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Discussion Starter #1
I am ready to upgrade from my Prius to a Volt but need some assurances that the Volt will perform well for my weekend jaunts to the mountains. Currently I drive my Prius from Denver to Arapahoe Basin and/or our condo in Silverthorne almost every weekend in the winter and less often in the summer. I may be wrong but I think this drive will be harder on the Volt than Pikes Peak and I would like some help in learning 1. What is the best strategy for this drive (MM vs. Hold vs. D vs. L etc.) and 2. How much battery do you think I will have once topping off at Loveland Pass.

I have not tracked the elevation gain exactly on this trip but it looks something like this from my house. 10 miles of relative flat to I-70 then 50 miles of primarily uphill at highway speeds (65 - 70) with 9000'+ "total" elevation gain including 2000'+ loss/gain along the way. Then 5 miles down 2000' from the top of Loveland Pass to A-Basin. The car will be parked all day often in very cold conditions. (It's a 10 hour day as I am a volunteer patroller and arrive early and leave late.)

On some weekends I reverse this trip and go straight home and on other days I descend 2000' and gain 1000' in 25 miles to get to my condo where we spend the weekend. Driving home from here the route is sometimes through the tunnel but more or less the same miles and elevation. (I won't be able to charge the Volt while at my condo.)

Ultimately I guess my questions are: At what point along this regular weekend jaunt will the battery no longer be able to provide power and what will my experience be? (Sorry I don't know the lingo yet.) And is this bad for the battery? I would also like suggestions on how to get the most mileage during these drives (when to use MM vs Hold vs L etc.) I may have to convince my broker to let me make this drive myself and I want to give the Volt the best chance to perform in my one chance to test it.

By the way, I kept my 4x4 truck when I bought the Prius thinking I might need it in the winter and have only driven it skiing three times in 5 years. The Prius performs adequately but primarily I am working the 1.5 pretty hard on the uphills and yet I drive home almost all the way on battery on the downhills. Still my average mileage with "hard" daily driving (no attempt to coax good mileage) is 44 in the winter and 49 in the summer (with fewer mountain trips.)

Have fun with this and thanks in advance for your thoughts and strategies.

Rick
 

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If the Prius will go up the hill, so will the volt, even with a completely depleted battery with no reserve. Absolutely worst case is your going to be limited to the hp of the 1.4 engine on your mountain goat outings, won't bother the car a bit, just the top speed is capped, I think I have read in 7% grades its something like 65mph on the ICE with depleted battery.
 

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We have members from Colorado and none has ever mentioned a problem. That's probably your best answer! Hopefully they'll jump in.

Technically, an Henry mentions, you won't be energy limited. Like the Prius, the Volt has a gas tank that contains plenty of energy. The question you're asking is whether the Volt would be power limited. The answer to that is, under your scenario, not likely. The generator can put out 55 kW of power. The Volt needs 30 kW to go 65 MPH slightly uphill. A steep hill might require another 10 kW, but you're still 15 kW under peak generator output AND you have the battery reserve to supply additional power if needed (up to 111 kW).

If faced with this trip I'd start in Mountain Mode and then shift to D when heading down after the pass. Maybe L if you need to reduce your speed.
 

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Rick P, you will have no trouble. I've driven my Volt up a 15% grade for 1.8 miles, 1500' elevation diff. -- tight turns and some straights, going 30 mph, (speed limited by the tight turns) in MM. The engine revs pretty high, but any time I'd press on the pedal, that silky acceleration was there to spare. Check it on Google Maps: Old Priest Grade at Moccassin, CA. (link)

I have also driven over the I5 "Grapevine" route to Los Angeles (map link). Traffic runs about 65, but just for fun, I pulled ahead up to 80 mph in the Volt. Again in MM. On that run, the battery had dropped below the MM threshold a notch, so the engine continued to rev for several minutes to bring the charge back up.

I don't know how your roads are and how CO is with chain requirements, but on the Moccassin trip, we drove through Yosemite, and put on cables for about 40 miles. (It turned out the M+S rated tires on the Volt were ok without the cables; cables or chains were required ONLY for non-M+S tires.)

As for driving in D or L: L only affects the deceleration rate. You definitely want it on the down grades, and wherever else it helps you slow for curves. Of course D works fine too, if you just press lightly in the brake pedal, it achieves the same thing as coasting in L. Going up hill D or L makes no difference.

Regarding your not charging at the condo: Why not? Get an extension cord, run it to the Volt, charge at 8 Amps. At least that would keep the battery warmed in that level of cold. 8 amps is 1000 watts. Most utility cords can handle that.

On your trips, I would keep it in MM until I got within 15 miles of a destination where charging is planned. That way, you will always have power in the battery to supplement the engine on the mountain grades. Then run in Normal mode at the end to drain the last of the power from the battery, before the charge.

Comparing acceleration and climbing power between Prius and Volt (from zeroto60times.com):
2012 Prius 0-60: 10.2 Quarter Mile 17.8
2011 Volt 0-60: 8.9 Quarter Mile 16.7
So the Volt will not disappoint you in the power dept.


Here's a picture from Yosemite with cables.
 

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Living in the Reno area, we have frequent excursions up to Lake Tahoe and Virginia City, both climbs similar to what you face in Colorado. The hills are no issue with the Volt, you just select "mountain mode" to reserve more battery power for the climb. Getting spoiled by the silent operation under battery power, the roar of the engine after the initial battery operation is exhausted is irritating to me but probably no different than Prius drivers put up with all the time. I have found in ski weather that the battery range goes down quite a bit because of heater use. My driving style yields about 45 miles per charge in the spring/summer/fall and it drops to about 30 miles per charge on the coldest winter days (0-15 degrees). The range computer can be somewhat off as it's a computed figure that assumes when it's cold you will be running the heat based on outside temperature. A cold battery will also provide less range by itself but if you preheat the car in the garage while it's plugged in then wear a coat and not run the heat, the range will end up in the high 30's. I've also made a number of trips over Donner Summit and have had no problem keeping up with traffic. Since the engine is mostly driving the generator (it does lock up for direct power at times) it takes a little getting used to the disconnect between the engine noise and the movement of the car. Again, I'm just spoiled by the mostly silent operation.
 

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I live in the Durango and drive to Purgatory several times a week. It is 72 miles round-trip. My starting elevation is 7400 feet, which drops to 6500 feet, and then goes up to 9000 feet. I use mountain mode going up and keep it in mountain mode coming down until I am about 20 miles from my home, where I switch it to normal to ensure that I use up all of the available battery power. I use D going up the mountain and L coming down. The entire trip consumes 1 gallon of gasoline. There is always adequate power available. I usually set the cruise at 65 but on occasion and just for grins, I hit 85 going up the grade.

Frankly, the Volt is smoother and quieter even when the engine is running than any other car I've driven up the mountain, including my Acura MDX. In the summertime I don't need to use mountain mode since I can make it all the way up on battery power. In the wintertime however, since I stay comfortable with a temperature set at 68 in comfort mode, I consume more battery, and that is why I use mountain mode.
 

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I live in Denver and just went to Winter Park; about 130 miles roundtrip. I used less than 3 gallons of gas and had no trouble on the uphill to Berthoud Pass nor going uphill on the pass from either side. What I've found works the best in the hills is to switch to Mountain mode at around 10 miles of electrical remaining and the gas mode kicks in. The downhills recharge so that I can then switch back to electric for a while. On the return once I made it down the pass, it was home free on electric the rest of the downhill ride to Denver.
 

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I have a 2013 and drive from Longmont to Keystone/ Breck/ Vail/ Beaver Creek every other weekend for skiing. I have Blizzak snow tires on all four wheels and a Rhino Rack roof rack with double-sided Yakima Powderhounds loaded with boards and skis. Last trip up was with three heavy guys and all their gear.

This car is a great mountain performer.

My drive mode choices vary depending upon whether I can charge at the other end. (Ski condo, or J1772 chargers at Vail). I usually start out in Hold mode with a full battery, and turn it off as I approach the tunnel. I then drive around until is empty, and recharge overnight. If I am only up for the day, I would try to keep the car in hold mode all day, and then finally turn it off at the bottom of Floyd hill on the drive down.

Overall, the car works WAY better than my 2004 Prius.

Nate
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you everyone for your experiences and especially Nate who makes a similar trip that I do. I was hoping for someone on the Front Range to respond. I hope there are others who will still chime in.

1. I am still interested in what happens when the gas engine (ICE?) is all that powers the car. Sounds like there is power to spare.
2. Only Nate said use Hold instead of MM. The Volt Advisory hotline told me to use Hold and the Salesman said use MM. I have been trying ever since to get a clear (majority?) answer on this.
3. I cannot charge at my condo, yet, as we are on the 3rd floor and there are no outside outlets. I may work on fixing that and wonder how long of an extension cord I could get away with and at what gauge.
4. I have chains for all my vehicles and have never chained up to drive on the roads. Just to get out of some parking lots.
5. I appreciated the power and ride when I test drove it but the dealer only had 12 miles on the battery for me and I ran it out before I could really test the performance. May need to get another test in.

Thanks again everyone. Time to order me a Volt. (And by the way, I apologize for the "smart ads" showing a Prius. Maybe this forum needs an abbreviation for this "other car" (TP is one example though I do like my TP.) And maybe the name Chevy Volt needs to be used more often. (Maybe we can fool the ad machine.)

Rick

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I've been really happy with the mountain performance of our 2012 Volt. In the fall we took it on a trip to Beaver Creek from Boulder. The ICE was working but it handled the grade out of Golden with power to spare and it was holding 75 up to the tunnel with no problems. The downhills are great to actually generate more range. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch was happy to offer a plug in spot right in the courtyard. Vail Pass eastbound was also no problem even with four people and luggage. Several other trips to Eldora have been great. We can get up there on a full charge and half gallon or less of gas, then back without using any gas.

Just like any car in the mountains, I would suggest snow tires. It would be terrific to see more ski areas offering EV charge spots.
 

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Thank you everyone for your experiences and especially Nate who makes a similar trip that I do. I was hoping for someone on the Front Range to respond. I hope there are others who will still chime in.

1. I am still interested in what happens when the gas engine (ICE?) is all that powers the car. Sounds like there is power to spare.
2. Only Nate said use Hold instead of MM. The Volt Advisory hotline told me to use Hold and the Salesman said use MM. I have been trying ever since to get a clear (majority?) answer on this.
The reason there's power to spare is that there's never a time when the engine is all the powers the car. In normal operation, the car uses another kWh or so below the point the engine comes on to buffer the engine. So when you floor it, all 110 kW of the main drive motor come in immediately. As the state of charge falls, the engine revs up (eventually over 4k rpms) to balance the outflow. While you're accelerating with the pedal floored, the engine can't make as much power as the car is using, and it draws the difference from the battery. Later, when you reach your target speed, the car keeps running the engine harder than you need right then, sucking the excess back into the battery to restore the buffer.

On the flat, you can't accelerate hard enough for long enough to drain that kWh - you hit the 100 mph speed limiter first. (One british TV show managed it on their road course at an airport - we think by hard braking (too hard for regen) alternately with 100% throttle for an extended period.) However, hills change the picture. Charging up a mountain at 65-70 can easily exceed the engine's output for several minutes at a time. If you car reaches the hard state of charge floor, it reduces the power output to match the engine's power production (the instrument panel shows "Propulsion Power Reduced" - so you'll see it mentioned here in the forums as PPR.) You can go up any hill with it - at a reduced speed to match the power (still faster than the semis...) GM figured this wouldn't be popular with our mountain dwelling friends, so they invented Mountain Mode (hereafter MM.)

What MM does is change the battery state of charge set point. The car turns the engine on with an extra ~3.7 kWh left in the battery - or if shifted into mountain mode below that target, it runs the engine longer/harder than would otherwise be required to regenerate that bigger buffer. With nearly 5 times the stored energy available, GM says it'll handle any freeway mountain pass in the US at faster than legal speeds - no one has reported reaching PPR in MM that I'm aware of (possible in theory, I think - but you'd have to be driving *very* aggressively on some steep hills to do it.)

Hold Mode also changes the target state of charge - to whatever the current state of charge is. It switches the engine on immediately (well, more or less. The engine doesn't run at all times in extended range - especially at lower speeds it is often off. As I understand it (2011s/2012s like mine don't have Hold mode,) HM won't force the engine on if it would normally be off based on your driving situation, like sitting at a stop. Mountain mode may, depending on the state of charge you enter it at.) This can be useful in colder weather, because it gets the free engine heat on early, so you don't have to pay for your heat with battery power.

So each has advantages and drawbacks. Hold Mode lets you run the engine whenever you want - but it won't put charge back into the battery beyond what you had when you entered the mode. Mountain mode won't turn the engine on until you've driven off 2/3 of the battery - but if you have a flat battery, it'll put power back into it (at the cost of some additional gasoline.)

Generally, I tend to think the best choice for longer trips is to put the car into Hold as soon as you hit the freeway - it gets the free heat on faster, and saves most of the battery for contingencies - stop and go traffic, running out of gas, any sort of mechanical fault. In that situation, Hold will give you all the benefits MM would for climbing mountains. If you run the battery until below the ~four ring MM set point, you'd be better off engaging MM instead for hill climbing - you'll get a bigger buffer that way. Make sense?

Don't forget to turn off Hold/Mountain far enough before arrival at a charging opportunity to drain the battery. You don't want to drag extra battery energy around using 3-4x as expensive gasoline. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I am the one that started this post and I just bought my 2013 Volt on Friday night. Saturday morning I drove it to Arapahoe Basin and back. The on board computer said I got 52.3 mpg. I was thrilled with this and I know it was 2-3 miles below full charge and I probably could have driven it better. The performance was better than I expected with 65 - 70 mph up and back home with no traffic. And when I needed to pass a car on the hills I was thrilled with the available power. Better power, better mileage, better handling, better looking and more fun than my Prius.

I also am in the process of making a deal with the ski area to use a 110 volt 15 amp outlet to plug into while I am there working. Today I drove the first day of all battery except for .3 gallons used to heat the car on this cold snowy April day. 110 mpg for the day. So far so good.
 

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Let me know if A-Basin allows 110 charging. Vail has J1772s. I found a few places in Breck to charge (see plugshare) but not much else.

Nate
 

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Let me know if A-Basin allows 110 charging. Vail has J1772s. I found a few places in Breck to charge (see plugshare) but not much else.

Nate
A basin does not have any chargers or external plugs that I've seen. There was a nice silver 2013 volt there last weekend and not plugged in .. I've taken mine to my condo at keystone, (and charged with my 120v EVSE), but the pothole party that is called a parking lot, a basin is not something I'd want to take the volt through. I know the hunki-dori lot at keystone has some exterior 120v plugs (used for charging some of their vehicles), if you are interested I can check if they are still live during the day. You can always take the summit stage from keystone to the basin.


To the OP, if you use MM you should not loose power. I've done it many times. If you don't use MM or turn it off too soon you'll get limited in speed before the tunnel or the loveland pass but if you keep it in MM you'll should have plenty of power to keep up with traffic. You can get pretty close (hearing high RPMS) or even reach reduced power if you do 75 with lots of load and headwinds.. So if you have a Hold mode you can hold even higher level, about 50% would be good if you have a lead foot. Since I plan to charge when I get there and the downhill will provide lots of regen (11-15 miles depending on speeds), I try to game it to run out out of power just as cross the tunnel or crest the pass.


I've done the drive to keystone and pikes-peaks .. no question PP is harder on the car. Even with MM and only doing 35-45 I ran it to reduced propulsion.
 

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Yeah, let me know where the plugs are at Keystone. (Where's the Hunky-Dory lot?)

Rumor has it there is a J1772 somewhere in Keystone as well.

Nate
 

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That was my Volt you saw at Abasin. I don't baby my cars so you will see mine up there most every weekend. I was parked in front of an outlet that has a NEMA 5-20amp outlet that I am making an adapter for. I work on the patrol and got special permission to park their and plug in though I was unable to do so then. This weekend I hope to be parked and plugged in. I will eventually be asking them to offer this or other locations to EV owners. Abasin attempts to be very proactive in this area and I think I will be successful.
 
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