By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
We’ve talked here a fair amount about the Chevrolet Volt and some of its systems, but that was based on what we knew or could find out about the U.S version. As it turns out, it’s not the same car everywhere. The European version of the Volt, and its badge-twin the Opel Ampera, get a selection switch function we don’t have, and many people are already asking why.
Over here, the Volt is programmed to run on the batteries first, and for as long as possible before the gasoline motor comes on to provide motive help. The programming is mandatory and a driver can’t choose to operate the gas motor first. But the Europeans can.
Recently, a Chevrolet of Europe executive let slip during an interview that ” I just switch it into extended range mode, and drive on fuel until I get there. When I drive in the little villages and towns, I drive in electric mode.”
Heavens above!—trusting the driver to make a choice? What is going on over there? One answer (given by others in the company) is that many European cities now have “congestion fees” that drivers pay when crossing city limits but electric cars with no tailpipe emissions are usually exempt. Thus, a driver saves the battery for when it can be of the biggest benefit.
Chevrolet also said that in U.S., the EPA requires the car to operate in its most fuel-efficient mode which would be electric-first in most cases. EPA however noted that they see no reason that such a selection switch couldn’t be provided for this country and industry observers note that there are already other e-cars on our roads with such a system.
In fairness, the U.S Volt does have a “Mountain Mode” button that fires up the gas engine sooner than normal when the battery reaches a certain discharge point. The idea is to keep the battery charged to provide uphill or passing assist in steep terrain. But it’s still not the European either-or switch.
Right now, one of the biggest roadblocks to EV sales is “range anxiety,” even though many cars have an internal combustion engine on board. Drivers see that “remaining charge” or “distance to empty” number on the dash display and immediately picture themselves walking home even though there are gallons of gas in the tank.
Allowing a driver to select the powerplant appropriate to the job would go a long way to changing minds. Internal combustion when you want it, batteries when you don’t. And in this age of electronic nannying, returning a decision to the operator would be a pleasant switch as well.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.