Chevy Volt Education Project Shows Efficiency Impact from Speed and Temperature

By · January 26, 2012

Environmental Science students in Chevy Volt

Environmental Science students Jed and Layne check data on their spreadsheets using the Energy display on the Volt. These two guys are great examples of how the real-life application involved in the project increases interest. As we have more information to share students in these classes will be involved in giving presentations to various organizations in our community and surrounding area.

Now three weeks into our Chevy Volt educational project, and I continue to be impressed with our Volt. With our calculations showing electric miles costing just one-third that of the gas-powered miles, how could you not be impressed?

As we get into the weekly routine of driving and analyzing the results, we will try to isolate and control different independent variables—so we can make comparisons week-to-week and month-to-month. My daily commute, just over 20 miles one-way, is through a mostly rural area with only four stop signs to slow me down along the entire route, so it is pretty easy to set the cruise control to monitor the effects of driving at different speeds. There are, obviously, several factors we cannot control, such as temperature. We are recording as many of those details as possible to be in position for comparisons as we get more data. (See our Excel spreadsheets for Week Two and Week Three.)

Students are starting to get a feel for working with the weekly spread sheets and are learning how to analyze the data. As we collect more data, we also will developing graphs to show our results and will begin using video clips as well.

In Week One, I did most of our driving at 55 mph, so for Week Two, I slowed down to 50 mph and then in Week Three, I kicked it up to a cruising speed of 60 mph. My driving percentages for the first two weeks were nearly identical, but dropped noticeably (-15%) in the third week—so the bump up to 60 mph is significant in terms of efficiency.

Chevy Volt dashboard display

This increased speed along with a drop in temperatures had a noticeable effect on the number of miles on electric power for the week and, perhaps a little more surprisingly, in the MPG results, too. From the first to third week, our electric miles dropped from an average of 33.7 miles a charge, down to 28.7 miles a charge. And we saw a loss of 6 MPG. The 5 mph difference between 50 mph and 55 mph really didn’t have much of an impact as there was less than a one mile difference in electric miles per day, and just 1.5 MPG for gas-powered travel. We will continue to track the effects of speed on efficiency.

Next week our Volt will take on a new look as the JACAM sponsor’s logo will be applied on the hood and the VOLT graphics on the sides. We will share pictures of the new look next week.

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