A driving trendsetter

This post is sponsored by Chevrolet — It’s more car than electric. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity. Note: The 2012 Chevy Volt has an EPA-estimated 94 MPGe ; 35 city, 40 MPG highway. Actual range varies with conditions.

The Chevy Volt* is unique among electric cars because it runs on two sources of energy. You have an electric source – a battery – that allows you to drive gas-free for an EPA–estimated 35 miles. And there’s also an onboard gas generator that produces electricity so you can go farther. So if you want to drive using only electricity, you can. If you want to drive using electricity and gas, you can do that, too. Hear what one proud Volt owner had to say about how the electric car has reinvented his driving experience.

Meet Billy Bell of Orlando, Florida. One might think he loves his Volt because he’s driven more than 1,600 miles without gassing up. That’s because through regular charging and keeping commutes within the EPA-estimated 35 miles per charge, Volt drivers are able to achieve extraordinarily low gas usage.

But for Bell, it goes beyond just saving on fuel costs. “I feel more connected to my Volt than I have with my previous cars — and not just because my phone is connected to it,” says Bell. He’s referring to the fact that iPhone and Android users can download the OnStar RemoteLink mobile app to check charging status, and even schedule future charging times**. He also likes the feeling of being the first kid on the block with a new toy, so to speak. Bell was the first person at his company to get an electric car. “My studio installed a level 2 charger for me and then made an announcement that anyone else that drove an EV to work would also get a free charger to plug into,” he says. Since charging time is about four hours, it can get done during the work day. “Since then, I’ve had lots of people at work asking me about my car, and my coworkers love to ride to lunch with me.”

Going with the Volt wasn’t a decision that Bell took lightly at first, however, especially since he traded in a Mercedes Roadster to do it. “Most of my friends probably thought I was crazy. But I work in the tech industry and I’ve always been an early adopter. I’ve been wanting an EV for several years now,” he says.

Now that he is an EV owner, Bell has found that being a Volt driver has made him infamous, at least for a little while. “I’d been going to the different charging stations around Orlando, taking pictures of my Volt charging up and then posting them to an album on Facebook called, ‘Yeah, but where can you charge it?’” he explains. One of my photos was taken at the local zoo’s charging station next to two Prius cars. About a week later, he met a new work hire, who saw the Volt model Bell keeps on his desk and asked if he owned one. “Then he asked if I parked at the zoo the previous weekend.” Turns out, the new coworker was one of the Prius owners. “Needless to say, he rode to lunch with me and had a lot of questions about the Volt that day.”

Beyond the perception of others, though, Bell is grateful for what the Volt does for him on a personal level. “Driving the Volt puts a smile on my face every day, and I could never go back to a non-electric car.

Are you a satisfied Volt driver? Share your amazing story here.

*Volt is available to order at participating dealers. Quantities limited.
**OnStar is standard for three years on the Chevy Volt. Visit onstar.com for coverage map, details and system limitations.

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