A Tucson man ensured he was the first one on his block to own a Chevrolet Volt electric car - he traveled cross-country to New York recently to buy one.

In fact, Moisés Paiewonsky may well be the only Volt owner living in Tucson, where the car isn't scheduled to roll out until later this year.

While trekking more than 2,000 miles to buy a car may sound a little extreme, it's all good for the 29-year-old University of Arizona assistant music professor.

"All of them thought I was crazy," Paiewonsky said of his friends' reaction when he told them he was flying to the Bronx to buy the car.

But Paiewonsky said he's proud to do his bit to help America reduce its dependency on foreign oil, while shrinking his own environmental footprint.

"I explain to them that this is big - it's a big deal, because Americans need to wake up and smell the coffee" about the need to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, he said.

"Obviously, it's a very special piece of technology. I think it's the way of the future, and I'm really into that kind of thing," said Paiewonsky, noting that he lives in a solar-powered house in the Civano neighborhood on the east side.

Reading about the Volt's rollout last year, Paiewonsky was dismayed that Arizona wasn't slated to get the Volt until the fourth quarter of 2011.

Undaunted, he started calling dealers in the markets where the Volts were first rolled out - California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Washington, D.C.

"I stopped calling once I found one that I could be first on the list for, and that turned out to be in Bronx, New York," he said.

Neither snow nor sleet would deter Paiewonsky from getting his Volt - his flight to New York was diverted due to a massive snowstorm on the East Coast, so he wound up driving a rental car from Pittsburgh, while his Volt was delayed in Boston.

The trip home confirmed to Paiewonsky the versatility of the Volt as an "extended range" electric vehicle.

The car can go about 40 miles on a full battery charge; when the battery gets low, a small gas-powered generator kicks in and charges the battery pack, enabling continuous driving and extending the car's range indefinitely where gas is available.

In contrast, gas-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius use a small electric motor for low-speed driving, but switch to a regular gas engine for acceleration and higher-speed driving.

Paiewonsky said that on the drive home, he got about 50 mpg, or about 400 miles on an 8-gallon tank. More aggressive driving or use of the heater or air conditioning cuts the mileage to closer to 40 mpg, he said.

Paiewonsky paid about $50,000 for the Volt, including the sticker price of $43,800, the dealer's markup, taxes and registration. His cost is offset by a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Paiewonsky said he researched the Nissan Leaf, a $33,000, all-electric car with an advertised range of 80 to 100 miles per charge.

But he worried about getting stranded.

"The Leaf has better range as an electric, but then once that's gone, you're dead in the water," Paiewonsky said

Availability of the Leaf has become an issue, he noted. A few Leafs have been delivered, including one in Phoenix, but Nissan acknowledged recently that mass deliveries will be delayed for a few months.

Paiewonsky was sold on the Volt, which he can use for his 32-mile round-trip commute without worrying about running out of power. And with the gas-powered option, Paiewonsky can push the mileage envelope, or just take to the open road.

The Volt also scores with looks and comfort.

"So far, everyone who sees it, digs it," he said. "It's very versatile. and it's very luxurious on the inside. It's very comfortable."


A local Chevy dealer recently acquired a Volt for customers to test drive.

O'Rielly Chevrolet, 6160 E. Broadway, bought a Volt for test drives, said Rob Draper, dealer principal of O'Rielly.

"The eyeballs it attracts, and the interest, it's really phenomenal," Draper said.

The Volt is expected to be available for sale in Arizona sometime in the third or fourth quarter of this year, Draper said.

O'Rielly is putting interested customers on a waiting list for a nominal deposit, he said, declining to say how many people are on the list so far.

Other Southern Arizona Chevy dealers expected to offer the Volt are Watson Chevrolet in Tucson, Cropper-Nogales Auto Center in Nogales and Garrett Motors in Coolidge.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.