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Electric Alaska

The Chevy Volt makes the perfect playmate.

Most hotel black-out curtains do a reasonable job keeping daylight out when sleep is the goal, but sometimes, it’s just not enough.

On this morning, after 12 nights of Alaskan sleep deprivation during the season of the midnight sun, getting into a decent functional mood isn’t easy.

It doesn’t help that the Starbucks on Anchorage’s 5th Ave. messes up my java fix and then toasts a garlic bagel instead of a multigrain one.

And what about the fact that, as event planners, my wife Lisa Calvi and I have changed hotels 10 times in less than two weeks during an extended business trip to Alaska?

Hey, I’m cranky, and for a morning guy who is rarely out of sorts, my mood is as much a surprise to me as my unsuspecting wife.

“I’m sorry Lisa, I’ll snap out of it,” I offer, realizing this will be our only day off before getting back to work.

We pack our suitcases and office supplies into the hatchback. This is a normal car, I remind myself, stuffing the last of the suitcases into the cargo area, which is massive with the rear seats folded down.

I head south out of Anchorage toward the Kenai Peninsula. Lisa and I booked a six-hour glacier cruise out of Whittier and have an appointment at the “tunnel” which is the only land connection from the port of Whittier to the rest of the world.

We clear Anchorage and follow the highway along Turnagain Arm. The tides are low and the mudflats seem endless. As my brooding levels out, the silent, comfortable ride of Chevrolet’s all-new Volt reminds me that we are indeed running on electricity and will be for about 50 kilometres.

It doesn’t matter that we’re driving about 300 kilometres that day. Once the battery runs down, an onboard four-cylinder gasoline-powered generator will kick in and extend our range for another 500 or so kilometres. Sure we might consume a little fossil fuel, but there is no pesky “my-battery-is-running-low-range-anxiety” with the Volt.

The idea of leaving home for a weekend road trip with an electric vehicle is normally a dicey proposition, unless the plan doesn’t involve much driving, because range is short and charging takes a long time ... if you can find somewhere to charge.

That makes the Chevy Volt a compelling alternative. It’s an electric car that doesn’t need a back-up vehicle beside it in the driveway.

It doesn’t take long to cheer up. The scenery is stunning. Glacier here, snow-capped mountain there. With a little luck we might see the “tidal bore,” a wall of rushing water that marks the changing of the tides on Turnagain Arm.

We make our tunnel time and file through a three-kilometre railway tunnel with a line of other cars and trucks enroute rustic Whittier. Cool.

From Whittier, the cruise through Prince William Sound is a spellbinding affair that stops briefly at a remote fish hatchery where salmon are jumping, rafts of sea otters are frisking and bald eagles swooping. It’s like an advertisement for animal heaven.

Back in Whittier, I power up the Volt. The battery charge is depleted but the four-cylinder gasoline generator engine keeps the charge between 20 and 29 per cent so we’re not concerned about anything but making the tunnel appointment time to get us back to the main road.

The Volt’s agility and comfort surprises me.

This is not a fad car or something that has to be babied or fussed over.

Plug it into a 110-volt power supply overnight or a 220-volt outlet for a few hours and it’s ready to fulfill most commuting requirements.

Pack it up for the weekend and take it wherever you want to.

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