Friday, December 17, 2010

A New Volt is Born

I just got word from the web site that my Red Chevrolet Volt has been built, I even have the VIN number the last 3 digits of which are 593 making it the five hundred and ninty third saleable Volt to be produced. The first 300 Volts have already been shipped and a few lucky souls have taken delivery of their Volts, including the very first delivery which was in Denville NJ less then 10 miles from where I work. I had the crazy idea that ordering from a dealership closer to New York City would mean getting the Volt sooner, as at first they were only selling it in NYC later they said NYC Area, then it was some of New Jersey, turns out they ment anywhere in northern New Jersey. But I'll be getting mine soon enough.
So what now. Well it goes into Quality and Control, where they test it, including the battery, many of the first Volts were in QC for almost a month, but it sounds like they have it down to a week, I think they need that time to verify the batteries are charging and holding charge correctly. Then they ship the Volt, which could take anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks, depending on how they ship it.
The Volt Chevrolet Advisor I spoke to mentioned the 27th, though I'm not sure if thats the date the dealer can expect the car, or the date they ship it out. Either way I'll probably be getting my car the last week of the year or the first of the next.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Volt is on the Production line offers a great service that allow you to track the progress of your GM car orders. And I just found out my Chevrolet Volt is actually being built right now. Below is a summery of the status of my order over time, the key dates are:
07/28/10 the Dealership takes my order and requests a allocation from GM
11/12/10 the Dealership uses an allocation with GM to place the order (this one took too long in my view, other dealerships were much faster to this stage)
11/16/10 GM starts ordering parts and preparing to build my car
11/30/10 my car enters the production line
next step a notice that its built in a week or two and a VIN number, then shipping which can take weeks, I'll probably get the car in early January just short of the end of year mark I was hoping for to get the tax rebate back right away, but I can hope.

Here is the official report from
07/28/2010 - (1100) Order Placed at Dealership Order passed GM edit tables but dealers has not received allocation to place order
07/28/2010 - (1102) Order Entered via Web
08/23/2010 - (2030) Order edited or modified
09/20/2010 - (2030) Order edited or modified
09/24/2010 - (2030) Order edited or modified
10/19/2010 - (2030) Order edited or modified
11/12/2010 - (2000) Order Accepted by GM Dealer used allocation to place order into production
11/16/2010 - (2500) Order Preferenced Order pulled to the production system
11/16/2010 - (3000) Order accepted by production control. Parts being ordered and production process is underway.
11/30/2010 - (1102) Order Entered via Web
11/30/2010 - (3100) Order available to sequence.
11/30/2010 - (3300) Order Scheduled for Production Order is scheduled into the plant build cycle
11/30/2010 - (3400) Order Broadcast (Internal Plant Paperwork Order Produced) Order is sent to various build & supplier areas to bring order together

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sometimes I can be a pain

You know your in trouble, when your dealer's coworkers recognize your name.

I'd ordered my Volt from the dealer over the phone and had never actually been there, all my conversations had been by email or on the phone.  As the start of Volt production has gotten closer and closer, I've heard from a few people that their orders had advanced in GM's tracking system, while mine had not. i'd also been unable to get a firm price from the dealer, and was convinced when the car did come in they would ask me for thousands over MSRP, which I was unwilling to accept. So I'd call the dealer trying to get any update in my status and the price, when that didnt work I tried contacting GM's social media representative, anything to push the order along.

Finally I decided I was just going to cancel my order and reorder from another dealership, I contacted a few and went to visit Englewood Auto Group, which was selling the Volt for MSRP. I had a very informative talk with them, turns out their initial allocation was all booked, but I could be first on a waiting list if anyone dropped out, but none of the cars where the color and options I most wanted. I did put a fully refundable deposit down though, and they could place a new order for a car with the options I want but not till January.
I also learned that most of their customer orders where at the same stage mine is, and this made me realize maybe my original dealership wasnt so bad.

There was only one way to find out, so we drove to Chevrolet of Jersey City, where Mike Rivera's co-worker recognized my name. At this point I was thinking maybe I'd been too hard on Mike, when I finally meet him, he assumed I was there for a refund of my deposit, and looked a bit sad to see me. I told I didnt want to cancel the order just yet, and he directed me to their Ordering Specialist John Sucato who showed me how their ordering system worked, and show me what he sees for my order, I also learned they have an allocation of 4 customer Volts for this quarter, plus their orders for the dealership, they cant even place the their first dealer until November 11th.
Afterwards John and Mike looked up the price for the options I ordered and wrote up a formal order with the price I'd be charged which was $530 over MSRP, which I'm ok with.

Mike and I were smiling as we shook hands, and I made a point of apologizing to him, he'd been getting the brunt of my anxiety over the ordering process.

I'm feeling much better about things, I wont be one of the very first people to get a Volt, but I will be getting it soon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Purchasing Frustrations

I've never ordered a new car through a dealership before and I'm finding the whole process frustrating.

Way way back when the Chevy Volt was first anounced a little web site setup a Want List, for people who were interested in the Volt to sign up, the idea being that the list would be given to GM when they started taking orders, I was number 167 on that list, there are over 50000 names now, but GM never used this list for taking orders.

About a 6 months ago, GM announced that the Volt would nonly be sold in 3 initial markets when it first came out, California, Michigan and the DC area. I called up a few dealerships in DC and expressed an interest in the Volt, they didnt have any details but put me on their list. Then around July 1st GM announced that the NYC area would also be among the initial markets for the Volt with the rest of New Jersey recieving Volts in the Spring.  So I sent emails to a number of dealerships in the NYC area, especially those in New Jersey but very close to the City, I figured they'd be the first to recieve Volts and I wouldnt have to deal with paying out of state sales tax. Chevrolet of Jersey City contacted me back right away saying they were taking orders with $500 down, that their price would be competitive ( the Volt pricing hadnt been anounced yet) and sent me a nice email emphasising that their purchase process was No Pressure, with no Surprises and no bait and switch etc... It all sounded good so on July 12th I put $500 down on the Chevy Volt.

A few weeks later GM announced the pricing and that they were taking orders, my Dealer at Chevrolet of Jersey City called to ask about what color choice and options I wanted, Red with black on black interior, leather heated seats, backup camera, and brushed aluminum wheels, the Volt doesnt really have that many options, tons of stuff are included standard. So The Dealership placed the order with GM saying I was #1 to recieve  the Volt from them, and they should be getting the car in November. I had to call them a few times to but got the order number. They wouldnt give me a price, just that it would be competitive.

Since placing the order, there has been a lot of talk about some dealerships charging upto $20K over MSRP for the Volt, other dealerships have stated they will only charge MSRP, and fire dealers that try to charge more. so there is a fairly wide discrepancy in what dealerships are charging.

I've repeatedly called Chevrolet of Jersey City to get a firm answer on what price they will be charging me, with no luck. It seems like the Sales person I'm dealing with either doesnt know what the Dealership will be charging or doesnt have the athority to tell me, which has me VERY consirned. He try's to assure me that if I'm not happy I dont have to take the car, and they will refund my deposit, but then I'll have to start all over again with the order process, and many more people will be ahead of me at other dealerships.

I've called a number of dealerships, they were all charging MSRP to $1000  over, but none would expect delivery until March, if I placed an order now.

So my anxiaty level grows, should I keep my order with Chevelet of Jersey City, where I'm likely to get the Volt before the end of the year, but with an unknown mark up, or should I order with anouther dealership at MSRP, but have to wait even longer? I keep imagining my car will arrive, and they will ask for something outragous, just so they can turn arround and sell it to the highest bidder. I contacted a GM representative who said they would contact the dealership for me to get a fixed price, but havent heard anything back.

The next stage of the ordering process is when the Dealership hears from GM that they have X cars coming by Y, and the Dealership finalizes the actual order with GM. If I'm actually going to recieve one of the first Volts, this should happen within the next week or so. At which point I hope to get a firm answer on what they will be charging me, if not or if they dont place my order, I'll probably need to put a new order in with anouther dealer.

I really hate having to deal with Car Dealers, GM should allow people to order directly through them, and then pay the dealerships a fixed rate to handle the transfer, it would make the ordering process more fair, and would prevent outragous markups for people who ordered early, but allow dealerships to order a few cars on their own for which they could charge big markups to people who want to bypass GM's ordering process.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Which came first the Chicken or the Egg?

Which came first the chicken or the egg? A riddle that has special significance when talking about Electric Vehicles. For a long time people have argued you cant have electric vehicles until there is a charging infrustructure, and you cant build a charging infrustructure without Electric Vehicles to use it.

I've had my own experiance with this, in trying to get the company I work for to install charging stations at work, I've been told we cant install them if there's no cars to use them, among other excuses.

But in a few months I will be getting a Chevy Volt, and hopefully buying a new house which will be 40 to 50 miles from where I work. While at first I'll only be able to drive to work on electric power, and will have to drive home using gas, I hope I'll be able to convince my company to install charging stations or at least install 120v outlets in the parking lot, but that may take some time.

If I'd kept my MINI E, I'd probably be able to commute with it without charging at work, at least on good days, as long as I was careful with my speed, but not in the winter because the range is reduced too much.

But with the Volt I can continue to drive to work year round, no matter how far away my new home is, while I work at convincing the powers that be of the advantages of installing Electric car charging stations.

Some day I hope all my driving will be on electricity generated by Solar Panels but until I can get an electric car with a 150 mile range in all weather, or my company installs charging stations where I work, its the Volt for me.

So to answer the question which comes first the electric car or the charging station? The answer is the Volt.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I've been interested in the Chevy Volt for a long time, since well before I even heard of the MINI E. It's an Electric car with a battery and motor, but it also has a Gas Engine for long drives, the first 40 miles it is powered completely by electricity, after that the Gas motor kicks in giving it a total range of 340 miles.
The idea being that 78% of Americans drive less then 40 miles a day, so for most of your daily driving you never even need to burn a drop of Gas, but if you want to drive further the Volt will keep going in Gas mode, you dont need to have two cars a Gas and an Electric.
It's been developed by General Motors and while many people tend to look down on Americian Cars, I've done a good bit of research and have come to believe that the quality of GM and Ford cars is now on par with their foreign  rivals.
During the development process of the Volt GM has been very open allowing the public a rare glimpse in to all thats involved in bringing a new Car with a completely unique powertrain to market. The Volt may be the most tested car every produced.
About a month ago I put down a deposit on a Red Volt, I am number one on the dealers list, and hope he will be one of the first dealerships to recieve the Volt this November. GM called me last week to verify that my order is in their system, but no word yet on when it will go into production.
I am really looking forward to driving an Electric car again, I miss my MINI E, it was fun to drive, very smooth, and quiet.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Blog Site

Welcome to my new blog site
While My old blog focused on my MINI E experiances during the past year, I decided I wanted to keep on blogging even though I no longer have the MINI E. So I created this new blog site focusing on all things related to Driving Electric.

I've also copied over all my old blog entries from my great days with the MINI E

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

goodbye #304

Well my one year lease of an all electric MINI E has come to an end they came and picked up the car today, after driving it 11716 miles it was a sad goodbye. But I'm planning to get the Chevy Volt this year and also moving so its for the best. Though I maybe in the market for a new car sooner then I planned, no sooner had they driven away with my MINI E, then my gas powered BMW Z3 decided not to start, hopefully it will be fixed soon I need it to last 6 more months until the Chevy Volt goes on sale.
Addition: got my Gas car running, wouldnt you know, they had to replace the battery :) I'm already missing the smooth feel of driving an electric car.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kauai Marriage

MINI E #304 spent the last week and a half resting in the Garage as Glenda and I went to Kauai where we got married on the beach. It was an idyllic wedding with surfers in the background and a Ukulele player.
We had a great time hiking and kayaking through the rain forest, swimming under tropical waterfalls, learning to surf, having a close encounter with a momma whale and her baby, and eating some really great local foods.
Hawaii seems like a great place for electric cars, all the driving is local and the weather is perfect for the batteries. Unfortunately they get about 90% of their electricity from burning oil, so they really wouldnt be saving much, but there is a growing push towards solar power and other renewable energies there.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

3 month extension denied

When we first signed up for the MINI E Field trial, it was only for a one year lease, and we would have to return the car after that year. When the car came out without the 240 volt charger for many people, we were told we'd have the option to extend our lease so we could have a full year of driving with the 240 volt charger. Then around January it was announced that leases could be extended until the new Active E car was available.

I've been on the fence about whether to extend my MINI E lease. While I love the car, I must admit that driving it during the winter was problematic as the range dropped to the point where I was afraid to drive to my fiancee's house 80 miles away, with it. I'm also planning to purchase a Chevy Volt this November, so I want to return the MINI E before then. But I do enjoy the car especially during the summer months when its range is the best, and you can drive with the windows down and really hear nature, so I decided I'd like to extend the lease for 3 months.

I had contacted MINI USA, and my local sales rep asking if I could extend the lease for 3 months or if I'd have to sign up for a full year, but no one seemed to know. Today after speaking to MINI Financial Services I was told they are only offering lease extensions for a full year. So I had to tell them I would not be extending my lease.

I would have preferred to keep the MINI E a little longer, but now I'll be counting the days.
only 48 days left of clean quite electric driving.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Driving the Volt

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm very interested in the chevy Volt. I had been reading everything I could about it since well before the MINI E was even announced, and it was one of the reasons I decided to sign up for the MINI E.
A few weeks ago Lyle at offered a contest entitled "Why I want a the Chevy Volt", with the 10 winners being invited to test drive the Chevy Volt. I submitted my essay and was lucky enough to be one of the 10 finalists.
I only live 40 miles from NYC, so my first choice was whether to drive the MINI E, into the event. Its been warmer lately and it has the range, but honestly I hate driving into the city, especially during rush hour which is when I'd have to go, do I took a different electric vehicle, the train in.
GM started with a presentation giving us a look at its new fuel efficient up and coming cars, first was the Spark, an all electric compact car, about the size of the MINI, with nice styling that seemed to take ques from the Scion, no mention of its range or when it would be released. Next up was a Ario RS (SP?) a sporty traditional compact car, then the Chevy Cruise a treditional mid to small size car, which shares many of the same components and is the same size as the Volt, and finally the Volt.
The Designers talked about the engineering, and showed off key features that increased its aerodynamics on a non-functional Volt prototype. Then we got our chance to see the real thing. The first thing I thought was wow it actually looks cute, this doesnt come across in pictures but its length seems a little compacted, and the lines seemed to flow together very well, something that wasnt obvious from either pictures or even the prototype. There was a silver and a dark gray version, and although I've told my fiancée again and again how much I hate that 90% of the cars on the road seem to be silver, I have to say it looked good, much better then the dark gray, where all of the cool black accent panels blended into the gray.
It was a rainy day as we got into drive and I had a big shock when I say the wiper blades, each of them was twice as long as a normal cars wiper blades, we had no troubles seeing through the light rain while driving.
At first I had to sit in the back seat, and I'm afraid the limited leg room in the back was my biggest disappointment from the whole experience. Luckly I dont plan on sitting in the back when I get a Volt, thats going to be someone else's problem, still 2 more inches would have made all the difference in the world.
I got to drive second and it was a very pleasant experience it was all in pure electric mode, unfortunately we didnt get to experience range extending mode. The car was so quite inside, I couldnt hear any road noise from the tires or wind or the electric motor, it made the MINI E seem down right noisy, something no MINI E driver would normally imagine.
The car has two modes an economy, or normal mode, and a sports mode, we got to try out both, and even in normal mode, it was quite peppy, with no hesitation from the dead stop, but when you kicked in sport the car jumped forward and I couldn't keep the accelerator floored for long, on the short course.
Handling was fantastic, the Volt has some very wide tires, and a very low and balanced center of gravity, and it held up to some tight weaving and sharp accelerations, and a wet track without any tire slippage, or spin outs, or even a traction control system kicking in. This car is a pleasure to dive.
In low gear you get regenerative braking when you let off of the accelerator, but even in normal Drive gear you get regenerative braking when you press lightly on the brake, and friction braking as you press harder.
We folded down the rear seats and this give you a lot of room in the hatchback, enough room for a bike, or two, or over 4 full backpacks. Well thats what I'm planning to put in there.
Yes I'm hooked, this is a pleasurable full featured car, that just happens to be electric, and I'm going to buy one the first chance I get.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Warm weather and the choice to renew

In the last week it seems that Spring is finally here on the east coast. The temperature has warmed up and the snow is melting, soon I hope to see green buds on the trees, Spring is a very happy time when you can feel the new year is coming and all sorts of possibilities are open.
I've been fairly lax about writing to my blog over the last couple months, part of that I can attribute to just being very busy with work, but much of it was not wanting to admit the limitations I've had with the MINI E over the winter. As you may remember for a month in December and January MINI E #304 was in the shop, then when I got it back, I was found running the heater on full barely kept the car warm, and killed my range, I've been averaging 70 miles per charge, vrs. 110 I was seeing in the summer.
So for the last two months I've been limiting my MINI E driving to just my daily commute, and using my Z3 to drive to my fiancee's house 80 miles away. There is a short distance route which actually takes longer but is only 70 miles, and maybe I could have gotten by using the MINI E. I would have had to leaving it outside on the 110 charger over the weekend, something even MINI USA doesn't recommend in the cold, then the car would have been VERY cold at 5 am Monday morning we've had a number of really bad snow storms and I was very worried about being caught in one of them while driving the MINI E. Even Lewis and Clark knew not to cross the Sierra Mountains in the Winter, and I was worried about ending up like the Dommer Party. Over the last two months I've only put 1000 miles on #304, while prior to that I was putting about 1200 miles on a month. Now that the weather has warmed up I'm looking forward to driving the MINI E to my Fiancee's house again, and putting many more miles on MINI E #304 until my lease runs out.
Today I received a letter from MINI USA offering me a chance to renew my lease for another year for $600 a month. Some people might consider that still a high price, but considering it covers everything but the cost of electricity and liability insurance it seems a fair price to me. But I have to ask am I right for the MINI E, during the weekdays the MINI E fits my driving well, I rarely drive over 60 miles, 80 miles tops, most days I only drive 40, for which the MINI E is a great commuting car. But on the Weekends I'm either driving to my Fiancee's or we are off to the mountains to go hiking on some back trail, or mountain biking somewhere new, we like to explore and get away from civilization, and technology. Unfortunately this means MINI E #304 usually spends the weekend sitting at one of our homes.
I'm afraid my life style isnt right for a pure electric car as my only car right now. I'm not giving up on Electric cars though, I think the Chevy Volt will be a better fit for my lifestyle. It offers the promise of pure electric driving for the first 40 miles then a gas generator kicks in and powers the car as far as you need, or to the next gas station. This will give me a almost all electric daily commute (All electric if I can convince my company to put chargers in at work), and it give my fiancee and and me the range and cargo room we need to explore the great outdoors, what could be better? Unfortunately the Chevy Volt wont be on sale until November at the earliest and then only in California, Michigan and Washington DC, who knows when it will be available in New Jersey. I may just have to buy it in Washington, and make service trips down there as needed, if they will let me get away with that.
But what do I do in the mean time? My other car a 1997 Z3 with 180,000 miles on it, is feeling her age and doesnt have the cargo space we need. As the weather improves I can drive the MINI E more and more, I'm hating the idea of returning it just as its at its getting to its peak usefulness time of year, and I have no desire to buy another car as a stop gap until I can get the Volt. I've asked MINI USA if the MINI E lease extension is only for a full year or if it could be for a few months, if I can I'd like to keep it a little longer, but not if it means driving it over the Winter.

Finally, stay tuned for a big announcement in two month, the date been set, the reservations made, the ring is being crafted, expect some amazingly beautiful pictures.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

#304 back on the road

MINI E #304 is back from the shop and running well for theis relatively warm January we are having. Still no word on exactly what was wrong with it or why it was in the shop for a month, the service techs at Morristown MINI are as out of the loop on whats being done to the MINI E's as the customers are.
MINI is sending me a check for the time I've been without a car, I never bothered to get a loaner, as it would have meant anouther trip into the dealer, and I have a old Z3 I still enjoy driving.
I think the regenerative braking is aggressive again, They had turned it down after the service in September. Or it could be I've forgotten what its like to drive an electric car, but Im enjoying breaking with one petal again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One Month without my MINI E

Well its been one month since I started having problems with my MINI E electric car, prior to that I'd had 6 months of problem free driving. It has been in the shop for repairs most of that time, I had it back for a week before it died on me, then again for a couple days when I only got to drive it once.
I've been reading other drivers posts about driving the MINI E in the cold, and needing to keep the battery temperature up, but I havent gotten much real experience with driving the MINI E in the cold weather yet.
I have a tough choice to make about driving to my fiance's house on the weekends, I can either drive the MINI E, and park it outside in the cold with just the 120v charger to warm it during the weekend, or leave it in a unheated garage at home the whole weekend. Either way the battery is going to get cold.
During the holiday I flew to Flordia, during that time I left my gas burner at an airport parking lot, where it got very cold, I'm not sure there is a good solution to leaving a electric car at the airport for a few days, its going to get cold, even if it has an onboard heating system.
Anyway I'm looking forward to driving my MINI E again, my Z3 is nice and warm, but its amazing how sensitive my nose is to the stink of hydrocarbons.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Batteries too hot?

MINI E #304 has been in the shop for 2 weeks, ever since it stopped running with the evil red battery symbol on the 20th.
I got it back on Saturday and it seemed to be running well. Still no word on exactly what work was done to it over the last two weeks. We took it out to the Movies saw Avatar what a great movie. It was frigidly cold outside hovering around 20 degrees but the batteries never dipped below 60 degrees, and the heat actually felt a warmer then I remember it feeling before the service. The range was low only around 60 miles with highway driving, but otherwise it was fine.

I didnt get to drive it on Sunday, then on Monday I went to drive it to work and I got the evil red battery symbol, meaning the high voltage system was disconnected. I had stored the car in my garage which was cold 38 degrees according to the MINI E. I thought the batteries might have gotten a little cold, but not too much, only when I looks, it told me the batteries where at 167 F degrees.
Well it looks like the battery temperature gauge is broken and #304 needs to go back to service.. again. I had to rush to work so I'll be calling the tow truck this evening if I cant get it running.