A Perfect Storm in Used Chevy Volts

2 years ago by Mark Hovis 55

2012 Chevy Volts Finding Second Wave Of Buyers

2012 Chevy Volts Finding Second Wave Of Buyers

InsideEVs recently posted an infographic from Ford Motor Company explaining the differences in HEVs, PHEVs and PEVs. An interesting comment on the infographic relating to PHEVs was “You never have to plug in if you don’t want to.” Here is such a story.

Jason Edwards discovers untapped used market

Jason Edwards discovers eager used market

Recently I came across an internet deal on a used MY2012 Chevy Volt with high mileage (97,000) for $14,000. The lifetime MPG was 35 which pretty much foretold a life of gasoline miles. Further investigation showed the battery SOC to average above 10kWh and often posting the GM general limit of 10.3kWh. I considered this a steal and acquired the Volt. I continued to watch the internet site, www.matersmotors.net, where I made the purchase to later see another, and another, and more Volts showing up with an interesting trend. Though they ranged in MYs 2012 and 2013 as well as mid to high mileage (30,000 – 100,000), they all showed low lifetime MPG ranging from 34-39.

For those of you not familiar with the lifetime reporting screen of a Volt, it is very common to see this GM calculation well above 150 MPG.

I contacted the owner, Jason Edwards of Maters Motors, to find out more. Though he would not release the source of his purchases, he confirmed that they were all fleet vehicles.

His comments were as follows:

Jason Edwards: We also specialize in seeking out and acquiring pre-owned vehicles for our discerning customers.  We began trading in the Toyota Prius several years ago and now that Chevrolet Volts are coming off leases, we are starting to trade them.   The demand for the Volt has been fantastic. My first Volts were sold to customers who already owned one and were looking for their second. Many of our customers in the used market are not in a high enough tax bracket to take advantage of the $7500 federal tax credit and were not ready to put their feet in at the $30k plus range, but are now willing to take the plunge as the $15k to $20k range becomes available.

InsideEVs: I am sure you dealt with the same battery questions selling the Toyota Prius in the early years. What about now?

Jason Edwards: Listen, fleet vehicles are often mismanaged. The fleet owners have taken advantage of government and state incentives. The operators are often reimbursed for the gas they buy, but not the electricity in their home for plugging in, so they just drive them.  I have specialized in these mid-high mileage Volts that with one read of the lifetime mileage indicates the pattern I am looking for.

As an EREV driver, I could not fathom that there could be entire fleets of mismanaged EREVs. The high mileage drops the price, and the lack of battery usage makes it the perfect storm for the savvy EV buyer.

Upon posting this article, Jason Edwards put one of the buyers in contact with me to share his experience. I found an individual that was as much an enthusiast as anyone found here on InsideEVs. The individual had followed EVs for some time but could not, or would not make the plunge for more than $15,000. The six million hybrid Toyota Prius has spread the example that the battery can last well beyond 100,000 miles and more. The Chevy Volt EREV will pave the same path for the plug-in hybrids and show the world that studies based on 50,000 miles are ridiculous. To the second wave of used EV owners, we salute you!

Tags: , , ,

55 responses to "A Perfect Storm in Used Chevy Volts"

  1. GeorgeS says:

    A great first read on a Sunday morning.
    Thx Mark H.

    This leads to a question:

    Besides Matermotors, where does one find a source for used Volts coming off lease????

    1. Mark Hovis says:

      “Where does one find a source for used Volts coming off lease?”
      Exactly George. This really is the main point of the story that it most likely is repeating itself. The Volt is significant in that it gives the used buyer the opportunity to experience the pure EV experience with the same security blanket of the extender.

    2. mike w says:

      I see them at the local Chevy dealer every now and again. The salesman tells me if they don’t sell right a way they ship them off to an “auction” and any interested chevy dealer can pick them up there.

      1. no comment says:

        picking up a Volt for $15,000 is a heck of a good deal. maybe that’s why i’m starting to see more Volts on the road. the Volt is a great car but the reality is $40K is too expensive for a car with a Chevrolet nameplate (unless it’s a Corvette).

  2. vdiv says:

    The plugin car is no longer too expensive to buy. This may be even more important at the auto markets abroad that are predominantly second hand.

    Yes, everyone wants a 300-mile Model S, however a used LEAF or a Volt can accommodate just as well.

  3. Thomas J. Thias says:

    Hi Mark, Thanks for the follow up story on your super high mile Chevy Volt EREV purchase.

    True about fleet use. With a corporte gas card as business plan, all fuel paid for, not using Electric Fuel by plugging into their 110V outlet at home, makes sense.

    Even though, bout a buck, can take you 25- 50+ miles per charge, the company is paying for fleet miles so….

    On thing I will point out. The Chevy Volt’s Center Stack reports the estimated Lifetime MPG, not MPGe.

    Confusion will reign substituting the word MPGe for the actual Lifetime MPG of your Volt as reported.

    The maximum MPG reported by the Volt on this display is 250+ MPG.

    The EPA says this: “For those vehicles that do not use liquid fuels–such as electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles operating on electricity, and compressed natural gas vehicles– the labels display miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe). Think of this as being similar to MPG, but instead of presenting miles per gallon of the vehicle’s fuel type, it represents the number of miles the vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline.”

    Thus MPGe is established by the EPA per make and model and is fixed per model year. It is is NOT subject to variance by individual vehicle usage.

    Link Goes To EPA Dot Gov-Car Label-


    Mike Rosack, founder and maintainer of Volt Stats dot com explains the Volt’s estimated MPG in a disclaimer at the bottom on the data leader board.

    Goes like this:

    “MPG: Simply total miles driven divided by total gallons of gas burned. This is how the Volt reports MPG, although since the electricity is counted as “free” it doesn’t give a true picture of the energy used. On the other hand, this is literally accurate. : )”

    Link Goes To Volt stats Dot Net-


    This is how Volt reports Lifetime MPG on the Center Stack display as well.

    Thanks both to Mark for this great story and Mike for VoltStats!


    Thomas J. Thias



    1. Mark Hovis says:

      Thanks Thomas and absolutely correct on the lifetime MPG. You know one of our editors drives a Volt so we missed it twice!

  4. pjwood says:

    With battery costs suggested to be <$3,000 on the parts websites, I'm not so sure having ICE miles is the best hope. There are certainly more things to go wrong in an engine. The batteries are lasting a long time, and that is also something that makes it more likely that the pendulum may ultimately swing against the ICE miles as where financial liability could creeps up.

    Just not sure there's any slam dunk to preferring electric vs. gas odo's.

    1. no comment says:

      unlike ICE vehicles, in the Volt, the engine is not constantly under the stress of having to propel a drive train. when the engine does couple into the drive train it tends to be at points requiring less torque (the engine never engages into the drive train at speeds below 25 mph).

      i suspect that even a 100K mile Volt is a car that requires a lot less service than your typical 100K mile vehicle. so buying a 100K mile Volt is probably a lot less risky than buying a typical 100K ICE.

      1. danwat1234 says:

        If in doubt of engine health with a high mileage (via gas) Volt, get a used oil analysis done to look at engine wear.

        A well maintained engine (and well engineered engine) in a normal car ought to last 200K + and easily the life of the car. In the Volt even more so.

        1. no comment says:

          maintaining an engine at high mileage involves a lot more than just performing oil changes. at around 100K miles the service intervals start calling for some rather expensive maintenance. the Chevrolet Volt has significantly extended service intervals compared to ICE vehicles. for example, the drive belt inspection is at 150,000 miles. so purchasing a Volt with 100K miles is a comparatively safer bet than buying an ICE with 100K miles.

        2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

          An unplugged Volt is a hybrid. Given that Prius owners don’t dwell on engine life, why should a Volt owner?

          1. no comment says:

            the Volt operates very differently from the Prius. the Prius is primarily propelled by a gasoline engine that uses an electric motor to start the vehicle off the line. the Volt is always driven by an electric motor. the Volt uses a gasoline engine to generate electricity to power the electric motor. there are a few more details in one of the thomas thias posts.

            the reason why you care about the number of miles on an ICE vehicle is because of maintenance costs: maintenance costs on an engine with 100K miles on it are a lot more than maintenance costs on an engine with 10K miles. at 10K miles, the maintenance costs are basically the cost of an oil change, maybe $15. at 100K miles, the maintenance costs are more like $1500.

            1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

              But the question is, which costs more, all things considered? The engine after 100k mi of use, or the battery after 100k mi of charge/recharge cycles (assuming >90k electric miles)?

              What evidence we have in the last 3 years I think points to electric use being lower in cost and equal-or-higher in reliability overall, given GM’s conservative management of the battery.

              1. Ocean Railroader says:

                I knew a guy who has a Prius with 250,000 miles on it and it’s still going strong.

                I have had a lot of cars with over a 150,000 miles and even some that were ready to break the 200,000. The biggest killer of a high millage car is the transmission breaking.

                1. TomArt says:

                  Yes – there were articles a few years ago about taxi companies putting 300k miles on Ford Escape hybrids, never having to replace the transmission. Meanwhile, their all-ICE counterparts needed at least 1, often 2, transmissions by the time they reach 300k.

                2. Tedfredrick says:

                  True dat

    2. Thomas J. Thias says:

      Micro Voltec Deep dive-

      Even if I never plug my Chevy Volt EREV in, or Wireless Refuel/Charge the Traction Battery and use only gas as outsorced fuel, some miles will still be driven, fully on battery, as an EV, regardless of speed.

      The Volt’s battery maintains a State Of Charge (SOC), fuzzy at 20% bottom, charges fully to 80%, fuzzy top using an external electrical power source.

      While driving, even on gas only, Regenerative Deceleration, Aka, Regenerative Braking, recharging of the Traction Battery, is robustly ongoing every time the throttle is released at speed or the brake pedal is pushed to slow down, not including a panic stop.

      (Note- routine, one pedal driving in “L” will increase the amount of charge to the High Voltage Battery in a more robust way.)

      As the SOC increases beyond the lower SOC, the ICE,(Internal Combustion Engine), will cycle off while driving and the Volt will drive 100% EV until the SOC retreats to its lower threshold.

      Thus the Traction Battery is in use, recharging and discharging, in small or large amounts anytime the Chevy Volt is driven, even usig 100% gasoline as outsourced fuel.

      This is especially inportant when climbing interstate mountain highway’s at speed.

      Anticipating this will allow the use of Mountain mode which will bring the Traction Battery’s SOC up to a 40% fuzzy SOC.

      The 55,000 wHt generator, Motor Generator/a, spun by the naturally aspirated 1.4L EcoTech gas engine then, is assisted by this battery reserve to top those mountain hills at speed, pushing Motor Generator/b towards its 111,000 wHt max output!

      Center Stack will display, “Engine and Battery Propulsion”, while this is ongoing, with no reduction of speed!

      Mountain Mode is the only time that the ICE will charge the Traction Battery, strictly to increase total onboard available propulsion power.


      Thomas J. Thias



      1. no comment says:

        as far as the Volt driving “fully on battery, as an EV, regardless of speed”; the torque of the Volt traction motor starts to fall off at speeds above 50mph, at which point the traction motor reaches an RPM level at which it begins to operate less efficiently. at speeds above 50mph, when you are in charge depleting mode, the generator will engage the drive train and the traction motor and generator work together to bring the traction motor back into an RPM range where it operates efficiently. when you are in charge sustaining mode, the ICE will engage the drive train when you drive at speeds above 50mph.

        1. ClarksonCote says:

          In charge depletion mode, aka when the battery has some usable charge, the engine never comes on. You can accelerate at full rate or go to 100mph. TNT may use the second electric motor typically coupled to the generator for increased efficiency, but the engine will not run.

          1. Thomas J. Thias says:




            Thomas J. Thias

            The Amazing Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle- Facts Guy


          2. no comment says:

            i am distinguishing the generator from the gasoline engine (the gasoline engine couples to the generator).

      2. David Murray says:

        I’m pretty sure most readers of this site probably understand all of that. The question is, what is better for the battery long term, lots of daily deep-cycles from fully charging and discharging, or the shallow use that one would experience in hybrid operation?

        1. Mark H says:

          That is the burning question and too early to tell. The high mileage one that I purchased still shows 10-10.3kWh SOC but really does not reveal anything about the short cycles. My “guess” would be that somewhere in the future you would need to replace some cells but not the entire pack.

        2. lewl says:

          For any lithium battery, lots of shallow charges is better than a deep charge.
          That being said, a ‘full’ discharge is really only 65% of the battery, which in itself is quite gentle.
          I don’t expect it would make a huge difference. Certainly nothing like what you’d see from 100% DOD cycles vs shallow charges.

        3. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

          Given that the Volt currently charges at like 0.3C max and has liquid cooling to keep it at ideal temps, it’s pretty gently handled.

          1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

            (heh, probably closer to .15-.2C max, I was just thinking of 10kWh usable vs 3.3kW charging)

    3. pjwood says:

      An interesting anecdote to come back and post about is the gentlemen dissecting a Volt’s battery, and his comments in that video about the engine and generator components currently having a used market not far away from $1,000-2,000.

      There are “timing belt” and “fuel pump” cars, where a total used engine swap is cheaper than all the parts that address those specific two failure.

      So, maybe the Volt is inexpensive, either way 😉

  5. Phil Kulak says:

    Having the battery sitting at 100% for 2 years would make it less desireable to me.

    1. David Murray says:

      Actually, it is more likely the battery was sitting near the bottom of charge, not the top.

      1. no comment says:

        exactly, if they had been recharging the vehicle on a regular basis, the lifetime MPG would be a bit higher than 35MPG. of course, 100K miles over 2 years means that these cars were probably putting on about 200 miles/day, so had they been recharging on a regular basis, the lifetime MPG would have been closer to 45-50 MPG, which is still a respectable MPG and a good example of why PHEVs are such good general purpose vehicles.

      2. Thomas J. Thias says:

        Actualy, the the Traction Battey is in constant use any time the Chevy Volt EREV is driven, even if no external electricity is used as fuel.

        See my breakout above – in my reply to ‘no comment’ at the 4:33pm mark.


        Thomas J. Thias



    2. pjwood says:

      Simpler answer. The user must hit ‘Hold’ mode to prevent battery depletion. That’s a button the ’12’s don’t even have.

  6. David Murray says:

    I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Volt for $15,000 that was all engine miles. Especially if the body and interior were still in good shape. The battery in the Volt is very much pampered by the car. I would expect to get many years of good service from the car.

    While it seems a shame that the fleet did not use the car appropriately, thus wasting a lot of money on gas. It still helps the general state of EV adoption and the environment because it does generate sales and then those cars eventually wind up in the used market where people will eventually make use of the battery pack.

    And lets face it.. Even when run entirely on gasoline the Volt is still more efficient than just about everything on the road except for the Prius.

  7. Jkoeller says:

    We just bought one of the fleet Volts yesterday (100K all-gas miles)! We were in need of a 3rd car soon, and this worked out perfectly. I’m glad to be giving it a 2nd life as an EV.

  8. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    Interesting, though I would be a bit disappointed in scoring so low in the MPG game right off the bat, and with so many miles that nudging that MPG up would be a long long slog.

    (My 2013’s about to hit 500MPG again ;))

    Still, I suppose it would make sense that a low-MPG vehicle would not have had as many charge/discharge cycles aside from typical ‘hybrid’ use, and presumably any mechanical ‘bugs’ have been worked out.. I think I’d still prefer a low-engine-hour used vehicle though, all things considered.

  9. flmark says:

    All buyers ( & potential buyers) of unloved Volts need to read my article
    I had an unloved Volt that was driven back to full capabilities by a dozen or so full discharge/recharge cycles. Happy hunting to future Volt owners!

    1. Mark H says:

      Yes, that is an awesome link Mark. Thanks for sharing!

    2. no comment says:

      in the 2 years that i have had my Volt, i would say that it has spent most of the time plugged in and sitting at full charge. but i’m still getting about 50 miles on a full charge this time of year. it must not take many discharge cycles over the course of the year to maintain battery performance.

  10. Ronnie L says:

    I know by now you are aware I purchased 2nd volt from Mr Mater – 66k miles with 50 average on the battery- Love both my volts!

    1. no comment says:

      there are a lot of used Volts on the market; is Mater just selling them for a lower price than everyone else?

      1. Mark H says:

        The thing that made it newsworthy to me was the fact that ALL of them came from a fleet that chose not to plug-in. That was the interesting story to me. Two of the buyers have replied on the thread as to their early experience.
        As for Mater selling cheaper,I haven’t a clue, but he says he does. =)

    2. Mark H says:

      “50 average on the battery” Ronnie, you were made to drive an EV!

  11. Thomas J. Thias says:

    What if I told you that I had a link to OnStar Data on a Chevy Volt EREV that has been driven over 170,000 miles?

    Heh, stunned me when I saw it as well!

    Link Goes To Volt Stats Dot Net-Details for Volt #2012-07353 (sparkie)-




    Thomas J. Thias



    1. Mark H says:

      Should follow that one to 200K. At this rate sparkie will be there soon.

    2. lewl says:

      Would be interesting if someone could interview this owner and see what, if anything, has gone wrong in 170000 miles and overall experience.

  12. bitguru says:

    How did you determine what the lifetime MPG was over the internet?

  13. Dennis says:

    About five years ago I recall an anecdote in an EV newswire. A fleet manager was complaining that the expected fuel savings never happened, after acquiring a couple of PIHEV and a driver had told the reporter that the other drivers never plugged in because gas was free at the office and they wouldn’t pay them to charge at home so no one did. As I recall the fleet was for supervisors at a large Electric Utility in California…

    1. Taser54 says:

      It takes more than handing someone the keys fo a volt to realize its true potential. The good news is that thes high ice mileage Volts will have a second life as a true EREV.

    2. TomArt says:

      Sounds like outdated company policies to me. The driver should pay for the gas – that’ll learn ’em!

  14. Ocean Railroader says:

    With the Tesla battery upgrade happening of upgrading a electric car from 220 miles to 400 miles. It kind of makes me wounder could five years in the future you upgrade a Chevy Volt’s battery from 40 miles range to 80 miles range. In that if you have to replace the car’s battery some time in the future then why not make the car better.

    This could work considering I’ve kept cars around for 15 or 20 years.

  15. TomArt says:

    Everybody loves to blame gov’t for old and outdated policies – and here we have an excellent, too-common example of old, outdated policies in the private sector that are just as pathetic and slow to adapt as any other large organization.

    1. TomArt says:

      It’s costing them money – and they aren’t even looking into it! Sheesh…

      1. Mark H says:

        That’s a solid point TomArt. You buy a car to get the incentives to save money and then proceed to blow it. The 170K Volt that Thomas Thias listed above has 60K of electric miles. It would be substantial savings if these 100K fleet vehicles could do the same.

  16. Fabian says:

    Spoke to the dealership. Really nice guy. Quick note that many of these Volt fleet cars may have had scheduled maintenance done, but their appears to be little-to-no paperwork to prove this, so that is a risk to the buyer. I suggested they figure out a way to get a good extended warranty included for these cars. Aside from that nit pick, I’m glad this is happening so more aspiring EV owners will get closer to driving without gas.