Extreme Heat Affecting Chevy Volt Electric Range

Extreme Heat Affecting Chevy Volt Electric Range

It’s shaping up to be a hot summer, taxing not just electricity grids, but electric cars too. In fact driver’s of the Chevy Volt extended range electric car are noticing reduced electric-only distances when the mercury spikes.

In a thread on GM-Volt.com owners are reporting reduced electric only range by as much as 30 percent, and in some cases even more.

“I’d been getting 43+ miles on battery since I got my Volt,” writes forum member Trakehner. “It’s been in the high 90’s, and I’m using air-conditioning and still driving the same speed…and my mileage has dropped to 32-33! I didn’t realize the air-conditioning sucks up that much power.”

Another poster, with the handle HOUSTONVOLTAGE responds with a similar problem. “Also see a big reduction in miles. At night when the temperature drops the milage goes back to normal (45 miles per charge) but during the day if its 100 degrees, I run the fan on HI in comfort mode, and get about 30.”

The issue, however, is about more than just running the A/C on high admits Michelle Bunker Malcho, of the Chevy Volt communications team at General Motors.

“Batteries are like humans when it comes to operating at peak performance in various climates — they operate best at a comfortable temperature, ” she explains. “That means that if it’s either extremely cold or hot where an EV is operating, range will be affected. This is true of any EV, not just the Volt.”

Early reviews of modern electric cars tested in the North East during the winter months showed similarly dramatic losses of range. The Volt, however, with it’s gasoline range extender, makes the electric only range less of something owners have to worry about.

Still, GM has worked to put in place preventative measures to help deal with temperature extremes says Bunker Malcho. “That’s why the Volt uses a liquid cooling/heating system that helps to minimize the range loss.” Still, she admits, “range will be affected when an EV is operated in hot or cold weather.”

That is perhaps the real reason behind the spate of complaints from owners. While temperatures in the ’90s and even rising above 100 are not unusual in states like Texas and Arizona, a recent heat wave in the Midwest and North East is causing more people to notice just how much of an effect hot days can have on an electric car.

  • Jeffuren

    I love my Volt! It’s still so fun after 18 months. The A/C works great too. I’ve used 33 gallons of gas total! I no longer waste money on gasoline. Thanks GM!

  • I think 30 in 100*F weather is very suspect.  You have to really try to find out if these are real owners (get their Vin #) or perhaps just trolls looking to diminish the Volt further.  Of course, Fan on High in Comfort mode is beyond my personal needs and may be a big draw but 30 is more like winter 32*F miles with heaters on.  On a 90*F day last Saturday, the 2011 I just bought (which sat in Florida auto-dealer weather for 1-year) gave me 42 miles with ECO mode.  Perhaps the 30 mile guy was in Sport mode, driving 70mph on the highway with Hi Comfort mode cooling?

  • Ziv Bnd

    My RAV4 gets around 15% fewer mpg when I crank the AC, so it stands to reason that a Volts AER will take a hit. But I would like to see some VIN’s and previous posts before I believe a drivers AER will take a hit from 43 to 33 miles. I could see that in the dead of winter, as John notes, but in the summer? Maybe, but it is hard to tell a real Volt owner from a GM hater at times.

  • bobbleheadguru

    My commute is about 55-60 miles roundtrip and I only charge once per day.

    I still get about 40 miles of range when the high temp is over 90. However, I drive as the sun is rising (temp only in the upper 70s/low 80s) and I run out of battery range on my way back home (when the temp is higher). I also keep my car in the lower level of the parking lot (not exposed to direct sun).

    In the Winter, my range has been as low as 24 miles when the temps were very low (low 20s, upper teens).

    Winter makes a bigger difference than Summer for me. In the Winter, I “only” get about 75MPG. In the Summer, I am well over 100MPG.

  • Well it takes energy to not just cool the cabin but to cool the batteries and the drivetrain and voltage regulators as well. All in all is shouldn’t be a huge drain with the electric inverter style (variable RPM) scroll type compressor(s) used to cool the cabin and the liquid thermal management system, the fluid pump for it, the fan in the dash and the fan in the AC radiator. Something less than 2,000 watts per second I would imagine. Nothing compared to the resistive heater being on full blast in the winter to heat the battery and heat the cabin. At least I think it’s resistive rather than a heatpump heater..

  • Wallace

    I just recently got my Volt in August.  From my perspective, I think the range depends a lot on driver settings in hot weather.  The Volt climate control is more flexible than any car I ever seen.  This is great, but adds complexity and each setting can help or hurt range.  Keeping it in comfort mode is not necessary in the 90’s.  I experienced upper 90’s and Eco mode was perfect and did not affect range more than 10%. 

  • Nomobo

    You guys are suckers of the most ptiful sort. Have any of you ever sat down and actually run the numbers on capital cost, battery replacement cost, trade-in value, and lost opportunity? And then you have lack of comfort and poor performance. No, all you can focus on is the cost of gasoline. Good God, what dummies!

  • Fenring23

    I didn’t buy my car based on capital cost and payback horizon. Good god, talk about a dummy.  Nobody would EVER purchase anything but an econo-box if it was based on pure economics. I certainly wouldn’t have bought my Durango with the Hemi 5.7 Liter engine based on its economy, but it did pull my boat nicely. My Volt gets me to and from work (a 43 mile round trip commute) on a single charge. That’s from 100% American-made energy. Now, if you enjoy sending your money to the Arabs, by all means, keep pumping gas and proving your idiocy by putting down advancements in automobiles and those who support them. 

    And my Volt has 275 ft-lbs of instantaneous torque, so I can wave to you as I pass most guzzlers off the line, and it is quite comfortable and handles great. My Hemi can take it, but I pay the Arabs dearly for that power. 

  • My Volt replaced my Dodge Stealth and the savings covers most the payment. Don’t compare the price of the Volt to a cheap econo car. They don’t drive at all the same. 

  • Kent_Purdy

    I’m with you on this. I run my AC in comfort mode (high) when it gets in the mid 90s and I barely notice any difference it range at all. I wonder if these observers are actually running on the 100s? For me the range stays over 45 miles.

  • Kent_Purdy

    Not as good as you but I’ve used 40 gallons in 11 months. The same amount that I used my last car each week! Plus, the Volt is fun to drive.

  • EV believer

    I have my volt for more then two years, it replaced my durango I had for twenty. I can’t tell how more then happy I am with the volt. I was reading up on it for over two years before I jumped in and leased it. I leased it because I wanted to see if I was going to like it first and how the performance was. I also wasn’t sure on the long term replacement value just yet. Well, the car is fun to drive and I am starting to see more of them on the road. I only have a 30 mile commute to and from work each day. I honestly forget what side the gas is on. I was doing $350 to $400 a month in gas with my Durango, and the price of gas wasn’t as high as it is today. The lease payment is offset by the fact I rarely use gas any longer and my electric has only risen $20 more a month. I went from a Twenty year old Durango into a brand new car for less then I was paying in gas monthly, and money to spare. I return home from work with 10 to 12 miles left on the battery daily. Now , I do miss my Durango, the room and being up high is what I miss most. The lease is up this march and I might just purchase an EV vehicle after all. Chevy is coming out with a Caddy in the same form mat soon. Might have a look see! If capital cost was a concern, and battery replacement, don’t buy a car and use your bike.

  • Tim

    Nice reply! Well written.

  • Tim

    Volt owners I need some advice. I am considering buying a 2016 or 2017 Volt.
    I live in Charleston SC and the summers are fairly brutal in July 2016 the heat index averaged around 100 degrees and winters are fairly mild, rarely below freezing.
    Obviously I want to maximize my battery range. I live 7 miles from work, but the traffic is stop and go.
    1. Using the remote start remote, can I turn on the heat or A/C wile plugged in, in my garage before I leave for work?
    2. And in the parking lot 50 yards out side my workplace for lunch and on the drive home?

    I guess I need to try keeping it out of direct sunlight also. Any thing else I should know about the 2016/2017 models?