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Window Tinting and Tags

9 May

The Volt came with the back and side-rear windows tinted.  However CarMax processes most if not all of their cars the same way and they remove any aftermarket tinting on the front door windows.  I suppose this allows them to make sure the tint is not illegal in any of the states they sell in, although actually most states regulate the rear windows as well..  It makes sense for a company to standardize the way the handle something like that.

After we took the trip to Disney, I had been wanting to get the front windows re-tinted.  I took the car to the TintGuy in Woodstock, GA.  We discussed the options and then I choose a fairly dark looking Georgia legal tint.

Overall I am happy with how it turned out and it matches what was already there pretty well.

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I also looked on PlugShare and found that there was a Walgreens Pharmacy on my way home.  So on the afternoons I don’t need to be home early, I have started stopping by it and grabbing just enough charge to get the rest of the way home.

7

I am glad that Walgreens has started installing these Sema Charging Stations around Metro-Atlanta.  Currently they are free, but I’m not sure how long that will last. I do hope that when they start to charge for them, they keep in mind that the actual cost of a kwH of electricity is pretty low.  If you get above 1.00 per hour, with a 3.3 kw charge rate (which the Volt has, some other cars charge at 6.6 kw, and then Tesla is just off the charts), then it gets cheaper to run gas.  Walgreens/Sema – don’t price yourselves out of a market.

Speaking of Charging:

I can charge the Volt from a standard 120V wall outlet at either 8 or 12 amps, depending on what the outlet will support.  It will take between 8 and 10 hours for a full charge doing it that way, and currently it is what happens at night.  Most of these public charging stations like the one at Walgreens is a 240V charging station.  These will give the Volt a full charge in 4 hours.

The Nissan Leaf and some of the other Plug-in type cars that are coming on the market currently will accept a 6.6 kw charge rate, so they can be fully charged in 2 hours.  There are even newer vehicles, including an option for the newest Nissan Leaf that accepts a 480V DC connection for an even quicker charge.  Unfortunately, the Volt does not have the faster charge rates currently.  Maybe on the next generation.

Finally – A License Plate

The State of Georgia changed registering vehicles the first of March, so with the implementation of any new system, of course there are issues.  I also jumped through the hoops to make sure the fuel code for “O” to make the Volt qualify for the Georgia Alternative Fuel License Plate.  (See the re-post of information from the atlantavolts forum directions below. I have re-posted in-case there is a problem with the original hosted site, as it is important information for Volt owners.  Please make any comments on the original posting on www.atlantavolts.com )

The Georgia Alternative Fuel License Plate comes with some restrictions.  As a vehicle owner you have to make sure you spend 85% of your mileage on the alternative fuel.  Maybe this explains some of my obsession with stopping at Walgreens on the way home and things like that.

HF

I do not see the normal benefits of having the Alternative Fuel plate, but since I can qualify, I wanted to get one just to advertise.  The Alternative Fuel plates allow the use of HOV lanes in downtown Atlanta with a single occupant.  They also allow (with a toll-exempt PeachPass account) free access in the HOT lanes, but those do not exist near where I normally drive.

Here is the re-post of the www.atlantavolts.com forum instructions for getting a Volt registered with a Georgia Alternative Fuel License Plate.

how to get an AFV tag (for free HOV/HOT lane access)

Georgia provides one key benefit to owners of alternative fueled vehicles: free, unlimited access to the HOV/HOT lanes on the interstate highways. However, to get that access you do need to get an “AFV” tag for your car, as well as a special “exempt” Peach Pass. This procedure describes how to do that.

Be sure to read the first step of this procedure BEFORE you take delivery on your Volt!

Before the first step, a bit of a preamble about something we’re not sure about.  Some of the early Volt buyers have found that their Volts are showing up in the state system with the wrong “fuel type” (much more about this fuel type is in the procedure below).  It seems to be appearing like this BEFORE the dealer even submits their title paperwork, which implies that there’s an earlier step to all this, involving GM submitting data to the state.   We’re still researching that, and we will modify this article once we figure that out; if you know something about it, please comment below to tell us about it!  But read the full article first …

Step 1. When taking delivery on your Volt, make sure the title paperwork is filled out properly by the dealer’s title clerk. The dealer has a form (the “title application”) that they need to submit to the state of Georgia, and on that form they declare the fuel type for the car.  The state of Georgia uses the following alternative fueled vehicle fuel codes for title / registration records:

  • B = gas / electric hybrid (i.e. “both”)
  • E = electric
  • P = propane
  • F = flex fuel (e.g. ethanol)
  • N = (liquefied) natural gas
  • I = non-gas hybrid

The dealer’s title clerk needs to enter a fuel type of “O” for a Chevy Volt.  A common mistake is for them to enter a fuel type of “B”, which is for “regular” hybrids, as opposed to “plug-in” hybrids like the Volt (and some will even dispute that the Volt is a hybrid …)  But the state has no code for plug in hybrids, and that mistake will later cause problems in getting the AFV tag.  The state computer systems, used by your county’s tag office, will simply not allow an AFV tag to be issued if the fuel code “B” is indicated on the records for the specific vehicle (VIN) in question. “Classic” hybrids, e.g. the Toyota Prius and similar, do not qualify for an AFV tag anymore.  This is why a “B” code won’t work, and that the state system must show an “O” type, until the state adds a code for plug-in hybrids.  Note: even for leases, this is still the case, except the title paperwork will indicate that the bank has title to the car.

Step 2. By about 2-3 weeks after you take delivery from the dealer and the dealer submits the title application, the state should have processed the titling paperwork from the dealer, and you should be able to go in and get your permanent tag. However, before you take the time to go into the county tax office, you should call ahead and ask them to verify that your car is in their system properly. Give them your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and ask them to look it up to see A) whether it’s in the system ready to for you to get a tag, and B) what fuel type code shows up in the system. If your VIN is not even in the state’s system yet, then call your dealer’s title clerk and ask them to check on their side whether the paperwork went in, and what they put in for the fuel type.

Step 3. If the correct fuel type was noted above, you can skip this step. If the WRONG fuel type was noted above in the state system, then unfortunately you’re in a bit of a bind. Please get in touch with Chris C. or John C. and we’ll see what we can do to help. As of January 2012 there is no easy way to correct the fuel type errors.  UPDATE:  per the 04/19/2012 09:04 comment below, if you encounter this problem, send a detailed email to motorvehicleinquiry@DOR.GA.GOV , explaining that your Volt has the “B” code when it should actually have the “O” code.  They may be able to resolve the problem right away.

Step 4. By this point, you should now have your Volt in the Georgia database ready to get a permanent tag, and it has the correct fuel type. Before going into the county tax office, call them, give them your VIN, and have them confirm that the fuel type noted will allow them to give you an AFV tag when you come in.

Step 5. Go to tax office and get your AFV tag!  You will need to fill out the “Alternative Fuel” form, which you might want to do ahead of time.    Here is a direct link to the form but if that doesn’t work then try going to https://etax.dor.ga.gov/ , click on “Forms and Publications”, click on “Motor Vehicle Division”, and look on the resulting page for the “Alternative Fuel License Plate Application” PDF.  When filling it out, check the box for “Electricity or Solar Energy”, and for the city and county of “fuel” purchase, enter your home city and county (which is where you’ll be doing most of your charging).  There is an application fee of $80, as of this writing, per this state information page.  The county office will issue you a temporary paper tag from the state which will be valid until receiving your AFV tag in the mail after 1 to 2 weeks. Confirm with the clerk what your permanent tag number is for the tag they are sending you.  They can point it out on your temporary paperwork.

Step 6. Go to the Georgia Peach Pass website and get their customer service phone number.  Call them (don’t use the website)  and ask to have a “toll exempt account” set up.  They will ask you for your Georgia AFV license plate number; your paperwork / registration from the tag office will have your actual, permanent tag number on it for this purpose.  This will allow exempt travel in the I-75 and I-85 HOV and HOT lanes with only the driver on board.  However, this will not function on Georgia 400 at all; you must set up a second, billable account (like any other Peach Pass holder) for use on GA 400, or just stop and pay as you go on GA 400.

Step 7. After receiving your Peach Pass, apply it per their instructions. The pass can be applied to the windshield behind the rear-view mirror; from the driver’s perspective, you can place it so that it is out of your view, but within the required specifications supplied with the pass.

Step 8.  After receiving your AFV tag, apply it to your Volt!

Step 9.  Test it out! Note – do not travel in the I-75 / I-85 HOV / HOT lanes until both the Peach Pass and your permanent AFV license plate have been received and properly applied to your vehicle. Your temporary license plate is not good enough and will earn you a citation if you try to use it prematurely.

Step 10.  Make a comment below and tell us how it went!

Please let us know if you find any problems with this procedure or have additions to suggest.  This should be a smooth process.


Further background material from Volt owner John C.:

The Volt clearly meets the criteria for alternative fueled vehicles.

When I say the Volt clearly qualifies, I’m referring to requirements in Georgia Code 40-2-86.1, which states … “for any 2004 and later model, a vehicle which has received a certificate that such vehicle meets or exceeds the Bin 5 Tier II emission level established in regulations prescribed by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Section 202(i) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 7521(i), for that make and model year vehicle.”

The fact is that the EPA has awarded the Chevrolet Volt a “Certificate Of Conformity”(with the Clean Air Act of 1990) indicating the Volt meets Tier II, Bin 4 (exceeds Bin 5) emission level.   Here is the actual EPA certification for the Volt:

Chevy-Volt-US-EPA-certification.pdf

It is important to note that the State of Georgia, Department of Natural Resources / Environmental Protection Division has clearly communicated to the Department of Revenue / Motor Vehicle Division that the Volt does qualify for AFV status per the above requirements, as long as the “85% affidavit” is completed, submitted, and complied with.  Leadership in the DOR/MVD has chosen to make their own interpretation of the Volt’s qualifications. For apparent political reasons, they have chosen to firmly stand behind the belief that the Volt does not qualify, regardless of communications from DNR/EPD. This means that if your VIN has an incorrect fuel type code in the system, and you try to “work the system” from scratch to correct it, when said leadership becomes aware of your efforts, it will be the progressive equivalent of stepping on a land mine — game over. We have successfully navigated this mine field before and have a path to communicate your need on your behalf. Feel free to contact us for support in successfully getting your fuel code changed if you are otherwise unsuccessful at having the dealer correct this.

Also note that Georgia code also requires that AFV vehicles operate on their “alternative fuel” at least 85% of the time.  When you fill out the AFV tag application above, you are signing an affadavit that you will in fact operate the car in that manner.  The “alternative fuel” consumed by the Volt is electricity, but only that stored into the battery which came from an off-board source, i.e. the electrical outlet or charging station at your home or workplace or elsehwere.  Electricity generated by the on-board generator does not qualify.

This means that if you do not have your vehicle “registered” on www.VoltStats.net , you should to go ahead and do that now. This excellent website downloads your Volt’s performance data from OnStar, updating several times a day, and will allow you to track and demonstrate to others that you are operating in the EV mode more than 85% of the time.  You may have to demonstrate at any time that you are adhering to the promise made on the affidavit to operate at least 85% ev, this will allow you to prove compliance easily if audited, or if required at time of renewal.  It is unlikely that the state would ever do an audit of this, but just in case it’s best to go ahead and start collecting the data.


Update March 2012:

More background from John C. on how the dealer and the state can get the fuel code screwed up.

First, three key facts:

1. GM does not provide, transmit, or otherwise cause data to be entered in Georgia’s (or other states’) database(s).

2. Georgia’s state database appears possibly to be initially populated with information from “automatic VIN decoding” provided by R. L. Polk & Co. computers.

3. DEALERS can (and should) cause the fuel code to be corrected when entering the information for title application at time of sale.

So, here’s some history, and how this is apparently supposed to work now …

The dealers used to fill out an MV-1 form (Application for Motor Vehicle Title) and have delivered to the correct county tag office. The tag office used to manually enter this information, including fuel code, prior to vehicle being registered the first time. The tag office used to be able to manually change the fuel code anytime during the “registered life” of the vehicle.

Around December 1st, 2011, this all changed…

The tag office can NOT edit the fuel code any longer. The MV-1 form is no longer sent to the tag office, nor do they enter the information from it. The DEALER ENTERS MV-1 INFORMATION ELECTRONICALLY AT OR BEFORE TIME OF SALE. This process is referred to as the “Electronic Title Registration”, or ETR, for short.

The dealer can make their entries one of two ways, but ONLY ONE METHOD WILL CORRECT AN INCORRECT FUEL CODE.

If the dealer enters the VIN and “just hits return”, all the “previously populated information”, including the fuel code (which may be wrong…), will be entered as the data submitted in the ETR form from the dealer. This creates a “semi-permanent” (and possibly wrong” ..) entry that will follow the vehicle for the life of its registration, unless manually edited directly in the database by upper-level personnel in the State of GA DOR office.

The RIGHT way for the dealer to ensure the correct (“O” for other…) fuel code is entered into the submitted ETR is to painstakingly enter each piece of information (VIN, Make, Model, Fuel Code, Body Style, Weight, et., etc…) when entering and submitting the ETR.

Some dealers know how to, and are willing to do this – it is becoming more common for sellers of the Volt. Some dealers don’t have a clue that this needs to be done, is possible, why, or how to do it.

Purchaser needs to discuss this with the sales team, probably the sales manager, and CERTAINLY the Title Clerk at the dealer prior to “closing”.

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Disney

6 May

I really thought I was going to like the Volt.  Of course, I got the car, then 5 days later get caught in a hailstorm.  And then it goes in the body shop on day 10, and stays there for two weeks.  That doesn’t give one much time to gather an impression.

Picked it up from Magnum Collision in Marietta on a Friday.  I have to say that Magnum did an outstanding job with the work, much of it came out with Paintless Dent Removal, but the panel they did have to pain can’t be told from the others.  They also worked hard to have the car back to me early, the biggest delay was waiting on some parts for the Volt, which ended up being over-nighted from Chevrolet.

Anyway, pick the car up on a Friday, and leave on Saturday morning for a week at Disney World.  🙂 This is why they rushed to get the car back to me.

Left with a full charge on Saturday morning, but of course that was pretty much gone by the time we got to the south side of Atlanta.  I followed advice from online: put the car in “Mountain Mode” and just drive.  Mountain Mode lets the battery discharge to where it has about 10% or so of the charge left, then uses the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE – aka Range Extender) to run the generator and power the car, while holding that reserve battery.  The 2013+ Volts have what is called a “Hold Mode” that does the same thing, but you can enable it at any state of charge, so you could start off with a full charge and keep that for when you get to your destination.

So, get on the highway in Atlanta and settle in with Mountain Mode.  I was not sure what the trip would be like out on the highway, but really this is where I fell for the car.  It is a very comfortable and capable highway car.  I-75 in Southern Georgia and Northern Florida is more or less flat, 3+ lanes in each direction and traffic flows at 75 to 80+ mph, even with the occasional State Trooper and County LEO car posted up to try and slow things down.  You get into Northern Florida and speeds pick up, the enforcement efforts being a bit less oppressive.

Somewhere around Lakeland, FL I stopped for fuel (yes, just like the T.V. Commercials, you can put gas in the Volt).  So I fill the 9 gallon tank with somewhere around 8 gallons, since the “Low Fuel” light was on.  This was about the same point I usually have to get gas, but then I would usually pump in over 15 gallons.

Back on the highway, across the Florida Turnpike without having to slow down, thanks to buying a Sunpass transponder a few trips back, and on to Disney, where we were staying at the All-Star Sports Resort.  What can I say except that I could have done better than the slightly over 38 miles per gallon had I stayed more in the right lane than the left.  But it was a very comfortable ride,with power when you wanted to change lanes without having to make other traffic slow down.

3 🙂 You got to love Disney.  No one else could pull off a 3 story stairwell disguised as a Coke cup, complete with straw, and it not seem cheesy.  There were also Footballs, Tennis Ball cans and other fun themes.  However, I think that Pop Century is still my favorite of the Disney Value Resorts – where else is your staircase inside a Rubik’s Cube?

2Buffalo Wild Wings near Disney has a ChargePoint charging station, and offers free charging.  So, free charging, big screen T.V.’s and good hotwings?  Well, you know that was a place we had to visit.

Let’s see, what else am I leaving out?  Well, the required picture of being parked at Disney, of course.  And although I wasn’t silly enough to take pictures, it was sort of cool to see the Volts that were on display at EPCOT.  There was a Red Volt in Innoventions and then the White Volt at Test Track.  I did spot one other Volt in the parking lot as I was on the monorail – a red one parked at EPCOT.  I only took one picture in the parking lot, that was one morning when we got there pretty early.photo

At the end of the week, there was the drive home.  Filled up with gasoline at a Hess station near Downtown Disney, then again somewhere just before the Georgia line and back home.  Managed an overall 37.2 MPG for the trip.  I also learned that if you don’t get a full charge, eventually somewhere around 1,000 miles, the energy used page stops tracking the total number of miles.

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I still can’t complain about nearly 38 mpg overall for the trip.  I still suspect if I’d stayed right a bit the numbers would have been better.

Oh, and that horrid lifetime mpg of 48.5 – well, the car appears to have almost never been charged in the 13,900 miles that were on it before I got it.  I’ve already got that over 50 lifetime by now, but we will cover that in another post.

Just a quick note

19 Apr

Life has been incredibly busy, but we took the Volt to Disney World for a week and back for the last week on the commuting.  I will try to catch up here when I can.  So far it is beyond expectations.

Finally get the Volt back!

5 Apr

Very excited.  After two weeks in the body shop after the hailstorm, I will finally get the Volt back today.  Hopefully I won’t be able to tell any of what they did.

Let’s Talk “Payback”

26 Mar

I have read several articles about the Volt and automobile journalist and blog that compare the payback period based on fuel savings over purchasing an “equivalent” vehicle.  One even has put the payback period on the Volt as 27 years.

First – at least for me, I did not make the decision to purchase the Volt based on any kind of payback period or fuel savings.  I bought the car because I found it to be a very interesting car and it was reasonable in price and looked nice.  On driving it the (only) time I drove it immediately prior to signing paperwork, I liked how it felt and the seating.  It was in my price point and got better mileage that what I had been driving previously – but everything that I looked at got better mileage by some bit.

Now, before we go further, let’s discuss the “equivalent” vehicle concept.  Frequently, when people look at this, they choose a car built from the same platform and assume that is an equivalent vehicle.  This works pretty darn well when you are looking at a Toyota Camry vs a Toyota Camry Hybrid.  However, most of the time, comparing the Volt, they use the Chevrolet Cruze Eco.  When you use the Cruze, you are comparing a sub 20,000 dollar car with an over 40,000 dollar car.  I am sorry, but they really are not “equivalent” cars, as no one I have read about really would have considered a Cruze as their next car if they had not purchased the Volt.

Many Volt buyers that I have seen on the Volt Forum I like to watch (www.gm-volt.com/forum/) have been primarily previous European vehicle owners.  There are a some General Motors fans, of course, but they are still traditionally higher end GM vehicle buyers (Corvette, Cadillac, etc).

For my self, the other alternative vehicle would have been less than 2,000 dollars cheaper, still from CarMax.  It would have been a Mercedes C350 Sport.  The car would have had slightly more miles on it, but not a significant amount.  Many of the other people on the forum have stated that if they had not purchased a Volt, they would have purchased 5-serices BMWs, or Infiniti sedans, etc.  In short, for most cars, the Volt, as a 40,000+ dollar car is being purchased instead of another 40,000+ dollar car.

Once you realize this flaw in what the general media is reporting, you should realize that the “payback” model is flawed.  Looking at it this way, the payback becomes something like 0 – 2 years.  People may scratch their heads, but let’s look at new car price:  If I were going to buy a C350 Sport, with navigation, etc  MSRP would be close to 44,000, and the Volt the way I would choose it would be close to 44,000.  For simplicity, we are assuming tax incentives, rebates, etc don’t exist, which actually makes the Volt less expensive for many people.    In this example, the payback period for the Volt is immediate – based on fuel savings.

 

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Aw Hell,…Hail.

21 Mar

Sometimes you just make the wrong choice!

Monday afternoon, March 18th was one of those days.  Atlanta had heavy spring thunderstorms moving in from the west right about rush-hour traffic time.  Being in the Volt, and it being my new baby with a perfectly fresh coat of polish from Sunday on it, I decided to avoid the traffic and wait the storm out at work.

Besides, it looked like the worst red on the radar was going to go over the house, with just a little near work.  It seemed perfectly reasonable, and I stayed in the basement office until about 7:00, headed out, got in my car and headed home.  No big deal, the Volt ran another 3 miles on battery before it swapped to gasoline, and everything was fine.

I get to work on Tuesday morning, and several people are talking about one of the cars in the parking lot that got the back window broken out with the hail on Monday, and the damage to other cars.  Whoops – I go look at my car and…

photo roof2

….crap.  Plus some dimples on the hood and such that didn’t turn out in pictures.

Oh well, at least the insurance company is good about it.  I’ve owned it 5 days and have to go get it fixed.   Damnit.

The First Weekend

21 Mar

Just a quick note here, but all I can say is that this car is great!  Everything that they promised and more.

The seats, for me anyway, are very comfortable. I like the layout for the interior and think everything is just great.  The car is solid, without rattles or squeaks.  Four bucket seats is comfortable for passenger. It has plenty of go, but they have done such a good job of “gamification” of gentle driving, that it is more fun to drive it easy.

With a little help from public charging stations in Woodstock (when there wasn’t a red-neck with his Internal-Combustion-Engine blocking the parking space), I managed to go the entire weekend without using an gasoline.  Most of the Walgreens in the Atlanta area have installed (free-for-now) charging stations.  It was fun doing little things like running to Walgreens and instead of running straight in and out, plugging the car in to the free charging station and walking through the store for 10 minutes and just looking.  It didn’t charge that much, but enough to recover my drive up there.