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Discussion Starter #1
Today I took my first Volt test drive, and something happened that confused me. The car was a 2017 model, and according to the gauges, the car had 31 miles of electric range available, but in every drive mode I tried, the car kept automatically using both battery and engine power. I'd thought (maybe I was wrong) that the Volt would run in exclusive EV mode until its battery ran down, but I couldn't figure out how to tell the car I wanted it to use only electricity. Every time I reached an incline, the engine kicked on.

I'm asking here because the salesperson I was dealing with didn't know, and no one else at the dealership understood Volts either....

Does the Volt have an EV-only mode? If so, any idea why the car kept using the ICE, despite available battery power?
 

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Something odd is going on. Your expectation was correct - under normal circumstances in any mode except Hold the engine won't come on during normal driving.

A few possibilities - was the hood open, or unlatched? (the engine runs when the car is on and the hood is open, for diagnostic purposes)

What was the temperature at the time of the test drive? (The engine comes on for cabin heating below ~35F, depending on settings.)

Did the screens say anything about engine maintenance or fuel maintenance? (The engine comes on if it hasn't been run for 6 weeks, for a few minutes to lubricate things and drive moisture out of the oil. If the fuel gets to be a year old, the car forces you to burn it before it goes bad.)
 

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The default is EV mode. It will always default to EV mode from off only if any range remains in the battery. I suspect when you switched modes you did not let it "settle down" to one mode or the other. If you had the energy graph going the system will show both EV and motor being used if you have switched to "Hold" mode and didn't wait a few seconds. It can take up to a minute for the Hold mode to fully activate and for the energy screen to really show you what is going on.

You probably started in EV mode (default) and then switched to Hold mode.

You need to do another test drive with a trained and educated salesperson.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Many thanks to you both. It was a nice warm day, but I'd wondered if maybe it was part of the fuel maintenance cycling. But, lagagnon, you're probably right—it's likely that something went wrong when I was testing out the different modes. I did try "hold" briefly before I returned to "normal." Even after fifteen minutes or so, though, "normal" never got settled, continuing to draw engine power. But maybe I confused the computer with my button pushing.

I'll need to test another one elsewhere. I'd like to see how it feels operating as it should. I'm glad to know EV is the way it's supposed to work.
 

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If the hood was open or just latched, the engine would run continuously, not cycle as would normally happen in charge sustaining mode (hold or battery depleted). Something certainly doesn't sound right. As for Fuel Maintenance Mode, that could be a possibility if the gas was a year old. Being a 2017, it's possible if it was a used model. Engine Maintenance Mode would be even more likely if the engine hasn't been operated in about 6 weeks, but that should only last a few minutes at most. I can only speak for the Gen 1, but I have never noticed unintended engine operation when I still had battery range indicated except when I've triggered Mountain mode or Hold. Was the engine operating when when stopped? Generally in normal typical operation the engine is off when stopped, or will run briefly to rebuild the battery charge to a minimum set point. With 31 miles indicated I would expect the engine to not operate at all unless any mode other than normal or sport were active, and the hood was fully and completely latched as the engine is designed to operate anytime the hood is open to indicate the car is "on".
 

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Yes, was the engine actually running or where you instead simply looking at the gas/electric miles gauge?

Running in Hold or Mountain Mode will add charge to the battery. From that point on, even while running without the engine, the car will indicate gas miles are being clocked until all the electricity you added with Mountain or Hold Modes are used up. Then it will start showing electricity being used.
 

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I vote for engine maintenance mode. If this dealership was devoid of "knowledgeable" Volt salespeople, it's doubtful they've been directing people to the Volt at all and it's been sitting around for 6+ weeks. You could also figure this out by looking at the build date on the door--if it's a '17, it's definitely been sitting around for over 6 weeks as the '18s have been out for a while.

When I test drove my '17 Volt, the first thing that happened is the engine turned over. It had been sitting for a while and said "engine maintenance" mode (but only at startup).
 

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I vote for engine maintenance mode. If this dealership was devoid of "knowledgeable" Volt salespeople, it's doubtful they've been directing people to the Volt at all and it's been sitting around for 6+ weeks. You could also figure this out by looking at the build date on the door--if it's a '17, it's definitely been sitting around for over 6 weeks as the '18s have been out for a while.

When I test drove my '17 Volt, the first thing that happened is the engine turned over. It had been sitting for a while and said "engine maintenance" mode (but only at startup).
If it was EMM, it should only run for a few minutes at most accompanied by an alert on the radio screen. Depending on the length of the test drive, it should have been completed before the drive was over. I would perhaps see about another test drive since EMM shouldn't occur so soon if it was in fact EMM the first time. Try to pay close attention to the radio screen when the car is turned on to see if there is an alert indicating some form of maintenance mode is operating.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The engine was definitely running. I could hear and feel it. At a stop and when coasting and maintaining speed it would be battery only, but the engine kicked on whenever I accelerated or went up an incline. In addition to the battery range figure of 31, I could see the charge level on the dash. But the other curious thing was that the 31 mile battery range—while visible—was sort of grayed out, not brightly lit like the gas range. Almost like the car was telling me the battery range was there but that I wasn't allowed to use it.

Some sort of maintenance mode is a possibility. The car kept sending alerts about low tire pressure, and all indicators were that the dealership didn't quite know what to do with the car. It was new, though, not used, but as a 2017 it may have been at the lot awhile.
 

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My guess is it was running Fuel Maintenance Mode. That happened to me when I picked my car up when I bought it. The dealer had charged it a bit, but because it had sat on their lot for so long, the fuel was over a year old and I had to burn through an entire tank and fill it again to get it to actually use electric miles. If you just now drove a 2017 model (as opposed to a 2018), chances are the fuel was pretty old and this is what was happening.
 

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Kind of unrelated to the original post, but HOW can a person who works in sales at a car dealership not know at least how the modes work in one of the cars they are tasked to sell? That just screams lack of professionalism in the actual salesmen, and also in the way the dealership trains (or doesn't train, obviously) their people.

I walked (or ran!) away from several salespeople and dealerships, permanently, over the absolute lack of knowledge and training. :(
 

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Kind of unrelated to the original post, but HOW can a person who works in sales at a car dealership not know at least how the modes work in one of the cars they are tasked to sell? That just screams lack of professionalism in the actual salesmen, and also in the way the dealership trains (or doesn't train, obviously) their people.

I walked (or ran!) away from several salespeople and dealerships, permanently, over the absolute lack of knowledge and training. :(
"Nobody asks about those cars, so there's no point in learning about them. Who's got time for that? I should be talking to customers about Silverados instead." You're one customer in the hundreds they see that month. You leaving isn't gonna make an impression.
 

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"Nobody asks about those cars, so there's no point in learning about them. Who's got time for that? I should be talking to customers about Silverados instead." You're one customer in the hundreds they see that month. You leaving isn't gonna make an impression.
Absolutely right there! But, it is the only vote I get! :)
 

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The engine was definitely running. I could hear and feel it. At a stop and when coasting and maintaining speed it would be battery only, but the engine kicked on whenever I accelerated or went up an incline. In addition to the battery range figure of 31, I could see the charge level on the dash. But the other curious thing was that the 31 mile battery range—while visible—was sort of grayed out, not brightly lit like the gas range. Almost like the car was telling me the battery range was there but that I wasn't allowed to use it.

Some sort of maintenance mode is a possibility. The car kept sending alerts about low tire pressure, and all indicators were that the dealership didn't quite know what to do with the car. It was new, though, not used, but as a 2017 it may have been at the lot awhile.
That sounds like you had the car in Hold Mode. The maintenance modes do not shut down the engine at stops. Hold Mode does indeed dim the battery indicator and brighten the gas gauge.
Sorry you got a stupid salesman, unfortunately, they are NOT rare. I had to educate my salesman also.
 

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The dealer I purchased my car from has a person specifically tasked with EV sales (Volt, Spark, Bolt, etc...) Unfortunately he was not available when I went looking for my car :)

Instead, I got a person who I had to educate about the Volt during the test drive. Luckily, I had been following the Volt since the early concept cars and I walked in armed with enough knowledge to make an informed purchase.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
The funny thing was that he gave me the usual line when I first came in about how his "sales manager drives one of these and loves it." Somehow, though, that same sales manager later couldn't explain if the car was supposed to be running full electric...

I already own a Prius Prime, so I was assuming the Volt would work more or less the same, but I pity anyone who walks into one of these places without prior education. A problem exacerbated by my region. In the SE, we're just lucky if we can even catch a glimpse of an EV or PHEV.

(And "hold" is a term foreign to the Prime, so no wonder if that's what screwed me up.)
 

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I'm not entirely familiar with how the prime works but the Volt should never operate the gas engine as long as sufficient battery power is available and it isn't being called on for any engine maintenance operation or extreme temperatures are experienced (ERDTT). I know there are some drivetrains that rely on both battery and engine power to gain full power, but the Volt does not. Your test drive definitely confirms that either a maintenance mode was active during your test drive or somehow it was engaged in "hold" mode. The other option would be a failure of some sort that allowed the dash to indicate available battery but didn't allow the drivetrain to utilize it. Hold mode generally does gray out the mileage as well as the battery gauge on the Gen 1 Volt. I would assume at the very least it grays out the mileage on the Gen 2 as well if not the battery gauge as well.

Unfortunately a lot of dealerships don't have sales staff that are fully trained on the products they're trying to sell. I realize that trucks and SUV's are GM's bread and butter, but even a McDonalds employee knows what goes on a hamburger even though their big seller is the Big Mac. Shouldn't one expect the same when buying a $30K plus product if someone is able to be trained well enough to sell a $4 product?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The Prime does allow you to choose. You can drive HV instead of EV, if you want, and you can choose EV-only (which doesn't use ICE until battery is depleted) or EV-auto, which lets the car supplement electric with gas when it wants to. It's sort of useful and sort of overkill, but because of it I did spend much of the test drive searching for the button in the Volt that would bring me back to EV.

I'm going to check out another dealership this weekend. I'm not expecting better salespeople, but at least this time I'll know to stay away from hold mode.
 

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Assuming no other faults, it sounds like FMM, as mentioned earlier.
It will run through the tank of gas until it is gone or the average age of the gas is less than one year (e.g. if it was half full and you topped it up you'd get about 6 months before it returned).
The battery may read full, but it is prioritizing using up the "stale" fuel first before it will go back to battery. It will operate exactly as if the battery is empty.
This is a rare situation for most drivers as you have to have a very specific usage pattern to not use at least one tank of gas per year. (and if you do, you shouldn't refill more than 1/3 after you've burned off the initial tank, so there's less chance of it happening, or less to waste when it does)
 
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