Chevy Volt gives 50+ miles on a charge. How to beat EPA estimates (38).

September 1st, 2012 Posted in The Volt Experience

“How far can you go on a full charge with your Chevy Volt?”

Good question, and one I have already been asked numerous times since we took delivery. The EPA estimates the answer to be 38 miles but even in normal driving around town I’ve found that is a remarkable underestimation of the car’s capabilities. So yesterday morning I had a prime opportunity to see what it could do. After using the Volt to take my boys to school and run a couple of quick errands I drove on to see just how far it would go.

What you see above is the 7″ screen which is part of the center console in the cockpit of this car. What it’s showing is the Volt’s tally for what happened since the last time it was fully charged (overnight). As you can see it shows that I was able to travel a total 52.7 miles on pure electric power! This trip started at my home and ended there as well, so any gains from going downhill were equally offset by the same rise in elevation to complete the trip. If you ask me, that is incredible!

This car is rated by the EPA to provide an average of 38 miles from a full charge. It seems real world experience can differ in a good way!

I’ve referred to the cockpit of our 2013 Chevy Volt as a “geek’s playground”. This comes from the fact that the Volt offers two separate 7″ screens in the cockpit (one in the center console and the other behind the steering wheel) each of which offers a plethora of information about the car and all of its workings.

The image above shows the drivers information screen found exactly where you would normally see your speedometer. In this case the screen is showing a few things, again assessing the drive I had just completed. On the left you see a battery visual showing the battery is mostly depleted but still holding enough charge to drive another estimated 4 miles! So I could easily have traveled 56+ miles on that charge!

Directly above the battery visual the screen shows I have about a quarter tank of gasoline on-board and it estimates I could travel 100 miles on that fuel. Below the battery visual it provides an estimate of the total driving range available from both battery and gasoline, 104 miles at this point. In the center of the screen is the speedometer and below that one of many information widgets available, this one being a “trip odometer” for the mornings drive. It again shows the 52.7 miles traveled, zero gallons of gas used and an estimate of gasoline mileage for the trip of 250+mpg! The Volt caps its mileage estimates for MPG at 250 since you could travel unlimited miles over time as long as you stay within the battery’s range on each charge. Amazing.

So, if the EPA rates this vehicle to average 38 miles from a full battery charge, how did I get more than 52 miles from it? A few things came into play I would say. First, it was a cool morning so I could drive comfortably without the need for air conditioning or heat both of which can pull more draw from the battery. With the windows cracked it was a nice drive. Cool temperatures are also an ideal range of operating temperature for the battery. In overly hot or cold temperatures the battery’s capacity is diminished. Chevrolet knows this and designed this car with a Temperature Management System (TMS) which keeps the battery within this ideal operating temperature range. Add to this that most of my drive was done at speeds which are optimal for peak efficiency. The Volt gets best range when driven roughly 35-45 mph. I’ve also learned how to drive more efficiently. No need to race off from stops and brake hard when stopping either. I’m certainly not hypermiling, but driving “nicely”. With all these things combined making 52+ miles on one single charge really wasn’t that hard at all. And not a drop of gas burned…


  1. Michael says:

    Great mileage numbers, but I have a little problem with the numbers on your first screen. It shows 52.7 miles driven, but only 9.7 KWh. given the fact that you only had 4 miles left in your battery, the 9.7 KWh used is too low. No matter how many miles you drive on a full charge, the amount of total KWh used should have been higher (my 2013 Volt usually ends up somewhere around 15KWh if it only has around 4-5 miles left in the battery). So your 52 miles is awesome, but something is odd about those KWh used. 🙂

    • Gary says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not a Volt engineer so I really don’t know the nuances of the programming they might be using to produce these on screen numbers. I wonder if some discrepancy could come from energy derived from the regenerative system during the course of the drive. I’m certain I benefited from some level of regenerative braking energy and maybe that’s not included in the tally for KWh used? Since the drive represented in this post I have reached the 50 mile mark on single charge drives on numerous occasions.

      Thanks again for your comment,

    • Blake says:

      The volt read out on the 2013 goes no higher than 11KWh ish.

      • Gary says:

        You’re right Blake. In my case I don’t think I’ve ever seen my “KWh used” readout actually reach 11KWh. Not without stopping for a partial charge somewhere along the way. On one single full charge I usually top out somewhere around 10.5KWh or so used.

        Michael seems to suggest it’s not possible to manage 52.7 miles on 9.7KWh energy used but he’s wrong. I’ve matched or beaten that mark on numerous occasions. It takes ideal conditions and careful (efficient) driving but it most certainly can be done.

  2. Suresh says:

    I picked my new 2013 volt last week. The driving experience is great. I have managed to get 41 miles on a full charge – that said, I do drive at 55 to 65 miles.

  3. dave c says:

    My wife once ran out of electricity after 53 miles in her 2011 Volt and tells me she recharges regularly with greater than 50 ( for example, went 35 and has 20 miles left)

    My 2015 Volt has told me the last 3 charges I should be able to go over 50 on a charge, but I drive slow and cautiously most of the time

    • Gary says:

      It all depends on how you drive the car. Any model year Volt can give you 50 miles on a single charge IF you drive it right. Naturally it’s a lot easier with the 2015-2016 models with more of the battery capacity available for use. Enjoy your 2015!

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