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A rare father-Son afternoon provided another unusual treat: filling up the electric Volt with gasoline

By Clay Nichols

Who knew the gas pump was so cool?

Evidently they are completely cool—fascinating, in fact, when seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy.

He’s standing next to the pump firing off observations and questions, and suddenly I’m remembering that Christmas morning when the ribbons and wrapping paper and cardboard boxes were far more interesting that the gifts they enclosed. My son is teaching me that lesson again, that sometimes it’s the small things.

I had planned an eventful day, just for me and my younger son. A rare treat. We would take in a 3-D movie, get lunch and pick out a new pair of cleats for the upcoming soccer season—cruising between locations in a Topaz Blue Chevy Volt*. I could accomplish two things at once: quality alone time with my third child, and test driving a very unique and cool car.

I knew my boy would love the car, especially the customizable display animating the flow of energy to and from the power sources. Beyond the ride, I was sure that the movie would be the hit of the trip. It was animated and loud and funny. We exchanged glances though our silly goggles and snorted with laughter. The new cleats were also exciting: garish purple things that looked like footwear for a game not invented yet, played in a di8stant galaxy (an opinion I kept to myself).

But the gas station was the memorable moment.

Maybe he picked up my excitement—filling the small gas tank on the electric Volt is a rare occasion—but mostly I think he was excited to be asked to help out. It may be a cliché, but with three kids, we sometimes forget to invite the younger ones for help as we did with the oldest. My third is amped up, chattering away as he dips the credit card and keys in our zip code.

Within seconds the fill-up has turned into a full-blown science and technology Q&A. I’m feeling the limitations of my drama degree, sure that I will be out of my depth in the face of this interrogation at any moment.

First he wants to know why an electric car needs gas. I explain about the gas generator and how it serves to extend the range. The ensuing conversation includes:

- Price per gallon x number of gallons = what Dad pays

- An explanation of what MPG is and how it is calculated

- How the MPG equivalent is calculated for an electric vehicle

- How electricity is generated

- How internal combustion works

- Whether or not gas station guys hate electric cars

- How gas stations in the future might look

About this time, a fellow motorist wanders over to compliment the Volt and to ask a question or two (something I assume comes with Volt ownership). My son fields the questions.

I’m almost grateful that the tank on the Volt fills quickly before I need to refer to the manual to get answer.

As my son confidently twists the filler cap back on and closes the cover, he has that look of satisfaction kids have when they’ve accomplished a “big kid” task. And there is something equally satisfying to a parent to see a child’s pleasure in a task well done. It’s a good sign and a good feeling.

One that I bet is similar to how Volt owners feel every time they stop at a gas station. Or pass one by.

Clay Nichols is co-founder and editor of DadLabs.com. He can often be found in a high-quality camp chair cheering his face off for his kids.

*The Volt is available at participating dealers.

 

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