Study: Chevy Volt Owners Spent Just $300 To Drive 10,000 Miles


For all the negativity surrounding the Chevy Volt, people who have bought GM’s plug-in hybrid are among the happiest car owners in America. How can that be? A recent case study in Scientific American looked at the Volt’s energy consumption and emissions and compared it to the most popular hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius, and in every category the Volt comes out way ahead.

Writer Evelyn Lamb’s parents are early adopters who purchased a Chevy Volt a year ago, rather than a Corvette (!!). Using available websites to track her parents’ energy usage, Lamb was able to come to the conclusion that by every metric, the Volt saves money and reduces emissions compared to the Prius.

First the numbers; in the 11 months of available data, Lamb’s parents drove 10,102 miles, about average for a typical American family. In that time, the Volt ran on just electricity for 9,186 miles, almost 91% of the time, using 2,437 kWh of electricity. This includes almost 40 miles of daily work commute, done almost entirely on battery power.The other 9% required using the gas generator, though in 11 months Lamb’s parents have used just 24.4 gallons of gasoline. I know people who go through that much in a week!

At an electrical rate of $0.0885 per kWh, which is what Lamb’s parents pay, the total electricity cost has been just $215.67, plus another $85.95 in gas. Total energy cost for 11 months of driving? $301.62.

Put another way, Evelyn Lamb’s parents have spent about $30 per 1,000 miles of driving, or about 3-cents per mile. There is not a single car on the market that can come even close to that kind of monetary efficiency. Even the mighty Toyota Prius, at 50 mpg, would cost about $700, or 7-cents per mile, to drive. No wonder Chevy Volt sales have been steadily climbing.

It isn’t just the wallet that benefits either. Lamb estimates that between electricity usage and gasoline, her parents’ Volt has emitted approximately 3,734 pounds of CO2. The Toyota Prius, driving the same mileage, would have emitted 3,958 pounds of CO2.

Granted, if Lamb’s parents did more long range driving, the Prius would no doubt pull ahead in total emissions and cost savings. However, Lamb’s parents driving habits seem perfectly average in today’s America, so while there are no doubt driving outliers who would better benefit from a Prius, many Americans would find the Volt to be the better bargain. Funnyman Jay Leno managed to go over 11,000 miles on just a half a tank of gas, netting approximately 2,365 mpg. Dizzam.

Haters gonna hate, but the evidence seems to be favoring the Volt and other plug-in hybrid vehicles more and more. Read the whole article for yourself, or just go visit any of the many Volt fan sites where owners regularly post eye-popping numbers on gas and money saved. While the numbers won’t convince all the skeptics, they certainly make a compelling case for those sitting on the fence.

Source: Scientific American

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • I guess I’d be more convinced if the case study had included the purchase price of the vehicle and applicable maintenance as part of the calculation. The Chevy Volt is an interesting car, don’t get me wrong, but it is also a relatively expensive car compared to the average midsized vehicle sold. I don’t have the time to sit down and rework the calculations based on MSRP and average maintenance costs, but I suspect that once you did the fuel savings would be a very small part of the overall picture and the economics of the electric car suddenly would stop looking so good.

  • Jcmarching

    “I don’t have the time to sit down and rework the calculations”
    Hey Geoff: How cum you got time to spew this ICE propaganda?
    Yes, there is a total cost analysis that should be considered. Time will tell how well thie Volt holds its value. However, our OPEC friends are taking it in the shorts now.

  • Dave – Phoenix

    I replaced my Ford Explorer with a Volt and have now driven 10,000 miles as well.

    My Explorer cost $30K with the features I had. It cost me $2300 to drive the Explorer 10,000 miles at $3.50 per gallon.

    My Volt cost $32,500 with my features and after the tax break. I spent $350 to drive 10,000 miles.

    ROI for me was just over 1 year…

    Obviously there are vehicles with better fuel economy than the Explorer, but this shows how dramatic the difference can be for SUV owners if they switched to a Volt like I did…

  • In one year I spent $123 in total fuel costs (27 gals) solar electricity surplus from home, $0 on maintenance. Free tire rotations at tire place and first oil change is at 24 months. First tune-up is at 300,000 miles or after the engine runs 30,000 miles, same thing if you drive 90% electric….the one pedal driving with regen should cause first brake pad change to occur around 175K miles… never mind it’s a blast to drive.


  • Kent

    I replaced my twin turbo Dodge Stealth with the Volt. Driving the Stealth to go work and fun a few misc. errands cost me $280 each week. The price of gas was simply limiting my freedom to go where I wanted as often as I wanted; a very frustrating situation.

    Using the 240v quick charger, (that I installed myself) I can recharge between 1 to 3 hrs, depending on how much juice I used. I’m currently consuming about 1.5 gals driving at average of 1,600 miles per month. The money I save more than covers my lease payment. (which in my I’m driving a new car free). And while I’m exceeding my lease miles (I’m definitly buying this car when its done) for another $3k deposit (7 yr loan) I get a great car for the price of two deposits.

    Just like the good old days I no longer worry about the price of gas; and more important I give OPEC almost zero of my money. The cool thing about the Volt that people don’t realize is the Volt performs, handles, and rides very nice; not like a budget compact car. The Volt is fun to drive.

    • Kent

      whoops! I meant to state $280 each month, not each week.


  • Nixon

    Here is an interesting little bit of data from this. A lot of talk was made out of the Volt requiring premium gas instead of regular gas. It turns out that for 10,000 miles, they problably spent only 5-6 bucks extra for premium.

    So not such a big deal after all.

  • Jon_K

    It’s an extremely cool car. Anyone do an ROI argument on a Porsche 911? No, never because it too is an extremely cool car. I do love passing the gas stations but I also like flying silently along on the expressway. It is a very fun ride.

  • The Volt has clearly been the target of some unjustified, and often ignorant attacks. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the economics of the Volt.

    However, it is also clear that the Volt, at least in its first iteration, is a highly unprofitable enterprise. I have posted what seems to be the first detailed analysis of the Volt’s profitability, drawing on public data and where necessary making estimates.

    Even while trying to err on the side of GM in making those estimates, I calculate a lifetime economic loss to GM shareholders of $600 million on the first generation of the Volt, including nearly $1 billion in tax credits. Excluding the subsidies, the cumulative loss triples to $1.8 billion:

    • Nixon

      Wow Buttsheitski,,. you certainly like to shill your own blog link everywhere! Yet after spamming green website after green website promoting yourself, you never respond to the long lists of outright failures on your math.

      Even worse, when folks post comments directly on your blog, you just delete posts that are inconvenient for you to deal with. And even when caught red-handed you never correct you math failures in your blog. For example, you know darn well that New GM stock holders do not have to pay for R&D expenses that were discharged in the bankruptcy of Old GM. Even when GM directly provides a list of your failures, you fail to correct your mistakes.

      Stop spreading your spam to self promote yourself in broadcast mode everywhere. If you want to join the discussion, join in. If you just want to travel the web advertising for your website, buy some advertising space.

      Green car websites are not your free advertising space, they are for discussion.

    • Kent

      In the future, rather then spend another trillion $ on the next middle east war we should instead eliminate our dependency on OPEC. Driving my Volt I use very little gas; drastically less. We have the means to get out from underneath OPEC, we just can’t see past our noses to have the will power to do so.

      • Correct. Also: the answer is not Canadian tar sand oil.

  • t_

    Hi senator,

    Nice calculations, but please… There is another perspective.
    Your assumptions could be true, if you expect, that all costs(development, facilites, capital, etc.) should be paid with those Volt sales(Volt 1st gen). Wrong.
    1. Development costs. As the technology of this car is so disruptive and forward looking, it could and will be used for other vehicles of the company. Maybe modified, but the same core technology. Example – Volt 2nd gen, the new hybrid Cadillac. Maybe a more mass – produced future vehicle.
    2. Facilities. As amortisation of the facilities is a much slower prosess, than is the life ot a production model, in 2 – 3 years they are far from wer – out. This means they can and will be used many years to come. They can be sold, etc. This automatically reduces a big share of the costs.
    3. Technology – patents, etc. Very important. In recent years many companies were bought only because of their patent portfolio. Having in mind, that there are not much companies, which have this or similar technology, the sale of the technology or royalties could mean huge profit for GM alone, without having everything else in mind.

    I do not think the Volt is a big loss. Just read the above. Everything else is calculation gimmick.
    I only hope GM gets bored of selling the Volt in the upper price segment and produces cheaper plug in hybrids. Maybe smaller battery, smaller car size and engine = lower price? Hope there is a cheaper version of the Volt soon, I want to byu it.

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  • Chief Mechanic

    Toyota Prius Liftback (50MPG, seats 5) starts around $26,000 MSRP. Chevrolet Volt (smaller car, seats only 4) is around $32,000 after the $7500 tax credit. That’s still a difference of $6000.

    At $4 a gallon for gas, $6000 buys 1500 gallons of gas for the Prius, good for 75,000 miles of driving. At the average 10,000 miles per year of driving, it takes 7 years to recoup the additional $6000 one would have to pay for the Volt, assuming the Volt driver NEVER uses any gasoline at all for those 7 years.

    So after just 11 months of ownership, Evelyn Lamb’s parents are NOWHERE near saving any money over a Prius. This article has some pretty faulty math.

    Car buyers who buy normal cars rather than Prius because they didn’t want to pay the Prius’ $2500 “hybrid premium.” It will be even more difficult to convince the average car buyer to pay the $10,000 “volt premium” over a normal non-hybrid car.

    • doudis2

      Here’s your one glaring incorrect assumption Cheif; you assume that a Prius is equal to the Volt. You assume that the Prius is car that BMW, Lexus, Cadillac, & Mercedes, owners etc, would buy. It surely is not. On the other hand there is a LARGE number of Volt owners who have traded in those very makes in lieu of a Volt. To put it simply, it is a couple notches above the Prius!

      So does it have a premium price, a bit but not as high as those other vehicles listed. What you really have to ask yourself is, is it worth the price? All of us Volt owners know that it is. Just go Google the recent story from Consumer Reports about vehicle ownership satisfaction. You will find that of ALL the cars out there, the Volt has won the top spot for the past 2 years in a row! You drive it you love it PERIOD!

      • Kent

        I have driven a Prius during a half a dozen different business trips amounting to a few weeks. I would never buy a Prius. As doudis2 states, its not an apples to apples comparison. Don’t get it? Go drive a Prius and then go drive a Volt. Now the answer is obvious. 🙂

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  • This is the annual costs of riding a Volt for one year:

    Red Rider, 7750 miles
    10 gallons of gas $37.50 for trIp to Vegas.
    Tire rotation No charge, discount tire warranty.
    Oil changes $0.00
    Maintenance $0.00
    Charging $0.00 with the solar, annual bill YTD house, shop and Volts $275.00 for off peak AC usage, taxes and fees.
    Oh L2 public chargers free until Sept, $3.00 for 3 hours.
    Air for tires $0.00 LOL
    Car washes, $15 every couple months $90 estimate. Ouch gotta keep it looking good.
    One full detail $65.00

    Owning a 2012, Priceless! Oh yeah.

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