1 Year Of Volt Ownership: Costs Of Operations & Comparisons

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Here’s another great post from “Volt Owner” regarding his first year of Chevy Volt ownership. Some really interesting stuff in here. Feel free to head on over to the original post to drop him some comments and questions! (Note: the original article was published two days ago, as you’ll notice.)

One year of Chevrolet Volt ownership was reached on January 6, 2013.  Today, January 7, 2013, marks the beginning of year two.  My previous blog entries go over a lot of my personal feelings on the car, so I am going to focus on just the numbers for this entry.

According to AAA, the average price of gas in 2012 was $3.60 a gallon, which set the record.   Below I computed my savings based on the average price of gas for 2012.  When I post these through-out the year, I use the weekly average for my numbers because keeping track of a yearly rolling average can be tricky.

What isn’t listed here in additional savings is that I had no oil changes for the year.  Throw in 3 oil changes (at around 7,500 mile intervals) that most of the comparison cars would have needed and makes the Volt even more attractive.  I also only paid for about half the electricity listed up there.  While I did use about $371 in electricity, the place I charge at work provides electricity at no cost to me (supporting their sustainability mission) and a lot of the malls and shopping centers I go to also allow me to charge for free.  I also received my level 2 charger at no cost to me, thanks to Progress Energy and being an early adopter.  While that giveaway is no longer available, new Volt owners are making this up with by often paying 3-4k below sticker price.  I paid almost sticker price for my Volt.  It is now possible to get Volts around 30k, after tax credits, at dealerships that push heavy volume Volt sales.

In retrospect, my actual numbers were pretty close to my early estimates for yearly driving assumptions and expenses.  I had initially thought I would drive 22k miles a year, but a long vacation abroad at the end of December ended up shaving about 1,000 miles off my anticipated total.

One of the more interesting observations after a year of ownership is the degree the EPA label underrates Volt performance and savings.  Many Volt owners have stated that the EPA label should be considered a floor.  In other words, in all likelihood, a Volt owner will do MUCH better than what is stated on the EPA label.  For example, the range of 35 miles for a 2011 and 2012 was generally only seen during winter months, and most owners that I have spoken to exceed 40 most of the year (including me).

So I decided to have a little fun.

I took the EPA label for a 2012 Volt then edited it to match my actual performance.  I changed their assumptions in the fine print to match my circumstances exactly, including REDUCING the 5 year price of gas average the EPA has on the label (as $3.95 a gallon) to the average gas I experienced in 2012 of $3.60.  I recomputed MPGe based on my average consumption of 31 kWh/100 miles.

Anything in GREEN is an improvement on the label.  Anything in RED was when the Volt underperformed.  The only thing in red was the combined MPG of 36 instead of the labeled 37.  My engine ran so little, often coming on for 1 or 2 miles throughout the year, that the engine was not able to warm up and gain any efficiency.  On the few trips where I traveled a long distance, the engine was averaging about 45 MPG.

Below is the original label.  The differences are pretty stark.  Without a doubt, I have some of the best electrical rates in the country, and have found ways to charge when I am at work to prevent the gas engine from ever turning on.  But this should give readers an indication of the ENORMOUS variability in calculating the costs of operating an electric car.  There is room for a lot of improvement over the EPA label.

Pictures speak louder than words.

This is how much gas the Volt used in one year

Had I driven a car getting 50 MPG, like a Prius, this is how much gas I would have used:

Had I driven a car getting 30 MPG, like a Chevy Cruze, this is how much gas I would have used:

Had I driven a car getting 23 MPG, approximately the new car average, this is my fuel burn:

 And finally, if I elected to drive a car getting 17 MPG, I would have used this small amount of petrol:

This is one year.  Can you imagine how this is going to look in 5 years?

If anyone believes my power rate is wrong, please see the bottom of this post for an explanation.

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9 thoughts on “1 Year Of Volt Ownership: Costs Of Operations & Comparisons

  • Congratulations on your savings. I would be interested to know whether the savings justify the car’s $30,000 price tag and if you would see actual savings over purchasing a comparable all-gasoline car that costs half as much as the Volt.

    • He could have saved money by buying an econobox but then he wouldn’t be driving as nice a car.

      He would be driving an econobox.

      EVs and PHEVs, like any new tech, are temporarily expensive. People who enjoy using new tech are willing to pay a little extra.

    • See his previous post here on this site or on his own site. He was going to spend $25K or more anyway because he wanted a car with BMW quality. He was not in the market for a Prius or similar vehicle.

      • yep.

        have seen some criticism for manufacturers not starting with cheaper EVs, but that would not really be a good way to start production and sales of a whole new type of vehicle, and well-built EVs do certainly compete with this class of cars. i think GM nailed it with the Volt… but easy to say after seeing its good sales figures & driver satisfaction surveys. 😀

  • 6c/kwh is CHEAP. I pay 14c in Coalpowerville, lower Alabama. However, that’s not an argument against EVs. If the price of your electricity is high, that just makes your payback and profit from rooftop solar PV that much quicker, leading to $0/kwh and free EV recharging. One way or the other, EVs are feckin awesome.

    • Time for you to look at putting solar panels on your roof.

      Between the dropping price of installed solar and the federal subsidy you should be able to save yourself some money and lock in the price of your electricity for a long time. After your panels pay for themselves you would be getting almost free electricity.

      • If I had some capital (well, if I weren’t burning savings) I would. It’s not a slam dunk at 14c though, 20c would be better. Supposing I do it all myself and end up paying $2/Watt for all the parts, for 4kW it’ll still be 6 years before I pay it back, with the tax credit. It’s definitely a money-maker since the panels will last 25+ years, but only on paper. Fat will creep into the price with connectors, cables, cost of utility inspection, etc. Plus, like I said, no accounting for my time. Again, an EV–replacing gasoline for local travel with electricity–would make it more of a slam dunk.

        • A six year payback on an investment is a 12% rate of return.

          Try to find a low risk investment that pays more than 2-4%.

          We’ve now got silicon panels that have been in service for over 30 years and have decreased only a small amount in performance. Based on what we’ve seen to date I would expect more than 50 years useful life for solar panels.

          Yes, 30 years out you might need to add some more panels to your system to bring output back up to what you started with, but perhaps less than 15% as many new panels.

          And Germany is installing solar right now for $2/watt. That’s with no owner labor input. We’ll get there in the next couple of years.

  • Great article
    This needs to be featured on local and national news
    Along with new taxes on gas and higher rebates for rooftop solar
    Then sit back and watch Americans figure this out!!

Comments are closed.