Honda Accord Hybrid versus the Chevy Volt

There’s something exhilarating and exciting about an electric vehicle.  It’s a combination of many things – the quiet movement at low speeds, the smooth acceleration, the simple one speed “transmission”, the overall simplicity of the electric motor, etc.  Wouldn’t it be great if Doc Brown’s Mr. Fusion reactor could give you unlimited electric range if you just dumped a handful of banana peals, stinky garbage and the remains of a can of Miller Lite?  Well, we can’t today.  There’s also no network of chargers that’s entrenched enough that you could drive anywhere you pleased and know that there’s a “gas station” around the next corner.

2012 Chevy Volt - White Diamond Tricoat

So today the Chevy Volt solves that problem nicely.  You get all the joy of driving a cheap electric driven car.  (Cheap, as in cheap energy off the grid.)  And you get the convenience of having the same range of most cars today.  You can go up to 300 miles on a charge and a full tank of gas.  There are a few shortcomings for the Volt.  They are size, capacity, interface and infrastructure.  Let me address them one by one.

Size: The Volt is a compact car.  No getting around that.  In fact it’s essentially a Chevy Cruze that’s been spiffed up a bit.  The Accord is a mid-sized sedan.  Chevy makes a mid-sized sedan called the Malibu.  If I’m going to drive a Volt I’d be stepping down in size and comfort.  I spend a decent amount of time in my car every day.  It would be an adjustment.

Capacity: I could fit less than 2/3rds of what I carry in my Accord’s trunk into the hatchback of the Volt.  It was about to spill over.  There was no room to throw anything else in there.  The Accord could take more.  Plus, all the stuff was visible.  In my work I carry a lot of computer parts and related items.  Maybe I don’t need everything in there, but it’s nice having all that room.

Less than 2/3 of what I keep in my Accord, packed in and overflowing.

Less than 2/3 of what I keep in my Accord, packed in and overflowing.

Everything and room for more.

Everything and room for more.

Interface: the Volt has a dizzying array of touch sensitive buttons on it’s main stack.  It’s awkward to hit the favorites on the bottom row of the touchscreen.  It’s all too digital for my tastes.  I like a few dials and needles telling me what’s going on.

Infrastructure: I tripped breaker when I had the loaner Volt.  Yes, I know you need to be sure you’ve got good electrical service to your garage.  My house is only 25 years old.  But it’s only 100 amp service.  To do it right I’ll need to add a sub-panel and run a dedicated circuit.  But I’d probably go ahead and upgrade my service to 200 amp, as we’ll need to do that when we finish the basement anyway.  All problems that can be solved, but you can’t just get a wild hair and bring home your shiny new Chevy Volt.  Plus, the thought of all the current running through my electrical service every night makes me just a tiny bit uneasy.

The Accord Hybrid doesn’t have that problem.  It gets it’s energy the old fashioned way – from the corner gas station.  You can bring it home and start enjoying the thrill of electric drive right away. I don’t need to upgrade my electrical panel.  Yet.

The user interface on the Accord Hybrid is probably an upgrade from the Volt.  I get my dials and needles.  I think the infotainment UI is better too, although I’ve not spent a ton of time with it.

The 12.6 cubic foot capacity of the new Accord Hybrid’s trunk is better than the Volt’s 10.6.  I know it’s not as big as the regular Accord.  Also it’s secure.  No one can see in. And I like the separation.

Finally, the size.  The best I can tell, the Accord Hybrid will be as spacious and comfortable as my 2001 Accord.  Much roomier and more comfortable than the Volt’s.

The Accord Hybrid gives me just about everything I like about the Volt – the awesome electric drive and decent fuel economy.  Motor Trend says the Accord Hybrid tries it’s hardest to operate in pure EV mode as much as it can – up to 33% of the time in their testing in Japan.  It’s size, capacity, interface and infrastructure needs meet my needs quite well.

The only things holding me back are price and availability.  The public won’t get to see them until October 31st.  We know the pricing but not much else.  That may change today.  Whatever the details, I’d bet most buyers will have to pay list price or better to get one for the first six weeks it goes on sale.  Again anywhere from $29,000 to $35,000.

A new 2012 Chevy Volt can be had right now for $20,000 to $24,500 after accounting for the Federal Tax credit of $7,500.

Decisions, decisions.

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