Contrary to unrelenting media chatter, the demand for Chevy Volts is up. Clarification: It most certainly is up at Chevrolet of Irvine in Orange County, California. According to Chevy salesman Bob Skeffington, the snappy, extended range vehicles are moving off the lot almost as quickly as they can be trucked in. Call it life in the fast lane: Newly improved HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane compliant Volts have inspired an amped up interest in the revolutionary car -- at least in California. Quoting Irvine salesman Bob: "We had four Volts yesterday. They sold yesterday. The number of people who want this car is getting to the point of amazing."
Bob also declares that he is having no trouble selling or leasing non-HOV compliant Volts during GM’s temporary Volt production shutdown while clearing old stock.
Take my husband and proud new Volt owner, Howard Stein. Howard normally merges into frantic 405 Freeway traffic at least three to four mornings a week for a 36-mile commute to Stein Optometric Center. For years he has addressed the unrelenting freeway frenzy with a 2002 RAV4 EV and a 2005 Prius because both cars afforded HOV single-driver lane privileges. But then Howard thought it wise to spare his aging RAV the constant 40-mile freeway grind and began to use the Prius as his primary commuter. To his dismay, qualifying hybrids like his Prius lost HOV lane access which left Howard up a lane without a sticker, so to speak. And given the fact that I take my role as nagging wife extremely seriously, I felt it necessary to constantly remind my dear husband that his plug-less Prius could not hook up to our home's 4 kW solar system either.
Therefore, when Howard heard that California Volts could henceforth be HOV-compliant, he beat a path to Chevrolet of Irvine where he laid down some serious money on a new Red Jewel Metallic Volt. Then on March 18th Howard and our technocratic friend, Stefano Paris, picked up a voluptuous Volt from Mr. Skeffington (while I languished in Idaho caring for elderly parents.)
Hearing the news of Howard's happy acquisition, I wondered what Volt demand might be like in my home state. Since the only electric vehicle I'd ever seen in Idaho resembled a golf cart, I decided to visit GM’s Edmark Super Store in Nampa where I test drove a Volt on a back country road. The road was straight, the scenery beautiful -- until I pulled behind a lumbering farmer’s tractor, that is. No challenge for the Volt. The car slickly shot around the tractor displaying the expected instant torque of its electric motor.
The salespeople at this Idaho Chevrolet store were polite, but seemed a bit lukewarm when it came to extolling Volt virtues. Or maybe my EV advocacy was just a little too transparent for their comfort. In any case, when I asked another floor salesman what he thought of the Volt, he very bluntly told me that he did not much care for the Volt concept and seemed to have zero enthusiasm for the car. I said, "You do realize you are talking to a potential Volt customer, right?" No comment. And it actually took a fair amount of work to source a card from the nice guy who accompanied me on the test drive. Thus, I rationally concluded that these Idaho fellows don't seem to have a whole heck of a lot of passion for selling Volts.
Plug-in cars are just barely starting to scratch the surface in California. But in Idaho – and I suspect in many other states -- the road to electric car acceptance seems rather long and winding. Put another way: If Howard Stein had lived in Idaho, he might not have even heard of the Volt, let alone caved into Volt lust and ultimately have purchased a fully tricked-out 2012 vehicle.
Plug In America’s work is cut out for it, but the end game is not only worth it; it is inevitable. Don’t get left in the electric car’s dust, Idaho. Grab some inspiration from your immediate neighbors to the west because Oregon and Washington are actually turning Interstate I-5 into a west coast Electric Highway.