The Volt is due to hit dealerships sometime soon, and GM has been going through something of a media blitz touting the Volt as “more car than electric.” This is because once the 50-mile all-electric range is used up, a range-extending gas engine kicks in, charging the battery and giving the Volt another 300 miles. However, if you use the Volt for just short jaunts, you can go weeks, even months on just a single tank of gas.
Yet that raised the question of what about the oil? The range extender is a regular engine, after all, and needs oil to be lubricated. The Volt will use a patented oil life monitoring system that notifies owners via email, smartphone apps, and even OnStar when the oil needs to be changed. Depending on usage, oil age, and temperatature, Volt owners could go up to two years between oil changes. As GM gets more data about oil usage though, they could raise that cap, depending on how the Volt performs.
If you drive 12,000 miles a year and change your oil every 3,000 miles (though with modern oils you can often go twice as long between changes) that is four oil changes a year. Since 80% of Americans don’t even change their own oil, that could add up to quite a chunk of change. Just letting all this oil sit around though isn’t good for the range extender, even if it isn’t being used, so every six weeks the Volt will ask owners to allow it to run maintenance mode. This lets the range extender run briefly, lubricating the engine with oil and burning off some gas so it doesn’t go stale.
I wouldn’t mind changing my oil a lot less often. Then again, the Nissan Leaf doesn’t need any oil at all…
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.