Mission accomplished.
After 6 months, my gas consumption was 188 mpg – yes that’s right – ONE HUNDRED eighty-eight! Then I took it on the road twice from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In my late-model Volt with lower charge capacity, I could only go 35 miles on the lithium-ion battery, so I used gas for the rest of the trip. At the truck stops along Interstate-5, guys in muscle cars and trucks would say it’s a fine looking car and maybe they should get one because they’re sick of spending a fortune on gas. There’s definitely a pattern here.
It’s now been just over a year and I’ve driven 11,024 miles, used only 103 gallons of gas and I’m averaging 107 mpg. Even my Prius couldn’t come anywhere close to that! I love that it’s environmentally conscious, but can behave like a macho car when you need it to. It looks super sleek, saves a lot of money on gas and you get movie star treatment just for owning it. So, next time my Volt pulls into a parking lot don’t be surprised if it’s my image-conscious son who’s driving it. Hmm, I wonder where he gets that from?