John LeBlanc spends a week with the Chevrolet Volt(Photo: John LeBlanc)

Click for more images.

You're probably familiar by now with the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid. Since its debut at the Detroit auto show almost five years ago, it's been one of the most hyped and promoted cars in General Motors' long history, the poster child for the "new GM" after the automaker's emergence from bankruptcy in 2009. And this fall, the Volt is finally going on sale in Canada.

To recap, the Volt is a compact-class, front-wheel-drive, four-passenger, five-door hatchback. Its primary propulsion comes from two electric motors powered by a 16-kW/h lithium-ion battery pack. But where it differs from a purely electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, is in its ability to switch over to a 1.4-litre four-cylinder gas engine after the Volt's batteries have been drained (between 40 and 80 km, GM claims), providing a kick to the electric motors using gas from a 35-litre tank.

To find out what the groundbreaking Chevy would be like as a daily driver — and drive like when its batteries were depleted — I was loaned a new 2012 Volt and kept a daily driving diary for one week.

Gallery: Chevrolet Volt driving diary
Review: Chevrolet Volt

DAY 1
Mileage driven: 10.4 km
Gas used: 0.0 L
Kilowatts/hour used: 3.4

Robert Pagé of General Motors Canada shows John how to refuel.(Photo: John LeBlanc)

Robert Pagé of General Motors Canada shows John how to refuel.

To pick up my Volt loaner, I was met at Myers Chevrolet, the closest GM dealer to my Ottawa home that had a 240-volt quick charge system. With the Volt safely ensconced in the dealer's service bay, I was shown how to plug the car into my 120-volt outdoor outlet that normally sees a block heater or an extension for our Christmas lights.

I was taught about some of the car's unique instrumentation and charge monitoring systems, then simply handed the keys, like any other normal press car.

But the Volt is anything but a "normal" car. With its instrumentation indicating I had 39 km of pure-electric power available in the battery pack, the 4.4 km drive home from the dealer was going be a zero-fuel-used affair, as were the few errands I ran that afternoon in preparation for the weekend ahead.

GM estimates a full charge on a 120 V outlet takes about 10-12 hours. While an optional 240 V quick charge system (about $2,500 installed, depending on the location) would take four hours. With about 28 km of battery use still available, I plugged the Volt in for an overnight charge using the supplied 5.5 metre cord. The instrumentation was showing it would take a little over three hours to fully charge the batteries.

Related Autos links:
Research a Chevrolet Volt
Find a pre-owned car with MSN Autos

DAY 2
Mileage driven: 54.2 km
Gas used: 0.0 L
Kilowatts/hour used: 16.7

Beats taking the train.(Photo: John LeBlanc)

Beats taking the train.

I work from home and live in a relatively urban part of Ottawa's west end. So, typically, weekend driving is rather limited to short hops.

For example, this Saturday's driving itinerary called for an early morning practice for my younger daughter's ringette team on the other side of Ottawa, and a similar drive in the afternoon with one of her friends to the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology — round trips that were well within the Volt's EV range.

As such, with only a few hours of charging at home between trips, I managed the day's mileage on battery-power alone.

Before heading out for our first drive, though, I absentmindedly forgot to unlock the Volt before pulling out its plug, which set off the car's alarm. Not good in a quiet neighbourhood at 7 a.m. on a weekend morning.

I also discovered that as efficient as the Volt proclaims to be, its space efficiency is less than stellar compared to a gas-only compact. The battery pack removes the rear middle seat most compacts have and legroom isn't generous. The rear cargo room under the angled-for-aero-efficiency hatch is tight as well, but the split between the Volt's rear seats handled ringette sticks easily.