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Clean Transport Chevy Volt true cost of ownership

Published on December 21st, 2013 | by Tina Casey

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True Cost Of Owning A Chevy Volt Might Surprise You

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December 21st, 2013 by  

Our friends over at Edmunds have a nifty little True Cost of Ownership calculator, and the results are giving our other friends over at GM-Volt.com something to cheer about. When you plug the numbers into Edmunds’s proprietary system, you come up with a five year cost of ownership for the Chevy Volt that is thousands less — yes, less, than the retail price.

That makes sense since one factor is the fuel savings you get from an electric car, but what really has GM-Volt.com all excited is that the numbers come out a lot better for the Chevy Volt than for Toyota’s Prius.

Chevy Volt true cost of ownership

Chevy Volt (cropped) by Michael Gil.

As Jeff Cobb of GM-Volt (the site is not affiliated with GM, btw) enthused last week:

As we enter the holiday season, you who chose a Volt may know it is like a gift that keeps on giving, whereas a Toyota Prius is an expense that ultimately costs more to own even though it sells for much less.

The numbers vary somewhat according to zip code so you can check them out for yourself at Edmunds, keeping in mind that there may be other algorithms out there.

The takeaway really is that when you go to buy a new car, you need to look at your costs over time rather than just the retail price.

Chevy Volt Bells And Whistles

Along with our sister site Gas2.org we’ve been following the Volt since GM first launched it with a cross-country tour in 2010 with a relatively modest range in electric mode (currently the EPA rating is 38 miles), so we’re looking forward to seeing what GM has in store for Volt’s future.

That apparently includes a much more ambitious electric range of 200 miles and a few other surprises, including a drop in the retail price.

In the mean time, Volt drivers who have regular access to EV charging stations are reporting that their routine driving habits fall well within the Volt’s unique concept. The car always runs in electric drive but has a gas tank to back up its EV battery, so it can accommodate daily commutes and errands exclusively off the battery, with gasoline extending the range for longer trips.

Last spring, GM noted drivers who charge the battery regularly reported going an average 900 miles before filling up their gas tanks.


Let’s also note for the record that GM has also introduced some new apps for the Volt, including the Volt Driver Challenge that lets you compete (friendily, of course) with other drivers to set fuel efficiency records, and the OnStar RemoteLink that lets you manage your battery from your phone and do a bunch of other cool stuff.

In one of life’s little ironies, things have gone around full circle for GM. Back in 1998, GM purchased the Hummer brand, that notoriously gas-guzzling civilian knockoff of the military Humvee, and now it seems that GM’s Volt gas-electric concept has inspired the Department of Defense to phase out the Humvee in favor of developing a cutting edge, solar-friendly gas-electric ultra light vehicle, which for now it’s calling the — you guessed it — Ultra Light Vehicle.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • TinaCasey

    Bob and Mario thank you for some interesting insights. The bottom line is that the Volt’s dual-fuel, all-electric drive approach provides hesitant EV buyers with a chance to dip into the EV driving experience while floating on a cushion of gasoline whenever needed. I think GM recognizes that for many consumers, getting accustomed to new tech is a process that takes time, and the Volt addresses that part of the market. Btw if either of you guys can get GM to loan me a Volt to test drive for like a year that would be nice.

  • Mario

    @TinaCasey:disqus I really enjoyed your article about the Chevy Volt. Unfortunately, like so many bloggers you totally miss the mark by noting it’s relatively modest range in electric mode without explaining that this range is inconsequential. The Volt isn’t about range in electric mode. It’s about the over-all range with the combination of both electric and generator(gas) mode combined with the over-all cost. Which that part(cost) you got right! It would also be nice to note that Volt owners are reporting 65 mpg equivalents which is near miraculous considering this is a fairly large, among hybrids, and very solid car!

    • Bob_Wallace

      The 40 mile electric range of the Volt is inconsequential?

      The average US commute is about 32 miles.

      • Mario

        Thats right @Bob_Wallace:disqus. Because with the Volt you can make your own electricity! It’s not about range at all.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You lost me on that last curve, Mario.

          The Volt is range limited in terms of driving on electricity. After 40 miles or so you switch to gasoline.

          If your daily routine is under 40 miles then most of the time the Volt is, for you, an electric car. For someone with a longer daily drive it’s a partially electric car.

          • Mario

            @Bob_Wallace:disqus you seam to have a common misunderstanding. I’m not sure who is to blame about this? Is is Chevy for not properly marketing the Volt? Or is it that Americans really just can’t or don’t want to understand the technology? I’m not sure. But the Volt has nothing to do with how far you can go on just battery alone. That’s great if you can go twenty miles or so. it’s fun and super quiet. But the enticing feature about the Volt is that you are not limited by Battery only operation because you can generate your own electricity to run the car. And do so to the tune of approximately 65 miles per gallon! To put this into perspective The Toyota Prius gets about 45 or so mpg. And the Volt is a much more solid feeling car. Like a cadillac being compared to lets say… a toyota. Get the picture?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mario, I fully understand what the Volt is and what it will do. I understand EVs and PHEVs.

            What I’m having trouble with is your point. I can’t seem to discover it.
            If you’re just expressing love for your Volt, fine. If you’re trying to make a point you think important it’s not coming across.

          • Mario

            The point is simple. The range in full battery mode, though a fun option, is not a primary operating factor for the car. It’s actually quite inconsequential, as I said, because one can make his/her own electricity. It’s not about the battery range, it’s about the efficiency of the generator powered mode of the car.

            To put this into perspective. Imagine that the car didn’t run on battery only mode. Get it now? It would be the same car with the same efficiency. The battery only option is just an additional bonus! Fun to use for people who pay a little extra for 100% wind power. Fun to try to make the gas in your tank last as long as possible, etc. etc.

            Perhaps, you are stuck on the old Battery range limiting belief system? Remember battery range doesn’t matter when you can make your own electricity. It would only be an issue if you couldn’t. Then you would have to limit your driving range so as not to run out of power. Do you see now how this situation doesn’t apply to the Volt?

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Volt’s fuel-only rating is 37 MPG. That’s good, but it’s not world class.

          • Mario

            The variables are how far you would have to drive on battery only compared with how far you would have to drive with generator. Those two variables could be plugged into an equation to produce an over-all cost comparable to a mpg rating. This would differ depending on how far people drove and how often they plugged the car in to charge.

            Most of the articles I read, including this one, state the range of the battery only mode. I think it is important to note that this information is misleading as that is not how the car would generally be used. It’s not appropriate or usable information for most people unless the author some how prepends the statement to inform people that this range is inconsequential and in no way limits range for normal every day use.

            I’d like to see an article take three different use scenarios. A person who lives within Battery range, a person who is just beyond battery range, and a person who has a long commute and is far beyond battery range. Then these three cases could be put into numbers comparable to mpg so people could see what this really means.

            Just stating the range of the battery only mode is misleading and confusing for people who don’t understand that this car is a combination of both Batt only and Generator powered. So my original criticism and my remaining criticism (and point) is that by stating the batt only range you are not showing anything of importance(like using information out of context) with respect to this particular vehicle.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Read more on the site, Mario. We’ve covered the Volt and PHEVs in detail in other articles. Regular readers are very aware of how PHEVs work and for which purposes they are most useful.

          • Mario

            I will, thank you!

          • Mario

            I really feel like it’s a marketing problem. I would have marketed the car as a hybrid-hybrid (Hybrid squared?) and NOT an electric car. Even though it is an electric car, most people have preconceived notions of what electric cars are. And those notions are almost always connected to battery range. That’s what has been causing all the misunderstandings for the Volt. I’ve offered to help Chevy with this, but perhaps I’ve spoken to the wrong people?

  • skinja

    Writers always want to do cost comparisons on mileage and fuel costs over time on hybrid and electric cars as if that is the deciding factor for all cars. When people buy a car, they get all sorts of features like rims, sounds systems, trim packages, 4WD, etc etc. NONE of those features pencil out. Electric/Hybrid cars should be evaluated the same way.

    If pure cost was the only way people bought cars, then we would all be driving tiny turbo diesels. But we aren’t.

    Cost comparisons just give detractors something to hem and haw about even when the study points out the benefits of the new technology.Because the first thing a detractor will say is that some other car X does the same thing, but only costs $19K. When really, who cares. People don’t buy cares for pure practicality. Stop giving detractors something to pretend to have to think about.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The purchase price of EVs is high. Very high.

      People who might want to do something to help the climate problem could be considering purchasing an EV or PHEV but put off by the high initial cost. Letting them know that over a few years it won’t cost them more to drive using electricity, in fact will probably cost them less, can help get them past the sticker shock.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    Interesting, I used their spreadsheet to compare a 2013 Volt, Prius, and Leaf at my zip code.

    The Prius uses $324 a year more fuel than a Volt.
    The Leaf uses $630 a year less fuel than a Volt ($924 less than a Prius).
    The Volt comes in as costing $3,235 more to own than a Leaf.

    Remove the $7,500 tax credit from the Leaf and Volt, and the Volt comes in as the most expensive to own at $39,185 (Prius = $36,920, Leaf $35,950)

    • philip d

      Also with the Volt there is a huge assumption you make on a static spreadsheet of how much fuel will cost. If you drive the Volt 38 miles a day or drive it more but always plug in then your fuel cost will be the same as a Leaf. If you never plug in then you fuel cost will be more than a Prius. The calculus for owning a Volt is much more dependent on driving needs than the others.

  • Mark Renburke

    The Jeff Cobb quote that the Prius “sells for much less” is really in error, perpetuating the myth that the Volt is actually still now typically more expensive than the Prius to buy: A base Volt cost just $26,685 (after the credit, which most buyers will be able to get) versus $24,200 for the lowest end Prius. So that’s a difference of just $2485, not really “much less” – And a base Prius II is not as well-equipped as a base Volt (such as add an additional $499 to the Prius for the Volt’s included remote start feature), so were not even comparing apples to apples. And then there’s the fact 3 out of 5 Prius models (III, IV, V) actual cost more than a base Volt. Many if not most new Prius buyers will unknowing end up paying more for their Prius than what they likely could have gotten a Volt…and would saved even more from day one on fuel in a Volt (the accurate point of the article)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Excellent comment. Thanks! :D

  • Vatcha

    Speaking of which, the federal tax credit program is limited to the first 200,000 vehicles. Is that limit going to be reached this year sometime? Do partial qualifiers like the C-Max still count as 1 against the limit?

    • drkennethnoisewater

      200k vehicles per manufacturer I believe.

  • Vatcha

    First year depreciation of $4700? Who would pay $30,000 for a 1 year old Volt that the owner likely paid around $27,000 for new (with rebate)?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I took a look at Blue Book prices. 2013 Volts (no added options, excellent condition) $26,893. 2012 Volts (same) $23,765.

      Someone who wanted a Volt but didn’t qualify for the tax credit might buy a year old one for $27k – 30k.

      $34,185 MSRP plus dealer charges for a new one.

      • Vatcha

        I guess its possible but I would expect that a very small percentage of people who don’t qualify for the tax credit would be shopping for a car in that price range.

        I will say that I see quite a large number of used Volts listed by dealers on cars.com that seem to have an outrageous list price. It would be interesting to see what they’re actually selling for.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Someone who doesn’t make a great salary and has a couple of dependents could easily not have any federal income tax.

          I just did a quick estimated tax calc for a couple with 3 kids and a $50,000 income. Standard deductions.

          No federal income tax. Can’t make use of the tax credit.

          $60,000 income. Tax $383. Other $7,117 unusable.

          • Mark Renburke

            Bob, someone like that “who doesn’t make a great salary and has a couple of dependents” would not be in the market for a Volt, Prius, or really ANY new car, because they couldn’t afford the monthly payment. The tax credit benefits those who are actually in the position to purchase an a new car. Others in lower incomes can still benefit by leasing an EV, or picking up one on the use market that just came off leas perhaps.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m pretty sure that you can find families with $40k, $50k, $60k incomes that purchase new cars.

            Not everyone lives in a very high living expense city where $50k is “barely keeping food on the table”.

          • Mark Renburke

            Bottom line, if a family CAN afford a new car, they CAN afford to buy or lease Leaf, Volt, or other plug in that fits their lifestyle and budget. And the 5 year TOTAL cost of ownership is THOUSANDS less than all so called economy cars, such as the Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, or Nissan Versa Note, to name a few. These aren’t my numbers, check Edmunds 5 year TCO on a Volt or Leaf for independent data.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The bottom line is that you are abusing your caps lock key. Better conserve it, Santa doesn’t bring bad boys new ones.

            Here’s the thing you’re missing. The tax credit does not apply to many lower and middle class workers because they aren’t paying a lot of federal income taxes. (They pay bucket loads of other taxes. I feel a need to point that out least someone goes winger on us.)

            The people who could most use some help getting into a car that would save them a lot of money on fuel are not eligible for that help. It’s going to people with lots of disposable income, people who need it least.

      • drkennethnoisewater

        Leasing would likely be a better option with battery tech at this point, IIRC 2 year minimum for the credit to apply to the lease. If your annual mileage gets too high, though, buying may make more sense.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sometimes, maybe. Someone who commutes within the Volt battery range and tends to keep cars for a long time is probably better off buying used and driving several years.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    …friends over at Edmunds? I don’t follow.

    It’s just a spreadsheet. Like any spreadsheet, the answers depend on your assumptions. When you look at the Edmonds site you can see their comparisons. Depreciation and maintenance over five years is a guess. Take away the tax credit and they are essentially within a percent or two of the same cost ($637 dollars).

    They show that Prius insurance is higher, but for many it would be lower. From an earlier article comparing the two cars:

    Insurance / month for Volt 2011 $92.82. Insurance / month for Prius 2011 $79.90. Suddenly, the Prius is cheaper. The comparison is also dependent on the price of gas, which is another guess.

    Note that the Leaf and Volt have essentially, the same fuel costs (2542 vs 2161), even though the Volt weighs about 600 lbs more than a Leaf (using more electricity), and, in theory, should be using some gas in those five years. That doesn’t seem to add up.

    That apparently includes a much more ambitious electric range of 200 miles

    Not according Zachary Shahan in the comment field of another article at this web site. Read “Collapse of Battery Startup Envia: What Really Happened” at Green Car Reports.

  • jose nieves

    There is a bright future ahead for electric and hybrid cars . Prices are slowly comming down and driving range is likely to steadily increase every year. The sale of electric cars is up 300% from last year records. I think that if we keep that pace we can get one million electric cars on the road in 5 years or less.

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    With or without the EV tax credit, a $19,000 Chevy Cruze is more costly than a Chevy Volt over 5 years…. one headline you’ll almost never see….

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Wow, that’s impressive.

    • Otis11

      How many miles/year does that assume? And what percentage of that has to be on electricity?

      To be clear I really like the Volt, but for some (probably a fairly small minority) some very efficient hybrids (prius) or clean diesels (Jetta TDI) are better choices.

      • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

        assumes 15,000 miles/yr. here’s the summary of the Edmunds total 5 yr ownership costs. Prius costs more as well…. http://gm-volt.com/2013/12/13/edmunds-volts-5-year-ownership-cost-is-much-cheaper-than-prius/

        • Otis11

          That’s a great dissection of the cost there! The only things I don’t see is what percentage of the volt’s miles are in EV mode. It has to do a substantial portion in EV mode as the Volt gets lower mpg than the Prius in gas mode.

          Essentially though, the vehicle with the longer EV range is almost always going to win. The only exceptions would be if one was much more expensive or the persons daily driving range regularly doubles the EV range.

          So for the very few people that road trip thousands of miles a year, or have a daily commute in excess of 80 miles, the Prius is the better choice. For the other 98% of people, the Volt would be better. (Or a leaf if possible)

          • drkennethnoisewater

            I’m on track to put about 18k miles in a year on my 2013 (6 months of ownership and I’m well above 9k), and at least 90% of that mileage is electric.

            My situation is not terribly atypical.

          • Otis11

            18K miles, assuming 230 work days/year and 30 miles on the days off gives you 61 miles a day commute. That says you have to be able to charge at work to get 90% electric…

            That’s not a terribly typical case outside of California. Unless there’s a condition I’m overlooking that makes it more normal?

          • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

            I’m guessing you’re getting 200 mpg lifetime so far?

          • drkennethnoisewater

            About 475mpg.

          • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

            Nice…

          • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

            You’re right the Prius is better if you are a super commuter and drive like 80 miles or more between charges. Looking at the numbers, it appears they assume the average percent of EV for the Volt owner is about 60-65%. This would mean they’re using the avg Volt owners 115 mpg. An almost typical 90% EV volt owner like myself would get about 225 mpg. My driving pattern is typical. You can figure this out by playing with the annual fuel costs they state etc… If the annual fuel costs were much higher, they’d be assuming a below average EV % of 40-50% etc…

          • Otis11

            Thank you for the numbers! That’s what I was looking for.

            And about the prius – agreed.

      • karl

        volt is a flop at the price and subsudees make it far more costly then they’ll ever admit….nothing is green if you use more oil to build it then it will save .. wind mill and solar …… in Canada volt travels 25mile elec than on gas only get 30 mpg that sucks for a 45000 car if u charge it of our solar grid it would cost 85cents a klw making it again more cost then any fuel….. there are places for electric but the first 30 million onwers will not save a dime or be carbon friendly ………until the price drops dramatically it will be a subsidize nightmare to all and many investor left holding the bag in our case that’s the tax payers most of the time

        • A Real Libertarian

          Ladies and gentlemen…

          Someone who thinks EVs are bad!

  • agelbert

    Interesting. thank you.
    One thing I have admired about Elon Musk his desire to break the corrupt business model of milking a costumer through car parts and maintenance costs after purchasing the vehicle. That is why I view a hybrid vehicle wit a jaundiced eye. Who is going to keep me from being raked over the coals when the annual inspection in Vermont is due?
    I want a EV with fewer moving parts and fewer things to replace and wear out and I definitely do not want to provide a living for corrupt mechanics!
    I still have a 1997 Camry I drive less than 2,000 miles a
    year! I sweat bullets at inspection time. IT is a rare inspection that I don’t have to fork up over $700. I am retired and earn less than $50,000 a year. There are a lot of us out there and we should be catered to.
    I doubt seriously that Edmunds looked at inspection fun and games in the vehicle cost department. If you could look into this and show that EVs will save, say $10,000 plus in inspection and maintenance costs alone over a 20 year period, that will help sell them. Up until now, I have not read anything on it.
    What fails inspection on an EV? What EV motor part replacement will set you back $400 in one hit?
    We all know the Volt still has the whole ice ball of maintenance costs including emission control fun and games at the annual inspection. That makes the Volt a non=starter for me and most low income people that are afflicted with mechanic machinations continually.
    The “business model” of selling a car at a lower cost to snag the owner on dealer maintenance and annual inspection costs isn’t just wrong, it’s unsustainable too!.
    I will never buy a hybrid automobile. Maintenance and inspection fun and games for mechanic extra income are anathema to me and anyone that thinks ahead before buying a car.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s a good point. Sell an EV? No smog report to pass.

      • agelbert

        Bob,

        I just found this hot news out. It’s the real deal. It’s not an urban myth or a conspiracy theory. The media have kept it quiet since April of this year when the law suite was first filed.

        This is a tragedy but an excellent opportunity for us in the reality based community to help prevent future uses of nuclear power.

        75 sailors serving on the Ronald Reagan 3 years ago near Fukushima have Radiation Caused Cancers!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Best to let it age a bit. Let’s see what the more established press has to say.

          Interestingly Fox News is reporting it but I don’t see any other mainstream news media picking it up.

        • Randy

          The amount of radioactive materials released into the environment by Fukushima is dwarfed by the vast amounts of radioactive materials released by the coal industry. Coal is loaded with thorium and other radioactive materials. In China, most plants have little-to-no emissions controls.

          A recent Nasa study showed nuclear has saved nearly 2 million lives compared to using coal for power (remember, because of the time the reactors where built, nearly all the power generated from nuclear would have come from coal instead). It will continue to save lives and prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Nuclear, thanks to being emissions free, is the cleanest form of conventional energy we have.

          We can build reactors today that are nearly impossible to melt down, and if they did would do very little damage, and we can build reacts that can not even meltdown. The anti-nuclear fear is totally irrational.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, not totally irrational. SL-1, TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima and K-19 were not figments of our imagination.

            Then when one considers all the near misses and screwups only a irrational person would not have some concern about nuclear energy.

            But, we don’t have to worry ourselves with all that. It’s not a “nuclear or coal?” decision we face. We have a much cheaper, faster to implement and safer alternative.

            Time to get moving faster with renewables and leave all that thermal stuff behind in the previous century where it belongs.

          • Randy

            If it was cheaper, faster, and easier, then there would be no debate…

          • A Real Libertarian

            You mean like when there was no debate about cigarettes causing cancer?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Some people can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that electricity from a new nuclear plant would be multiples of the cost of electricity from a paid off plant.

            And that wind and solar prices have dropped like lead panties when the fleet’s in port.

          • agelbert

            Okay Randy, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt because you are young.

            Your hyperbole about the “irrationality” of fearing radiation effects in living beings is just that.

            Study the SL-1 Accident in 1961. They learned NOTHING. That is why
            Fukushima eventually happened.

            http://renewablerevolution.createaforum.com/nuke-puke/the-nuclear-insanity-of-the-1950s/msg610/#msg610

            And while you are at it, do some cost benefit studies.

            The US Government, just this week is throwing away over 200 million dollars of our tax money to build a small nuclear reactor. Our government is paying for fully 50% of the cost.

            Does that make sense to you? Do you have any idea what a massive amount of renewable energy you can get for that amount with no risk from radiation?

            Do you think, once these so-called SMRs are built, we-the-people are going to get 50% of the private profits along with backing 100% of the radiation risk? Of course not!

            The SL-1 was a small, self cooling reactor just like the “new and improved” versions they want to make now. After the accident, it took them several months to get the radiation down to an acceptable non-lethal level.

            These things aren’t just dangerous, they are simply not cost effective. Do the math from the mine to the centuries of care for waste and stop accusing thinking people of being irrational. that is insulting and out of line.

            If you go to the link and respond rationally after viewing the video, prepared by nuke lovers in the government, by the way, and then critiqued by me, I will respond.

            Otherwise I suggest you do study cost accounting of nuclear fuel rods. Your lack of knowledge of these massively subsidized and prohibitively high costs is embarrassing.

          • agelbert

            DOE Announces Funding for Small Nuclear Reactors
            “The U.S. Department of Energy announced that it has selected NuScale Power as its second winner in the agency’s public-private partnership program to support the development of small modular reactors (SMR). The award includes a five-year cost-sharing program including up to $226 million in funding – DOE will provide 50% of the cost of the project and requires matching funding from the company.DOE originally announced its decision to partner with the nuclear industry to develop SMRs in March 2012, issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) worth up to $452 million. Babcock & Wilcox received the first award in November 2012…”

          • agelbert

            “DOE Announces Funding for Small Nuclear ReactorsThe U.S. Department of Energy announced that it has selected NuScale Power as its second winner in the agency’s public-private partnership program to support the development of small modular reactors (SMR).

            The award includes a five-year cost-sharing program including up to $226 million in funding – DOE will provide 50% of the cost of the project and requires matching funding from the company. DOE originally announced its decision to partner with the nuclear industry to develop SMRs in March 2012, issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) worth up to $452 million. Babcock & Wilcox received the first award in November 2012…”

            http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/
            [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/gaah.gif[/img]

          • Solid State Max

            This can’t be too surprising given where Ernest Moniz is coming from. Tis’ ironic that when it comes to going nuclear, this administration chooses the “start simple” approach whereas on health care, it’s “started bloated” failing strategy.

          • agelbert

            The “logic” of profits for a few and externalized costs for the many is the common denominator of corruption in government from health care to energy.

            The “reality” of these crooks is short term profit. Those of us actually in the reality based community prefer actual total costs and respect for the laws of thermodynamics.

            The true irony is that we reality based people are accused of being “impractical and unrealistic” about how the “world” works.

          • Randy

            You start by assuming i am young and then act as if there is some link between age and intelligence or knowledge on a subject…

            Major nuclear disasters are extremely rare. Extremely rare. When you look at the costs in money and lives, Wh for Wh, nuclear is the safest form of conventional energy and has basically saved nearly 2 million lives, compared to using coal, according to NASA. Nuclear has become even safer too, so the major disasters will become even more rare as old reactors are decommissioned and replaced with better, new ones. If people would be more open to new, better reactors, this would happen faster.

            So it makes no sense to invest in a new kind of nuclear reactor when it has provided proven clean energy that has provided ~20% of our power for a couple decades, but spending that money on some wind turbines that are extremely intermittent and produce only a third of the installed capacity is somehow better? Seems like double standards. The government supports all kinds of new research projects. This is to promote a new, smaller reactor design. I actually find the project interesting and I hope it is a very successful program. The risk is extremely low, nearly nonexistent. I doubt the government is taking full liability, i haven’t seen a single source that implies that.

            The fear of nuclear in this country IS irrational. People hear nuclear and go crazy. I don’t know why you are so offended. You told me that I am ignorant and basically told me that I am young, so my opinion doesn’t matter and i don’t know what I’m talking about. You then basically finished your reply by calling me stupid.

            Nuclear is, in part, very expensive because of bad regulations. The nuclear waste issue in this country is totally political. We should just do what France does and reprocess it. We could just glassify the rest and throw it underground or back in the mines they come from.

            Reactors are not dangerous. You are many times more likely to die from pollution and radiation related problems from the local coal power plant or from the local pollutions coming from internal combustion engines.

            Centuries of waste storage is also a big assertion. By then end of the century space travel should be so cheap we could blast it into the sun. Other new technologies should also be available. We already have a solution though, reprocess, reuse, and throw the remaining bit into the mountain it came out of. We can decommission nuclear weapons to run reactors for a good while and use the thorium in coal to run thorium reactors.

            Every major energy source has been government subsidized. That isn’t going to change any time soon. Oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal tidal, wave, everything has been government subsidized or funded.

            Nuclear is not cost prohibitive, we need smarter regulations and tax we need to tax pollutants. Then more companies will want to invest in nuclear. Thankfully, there are already some new nuclear reactors under construction in the USA.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Every major energy source has been government subsidized. That isn’t going to change any time soon.”

            So let’s subsidize cheap renewables instead of expensive nukes.

            “So it makes no sense to invest in a new kind of nuclear reactor when it has provided proven clean energy that has provided ~20% of our power for a couple decades, but spending that money on some wind turbines that are extremely intermittent and produce only a third of the installed capacity is somehow better? ”

            Yes.

            Intermittency isn’t a problem in real life. And Capacity Factor is only relevant as far as it effects price.

            And don’t start with the “renewables need storage!!11!1!11!1″ spiel, so do nukes.

            The reason we reject nukes is because we know far more about them then you do.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Randy, it is not coal or nuclear. We have other choices.

            Nuclear is dangerous. That’s why we have containment domes, emergency backup generators, warning systems, security guards and all sorts of systems designed to keep us from cooking ourselves.

            And those systems fail.

            We have four real world price point for new nuclear. Ontario Canada and San Antonio Texas asked for turnkey bids for new reactors. No quote low, deliver sky high stuff like nuclear has done the past. Both bids, if accepted, would have meant electricity somewhere around 20 cents/kWh.

            Turkey ask for a fixed kWh price. They got 21 cents/kWh.

            The UK is now finishing up the paperwork for new nuclear at 16 cents/kWh. That’s a “We’ll pay you for ever kWh hour you produce for the next 35 years and we’ll increase the 16c with inflation” price.

            Wind sold for an average of 4 cents/kWh in 2011 and 2012 in the US. Solar is selling in the SW for 5 cents/kWh with no inflation over the 20 year PPA. Solar in other parts of the US would be only a penny or two more per kWh.

            We are closing reactors in the US faster than we are building them. We closed or scheduled for closing five reactors in 2013. We have about a dozen and a half more reactors that are on the cusp of bankruptcy.

            Our nuclear reactor fleet is old and old stuff breaks. Many of our reactors would not be worth fixing were they to suffer a major repair cost.

            We are building only four reactors and they will not be on line for several more years.

            Take a look at the age of our nuclear reactors.

            And take a look at how nuclear has stalled out and has been losing market share around the world. What’s not shown in that graph is that the world’s electricity consumption continued to rise after nuclear plateaued.

          • A Real Libertarian

            He’s just going to say “major accidents are rare, and nukes would be cheap without burdensome safety regulations”.

            They wouldn’t be, but that’s beside the point that he thinks that is good logic.

          • agelbert

            You really have no idea what you are talking about.

            [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/gen152.gif[/img]

            Have a nice deluded day.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Excellent points. :D

    • TinaCasey

      Still and all, solutions like the Volt provide mainstream car buyers with a reliable bridge to new auto technology…after all, back in the day it took decades to get Americans to give up their horses.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Go on line and look at some city street photography from the 1930s.

        Hard to find a horse outside a parade.

        • TinaCasey

          Okay, so two decades, give or take. The first US automobile manufacturing company was established in 1893.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I tend to start the age of the auto with Henry’s Model T. This was when cars became a practical vehicle.

            In the same way I start the age of the EV/PHEV with the introduction of the LEAF and Volt. The real age of the EV will start with the release an EV with more than 150 mile range for under $30k.

            Once a new technology becomes better than the old technology in one or more critical aspects and about as good in others the transition can happen very quickly. Slide rule sales died out in two years after the introduction of an affordable scientific calculator.

            Cars will take longer because cars have a larger purchase price and people will want to get most of their value out before moving to new technology.

          • Kiwiiano

            If our target is to get our carbon footprints down to below 10% of what we have taken for granted for the last century or so, we have a lot of rethinking to do. Not just about gasoline v’s electric, but the size and weight of vehicles, the distances and frequencies of journeys, the design of cities, community transport and commuting habits and freight distribution methods. And the BIG problem is that we should have started this 50 years ago.

            Another thought: What’s the carbon footprint of building electric cars and disposing of them at end-of-life?

            “The last time atmospheric CO2 was at 400ppm, the planet was ice-free and the oceans 40m higher!”

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you were driving an EV built with sustainable materials and power by renewable electricity would it matter how far you drove?

            Overall I agree with you. But new technology can allow us to do more of somethings.

      • agelbert

        I will celebrate the day the internal combustion engine driven car is gone (unless they are fueled exclusively by biomass created ethanol).

        • Kiwiiano

          What are we driving ON? Asphalt or concrete? What’s the working life of your typical road and what’s the carbon content of the inevitable repairs?

          • Bob_Wallace

            What we drive on would last a danged long time were we to move most of our freight to rail.

            Electrify rail. Use trucks for only “the last mile” stuff.

          • David Martin

            This might be a dumb question but freight rail is diesel only. Passenger rail is either diesel or electric. Can freight run on electric trains? Are there any working examples of that?

            Do you know of a good intro to rail resource where I can read up on the differences between freight and passenger rail, electric and diesel? I’ve googled a bit but haven’t come across anything.

            Thanks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Can freight run on electric trains? Are there any working examples of that?”

            By Jove, I think there are… ;o)

            “Along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, trains of oil tank cars extend across the landscape for miles. Each tank car, black and tarry-looking, with its faded white markings, resembles the one that follows it… a trainload of these cars defines monotony.

            The Trans-Siberian Railway covers 9,288 kilometers between Moscow and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, or 5,771 miles. In other words, if it were twenty-one miles longer, it would be exactly twice as long as Interstate 80 from New Jersey to California. Laying awake near the tracks in some remote spot at night you hear trains going by all through the night with scarcely a pause.

            (T)he Trans-Siberian Railway is all-electric, with overhead cables like a streetcar line – you find the tracks are empty of traffic only for five or ten minutes at a time.

            Besides oil, the railway carries coal, machinery parts, giant tires, scrap iron, and endless containers … just like the containers stacked five stories high around the Port of Newark, New Jersey, and probably every other port in the world.”

            Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (2010)

            Europe’s and Asia’s high speed rail runs on electricity.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_locomotive

            Many of our rail engines are actually electric. They are hybrids with diesel engines running generators and the wheels driven by electric motors.

          • David Martin

            Thanks for the response.

            I didn’t know the TSR was electric. Lots of interesting info on that wiki page. I didn’t realize it is a rail network rather than a a single line.

            I know trains in the EU and Asia are electric but they are passenger trains, not freight trains. The EU moves people by rail, freight by ship and truck. That’s my understanding anyway. Don’t have time to look up references.

            Electrification of the TSR must have been quite an undertaking. I’d like to read some history on that if I had time.

            I found these articles interesting:
            http://www.therailengineer.com/2011/11/29/trans-siberian-landbridge/

            http://reasonrail.blogspot.com/2012/05/why-freight-will-never-electrify.html

            I was aware that many locomotives here are diesel-electric hybrids. Converting them to all electric seems daunting.

            There just seems to be a separation between diesel locomotives for freight and electric for passenger. I didn’t know what the reasons for that were — technical, historical, financial, political, etc. or just a wrong perception on my part.

            Thanks again for the response, Mr Wallace. I really enjoy reading your stuff.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I would think converting the diesel electric engines would be rather easy. Just need a pantograph mounted on the roof of the engine to let it suck grid power when on a stretch that has been electrified. Where the overhead wire has not been installed it could fire up the diesel engine.

            Then we could add the catenary wire system a section at a time. Wire the rail where electricity is in best supply as we add more renewable energy throughout the system.

            Jerking the diesel out of a fueled engine and dropping in an electric motor shouldn’t be too big a deal.

            (No need for the “Mr.” stuff. “Either Your Most Esteemed Majesty” or “bob” would be fine….)

          • David Martin

            Sorry my comment wasn’t clear — I meant that converting the rail network to electric would be daunting, rather than converting a locomotive. Maybe not.

            Also, I was trying to be respectful because of the work you put into your comments and responses . You have obviously worked hard and for a long time to acquire the knowledge you’ve got. I also appreciate your independence, as well as your sense of humor.

            The guy I referenced earlier, Paul Druce, has an interesting blog called Reason & Rail. He wrote a couple posts called “Why Commuter Rail Won’t Run Diesels” (1), and “Why Freight Will Never Electrify” (2). His reason on (1) is mainly speed, and on (2) is the cost of electrifying the rail and the locomotives, and the ability to pass on increased diesel fuel expenses through fuel surcharges.

            I’ve only just begun reading on the subject so don’t know enough to make any judgement, but his arguments seem reasonable.

            The article from The Rail Engineer (3) makes some interesting points. One in comparing the amount of freight TSR vs ship, from East Asia to the EU — 21K TEUs (20ft equivalent units) vs 13.5M. respectively. The TSR is twice as fast as ship travel.

            1. http://bit.ly/198z0Rd
            2. http://bit.ly/1bmN3Cz
            3. http://bit.ly/1e62wKx

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, consider the cost difference between running on fossil fuel and electricity. The cost of electricity is likely to drop, the cost of oil to rise.

            Then there’s the cost of continuing to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.

            Druce has only one argument against electrified freight – cost. He overlooks some of the costs. He also tips the scale in his favor by requiring rail to pay retail cost for electricity.

          • Paul Druce

            Actually I made three arguments why I don’t think freight will electrify (though I’m a fan of it): Cost is one, congestion and the greater value of improving capacity is a second (though I suppose you could roll that into cost), and the third is the operational impact of locomotive changes and introducing another single point of failure for the line. You may recall that ConEdison power failure in the Northeast screwing with passenger trains for quite awhile a few months ago; imagine the impact of a power failure on the Southern Transcon, stalling over a hundred freight trains per day.

            I would appreciate if you’d elaborate on what costs you think I’m overlooking. I didn’t touch on the cost of locomotive maintenance (lower for electrics), but also didn’t touch the cost of the catenary (though I would on both for a newer post). If you have better price information than Los Angeles Metro and the California High Speed Rail Authority, I would appreciate that as well.

            I should note incidentally that it isn’t an either/or game with oil and electricity; natural gas is being strongly investigated by the major railroads right now and prices are expected to remain low for natural gas for quite some time.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Extreme climate change would be very, very expensive. Avoiding it has value. Nothing personal, but I don’t think you put that in the formula.

            You’re running the math to see if it would make sense for an existing rail line to switch to electricity. If you limit it strictly diesel or electricity then you may be right. But the issue is greater. You haven’t calculated in the external costs.

            We’ve got to get off fossil fuels. Electrified rail is the easiest way to move heavy/bulky items with renewable energy.

            Yes, there is an infrastructure up front but that’s the cost of avoiding cooking ourselves.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “natural gas is being strongly investigated by the major railroads right
            now and prices are expected to remain low for natural gas for quite some
            time.”

            Natural gas costs are going to go through the roof when the fracking bubble bursts.

          • agelbert

            Great info! Thank you, Bob.

          • dynamo.joe

            All trains are electric. Some just contain their own generators.

          • agelbert

            More energy is spent keeping allegedly “environmentaly friendly” dirt roads in Vermont because of watershed runnof issues, erosion and the cost of more and more snad and dirt put on them after heavy rains and during the winter. Do you want the truth about asphalt? Most of it is a sunk cost. I agree we should replace it with something sustainable but the asphalt that is there, like Bob said, will last many decades. The only reason that happens is because of trucks, no cars. Making all cars lighter by larger tires or less weight and prohibiting overloaded trucks would give us another 30 years of asphalt easy. We could begin patching with biomass generated plastic products like hemp plastic (google chemurgy) and synthetic rubber mixes.
            I have done the math. Yes, I am polluting by running my ice Camry 2,000 miles a year and my taxes are paving roads I run on, adding environmental insult to injury. However, if I had the money for an EV, I would still be driving on roads, right? And by driving so seldom, my carbon footprint is tiny.
            I do what I can. I wish I could do better. Do YOU live in a home of less than 1,000 square feet? Do you shovel your snow and push mow your lawn and avoid all machines in yard work. Do you run your washer once a month or less to save water and energy?
            I do. If everyone did what my wife and I do, the world would be less polluted, even if many of us would have more “body odor” gracing the biosphere! LOL!.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think we need to be careful talking about pushing lawn mowers and only running washing machines once a month/whatever. That will give lots of people the impression that avoiding the worst of climate change will require them to “suffer”.

            Electricity from solar panels and wind turbines will mow your yard and wash as many clothes as you want to wash.

            The electricity from solar panels and wind turbines will let us manufacture more solar panels and wind turbines. (That’s already happening – the “Energy Trap” failed.)

            To drive your 2k a year with an EV you would need only 325-375 watts of solar panels on your roof. At the price of rooftop solar in the UK, Germany and Australia $700 would purchase your EV fuel for the next 40+ years.

            People need to understand how cheap driving with electricity is.

          • agelbert

            Yes Bob, after the EV purchase! Amortizing $35,000 for somebody that doesn’t make much more than that is a rather serious issue. I guess you’ve forgotten what it is like to be poor. I’ll make a deal with you. Clean technical comes up with a $10,000 down payment and I will buy a Leaf. But I don’t have that money to spare right now.
            I do what I do. If it turns people off, too bad. I’m not lying to you. I have to pay may rent, global warming hell or high water. Doing all these things manually saves me money so I will continue to do them.
            Have a nice day.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually, bert, you earn and spend more per year than I do.

            I’m not suggesting you purchase an EV. Based on the few miles you drive per year it makes no sense from a purely economic basis.

            I’m pretty much in the same position. I drive only 6k or so per year and an EV just wouldn’t pay for itself. I’m driving a ten year old car with only 42k on the odometer. The cost of trading up to an EV (if there was a 4wd that would get me to the grocery store and back on a single charge) would take a very long time to recover.

            All I was doing was pointing out to you how little up front it would cost you to purchase your next 40+ years “fuel” if you were driving an EV.

          • agelbert

            Thank you.

            Merry Christmas to you and yours.

            [img width=80 height=70]http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/yayayoy/yayayoy1106/yayayoy110600019/9735563-smiling-sun-showing-thumb-up.jpg[/img]

    • Randy

      Wow, I drive more in a month than you do in a year!

      • agelbert

        Yep. I’m retired and my wife combines errands so when the internal combustion beast must be moved, we try to cover as many bases as possible.

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