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Roadtrip: A quest to find family, friends, and electrons in a Chevrolet Volt (Part I)

Jeff Glucker November 21, 2012 Featured, Road Trip 14 Comments

My family is located on the east coast, and traveling to visit them involves a master’s degree in logistics. To visit my wife Jen’s side of the family, we will travel through Connecticut and Rhode Island. For my side of the family, it’s up into Massachusetts and New Hampshire. When we add close friends into the equation, the destination dot radius extends to New York and New Jersey. Jen and I are essentially on a road show of hugs, kisses, too much wine and beer, great food, and not enough time.

Usually our trips back east revolve around a holiday, but this time it was to take part in the wedding of a close friend of ours. So we had to plan a route that got us to the wedding location while also crisscrossing the Northeast on a quest to visit our family. We also needed a vehicle to tackle the trip along with us, and I decided to put something to the test in a bit of a different manner. Sure, I’d love to line up something classically cool for this trip, but Jen and I went in a very different direction instead.

The keys to a 2013 Chevrolet Volt were waiting for me at a parking lot next to Newark airport. Fully charged up, the readout in front of me said that we had about 38 miles of pure EV driving left. Well, that will get us through the first 20 minutes… just 216 more hours to go.


The gas-electric bow tie is not ideally suited for mostly highway travel. It’s instead designed to maximize the amount of non-gas driving you can do but providing an available EV range suited for those running back and forth to work, or handling weekend errands. That said, what makes the Volt more special than a standard EV is that it can utilize its gas engine to extend the total driving range. That is important, because my trip is going to last a bit more than 38 miles.

Our journey begins by leaving behind the cluster of crap that is the highway around Newark airport. Exits can be on either side of the road, multiple routes run around each other, and I was already swearing by the time I circled back (three times) to finally make it from the airport parking lot to my patiently waiting wife who rounded up the luggage. Newark behind us, I pointed the silently running Volt towards Philadelphia as my wife attempted to enter in our destination located about 20 minutes outside of that city. The problem was that entering a destination on the Volt nav screen wasn’t as clear as it should be. You cannot do it from the map, and we cycled through a variety of menus yet couldn’t find anything.  I was too frustrated with the traffic situation around Newark to be any help, and we finally settled on using Jen’s phone to get us to our friend’s house. We made it there with otherwise relative ease, as the Volt shifted away from its pure EV mode, visited with our friends, and hit the road again after lunch to see more friends.

Before leaving Philly, we sat in the driveway and finally located the destination entry menu, which was buried at the back of the multi-page Home display. A nice feature of that the Volt boasts, however, is the ability to edit these pages. I swapped out the pre-determined icons to instead show me buttons for Nav, XM, Bluetooth, Destination, Gas Stations, and Consumption.

Unplugging the Volt from the 110v outlet in the garage, we backed away and set off for Princeton, New Jersey. More friends, more new babies, and more time for the Volt to choke down some sweet sweet electrons.

After sitting for the evening and recharging, Jen and I were ready to hit the road again. The Volt was ready too, and a fresh 38 miles of EV range were placed on the clock. Again, we needed more than that because the next stop was Southern Rhode Island. New Jersey soon passed in the rear view mirror, and was soon met by New York and Connecticut as well. A few hours of driving, a fill-up of fuel, and we’d arrived at Jen’s parents house in modern fashion. It was time to give up driving duty, and say hello to some old friends: red wine and beer. A bar crawl of sorts was in order, and the spots included some very special sections of southern New England.

The first stop required us to take the quasi-futuristic Volt on a trip back in time. Pulling into the lot at Clyde’s Cider Mill gives off nothing out of the ordinary. There are usually a handful of cars (many more during the weekend) with plates from Maine to Virginia. It’s not the lot that’s old school, however, but the mill itself, which is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States.

Well it’s easy to find the main product of this mill, that being … cider, it’s also fun to sample everything else being sold here. There are delicious cider donuts, tons of dips and sauces, and a handful of other concoctions. On top of all that, there’s hard cider, cider-based wine, and a few other elements to imbibe.

After sampling the mill’s wares, I handed the keys to the Volt over to my father in-law and we made silent tracks to the next stop. This time we traded classic Americana for the finest in Boston Brahmin-rooted excess; the Ocean House in Watch Hill. Originally built in 1868, the Victorian landmark saw its doors closed in 2003. It was then purchased by an investment group, demolished, and then rebuilt to resemble what it used to be… only with way more swank. What once housed 159 guest rooms soon became home to just 49 guest rooms and 23 luxury residences. Martha Stewart bought one of the residences apparently… for around $8 million. And we just arrived to have a drink and admire the view, and it’s a stunner.

The driveway was empty, so I was able to snap a few shots of the Volt before it was whisked away from us. Across the street sits a view of the water, and the most gorgeous boat on the planet, which belongs to the owner of the hotel. Her name (the boat, not the owner) is Aphrodite, and her tale is as amazing as her stunning shape. When put into duty as Roosevelt’s main sea-faring girl during the war, rumor has it that Aphrodite monitored the off-shore excersises of the military vessels. Not only was she faster, she was smoother too, and all aboard enjoyed tea as the situations unfolded around them.

Turning back around, the full breadth of the hotel comes into view. It’s a landmark looker, with a huge wrap-around balcony that leads both body and eyes to the rear of the property. Off to the side sits a massive and wonderfully manicured croquet lawn, while the Atlantic ocean does the job of magnificent backdrop to the whole scene. It’s actually quite breathtaking the first time you take it all in… and I filled that lack of breath with an order of Scotch.

The rest of the time in Rhode Island and southern Connecticut was filled with more family, a few more bars, and some chatting over our chariot of choice. My father in-law, a Mopar man to his core (with the slightest hint of Volkswagen in his blood), relished his stint behind the wheel. He found the technology to be amazing, and the all-electric acceleration to be addicting. Press the throttle and watch the Volt push heads back into head rests. The ladies thought we were acting like boys… because we were, and it was great.

[Stay tuned for Part II, where we run from Rhode Island up to Boston, and then back down to Newport, RI for the wedding. Also, Part II will have a full gallery of images.]

  • facelvega

    Usually I don't bother reading the glossy-mag road trip stories that barely mention the car, but in this case the trip is so similar to the kind that I love to take myself that I'm suckered in. The first Volt I ever saw in the flesh was on a trip like this, on a windy road in the Catskills, and for some reason it stuck in my head that a Volt might be a pretty good car for a road trip– it just looked at home sewing through the curves.

    • facelvega

      Oh, and ps, Glucker, will we be seeing a comparison of the volt to your new Prius in part II? Seems obligatory. We all need to know what to recommend for our liberal urbanite friends who insist on a hybrid.

      and pps, the photos look great, they make me want to pull my Datsun out of what was maybe a too-hasty winter storage.

      • Thanks – there's no comparison in my head… The Volt is a billion times better than the Prius.

        • gearz1

          A billion times better,watts with that?

          • Shocking, right?

            • Kogashiwa

              You sound pretty amped up about it.

              • gearz1

                Be sure of your ground.

  • Spoiler: Sadly, in part III, the Volt gets involved with Superstorm Sandy and meets its fiery end.

    • Thankfully, we left the east cost the day before the storm actually it. Randomly perfect timing.


    Maybe you could stop by a few New York and New Jersey neighborhoods so some people can plug their houses into the Volt.

  • CJinSD

    I drove a Volt tonight. I don't have to drive many really awful cars these days, but it is one. Driving it filled my heart with sadness, as it is my friend's car, and I hate to think that he is wasting his time behind the wheel of it. He'd be better off with a Prius. He also has an old Wrangler that somehow stays registered with a broken windshield. I haven't seen it since he got the Volt, perhaps because the Volt is a recent one that has HOV stickers. Still, I wonder if he realizes that there are cars that are comfortable and that can effortlessly keep up with So Cal traffic.

    • I disagree completely. The Volt is nicer inside and out, more engaging to drive, and has absolutely zero problem keeping up with traffic.

      I've spent at least a week with one on both coasts, in city and highway driving, and it's a much better overall machine than the Prius. The Toyota is excellent at what it does, drive very efficiently, but the Volt feels like a much nicer car (granted, it costs between 10-15k more).

      What about it made you think it was really awful?

      • BobWellington

        "What about it made you think it was really awful? "

        Seeing as he provided no reason why he dislikes it, probably just an irrational bias against Chevrolet.

  • Len

    When is Part II going to be posted?