I picked up a 2013 Chevrolet Volt to continue with my series of painted automobile portraits. This vehicle initiates a departure from previous artwork, which focused on classic cars from the 1950s to early ’70s. While this series will continue, my new category will consist of current automotive offerings. The Volt is the perfect choice to commence this series because of its radical departure from previous technological offerings.Driving the 2013 Volt offered comparisons to the very first vehicle I owned. In late summer of 1973 I decided to spend about 8 months in the Southern African country of Lesotho, a landlocked mountain kingdom surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. I was assisting as a volunteer in a development project in the village of Mohale’s Hoek in south western Lesotho. To get around the country, which is slightly smaller in area than the state of Maryland, I decided to pick up a used car, a right-hand-drive white 1966 Vauxhall Victor Estate, or station wagon, with its 1.6 l engine and 4 on the floor stick. What was interesting about this wagon was that it had the original now 8 year old battery that had been installed when the car was new.With Lesotho having a temperate climate, the battery was not strained the way it might be in Canada in the winter, but still, an 8 year old battery is still an 8 year old battery. Starting the car during the day was generally not too much of an issue. There wasn’t much of an electrical load on this car: no radio, no rear window defroster, no air conditioning, no 8-track tape player, a rudimentary heater. Morning starts were another thing altogether. There just wasn’t enough juice and my budget didn’t have room for a new battery, especially since it actually started the car most times during the run of the day.This is where my highly developed jump starting skills came in. Having previously owned a 1966 50 cc 2-stroke Ducati motorbike, I had jump starting down to a fine art. With Lesotho being essentially a mountain kingdom, it didn’t take any great skill to position the Vauxhall on a downward slope for overnight parking. When I needed to head out in the morning, I would open the car door, slip the car into neutral, turn the ignition key, release the parking brake, give the car a slight push, hop in, engage the clutch and slip the transmission into second. In just a couple of seconds, I had enough momentum to release the clutch and be on my merry way, and good to go until the next morning chill.In complete contrast, the Chevrolet Volt combines a pure electric drive with a range extending 1.4 l gas engine. Where the electricity seemed almost an afterthought on my Vauxhall mountain cruiser, electricity is the essence of the Volt. With the battery charged and the Volt driving in pure electric mode, I was reminded of the electric buses I used to frequent in my youth – silent, but with a lot of torque. In traffic, starts are sure and firm. It felt like a silent powerful vehicle, which it is.My question concerning the Volt is whether it would allow a daily commute without dipping into my gas reserves. In the dead of winter. At -6 degrees celcius, my commute covers approximately 25 kilometres round trip, from door to door. Though not a huge distance, I had lots of battery to spare in the middle of February in a Canadian winter, which brings me to the point. I could do a daily commute, with a couple of errand sidetrips, and end up using no gas all week. Then on the weekend, I could drive to my heart’s content, without the fear of running out of electrical juice.One great new feature I discovered on the 2013 Volt is the HOLD mode, which I found useful to improve my fuel conservation on longer mixed driving journeys. By setting the HOLD mode during my highway driving and switching back to NORMAL mode while driving in city traffic, I allowed the Volt to optimize its capabilities. By following this procedure, I was able to use up the Volt’s battery reserves in city traffic, where it is most efficient, as opposed to the highway, where my gas consumption is most frugal.Finally, while setting the stage to illustrate the Chevrolet Volt, I had to factor in the fact that in this case, I’m painting an all black car. This means I have to play off the reflected light, to show off the body sculpting in the sheet metal. Black can be tricky, but of course, so can white! Also I felt compelled to throw in a sleek new office background – Halifax waterfront head office of Nova Scotia Power.Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.