The Chevy Volt is awesome!
I am looking for a new car.
I’ve started doing my research on it and of course, started looking at the hybrid Chevy Volt.
It is awesome.
OK… perhaps I am exaggerating a little… it is not a ‘63 Vette convertible in terms of performance or style and it is a little pricey at 40k - however there is a $7500 tax credit for buying one.
This means you will be paying somewhere around $32-34k for a volt with medium trimmings.
Before we get into the economics of it though, let’s look at the performance.
From Motor Trend, taking a driving tour around LA with the AC on:
Here’s why I’m so geeked on the Chevy Volt and why you should be, too. In normal, everyday driving we got 127 miles per gallon (fine, 126.7 mpg). Which is pretty amazing. Broken down, over the course of 299 miles on Los Angeles highways, byways and freeways, the Volt burned 2.36 gallons of gasoline (fine, 2.359 gallons — we rounded up). Most other cars use up a tank of gas going 299 miles. The Volt, to reiterate, used 2.36 gallons over 299 miles. That’s freaking amazing!
Business Week reports:
The Volt can go an average of 35 miles per charge, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. That gives it an edge over the plug-in Prius, which only has a range of about 13 miles per charge. The Leaf’s range is up to 100 miles, but once the battery is depleted your only option is to recharge; in the Volt you can drive an additional 344 miles on the gasoline engine and still average 37 mpg. In contrast to the Leaf, the Volt could easily be used as your only car, for vacations as well as commuting.
GM: Chevy Volt Owners Averaging 1,000 Miles Between Gas Stops
A lot of people are confused about how the Volt works. Because of its two stage battery assisted motor, there is more than one number to consider. In an irony that will tweak some of my online “fans” you need to know some 7th grade algebra to really understand what the numbers mean.
The short from is that using an internal combustion engine to spin up an electric fly wheel and then using an electric motor to power the wheels of a car gets a lot more fuel efficiency out of the whole system because you get a lot more torque and a lot fewer losses to friction (and heat build up) out of an electric motor. Also, very cleverly, the wheels themselves have flywheels associated with them so energy from breaking can be used to recharge the battery. There is some really beautiful physics here. This is just damn smart.
When you throw a large lithium ion battery into the mix, you have a reservoir of energy that is not coming from gasoline.
Breaking this down:
You get around 30-35 miles of cruising range pure electric. If you work someplace that has installed plugs (I do, and more and more are added each day) within 30-35 miles, you can “fill up” your car for free and almost never buy gasoline. How do you like them apples? Even charging just from home, most Americans work within 35 miles of their homes.
If you go beyond the 30-35 miles and or never charge the battery completely, running only off of gas, you get around only 37 mpg city . Those flywheels are great, city driving is actually quite a lot better if you don’t loose all of your breaking energy to friction with the pads and the road.
Now, of course, as with all other cars, mileage will vary based on location, weather conditions, driving style, willingness of owner to upkeep the vehicle etc…
The numbers I have seen from various reports, driving in different areas and terrains with different levels of charge and different drivers, over extended trips varied from 75 mpg to 93 mpg to 142 mpg
The sticker says 93 mpg as an average.
As to other performance, it accelerates well for a sedan 0-60 mph in ~8.8 seconds and numerous reports say it handles and turns well.
Aesthetically, it is handsome for a sedan, but, like all sedans, it is not what you think of cruising for girls in. On the other hand, it will definitely help you hook up with the brainy girls.
So let’s do a little math.
Say you put ten grand down on one of these and take out a 25 k loan at 7.5% interest for 60 months. You will pay about $500 per month over 60 months.
OK… Say you buy another car with only a $10k loan.
You pay $200/month
But.. Say you are driving 20 miles to work.
40 miles per day in a car that gets 15-20 mpg city (and let’s be fair, 20 mpg city is huge, SUV’s get like 10) And this is with no AC on.
This means that you are burning around two gallons of gas per day which means about $40 -45 per week. Again that is optimal. Throw in more stop and go and throw in AC and it becomes something like $50-60 per week for an economy car.
Call it $45 per week.
Call it $50 for a less than economy car.
$50 x 4 weeks - $200 per month just from commuting to work (no errands and no AC)
Depending on how much driving you do on the weekends, if you like AC in summer and if you don’t keep your car well maintained, you can easily be paying as much as you would for the volt per month or more when you factor in fuel costs.
Of course, this assumes $4 per gallon for gasoline… No way it could hit $5 in the next five years right?
So the short form is that the Volt is the nicest of the hybrids and the most expensive but you break even in cost compared to buying a much less nice used sedan of similar performance when you take the gas savings into account - assuming gas prices don’t continue to rise, you don’t use AC and you keep your non hybrid car well maintained i.e. tires properly inflated, regular oil changes etc… If those conditions aren’t met, the used gas only sedan looks worse.
This also assumes you are paying no tolls. In the DC area, an added perk is no tolls for your hybrid and you can use the HOV lanes as well.
Finally, assuming you do charge per home at 10 cents per KwH,
The battery stores 10 KwH that are in the usable range. It actually holds 16, but only ever depletes 10 to extend battery life.
That means a full charge is $1.
In comparison, going 35 miles (the range of a full charge) in an SUV will cost you appx $15 and $8-10 for a sedan.
Now some other things:
The Volt is made 100% in the US by union labor.
If you buy one you are supporting American industry and innovation (and for once we are marketing a really superb product with very nice technology).
If you buy one, you are not sending money directly to evil nations like Saudi Arabia or Venezuala or pick your thuggish dictatorship.
You are also not lining the pockets of Exxon or BP and you will make a Republican cry.
Finally, you are going to help increase demand for hybrid cars which will help increase market share for them and lower the prices of them. Ultimately this takes a very very large chunk out of US carbon emissions. Saving future generations and actually cleaning up America, and breaking the hold of evil dictatorships also makes Republicans cry.
If you can afford one, it is morally a slam dunk.
As to notions that this effects the power grid and increases emissions, this is actually not true. Coal plants always have “the fires going” in off peak hours. Yes you can crank them up, but the emissions don’t gently go down to zero when you are using less juice. There is a minimum amount of burning to even be on - and ready for more demand during the daily cycle.
You can easily find many reports on this. You really are lowering impact on the environment, even with coal plants.
If you can afford one, it is morally a slam dunk.