Friday, December 27, 2013

Interesting information regarding Volt's remote start...

The ability to "precondition" the Volt's cabin in hot or cold temperatures is an amazing feature. However there is a lot more to the whole process than just remote starting the car (from the key fob or the smartphone app). Here is what I learned from patching together posts from forums and blogs:

  • The owner's manual recommends plugging in the vehicle, particularly in more extreme hot and cold temperatures to allow the car to moderate the temperature of the battery pack. This will help prolong the life of the battery.
  • The Volt has a 3.3kW charger onboard. This is the maximum draw of the charger and will only happen with the L2 charging station.
  • Remote starting the Volt will "start the car" for 10 minutes. You will need to start it again after 10 minutes. 
  • I need to confirm this, but it looks like you can only remote start the Volt twice.
  • The car will use your last climate settings, however if you left the climate settings to "Off" or "Fan-Only", the car will enable heating or A/C as needed. 
  • The heated seats will also go on as needed. I am not sure if you can actually adjust the level of heat though. 
  • The climate system can be a massive drain on the battery (as much as maintaining a constant speed, maybe more!). It can use more than the maximum 3.3kW that the charger manages. Therefore preconditioning the cabin will result in a mix of grid power and battery power! This is critical and explains why some people precondition their cabins but start with less than 60km range
  • Some people precondition the cabin about 25 minutes before departing. This means the car will be on for 10 minutes, then charge for 15 minutes to get some of energy used back into the battery. Others precondition twice then leave more time for charging.
  • Preconditioning works even better with the 240 L2 charger because more of the grid power will be used for preconditioning than the battery. And even then, the energy used by the battery will charge even faster if you leave 10-15 minutes after preconditioning finished.
  • On the more recent Volts (2013+) there is a climate control setting that allows you to configure when the gas engine starts up to help with heating the battery packand cabin. There is "Cold Weather" and "Very Cold Weather". If the temperature drops below something around 2  degrees Celsius the gas engine will turn on when plugged in to help. Apparently this is much more efficient and only runs in short bursts of a couple of minutes. The "Very Cold Weather" setting will only turn on the gas engine when temperatures are below -15 C. 
  • The gas engine turning on is a cool idea and I am anxious to try both temperature settings. To avoid CO2 issues indoors it is a good idea to ensure that the garage temperature is above 2 degrees C!
Phew! Not so straightforward eh? I think adding a heated steering wheel to the Volt is a must in the future. I had one on a previous car and it would literally warm me up in 30 seconds, long before the heated seats did. Until then, I will try preconditioning the car in the following ways to compare the maximum range before leaving:

  • No preconditoning before leaving. I want to see how much of a draw the climate system is when needing to warm the car completely. This will happen if I cannot plug in at work.
  • Preconditioning 10 minutes before leaving so that I can see how much battery power was used during 1 preconditioning phase.
  • Preconditioning 25 minutes before leaving then allowing the car to charge for 15 minutes.
  • Preconditioning 25 minutes before, then 10 minutes before to see how well two phases can warm up the car.
  • Preconditioning twice within an hour then letting the car charge for about 25 minutes or more to see if the car is still warm and I am at full charge. 
Can't wait to get the car! Only 1 more month or more to go! <sigh>

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