2013 Chevrolet Volt: Long-Term Staff Car Report

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt, a range-extended electric car, might only have an official all-electric range of 38 miles on the EPA test cycle, but the Gordon-Bloomfield family purchased one last year as their long-distance car and companion to the trusty 2011 Nissan LEAF already in their garage. After a year of ownership, how economical has it proven as a long-distance car, and how reliable has it been as a daily driver?

After a year of ownership, how is our Chevrolet Volt performing?

After a year of ownership, how is our Chevrolet Volt performing?

Here at Transport Evolved, we believe in driving the future of transport, not just writing about it. As a consequence, our own personal cars are some of the most popular plug-in cars on the market today. Tot up the cars owned by the editorial staff and contributors, and you’ll find a Tesla Roadster, two Nissan LEAFs, two Mitsubishi i-Mievs, a Chevrolet Volt, a BMW i3 and a Ford Focus Electric.

That’s before you account for former staff vehicles we’ve owned, ranging from a home-made Plug-in Prius to a Renault Twizy, a BMW Active E and Mini E.  In each case, they’re cars personally owned by us, not by Transport Evolved. Each of us has paid our respective hard-earned cash for a chance to own and drive them, and we don’t get any special treatment from the respective dealers or automakers for buying them. As a consequence, our staff car reports are honest, open, and as unbiased as we think it’s possible to be.

Purchased on a rainy day one year ago, our 2013 Chevrolet Volt was the result of a double trade-in of our 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid and troublesome 2012 Renault Twizy. Substantially cheaper than its European cousin the Vauxhall (Opel) Ampera, we decided on the Chevrolet Volt both for financial and aesthetic reasons, but found ourselves making a 400-mile round trip to one of only two dealerships in the UK who officially stocked and sold the less-common UK-market Volt.

Identical in looks to its American brother, the European Volt shares the same features as the U.S-market Volt, but — like the Ampera — lacks the OnStar onboard Telematics system standard with the U.S. model due to a lack of OnStar coverage in Europe. As a consequence, we’ve never been able to remotely control our car’s preconditioning or charging — but thanks to the aftermarket Open Vehicle Monitoring System we’ve been able to remotely monitor state of charge, something that has proven rather useful on occasion.

Usage, fuel economy

Wider and lower down than the LEAF, the heavier Volt feels a little less easy to manoeuvre in busy urban streets, but comes into its own on motorway stretches, soaking up most bumps with ease. Despite its heavy road-trip use, we’ve even been able to keep the lifetime fuel economy around 120 mpg imperial, just shy of 100 mpg U.S. While that’s hardly the highest fuel economy of any Volt we’ve seen, it’s worth mentioning that our Volt’s duties have been evenly spread between regular weekly duties to and from work and longer weekend road trips.

In fact, for the first eight months of its life, the Volt was covering 80 miles every day, charging up in the middle of the day at a client site to give a daily driving mix of 75 miles electric, 5 miles gasoline. Nowadays however, the LEAF is being used as the long-distance commuter, travelling on average 90 miles a day while the Volt manages between 45 and 60 miles in electric mode.

With 18,585 miles on the clock our Chevy Volt has been used for everything -- including the local coffee shop run.

With 18,585 miles on the clock our Chevy Volt has been used for everything — including the local coffee shop run.

At the time of writing, our car has 18,585 miles on the odometer, with the last 1,400 miles using just 1.3 imperial gallons of gasoline.


Unlike our Nissan LEAF, which is now showing some significant signs of range loss due to battery ageing, our Chevrolet Volt still seems happy to give the same kind of ranges it did when new. In fact in recent weeks, we’ve discovered that more than 50 miles of range is easily achievable at an average speed of 50 mph. On occasion, we’ve beaten that. Our only conclusion here is that the Volt’s liquid cooling system — which keeps the battery pack both warm in winter and cool in the summer — has helped the Volt’s 16.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack happy regardless of weather. Even in winter, we’ve managed more than the EPA-approved 38 miles of range with ease.

(The only time we noticed a major drop in range was after picking up the Volt after it had spent one month off the road as the result of a collision with a motorcycle. Occurring less than a month after purchase when the car only had 1,000 miles on the clock, a motorcycle approaching from the opposite direction lost control on a corner and slid into the front of our Volt, taking out both front wheels, front fender and on-board charger. Due to the car’s rarity, it took more than a month for appropriate repairs to be made. For a month or so after we picked the Volt back up, we noticed a substantial drop in EV range, but it soon returned to as-new range with use.)

The only noticeable drop in range occured after the car was off the road for a month following a collision with a motorcycle

The only noticeable drop in range occured after the car was off the road for a month following a collision with a motorcycle

Wear and tear

After a year of ownership, our Chevy Volt has fared fairly well in terms of interior and exterior wear and tear. Despite its 18,585 miles, there is still plenty of tread on the car’s original Michelin Energy Saving tyres, and windscreen wipers, lights and interior trim are still in excellent condition. Finished with two-tone leather, our Volt’s interior is easy to clean, and comes back to ‘as-new’ finish when cleaned. Despite life with two children, two dogs, and the occasional tip run, the Volt’s interior is generally fresh and unmarked.

Importantly too, the exterior finish of the Volt is superior to that found on the LEAF, with no noticeable blemishes or scratches. After a year of ownership, our Nissan LEAF was looked far from pristine, with even paint damage from the local carwash noticeable.


Like any new car, our Volt had its own share of problems during the first year of its life. Aside from the aforementioned accident with a motorcycle — something which obviously wasn’t our fault or that of our car — we’ve taken it to the dealership once for its initial 10,000 mile service and once for warranty repair.

Earlier this year, the Volt's remote climate control stopped working. It was repaired under warranty.

Earlier this year, the Volt’s remote climate control stopped working. It was repaired under warranty.

Earlier this spring, the drivers’ side front door stopped responding to the keyless entry unlock request, requiring a replacement door handle to be ordered and replaced under warranty. At the same time, the remote pre-conditioning — activated from the key fob — stopped working and the car’s tire pressure monitoring system became confused about the location of each whee. They too were repaired under warranty.

Like every other Volt owner, we’ve also suffered problems with the remote charging port unlock mechanism. Highly temperamental, the release mechanism is particularly troublesome in cold or wet weather, although we note it has performed more reliably since the 10,000 mile service.

The only other issues we’ve experienced pertain to a persistent engine warning light which required frequent resetting during an unseasonably wet winter. Tripped after driving through a few inches of flood water, the Volt has not shown any error messages since its first service.


After one year of ownership, the Chevrolet Volt has grown on us as a family car. While it isn’t quite as cavernous as the LEAF and lacks the third rear seat, its powerful electric motor and sport mode make for fun driving, while its hold charge mode is essential for saving EV range on long trips into London’s congestion charging zone.

With a little practice, you can get 100% scores from the on-board energy coach, and more than 50 miles per charge.

With a little practice, you can get 100% scores from the on-board energy coach, and more than 50 miles per charge.

Like other Volt and Ampera owners we’ve talked to, the on-board 16 amp charging capabilities of the Volt lets it down, especially on longer-distance trips away from home where a 32 amp or DC charging capability would dramatically improve fuel economy. On trips between 50 and 100 miles, it’s easy to keep total fuel economy hovering at or above 60 mpg combined, but travel much more, and you’ll soon find the fuel economy drop to the low 40s.

For the audiophiles, the Volt’s impressive Bose sound system has provided many pleasant hours of in-car entertainment, managing everything from classical symphonies to steampunk and mashups with ease. Talking of comfort, the easily adjustable front seats — complete with three stage heating elements, are great on cold winter days.

But with the Chevrolet Volt due to end sales in Europe this year, followed next year by the Ampera, we think the Volt/Ampera is a car that needs a little dedication from its owner to keep it in the best possible condition. This is particularly problematic in the UK with the Volt, since only two dealers in the UK are licensed and approved to officially work on the car.

As a family car and daily driver, the Volt is refined, quiet, and easy to drive. After a year of ownership, ours is still going strong, but not everyone will like its U.S. styling and big-car feel on tiny, tight streets. If you’re willing to own a car which is going to soon end its European production however — or you’re in the U.S. — we think the Volt is certainly worth a look.

Do you have a Chevrolet Volt or Vauxhall Ampera? How is yours performing? What kind of fuel economy are you achieving, and what problems have you had? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Glen

    Extremely comprehensive and well written article, it was a good read–thank you. I have owned my volt for just over 2.5 years and at 90,000 KMs. Six months ago, one of the charging port connection wires corroded, causing the car to engage the parking brake at every red light. After I reboot the car, the transmission locked itself, re-engaged the electronic parking brake and indicated the ‘service engine light’–at which point, I was stuck at an intersection. The wire coming from the charge port door to the high voltage charging system was replaced with a 2013/14 more robust version. nnI have also experienced 3 passive remote door unlock/lock sensor failures on the car as well. The innards of three out of four door handles were replaced.nnCharge Port Door in Cold Weather: Same issue up here in the great white north. Do not attempt to wash it when it’s cold or ‘no charge for you’!nnDrive Mode Selection Switch: is failing as well. I use it every day, to switch to ‘Sport’ and now it respond intermittently (sometimes requiring a stiff firm push–if at all). Dealer will not replace until they can see it fail in action. Note: This is NOT covered under ANY warranty! The mentioned this is considered ‘Trim’ and even though it *controls* the drivetrain, it’s not considered any part of this. I have heard of three other Volt owners who experienced the same problem.nnAir Buffeting / Side Mirror Kit: I have had the complimentary kit installed to my exterior side mirrors to prevent the ear-drum exploding buffeting that experienced when driving with the windows down. It really fixed the problem but after they were installed, the dealer ‘locked’ them somehow so now they will not turn-in as they were designed to. Returned to the dealer only to tell me that I clean my car ‘too much’ and that water has seized the pivots. $410 (mirrors) + paint + installation to have these mirrors replaced. *A warning for those who opt-in for the buffeting mirror kitnnDespite these issues, I still love my car. It is black and the clear coat is holding up well. (Waxing every 4-6 months) I have had to take my service to a few different dealerships for poor handling of my Volt. (greasy finger prints, using a plastic brush when washing my brand new black car, greasy steering wheel, etc) This is my 12th car I have owned in my life and by far, the most exciting and rewarding to drive. Instant torque, silent ride, economically sound transportation and a real head turner. A week doesn’t go by where I am not stopped to ask questions about my car. I would buy another one tomorrow. I have not grown tired of this vehicle one bit. Like stated in this article, this car holds up (cosmetically) very well! nn-Glen (Ottawa)

    • Jean-Marc Blanchette

      Great to hear, Glen! I just bought a 2013 Volt this month and it is impressive. I have had a few intermittent tire pressure sensors, but other than that it’s all good. I believe the real test will be winter at -40 in Northern Canada. I live about 1000 km from the Arctic Ocean, so we will put it’s heated seats through its paces. Next project: installation of a fixed charger in my driveway. Wish me luck…nnp.s. Anybody have any studded winter tires that they could throw my way? jk

  • DerekOsb

    I’ve had my Ampera since the end of March 14 so 4 months now. I have covered slightly over 5400 miles in that time and so far put in (not used as yet) u00a3100 of petrol. For perspective my previous car (Lexus IS220d) would have had to be filled 12 times (450 Miles per tank) at a cost of around u00a3960.nnnI am pleased to say my Lifetime MPG is stuck resolutely on 250+ MPG but I worked out an actual figure of 396 MPG for this period.nnnI have been delighted with the car and it has done everything I ask of it. It is even proving more practical than I expected for moving items and the boot is big enough for most occasions. So far the 4 seats has not been a limitation (we have my wife’s Qashqai available if we need it). nnnThe only issue I have had has been the engine warning light. This comes on sometimes after the engine has been used or I’ve topped up the petrol tank. It comes and goes a bit when I re-start the car but it is happening too often so I think I’ll get it looked at when I can.nnnOtherwise I love it, the kids love it and it is quite a talking point. Doesn’t turn as many heads as I thought it might but I put that down to the Vauxhall badge or people simply not knowing what it is.nnnDerek

  • Derek

    Bellingers rectified my charge door sticking. I have had no problems with my Volt in 10000 miles. I drive in regenerative braking mode which will give 40 mile range in winter and 56 mile range in summer. Chevrolet tell me Skurreys at Swindon will now service the Volt. Great car and it is a shame it has limited sales.

  • Andrew Barnes

    I have a 2013 Volt and am pleased with it. I thought there were 3 Volt garages in UK: Cambridge, Spalding and Edinburgh. Luckily I live only 40 miles from Cambridge. I get 40 miles on a full charge in summer, but only 28 miles in winter. Problems: Charge door sticks, but a finger nail under the door whilst pressing the keyfob button does the trick. I hate the gear selector lever – it’s heavy and clunky – Haven’t Chevrolet driven a Prius to show them how to do it – it’s only an electric switch? The engine sounds a little too course at times when engaged. Otherwise I love the car. The performance is great, the road holding is great. It’s reasonably comfortable, although long journeys cause a few growns. The silence is awesome. Very sad that the car is being discontinued. People just do not realise how good these car are. Wife’s just pranged it in a front collision, u00a35k damage! so hope approved Chevrolet repairer repairs it properly!

    • Duncan Booth

      There is also a Volt dealer in Wantage. Yes, my charge door occasionally sticks as well but so far I’ve always been able to flip it open as you say. More annoying was during the winter when it sometimes flipped open while driving.

  • johnny mars

    No problems whatsoever after 20k miles here with my 2013 Volt. Sparkee is averaging 152 MPG with 75% all-electric miles. I just love passing the gas stations on by. The 5 star safety rating, lower maintenance, and stellar reliability are assuring, and the $7,500. tax credit is satisfying. Edmunds.com says the Volt’s True Cost to Own after 5 years is less than an Honda Civic’s. Volt owners are the most satisfied (some say fanatical) vehicle owners in GM’s history. Did I mention NO range anxiety?

  • yojamey

    One month and 1800 miles on our Volt Leased for $0 down and US$300/month including taxes…Federal Government put $7500 towards purchase price that goes to lease company and state of California give a direct rebate of $1500… My wife loves the car, I am the bean counter and techno-geek andI especially like the QUIET single speed transmission. nnnI have been less than impressed with miles per kWh ~3.2. I pay $18 cents per kWh and the losses due to charging at 120V 8A seems significant to the point that our energy cost have gone up to the point were we pay ~$2 per gallon equivalent… Better than gasoline at $4/gallon and still not the ~$1 equivalent for which I was hoping.

  • burgerboy77

    This is a late response to this but I’ve owned a Volt for 6 months and so far its been a really great car. Before I get started, why is the Volt cheaper there than the Ampera? To my understanding both cars are made on the same assembly line outside Detroit. The only difference is in some of the trim.nn Moving on, I drive around 70 miles a day and on average only use the gas engine about 2 times a week, usually less than 10 miles total. In that time my average fuel economy has been around 225 MPG. nn I traded in a Prius for the car and to me the quality of the Volt is a lot higher in terms of ride, acceleration, fit and finish, and interior.nn I too am having a funny issue with the tire pressure sensors but this is a used 2011 Volt so it could be time to have those checked out. Otherwise Its been a great car and I am curious what the next model will be like.