Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
It's what's under the skin that makes the Volt different.
This car has a massive lithium ion battery pack that forces some compromises. It doesn't have a middle seat in back, for example, and cargo space isn't quite as big as you'd normally expect in a hatchback like this.
Under the hood, the Volt looks like something designed by NASA. There are brightly colored, high-voltage electrical lines routed around the
engine bay like neon snakes. It has a small gasoline engine like a normal car, but it also has things that aren't so familiar, such as a
"drive unit" that houses the electric motors and AC/DC power conversion.
One of my few disappointments driving the Volt was how I never got used to all the buttons on the dash.
The Volt uses touch-sensitive buttons, sort of like an iPhone, to control everything from the radio station to the air conditioning
temperature. That's cool except for the fact that all the buttons are labeled in very small type, which makes it tough to drive along and
find the one stupid button you're looking for without wrecking.
Even after a week, I wasn't used to it. Maybe after a few months I'd be more comfortable with the layout, but I can't help but think it's a
design flaw that ought to be improved on future Volts, no matter the "wow" factor of the nifty buttons.
Charging the Volt was surprisingly anticlimactic. It comes with a cord that lets you plug it into an ordinary household electrical outlet, which provides a full charge in about 10 hours.
If you want a faster charge — say, about three hours — you can have a special high-voltage charger installed at your house.