The Year of Living Electrically in the Chevy Volt Saves Owner $2224.25 in Fuel Costs

4 years ago by Buzz Smith 43

Owning 2 Chevrolet Volts is Certainly Better Than Having Only 1

Owning 2 Chevrolet Volts is Certainly Better Than Having Only 1

Well, my first year with The Flash, my Volt, is completed. As you know, if you’ve been reading my posts, I have loved every minute driving my blue beauty. But that’s not all the journey has been about, is it? The reason I’ve logged most of my drives in a spreadsheet was to find out if this car was a good economic decision.

Celebrating 1 Year of Volt Ownership

Celebrating 1 Year of Volt Ownership

Editor’s Note: Our thanks go out to Buzz Smith for sharing this comprehensive, data-backed Chevy Volt ownership post with our readers.  Please check out his blog for more on owning the Volt (including additional background info) and other topics associated with living electrically.

Unfortunately, being a newbie back in August 2012, when my lease started, I didn’t know that the kilowatt hours used (according to the center display) wasn’t the whole story. Not all the electricity sent to the Volt gets accounted for. Some is used just to heat or cool the battery, while it’s being charged. Sometimes, depending on the temperature outside, it may do this even when it’s not being charged.

A funny story about that: The charger shows how long the car has been charging. One night, she kept shoving me because she claims I sometimes snore (it’s a lie!). I moved to the couch around 1:00AM and slept there. When she went to the garage the next morning, the charger showed it was in the final minutes of a charge. She knew the charger had completed charging my Volt before we went to bed the night before, so she asked, “So. Where did you go in the middle of the night???”

One way to track every bit of electricity sent to the Volt is to use a Level 2 charger that compiles that data.

His and Hers

His and Hers

Fortunately, our Blink chargers do exactly that and even archive it on the Blink servers so we can look back more than the previous month’s data, which is stored on the charger. This backup is an important feature of our chargers, as both chargers went down for a short period and the technician had to reset their memory as part of the fix. Fortunately, I don’t believe any data was lost, since it was already backed up on the Blink servers.

Unfortunately, we had our Blink chargers installed on November 1st of 2012 and, consequently do not have accurate data on the amount of electricity used for the first two months I drove my Volt.

Here’s where the spreadsheet is helpful, to some degree. As mentioned above, I have a spreadsheet in my iPad that I use when I drive my Volt. I sometimes skip this if the drive is to the corner grocery store, so it is not complete, but one of the functions of the spreadsheet is to generate average miles-per-kilowatt-hour and miles-per-gallon. I wrote an article about the spreadsheet and made it available to my readers here.

One thing I wish I’d tracked from the beginning was if it was raining. I noticed the air coming from the vents would be cold even though I was running the fan only. In rainy weather, the Volt sometimes does this to defog windows or to keep the battery at an optimal temperature. I also wish I had tracked relative humidity, because that makes the A/C run too, probably for similar reasons.

Be that as it may, the spreadsheet has served its purpose and I will probably continue to use it throughout the three year lease for two reasons: 1) it is a good diagnostic tool to see if any problems are developing before they progress too far and 2) I’m a little anal-retentive and can’t help myself when it comes to tracking data.

So here’s what I’ve seen over the first years:

  • Average miles-per-KwH: 4.17
  • Average miles-per-gallon (when running on gasoline): 36.7

I have downloaded my charging history data from Blink and see that there is a considerable amount of electricity used conditioning the battery (i.e. keeping it warm in Winter or cool in Summer). This occurs while my Volt is attached to the charger. Also, there is some inefficiency in recharging a battery. In other words, not all the electricity used by my Blink charger gets used by driving. The Volt display shows only how much electricity is used to drive and does not have a way to measure these other electrical usages. I only have the Blink numbers for November through August, so I don’t have a full year of Blink data yet. I used only the electric mileage for the months I have Blink charger data and have extrapolated from that for the full year calculations. Due to this, I am updating the numbers above to this:

  • Average miles-per-KwH: 3.31 (data from November 3, 2012 through August 3, 2013)
  • Average miles-per-gallon (when running on gasoline): 36.7

Coupled with this image from the OnStar RemoteLink iPad app for the Volt, we can estimate my total cost of energy used to propel The Flash down the road.AppScreen1YearUsing the same math I did, when I first started to see if the Volt was a good idea or not, I need to know what percentage of my driving used electricity and what percentage was gasoline-powered. That’s easy enough:

15,786 electric miles divided by 20,984 total miles shows I drive on electricity 75.23% of the time. The average Volt is driven on electricity about 65% of the time, so I’m moderately happy that I beat the average. However, I had hoped, by using a high speed charger, I could get that up to 90% electric and I was having success at that until a few things happened:

  • I decided to attend the 2013 Chicago Auto Show in February. That was 2,000 miles that was mostly on gas. I thank G. Michael Murphy for his hospitality in putting me up (and putting up with me) at his home and for allowing me to use his Level 2 charger while there.
  • I started a new job with Green Mountain Energy (my electricity provider for the last 12 years), selling 100% pollution free wind generated electricity. To do this, the salespeople travel to where potential customers will be, retail stores and special outdoor events (The July 4th Willie Nelson Picnic was especially fun and fragrant). I never know where I’ll be next, and I’ve travelled as far as 105 miles, round trip to do this.
  • My 14 year old daughter, Zoe entered an engineering camp at The University of Texas. I became the designated driver to take her there and pick her up. The round trip for this was about 29 miles. The schedule prevented me from being able to grab a quick one hour charge, so much of this was on gas.
  • We’re building a new, energy efficient home in Fort Worth, Texas and I drop by to check on construction progress every couple days (at least). That’s another 20 miles round trip.

No big deal, that’s why I bought the Volt, to live without range anxiety.

Charge It Frequently and You'll Barely Use Any Gas

Charge It Frequently and You’ll Barely Use Any Gas

So, back to the math. If I drove 15,786 miles on electricity, I just divide by the average miles-per-kilowatt-hour (3.31) to get how many kilowatt hours I used, to arrive at 4,763.9 kilowatt hours, or 4.7639 megawatt hours (sounds more impressive that way, no?) My cost of a kilowatt hour has been stable at $0.107205 over the past 12 months, as I am under a contract. The cost of those electric miles was about $510.93.

Now for the gas miles. First, I have to say, like most Volt drivers, I HATE DRIVING ON GASOLINE! The beautiful silence we enjoy when driving electrically is gone, replaced with a low hum that becomes similar to a sewing machine on steroids, when we accelerate aggressively. Where was I? Oh yes, the cost of those gas miles.  There were 5,198 miles driven on gas (20,984-15,786) and the average MPG was 36.7. So (5,198 divided by 36.7) that means I burned 141.63 gallons of premium gasoline. Over the last year, the price of regular gas, in my area, averaged around $3.42. Premium is usually 30 cents higher, so it averaged about $3.72. 141.63 gallons of premium gas at $3.72 per gallon would mean my gas miles cost approximately $526.88.

Notice one thing here: I drove three times farther on electricity and paid $15.75 LESS than I did for gasoline! My total fuel cost was $1,037.81 ($510.93 + $526.88). I’m pretty pleased with that. In my previous three cars (all Lexus ES300′s), I averaged 22 MPG, so the 20,984 miles I drove would have cost me $3,262.06 in my Lexus.

Did you see that? $3,262.06!!!!! 20,984 miles divided by 22 MPG equals 953.82 gallons of gas. My Lexuses used regular gas, not premium, so the cost per gallon was only $3.42.

If Gas Were This Expensive, Then the Volt Would Save Us Even More

If Gas Were This Expensive, Then the Volt Would Save Us Even More

953.82 gallons of regular gas times $3.42 equals $3,262.06. I SAVED $2224.25 IN FUEL COST BY DRIVING THE VOLT! (talk about burying the headline…sheesh!) In the world of cars, efficiency is usually calculated in miles per gallon (MPG). How do we equate a Volt to that, when it only uses gasoline occasionally? Well, we first have to look at miles per dollar (MPD). As I mentioned above, my Lexus fuel cost, for this previous 12 months would have been $3,262.06. My Volt’s fuel (gas & electricity) cost $1,037.81 for the previous 12 months. That means, per dollar, my Volt would go 3.14 times farther than my Lexus would ($3,262.06 divided by $1,037.81). If the Lexus averaged 22 MPG, then the Volt would get approximately 69 MPG (22 X 3.14)!

The U.S. Department of Energy rates the Volt at 94 MPG (on electricity). To arrive at this figure, they convert electricity to gasoline using the equation, one gallon of gasoline = 33.7 kWH of electricity. The result is that the DOE predicts you’ll spend $1,000 to go 15,000 miles. I went 20,984 miles and it cost me only $1,037.81. By the DOE’s calculations, I should have only been able to go 15,567 miles, on the money I spent on gas and electricity. Stated another way, the DOE predicted it would have cost me $1,398.93 to go the distance I did, instead of the $1,037.81 it actually cost me. Oddly enough, they rate the gasoline performance of the Volt at 37 MPG and I got 36.7. Since they rounded to no decimal places, those numbers are essentially the same. What this means is they nailed the gasoline efficiency but really missed it on electric efficiency, by about 33%. They predicted it would take 36 kWh to go 100 miles, whereas my experience is 30.2 kWh to go 100 miles, including inefficiencies in charging and battery conditioning. That is a discrepancy of 19%. Since, by dollar value, it looked like a 33% error but only a 19% error by miles per kWh, you can see how cost of gasoline, cost of electricity, charging efficiency, battery conditioning and driving style can affect the calculations. It’s a moving target. (by the way, I am a “Sports Mode” driver. I have a heavy foot)

My calculations are based on the cost of fuel, rather than the energy contained within the fuel. That’s a much more real world number to me. Also, the DOE does not consider electric charging inefficiency or battery conditioning as part of the cost. If you look at the numbers I had, before I added the Blink charging data, I showed the Volt getting 4.17 miles per kWh. If all that electricity could be put in the Volt with no loss and no battery conditioning, I would have been able to say the Volt was getting the equivalent of 77 MPG (trust me on the math).

On top of that, I didn’t have any oil changes for one year. If I had my oil changed every 5,000 miles, that would be 4 oil changes. (I can’t even remember what I usually paid for that)

But the icing on the cake, is knowing that, when driving on electricity, I was not polluting, not even at the power source, since it’s wind generated electricity. This is my “Blink Dashboard”:BlinkDashboardAs I mentioned above, I have only had the Blink charger since November 1, 2012, so these stats only cover that time period. Just before the chargers were installed, I checked my electric mileage. It was 3,472. At the end of one year, it was 15,786. The graphic above covers only 12,314 electric miles. If we do a simple extrapolation of the data, my year of driving electrically actually did the following:

  • Reduced carbon dioxide emissions 2,601 pounds, well over a ton!
  • Saved 11.5 barrels of oil.
  • Saved 495 gallons of gas, and (They’re conservative here. My calculations show, compared to my previous car I saved 717.55 gallons of gas.)
  • Saved $1,180.68 (Again, they’re too conservative here. I show $2,224.25 overall. Just the electric miles saved me $1,494.17 compared to my Lexus. But what about comparing it to the Volt’s gasoline performance? If I NEVER ran my Volt on electricity, I would have used much more gas. How much more? 20,984 miles divided by 36.7 MPG equals 571.77 gallons of premium gas. The cost of that gas would have been 571.77 times $3.72 per gallon equals $2,126.99 in gasoline. The Lexus would have used $3,262.06 worth of gas, resulting in a savings of $1,135.07, when compared to the Volt’s relatively frugal gas mileage!

My lease payment is $330.07 per month. The savings in fuels, on a monthly basis was $185.35 ($2,224.25 divided by 12). If I saved $2,224.25 compared to my Lexus (which was paid for), the additional cost of owning and driving a Volt was only $144.72 per month! ($330.07 lease payment minus $185.35 monthly fuel savings) That doesn’t even include the savings of not having four oil changes!

Did you see that???? My effective monthly lease payment for the Volt is only $144.72!!!

I think I did the right thing. ;-)

One other thing. It’s a lease. This is the dashboard display, taken on the Volt’s first birthday. Notice the total mileage in the bottom-right corner. 21,000 miles!

VoltDash1Year

Due to the reasons mentioned above, I’ve gone a bit over on my allotted miles per year. I can put 45,000 miles on my Volt over the three years I am leasing it. If I don’t get the miles down, I have to pay 25 cents per mile for the overage.

Let’s go ahead an say I’m going to average 21,000 miles per year (I won’t). The 6,000 mile overage will cost me an additional $1,500 per year. That comes to an additional $125 per month. If I add that back into my lease payment (after fuel savings) of $144.72, I end up with a lease payment of $269.72. That would not be nearly as exciting, and obviously, I expect my driving habits to drift back down to the 15,000 miles per year I have been driving for years now.

Again, let’s say I average 15,000 miles for the final two years of the lease, but fail to recoup the 6,000 mile overage from this year. The impact on the monthly payment would only be one-third of the previous estimate, since the $1,500 would be spread over the entire 36 months of the lease. In that case, I would have an effective lease payment of $186.39 ($144.72 plus $1,500 divided by 36 months). Still a pretty low monthly delta, compared to my previous, paid-off Lexus!

Discussion points:

  • If you haven’t gotten an electric vehicle yet, what further questions do you have? What’s holding you back?
  • If you have gotten one, What is it? and How do you like it so far?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Buzz Smith’s “My Electric Vehicle Journey” blog.  You’ll find it, as well as several other posts by Buzz by clicking here.

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43 responses to "The Year of Living Electrically in the Chevy Volt Saves Owner $2224.25 in Fuel Costs"

  1. Loboc says:

    I use a little iPhone app called ‘Road Trip’ to keep track of all auto expenses. In the piece, I don’t see where the $1200 for the EVSE and other expenses like w/s solvent, wiper blades, car washes, etc. are counted.

    I have historical data for 4 years on all my cars past and present. When I look at the OVERALL 4 months of Volt ownership vs my last car, it is a complete wash. Even though I am spending 1/10 the amount on gasoline, I am spending twice as much on car payments and I didn’t even need an expensive EVSE for that car.

    To keep track of electricity (which is a trivial pursuit, but, it’s a $20 bill or so), I use MyVolt spreadsheet adding up all the charging data and then multiplying by my electric rate that month. I enter this into my app as an expense because the app does not know about dual-fueled vehicles. (I sent the author a note about this.)

    I also get my Volt detailed and/or washed much more often than the last car. I spend more on this maintenance than on gasoline!

    This entire expense tracking process takes less than 5 minutes a month and is exportable to a spreadsheet if needed.

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      The Blink EVSE was provided at no charge by the EV Project, a government-supported project, in cities with relatively severe air pollution. The project has two primary purposes, 1) to support the switch to electric vehicles to alleviate air pollution and 2) to monitor charging habits of EV owners in order to prepare the grid for the switch to electric vehicles.
      I had to pay for installation, which cost $319 (outrageous for bolting it to the wall and plugging it into the receptacle, but it was a requirement of the program) and I installed the 240V/40A circuit myself at a cost of $171.25 per Volt. Therefore, my cost for the EVSE was under $500 per car. Amortized over the three year warranty period, and the cost of the EVSE and electric circuit is $163.42 per year.
      I have not purchased solvent, wiper blades, etc and during the first year, I washed the car myself, by hand at home. These items would have to be purchased for my previous car as well, so they do not add to or subtract from the cost of owning a Volt.
      I also did not include the cost of oil changes I would have incurred with my previous car. Over 21,000 miles, I would have had 4-5 oil changes, which would have cost me approximately $157.50 over the course of the year ($35 each, conservatively).
      $163.42 vs. $157.50 are pretty much a wash (no pun intended), so rather than delve into those items, I left them out. I expect to change the oil only once, during the three years I lease my Volt.
      Brake jobs frequency is greatly reduced, since most of my deceleration is achieved by a combination of driving in L and regenerative braking.
      The EV Project has ended and many cities were not involved in the study, so most people would not have received a free charger. A Clipper Creek LCS-25 L2 charger is available for $495 and has a three year warranty (http://stores.homestead.com/clippercreekinc/-strse-6/level-2-evse,-level/detail.bok). Instead of paying $319 for the installation, like I did, the average consumer would spend $495 for the charger and perform the simple installation themselves. The annualized cost differential would be about $58.67, once the total cost of EVSE and circuit are added and oil changes are subtracted. Once the savings generated by less frequent brake jobs is added, I again see a wash or a benefit on the Volt side.

      1. Loboc says:

        Did you count the water and soap and your time in that car wash?

        Add traffic tickets, registration, insurance, taxes, accessories (jump drive, valve stem caps), tire pressure gauge, air compressor, the $5 bucks for OnStar phone number…

        If I did get any kind of refund, I’d add that in as a negative expense. Counting dollars that came off before I made the deal don’t add up as ‘savings’ to me.

        I add in *everything* since I want the Total Cost of Ownership, not some nonsense savings on gasoline alone. No, I don’t amortize the EVSE since I have no idea if it will make it past it’s warranty period. I also don’t count on it being useful for the next generation car that I buy. Imho, it’s a sunk cost that I won’t get back, so, I might as well take the hit now.

        1. MrJakeJ says:

          I have a Think City EV. Think was a division of Ford until it was spun out in the ’90s. Since then they’ve gone through a few sets of owners and some Chapter 11s. I got my car out of their latest Chapter 11, at a 70% discount. Net of the tax credit, it cost me $8,500. Kind of a no-brainer, wouldn’t ya say?

          Anyhow, I keep detailed records on a spreadsheet. Per-mile operating costs are the following:

          4 cents for fuel
          3 cents for WA State’s EV use tax
          5 cents for battery replacement @ estimated 2020 cost (McKinsey)
          -1 cent for no oil changes, transmission, or exhaust maintenance

          Net: 12 cents a mile (figures above are rounded)

          The comparable ICE car is a Scion iQ. It is almost exactly the same length and weight as my car. Hell, it looks like my car. I once mistook one on the street for my Think. Its fuel cost is 14 cents a mile. No battery replacement, and the oil, tranny, and exhaust cost differentials are accounted for on the Think side of the equation.

          Net-net: The Think saves me about 15% in operating costs.

  2. BrainKnot says:

    You can always turn your lease early to not go over the miels allowed…. and you may also renegotiate the remining lease payments since the car will not be as old. Also if you lease another Volt again you might get some GM forgiveness (just remind them you have been an owner of GM as a taxpayer).

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      I have had others tell me of possible forgiveness by GM. The only snag is that I am lusting for a Tesla Model S…

      1. BrainKnot says:

        Model X for me.

        I’d mind getting a Voltec mid size SUV – but only mitsubshi has come up with one.

  3. SuperG says:

    Cool analysis. I wish I had the time to do something similar. When we remodeled and expanded our home, I did something similar in calculating the efficiency improvements we found by upgrading appliances and switching from oil and electric appliances to natural gas.

    1. I didn’t see this anywhere and maybe missed. You should probably account for the actual cost of the Blink charger somehow. I assume you got it through the DOE program and it was heavily subsidized.

    2. Account for the or at least compare and contrast the effects $7500 tax credit and the Blink charger subsidy, if any. One day these will go away.

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      See my response to Loboc for the charger cost. As for the tax credit, since I was leasing, I did not receive it, the leasing company did. However, I probably did get some amount off the lease price or an increased residual for part of that tax credit. I estimated I got about $5,000 off. Currently (again, no pun intended), discounts of $5,000 or more are standard practice at Chevy dealerships, so even without the tax credit or discount I received by leasing, everyone should be able to get a Volt for less than I did. That’s the cost of being an early adopter, I guess… (I don’t mind paying it at all)

      1. MrJakeJ says:

        If I were you, I’d confine the analysis to operating costs. Total ownership, i.e., the cost of buying and/or leasing, and depreciation, should be done separately. Leasing, in particular, is a real toughie because there are a number of factors that are very difficult to untangle.

        Where you went wrong was in your fuel cost calculation, which is the biggest part of operating cost.

  4. kdawg says:

    Nice report. I pretty much did the same thing for my first year of ownership of my 2013 Volt. I saved $1650 in fuel costs + oil changes.

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      Spread the word far and wide, kdawg!!!!!

    2. MrJakeJ says:

      Yes, you won’t have oil changes, or at least you’ll have fewer of them. As the owner of a pure EV (no gas motor anywhere), I will never pay for an oil change or a visit to a Midas shop. But I will eventually pay for a new battery. I’ve done the research, and the cost of the battery is 5 cents a mile at the estimated replacement price in 2020, and the savings on oil changes and exhaust maintenance is 1 cent per mile, for a net cost for the EV in addition to fuel of 4 cents a mile.

      If people are going to do these comparisons, they should be careful to compare like vehicle to like vehicle (i.e., not a gas-sipping Volt to a gas-guzzling Lexus, or not my diesel-hogging Ram 3500 to my electric Think City), and including costs on both sides of the equation. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in mental sloppiness, propaganda, or both.

  5. Blind Guy says:

    Everyone’s situation is a little different. We previously owned a 2010 Prius and I would guesstimate that it was a wash when comparing expenses. Our Prius payment was about $115. Less than our Volt but the fuel savings makes up for that difference. Bottom-line, we really enjoy riding in our Volt.

  6. Ocean Railroader says:

    What is mentioned is all the corn that you saved for cattle and pigs such as if the US gas is 10% ethanol then out of every ten gallons of gas used one gallon of it would be corn ethanol used. So in a sense this Chevy volt most likely saved half it’s weight in corn if they say 26 pounds of corn is needed on every gallon of ethanol which is good in that corn saved can now be used to bring down feed costs for US dairy farmers and feed some hungry cows.

  7. KenZ says:

    We have been volt owners for about two weeks, but the first weekend we did a ~350 mile road trip with no ability to recharge, so our numbers aren’t spectacular… yet. Standard daily commute is 12 miles total, so we’ll recoup our numbers a bit more soon.

    In our situation, I would contend that with our short commute, economically it made more sense just to drive our current 180,000 mile subaru into the ground. But for us, this wasn’t about economics. Someone has to be the early adopter and put their money where their mouth is. We’re perhaps 3 years late to claim to be early adopters, but it wasn’t about saving money for us.

    Overall we think the Volt is a fantastic vehicle from an engineering standpoint, EXCEPT for the center console (both buttons and screen menus) which are as bad as the vehicle is good. But we’re still happy with our decision.

    1. KenZ says:

      PS- with the short daily commute, we’re just going to stick with the included 110V charge cable.

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        I had a 220 volt 30 amp plug installed in my Garage for $200 bucks it was originally put in for a giant 6 kilowatt space heater but in the future we plan to use it to have a plug in car.

  8. Spec says:

    Yeah, the savings can be amazing. I’m driving on pure electric and I’m just finishing up my self-installation of a 6.1KW solar PV system that cost around $12K in parts. After the tax-credit that is around $8K. That PV system will provide both my house and my electric car with all the net electricity I will need for the next 25+ years. Try that with a gasoline car!

    1. io says:

      Welcome to the club!

      All of my driving, 15~16kmiles/year, is on solar. Everything included (permitting, professional installation, amortization etc), “fuel” costs me between 1.5 and 2c/mile, guaranteed not to increase for at least another 23 years.

      Heck, I’m likely to spend more on tires! 😉

      And that’s just the financial aspect. Don’t even get me started on all the other benefits…
      Plug-ins rule!

  9. Josh says:

    Great detail on the cost of ownership. I will give my brief numbers. 34k miles on my LEAF in just over two years. I am working from home now, so I am tracking back much closer to my 45k mile 3 year lease. Put 20k on it the first year.

    I replaced a 24 mpg sports car with the LEAF, so figure 1,415 gallons of premium or $5300 of gas. My estimate has been about $35 / month of $0.10/kWh Texas wind electricity on contract, so $900. Remember the LEAF notoriously has none of that battery management electricity consumption.

    That puts me at about $4400 in fuel savings in just over two years. That is not factoring in no more synthetic oil changes every 5k (so almost 7 total now). And the EVSE in my garage… I would amortize over the EVSE lifetime not the length of the LEAF lease, since I plan on needing it for every other vehicle I own after this. It may also add some small value to my house if I sell it.

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      Josh, I am so glad to hear you’re using Texas wind power! I recently read “The Great Texas Wind Rush,” available from University of Texas Press. Did you know Texas leads the nation in wind-generated electricity? We produce twice the amount that California does! Who’d a thunk it?

      1. Josh says:

        Yeah, wind is actually my business, so I definitely know about its success in Texas. It will be 10% of ERCOT this year, passing nuclear in the most energy intensive state in the US.

        I just recently ordered that book. Have got a chance to read it yet.

        1. Josh says:

          *Have not got a chance…sorry phone typing.

  10. DanFowler says:

    Love the blue and white Volts! We live in Austin TX, and my wife drives a blue 2012 Volt, and I drive a white 2011. 95% of her driving is electric, 87% or so for me. Great cars! Hope you continue to enjoy yours!

  11. GeorgeS says:

    It’s always good to hear from actual owners who take the time to write an article.
    Thx Buzz Smith.

    What does your charger efficiency work out to?? (or did I miss it)

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      Just a rough estimate: My Volt’s electric miles vs. KWh usage is 4.17 KWh per mile. When actually using the Blink’s input energy, I calculated 3.31 miles per KWh, so the efficiency appears to be around 79%. That is probably a bit low, since my Blink data covers Winter Spring and Summer but not much Autumn. Winter and Summer are lower efficiency, due to more battery conditioning to keep it warm or cool. Check my blog around mid-November, when I’ll have an entire year of Blink data to work with.

  12. John Hollenberg says:

    Interesting article, but almost as much gasoline could have been saved by buying a regular Prius, which would have saved at least $1600.00 (if one only got 44 MPG). I don’t think comparing to a previous car is a fair comparison. A better comparison would be to an ICE vehicle that gets 36 MPG. Of course, I am all for BEV, PHEV, etc. (I have had a Leaf for over 2 years) and the Volt is by all accounts a very well-engineered machine that saves a lot of fuel.

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      The reason I compared to my previous car was that was the position I was in. I needed to know how much I was adding to our monthly expenditures, when the previous car got totaled. Another reason I thought it a fair comparison, is that average new car MPG in the U.S. just hit a record 24.9 MPG. My 22 MPG in the Lexus wasn’t very far below the new car average today.
      As for the Prius, I drove one and really didn’t like it. The only thing the Volt and Prius have in common is great gas mileage.

      1. MrJakeJ says:

        By comparing the Volt to the Lexus, you were giving electric motive power credit for other aspects of the Volt that have nothing to do with what fuel it uses. Even on gas, your Volt’s fuel economy is almost two-thirds better than the Lexus.

        If the point of your article is to highlight the efficiency of electric power (and I assume it is, because after all, you posted it on the “Inside EVs” site) then you should be isolating the Volt’s electric power aspect. Ironically, because the Volt is dual powered and gives you precise data on how much of the miles were driven on gas vs. how much were driven on electricity, you were in a position to make this comparison without a lot of trouble.

        Instead, you brought your old Lexus into the picture. Your Lexus is irrelevant. What counts here is your Volt’s fuel economy (and attendant cost differentials) on gas, vs. your Volt’s fuel economy on electricity.

  13. Aaron says:

    Great article. Thank you for NOT doing what some Volt owners do: “I’m getting 250 miles per gallon!”, omitting the electricity usage. I’m also glad you’re not driving 100% electric miles, because then you’ve lost the reason for having the ICE in your car. Well balanced and thought through. 🙂

    1. Buzz Smith says:

      Thanks, Aaron. It’s all real-world experience with me, the good, the bad and the ugly. Fortunately, there hasn’t been much bad or ugly!

  14. MattyG says:

    He’s lucky he leased. Had he bought, all the money he saved on gas wouldn’t come close to covering the massive depreciation that the 2011 and 2012 Volts are seeing.

    1. Loboc says:

      What “massive depreciation”? All the used Volts I have seen are priced near what a new one is!

  15. Bloggin says:

    Nice! EPA states the Volt would save $7,000 in fuel costs alone over five years. Or $1,400 annually.

    The other savings benefit of the Volt plug-in hybrid with over 380 total range, is that you only need one vehicle in the household.

    But if you need a second car, the $166/mo fuel saving is just enough to pay the $100/mo battery rental for a used Leaf.

  16. Sevie says:

    Buzz
    What was the electric rate the DOE used to calculate cost? You mentioned it was off by 33% but your rate of $0.10/kwh is cheaper than the $0.13/kwh we pay here.

  17. Wes Herrin says:

    This is a great meta-analysis that helps folks like me focus on what you pointed out: miles per dollar.

    Unfortunately, I have two things that prevent me from buying (forget a lease – I only own my vehicles) a Volt, or anything like it:

    1) I need a family car. I only buy GM. So until and unless the MPV5 or something like it comes out, there isn’t a vehicle big enough for my needs.

    2) Did I mention I have a family? Total UP FRONT COST that I can ever hope to afford is $30,000 (absolute maximum), and that’s only with saving money now for when I’m ready to buy my next car in 4 years. I can’t afford to wait to recoup the cost AFTER I buy the car – I need the cost to be low WHEN I buy the car.

    Until 1 & 2 are met… I’m stuck driving my 27 MPG Chevy HHR.

  18. Matt says:

    Excellent article, Buzz. Thanks also for the laughs, Lodoc (cost of soap & water to wash it…). Sorry if you meant to be serious. Unintentionally funny.

    For those that don’t know, electric cars have fantastic torque at 0 rpm. And their weight and low center of gravity due to low battery placement help them grip the road like a magnet. You don’t feel like you’re driving a low-powered economy car when you’re driving a Volt. But you’re still driving cheap. And clean. You get the best of everything, space considerations aside for a Volt. And $2,000 of the high-powered wall charger & line install were paid courtesy of American Electric Power here in Michigan. That left me with only $200 to pay. Many states and localities have incentives to defray the cost of installing this stuff.

    But like you, Buzz, my heart belongs to Tesla. Luckily, a stock investment decision last Feb. belonged to Tesla, too. Talk about green energy! I’m going to order soon and use my Tesla stock to get one helluva discount! The sale of my Volt ought to take care of the rest. One of the few financial decisions in my life that’s working out. Woohoo!!! See you all in my rear-view mirror! LOL!!! And sayanara Shell, Exxon, BP, Phillips 66, etc. And Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, and the whole crazy bunch of ya’s! You, too, Wall Street oil speculators. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    er, sorry! I get carried away sometimes. It’s been a long 40 years of this oil shafting thing. Nice to get out from under it.

  19. MrJakeJ says:

    I own an electric car. I like my EV. It’s fun to drive. I think electric motive power is the automotive future, or will be once we have breakthroughs in battery cost and energy density. Electric motive power is more efficient because it captures much of the heat lost by internal combustion engines, and at the current U.S. electricity generation mix it reduces carbon emissions by 40% per mile.

    However, there is no need to drink any Kool-Aid here. One form of Kool-Aid drinking is to use bad numbers. Simply put, you vastly overstated your savings. Your arithmetic is wrong. Why? You compared your Volt (which gets high mileage on *both* gas and electricity) to your previous gas hog Lexuses. You didn’t have to make that comparison.

    Because the Volt uses both fuels, and tells you how many miles were driven on each fuel, you could have easily compared your Volt’s gas miles to your Volt’s electric miles and come up with an accurate savings figure. Which is less than half of what you claimed.

    Using your own numbers from your own article:

    – You drove a total of 20,984 miles.

    – You drove 15,786 electric miles @3.31 mi/kWh. You pay 10.7205/kWh, for electricity, making your electric fuel cost 3.24 cents per mile.

    – You drove 5,198 miles using gas @ 36.7 mpg. You pay $3.72/gallon for gas, making your gas fuel cost 10.14 cents per mile.

    – Each electric mile saved you 6.9 cents, i.e. the cost of gas minus the cost of electricity per mile.

    – By driving 15,786 miles on electricity rather than gas, you saved $1,089.23.

    Please correct your arithmetic. Rounding to the nearest hundred dollars: You did not save $2,300. You saved $1,100. If you are going to make a comparison, you should compare likes to likes. It’s especially easy to do when you’re driving a dual-fuel car and have precise figures for the use of each fuel and its price.

    1. MrJakeJ says:

      A correction of my own. Rounding to the nearest hundred dollars: You did not save $2,200. You saved $1,100.

  20. Dontut says:

    Whew! Tough crowd. Nice work, thanks for sharing. Did you count the electricity you used when vacuuming the floor mats? Do electric cars have floormats? 😉

    1. MrJakeJ says:

      Only if he used an electric vacuum on one set of floormats, and gas-powered vacuum on the other! 🙂