Tuesday, July 10, 2012

6 months of owning a Chevy Volt: The costs and experiences

I have now owned my 2012 Chevy Volt for a little over 6 months. This past Saturday marked my 6 month anniversary that I marked by traveling about 160 miles round trip for a July 4th weekend with my family. A trip that was made possible due to the gas generator coupled with my initial electric range of about 44 miles. For the past two weeks, much of the country has been experiencing a record heat wave. Extreme heat definitely reduces electric range. Had I opted for the Nissan Leaf, I seriously doubt I would have made the 80 mile initial leg on a fully charged battery, and had I been able to eek it out, it would have been a pucker moment for sure, as I would have literally coasted into my Aunt's house on fumes. But that is the beauty of the Volt. While critics like to laugh at an electric car with a gas engine, this is precisely why it is such a brilliant idea: Range anxiety is nonexistent... even battery degradation, which will occur over time, doesn’t mean as much to someone who has a gasoline backup.

So, let's talk about my numbers. Some of the images below were made last Tuesday before I went on vacation. Slightly dated, but it isn't worth me editing a bunch of new screen shots to add a few miles.

I make this chart weekly.  As you can see, the savings on the car is pretty amazing at my level of driving.  At the 6 month mark, I am driving an annualized 22,000 miles a year.  I am managing to maintain my 95% all electric driving that I have written about for the past 6 months.  So, even a high mileage driver, someone who commutes 70 miles a day, is able to burn next to no gas.

How is this significant?  Well, the average car sold in America last year was rated at about 22 MPG.  That means that I will NOT burn about 1,000 gallons a year with the Volt.  Multiply that by 5 years, and you get 5,000 gallons.  I think we all know that 5,000 gallons is a helluva lot of fuel saved.  What does 5,000 gallons look like?

This is what 5,000 gallons looks like.  So, don't kid yourself.  The potential to save massive amounts of money through not burning gas is there.  Sure, if you wanted to drive a Prius, you'd only save about 2,100 gallons of fuel during 5 years ;)  Still nothing to laugh about.

The data below is courtesy of voltstats.net.  They collect data multiple times a day directly from my car's computer.  I cannot manually input data or tamper with their statistics.  The first chart is my mileage over time.  Green represents electric miles while the blue is gas miles.  You'll notice my gas miles have barely moved.  The majority of my gas miles were during the first week of ownership, when I had not established a charging routine at work.

With the above graph, you can see my MPG as it changes per month.  If I used little to no gas in a month, it will be represented by 1000 MPG.  Voltstats will not publish MPG above 1000 in these charts.  I burned a little gas in May, driving the car to the Lake, which is why it dipped for that month.  February was cold, as I would often just start to burn a little gas as I approached work.

My Accomplishments:

So, I am approaching 10,000 miles on a SINGLE tank of gas.  I managed to drive 115 miles all electric in one day (multiple charges).  And my current record is 2,800 concurrent miles without burning a single drop of gas.  I think this is pretty impressive.  But what is more impressive is that there are a good number of Volt owners that have done better than I have.  While I am in the top 15%, I am not in the top 5% in any category.

And for those that question the electricity usage.  This is a side by side of this year's and last year's electricity use.  While the Volt has definitely used electricity, I have actually used LESS overall electricity in the previous 6 months of charging a Volt than I did last year without an electric car.  The climate had more effects on my electricity bill than the Volt did by a long shot.

2012 Total: 9,544 kWh       2011 Total: 9,797 kWh

Clearly the Volt is not electricity hog, even when I charge it from practically zero almost every single day.  My electricity bills confirm what is being reported to me as the kWhs consumed through myvolt.com and the built-in meter in my Aerovironment charging station.

The car is performing to my VERY high level of expectations.  To date, my car has not been in for service for anything other than factory suggested corrections, and that was for a total of 2 days in which I was given a rental car by GM.  I have personally added only 3.5 gallons to the car since I purchased it on January, 7, 2012.  This car, hands down, is a world changer.


  1. Really well done article. I appreciate the time you put into the statistics and presentation. Nice.

  2. Thanks! Always trying to get the truth out.

  3. Great article, just got one a month ago and still trying to figure it out. Ony question, how do you manage to get electricity for 6 cents a kWh? Mine is 18!

    1. Lisa,

      I have Progress Energys TOU-D rider. It gives me an off peak rate of about 5.3 cents and in peak of 6.7 delivered. There is an additional component added to the bill called a demand factor, but that is unchanged with the car, so the only incremental addition has been the pure energy charged at an average rate of 6 cents. If you have more questions, please ask!