Engineer Jascha Little takes his Chevrolet Volt to visit some EV-Curious friends and gets an earful
By Corbyn Hightower
My husband’s best friend, Jascha Little, is used to getting a lot of attention. First of all, in spite of his surname, he’s not little by anyone’s definition: He’s six-foot-six, toned from jiu jitsu, rigorous hikes and cliff-climbing. His easy likability is disarming, and that baked-in charisma is part of why the questions he gets about his black Chevrolet Volt don’t give him a moment’s pause. We invited him to our neighborhood in the Sacramento area one day and trailed him as he shopped for some camping gear, then took his vehicle to get charged. The folks who stopped to check out the handsome compact car with the intriguing electrical cord running from it asked questions that ranged from the simple and almost funny, to the more technical ins-and-outs that it might take a more mechanically-inclined owner to answer.
They had no idea they were talking to the type of guy who might have, had he chosen a different path, created a car like this beauty: Jascha is an accomplished and innovative engineer, working on literally ground-breaking projects such as The 10,000 Year Clock. He’s also appeared on the robot-fighting Battlebots TV show with his own engineered-and-machined competitive fighting robot known as “The Judge.” Another cool thing he’s done is build a human strength augmentation exoskeleton for the first Tetsujin competition, conducted by RoboGames.
“How far can the Volt go on battery power alone?” was a common question. “And what happens when the battery runs down? Do you, like, just . . . STOP?” Cue group laughter as Jascha answered with good-natured seriousness: “I get about 35 miles of highway driving from the battery.* When the battery gets to a certain level of discharge, the on-board gasoline generator turns on and provides electrical power to the drivetrain and protects the battery from further discharge. If you’re paying attention, you might notice the sound of the generator, but other than that it’s a seamless transition. After that, you just keep gas in the tank and can drive until you’re tired of driving.”
Serious onlooker Aaron mentioned that he had been researching buying an exclusively electric car but was concerned that the limits of a 75-mile range might prove to be too much of an inconvenience. Jascha mentioned that if your commute is only 30 miles and you can plug in at work, that’s not a bad option*, but he enjoys taking his Volt on longer adventures and weekend road trips. I even wrote about one right here on Chevy Culture.
One aspect that adds to the Volt’s efficiency and usability is its affinity for urban living. Since Jascha spends most of his time in Los Angeles, he almost never “gasses up,”* because his local trips are short. Mostly, he’s riding on clean, quiet electrical power.
Bicycle enthusiasts Chris and Julie rode up as Jascha was plugged in at one of the town’s free local charging stations. Chris wanted to know, “What’s the biggest change in your routine since you’ve owned the Volt?” Jascha gave a half-smile. “Other than not going to gas stations hardly ever*?” He thought for a moment and added, “Well, I live in an apartment. That required some discussion with management to find out where—or even if—I could plug it in while I was at home. Turns out they were happy to work with me.” He paused and said, “Oh, and same thing at work. They let me plug it in there. It costs them almost nothing to let me do it, and then at the end of the day I’m good to go . . . again.”
The Volt, Jascha has found, gets around 350 miles on a full charge and full tank.* Once, when he was on a trip, he was having a good time testing its handling and…let’s just say, he wasn’t wasting any time getting to his destination. When he ended up at a gas station (something of a rarity, of course, unless he’s on one of those long trips), an older couple in a coupe was in awe:
“We were admiring your vehicle out there,” the man said, casually checking out the Volt. “I’d heard of those. But I didn’t know they could perform like that.”
So what did we learn from Jascha, our globe-trotting, rocket scientist, robot-fighting Volt enthusiast? Aside from the fact that his over-sized physical frame fits comfortably in the Volt with his friends and his piles of outdoor gear, we found that for short-distance commuters the Volt can be an almost-exclusively-electric vehicle*. Gas stations, in fact, may become weirdly unfamiliar places. We discovered that it’s worth finding out where and when you can plug it in . . . you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised at the convenience. And as far as its speed and handling? You might just startle the elderly.
For those of you out there who, until recently—like many of our friends before they met Jascha—thought EV stood for Early Vacation and a charging station was a place to wield your credit card, Chevrolet has developed an educational quiz that’s pure electric fun. Expand your knowledge of EVs to win a chance at a test drive and a trip to California!
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Corbyn Hightower is a community moderator/writer for The Huffington Post whose writing has also appeared in More magazine, The New York Times and Yes! Magazine, as well as on shareable.net. She’s been interviewed on national television for her writing about living well post-recession, and has appeared on radio stations across the globe. She and her husband and three children preach the good word about sustainability, vegetable gardening and keeping chickens in your backyard.
*EPA-estimated 38-mile initial range based on 98 MPGe (electric); 342-mile extended rangebased on 35 MPG city/40 highway (gas). Assumes fully charged
battery. Actual range varies with conditions.