Published on March 25th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Chevy Volt vs Toyota Prius Plug-in

March 25th, 2014 by  


A new Toyota Prius Plug-in owner and former Chevy Volt owner has been putting together a list of the pluses and minuses of each. It’s quite a detailed list, and he’s been updating it a bit based on feedback from Chevy Volt owners and perhaps other members from the forum. Of course, much of the comparison is very subjective, but there are also plenty of objective differences, and the whole thing looks worth a read if you considering a Chevy Volt vs a Toyota Prius Plug-in (or some other plug-in hybrid electric vehicle / extended-range electric vehicle).

Here’s the original post on the forum:

Volt vs. Prius – A Volt Newbie’s Take

After two years in a Plug-in Prius, I got tired of compulsively managing its 11 miles of EV range and bought a new 2014 Volt.

Naturally, I’ve spend the following two weeks compulsively comparing the vehicles 1. My conclusions:

  • The Plug-in Prius is a far better vehicle.
  • The Volt is a far better electric vehicle.
  • The Volt is a neater toy.

My detailed comparison table is in this link. I’ll update it as people point out my errors (or at least the ones I agree are errors  ).

Be gentle. 

1 And enjoying the heck out of my Volt!

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Ash45

    Had Toyota of sold the PiP nationwide, I would’ve snatched one up right away. Unfortunately they’re not normally available in the Midwest, so you’ll either have to fly to a state that sells them and drive it back, or pay a high shipping cost to have it delivered to where you live.

    Meanwhile you can get the Leaf, Volt, and C-Max energi practically anywhere in the US. Not sure what Toyota’s objective with only releasing it in certain states was with it when they have the regular liftback in all 50 states.

  • Eiman

    Some comments from an old Prius owner. First GM has paid back ALL of the bailout money with interest. The Volt is very stylish but I wish they had some legroom. The back seat is not much better than a sports car. You comparison people are forgetting one important factor….sticker price….The volt cost’s too much. Prius wins for now.

  • Barry A Clarke

    I love the Chevy Volt, but because my wife and I are both handicapped, one short, the other tall, power seats are a must and the Volt doesn’t have them. Thus, it was a deal breaker for us and we continue to look for an all electric car. Next on the list is Ford Focus which has power seats when you buy the leather interior…….

    • guanabara

      adjusting seats is a simple process with the manual controls provided. Pay an extra $700 to $1000 to get a package on other cars that have it is many times not justifiable. Add the possible headache that the conveniente electrical features for the seat control will eventually brake 1 day after the warranty expires and you could fall in love with the mechanical manual only option offered on the volt. IT does not consume that much energy so I don’t think it is out of economy concerns that the Volt does not have it. May I suggest 2 Volts> that way one can keep the car as long as needed and not have fights over it and the seats stay as set. On a more serious side look at the Mercedes B Class EV priced very competitively and other models such as Ford EV (Fusion), etc. You may also consider the Mercedes CLA priced at $30,000 with a very efficient gas only engine that actually shuts down when the car is stopped and auto starts on a blink of an eye without a starter help. Now that is innovation. You can get an electric seat on that and enjoy a nice looking and good performance car for about $10000 less than most EV that will offer you the electric seat option.

  • Gwolf

    Let’s not forget that the Prius was the first to jump in and take the major risk of trying to build a fuel efficient car back when 50 MPG seemed like science fiction. They are to be commended for that, they opened the door for the Leaf, Volt and all the others who will follow. Still I think Toyota may be resting on their laurels; I am sure they can do much much better.
    What I find striking about these comments is the reasons people find to reject 100 positives because of one or two things that don’t work for them personally. Do we really want a one size fits all world where one vanilla car is the only acceptable car for all.
    Any and every effort on the part of car makers to reduce our trashing the planet is a worthwhile thing. Let’s be real here, it’s not the planet we are trying to save but ourselves.

    • guanabara

      The volt after tax incentives costs much less that a prius plugin. It outdrives it and it is a much better car. Its range is 40 mi in summer and around 32 in winter. That’s a lot more than a prius plugin. It is not even a question of each car feats different needs. The Volt satisfy all a Prius plugin can do and delivers even a lot longer all electric range and extended range total miles with a full tank. There is not even comparison. Toyota is stuck on their laurels. I told the toyota sales man that tried to sell me a plug in that it was about time they caught up with the EV market options available. Even MB now has true EV (B class) that can be leased at prices competitive with the prius plug in. It is about time they realize that the cash cow will be running dry very fast and they will be the major losers in the long run. 50 MPG is now being achieved by even gas engine only cars (which is almost all a plug-in really is anyways). The goal is now >100 mpge and a range >30 miles to cover the average commute distance of 10 to 15 miles without needing to charge and be able to come back home to charge at night.

  • Jim Seko

    I can’t believe anyone would buy a PHEV with only 11 miles of all electric range.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Why not?

      If someone has a short daily routine why pay for batteries you’d hardly ever use?

    • Ellen

      If you have a short daily commute, and take frequent road trips, you may benefit from an 11-mile PHEV. Some people do the math and save more with the Plug-in Prius. And it’s 5K less than the Chevy Volt – and has 5 seats!

      • Jim Seko

        I agree with most of you points especially the one about Volt only seating four people. For the record, I’m in favor of all plugin cars and clean energy in general. I have a Chevy Volt and a Nissan Leaf. Having said that, the Volt is eligible for $7500 federal tax credit but the Prius plugin is only eligible for $2500 because the tax credit is based on the size of the battery. The Chevy Volt has also been named the most dependable compact car by JD Power.

        • Bob

          Is not that federal tax credit long gone?

          • Jim Seko

            No, not at all. The tax credit will expire at different times for different manufacturers. For each manufacturer the credit expires after they have sold 200,000 plugin cars in the US. No manufacturer is anywhere near that number yet. Some states have additional EV incentives. You can find the information here: If you lease instead of buy, the tax credit goes to the lease company and you get a lower lease payment. Something else you might find helpful is Edmunds dot com has a total cost of ownership calculator that has calculated the Leaf and the Volt are the two LEAST expensive cars you can buy, new or used! You can find it here:

          • Bob

            with the tax credit the Volt would ONLY be 10 grand or more to purchase with the 2014 plug in prius being @ $30,000 and tax minus the credit. JD Power? and what does consumer reports say comparing Plug in Prius to the Volt? If you look far enough ,such as JD Powers you’ll always find one company that will like it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            MSRP for 2015 Volt $34,185
            MSRP for 2015 Prius Plug-in $29,990

            Difference = $4,195

            The Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal subsidy so $26,685 post subsidy.

            The Prius qualifies for a $2,500 federal subsidy so $27,990 post subsidy.

            Which makes the Volt $1,305 cheaper.

          • Bob

            we all wished the subsidy was all cash back, but the $7500 only lowers your tax bracket and ditto for the $2500.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, the $7,500 is a tax credit not a deduction.

            If you owed $10,000 in federal taxes and bought a qualifying EV then you’d have to pay only $2,500.

            The problem I have with the subsidy program is that because it’s a tax credit it doesn’t help those working people who pay little in taxes but really need help cutting their transportation costs.

  • Jonny_K


  • spec9

    The plug-in Prius is crap compared to what Toyota could make. All they did was copy when enthusiasts had been doing 8 years earlier. Toyota needs to stop dragging its feet and build some real EVs and PHEVs.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Agreed. Toyota is endangering its standing. They’ve allowed themselves to be damaged with quality/safety issues with their ICEVs and now they are not getting in the forefront with electrics.

      I want a 4wd Rav4 with either a 150 mile range (EV) or an onboard genset (PHEV). And I want it to be as well built and reliable as the best Toyota has ever manufactured.

      • Ellen

        An evolutionary approach to the Prius is smarter than going super-electric. Why would they want to endanger their profit base Prius sales? This way they can siphon off some of the gung-ho buyers and still keep a good profit margin. When the +range market really takes off, they’ll have evolved in a profitable manner to meet it, while the other makers spent the real money to get the market going early.

        • Bob_Wallace

          They have the all electric Rav4. And they haven’t done much with it. Where’s the 4wd version? They could have grabbed the EV SUV market if they wanted it.

    • Easy bashing, while not addressing reality.

      With the plug-in Prius Toyota has simply chosen to compromise on different aspects than GM. I’m sorry you don’t like those choices, but those choices certainly don’t make it crap.

      GM has this (imo) horrible interior layout with a battery running down the center splitting the interior in two and eating up the 5th seat. The gasoline efficiency is good but not great (like the Prius). And they still don’t make a profit on it. Why again was GM bailed out?

      Toyota chose the more evolutionary path and compromised on electric range and performance. Oh, and no doubt they make a profit.

      Another important thing not to forget is that the current platform was never designed with the plug-in option as a prominent criterium. This Prius was a hybrid first and foremost and the plug-in version was introduced half-way through the 3rd generation’s lifetime. They chose not to introduce a separate platform for a plug-in car and go the pragmatic, safe, low-cost route.

      This plug-in Prius was not intended to be ‘the real deal’, but more a commercial prototype to test the waters. Reserve your judgment for the 4th generation Prius, which will have a plug-in version from the get-go.

      More to consider is that Toyota is not spearheading battery electric vehicles, with or without range extender. Their bet is on hydrogen vehicles and they are spending their R&D money there. It is simply a technology choice that is reflected in their current products. Whether or not that will pay off, is another matter.

      Lastly, don’t forget Toyota is still the number 1 car manufacturer, and they got that position for a reason.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Toyota was bailed out…

        And Toyota also lost money on its first gen Prius… It’s not unreasonable for GM to do the same thing on its first gen electric car.

        The fifth seat is really not an issue… Most compacts cars have exactly one person in then at any given time. Two if you drive your friend to get lunch. While I’m sure you can find the person who wants to fit three kids in the back seat on a regular basis, I assure you they are both rare, and partly deaf.

        And for gasoline efficiency, you’re kind of missing the point… Aren’t you? You could shove a pushrod v8 in the Volt, and most people would still burn less gas then the Prius. The average commute is less than battery range. The gas engine is only there for those rare occasions where you want or need to go a bit further than average.

        • I wasn’t trying to start a spitting contest or tribal warfare. I’m sorry you missed my point, I didn’t attack your Volt.

          I just pointed out that each car has compromises, it’s just that it depends on your needs and/or preferences what suits you most.

          Neither vehicle is better than the other in an absolute sense. There are just different choices that have been made by the manufacturer.

          (And $ 2 billion loan is hardly comparable to the $ 33 billion bailout that ended up costing the US $ 10 billion)

          • Bob_Wallace

            That was a very well spent $10 billion. Saved a million or more jobs. It was more than saved through unemployment and welfare avoidance. And it will get paid back fairly soon via income taxes from all those people kept on working.

        • Bob

          I own a GM truck and would not trade my Mexico built truck for a Toyota truck, but anyone that thinks the Volt gets better fuel economy than the Prius needs help. I own a Prius and it does get 50 mpg. You can argue all you want and the Volt does not belong in the same category at 35 mpg. Electric only goes so far, and not far enough Volties

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think you’re doing the math wrong. Consider someone who normally drives within the Volt electric range most days. The average daily commute is about 35 miles. Volt electric range. Zero gas use.

            Then they sometimes take a longer trip that puts them in the fuel use zone at 35 MPG.

            Do the same driving with a 50 MPG Prius and you’ll use a lot more fuel. You’ll be burning fuel every trip.

            For someone who takes long drives frequently the Prius might be a better choice. One size does not fit all.

          • Bob

            I agree one size does not fit all, but who drives 9100 miles a year? That’s all a Volt can do in prime conditions at 35 miles a day, 5 days a week and no vacations or holidays. That 35 miles does not include any hills and the most in perfect conditions which never happens. My doctor found that out in his Tesla that hills reduce his range significantly, and sure to do the Volt like wise. The Volt, if I remember correctly gets a whopping 35 mpg on its gas engine, but yes some like it white, and some like them black or red.

          • Bob_Wallace

            35 miles per day for a year would be 12,775. Just short of the national average of 13,000 miles.

            Let’s try some numbers. Someone has a 40 mile commute and rarely drives more than 35 miles on weekends.

            40 – 35 electric = 5 miles on fuel. 0.14 gallon of gas. At $4/gallon = $0.57. 10.5 kWh of electricity at 0.3 kWh/mile. At $0.12/kWh = $1.26. Total $1.83.

            40 miles all fuel at 50 MPG. 0.8 gallon of gas. At $4/gallon = $3.20.
            Now, a higher mileage driver. 100 miles most days.

            100 – 35 electric = 65 miles on fuel. 1.86 gallons. At $4/gallon $7.43. Plus $1.26 for electricity. Total $8.69.

            100 miles all fuel at 50 MPG. 2 gallons of gas. At $4/gallon = $8.

            The point at which it becomes cheaper to drive a Prius than a Volt is somewhere in the 40 to 100 mile range. Each person should do their own math based on how they drive.

            If an EV/PHEV driver is using regenerative braking they shouldn’t be experiencing much range loss. You might want to read some owner experience with driving Teslas in the mountains…

          • Bob

            Point well taken. The Volt is a fine car for all hermits that do not get away from home. How many Volt owners are hermits? Lets here from you Hermits!! I for one if only had to drive 35 miles per day would not pay the price of a Volt to commute!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Some people prefer to live close to where they work and not spend a large portion of their day commuting.

            To each their own….

          • Steve Grinwis

            You also conveniently ignore the fact that many employers are providing ‘charging stations’ that roughly amount to ‘here’s an extension cord’, and letting people charge their Volt’s during the day as a cheap green washing initiative. That provides a lot more electric range to a volt. Pretty useless to a Prius.

            Also, I love how 50% of the western world are hermits… Given how the Volt has an all electric range if charged every day that roughly equals the national average miles driven.

            I also love how it’s impossible for someone to charge more than once a day by your logic. If I owned a Volt (Sadly, I do not), I would be able to charge multiple times a day.

            Solid logic there Bob. Keep fighting the good fight in an attempt to… beat up GM? Or something? I don’t really even know what you’re going for to be honest…

          • sylke

            Is charching the car battery for free??

          • Shannon Thrasher

            I commute 50mi one way. I’d spend less on gas with 38mi ev range vs 11 mile offered by the Prius…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure. And if you had a place to plug in at work you could drive a Leaf and spend nothing on gas.

          • Shannon Thrasher

            A fully electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, is not reliable enough for our needs and honestly, what is the “real-world” range in that thing? Do I have to be that ass-hat doing 55 in the carpool lane just so I can make it the full 50 miles? No thanks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If the shoe fits….

            If the low range EVs (Leaf, etc.) don’t fit your needs then you need to make a different choice.

            EV manufacturers have selected out niches that they can serve at this time. Tesla went for the ‘deep pockets’ niche who can afford high range, Nissan and others went for the “moderate commute” niche.

            As battery prices work their way down we see affordable EVs which will drive 50 miles in the most extreme conditions, then EVs that will drive 75 miles, and then EVs that will drive 100 miles….

          • Shannon Thrasher

            Yes I totally agree. I decided against all-electric because I was worried about power outages during a charge, driving too fast, gradual decline in range, or anything else that would effect reliability.

            Electricity is cheaper than gasoline when I charge at home, but I can’t get a full charge during off-peak hours and the charging stations cost way more than metered electricity. Fully charged I’m in it $3 at work. A gallon of gas (which is equivalent) is currently cheaper than that. Having gas as an alternative gives me choices as fuel prices fluctuate.

            My 2015 Volt goes 380mi on one charge + a tank of gas. I use it on weekends, for long trips, and touring around the state. If we had an all electric car we would have to plan our trips around charging locations and Im assuming we’d spend every two hours waiting for the next charge. If I run out of charge in the Volt I simply fill up at the next gas station.

            And ya you are right, if I had a Tesla I wouldn’t need the car on the weekends anymore… because I’d be sitting at work trying to figure out how to cover the payment. 😉 LOL.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Electricity is cheaper than gasoline when I charge at home, but I can’t get a full charge during off-peak hours”

            How many off-peak hours do you have in your TOU pricing schedule? The Leaf with a 6.6 kW onboard charger fully recharges in four hours off a 240 vac circuit.

            BTW, not trying to talk you into an EV. There’s not one that fits my needs either. I need a 150 mile range ‘crossover’ with 4wd. And adjustable suspension to get my front bumper as high as possible. 3.5 miles of steep, unplowed, unpaved mountain road.

          • Shannon Thrasher

            I haven’t been able to justify installing a 240v charger in a rental. So I need the full 11 hours for a full charge. Peak/Partial Peak is still slightly cheaper than gasoline, the point of course is that Its nice to have the option. Another problem is availability. We only have so many charging stations at the office, so I might come to work and not be able to charge the car at all.

            And yeah, wth? The 2016 Colorado is supposed to come with a Duramax, but they totally need to go with a torquey electric motor connected to a clean diesel range extender.

            Nice chatting with ya.

          • When I drive on a mountain terrain of 70 miles on my Volt from LA, CA going in a high elevation city (Lancaster CA) , I get about 70MPG. I only use one gallon of gas and the Regen gives a good 2-5 miles after I get in the city. If you know how to use the Volt you can Regen up to 10 miles while on gas especially when going down hill.. I wouldn’t recommend cruise control, and driving 80mph to Regen to 65mph is beneficial. Mountain mode is good for Regen. I get about 50-55 electricity miles heading DOWN to LA… And while in LA I get 50 miles EV while in the city. The thing that helps is knowing when to use “L” shift that makes Regen more aggressive. I’ve gotten about 97MPg on a full charge coming down to LA. From Lancaster. That’s after figuring out L mode and when to exactly use it. …

      • Dan Hue

        The Volt interior layout is good IF you like and only need 4 seats (which is my case). That said, it does lack versatility and is costing GM sales. Hopefully the next gen Volt comes with 5 seats standard, but continues to offer the 4 bucket seats configuration as an option.

        • Shannon Thrasher

          Dan, despite the hype, you are not alone. I totally agree. I was thinking about creating an aftermarket seat configuration with some kind of insert that fits into the center console and uses the existing seat belts to double the capacity for my little ones. This isn’t the only car with this problem, I also looked at and passed on the Veloster and the Cooper Mini a few years back, but I finally decided on the Volt because of the carpool-lane access sticker / range extender.

      • Kirk Hargreaves

        Rented a Vauxhall in England. Drove over 600 miles. It got 75 MPG. Measured in consideration of the different measurement of fuel. 1500 cc gas engine. Go figure.

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