Thursday, January 31, 2013

Battle of the Plug-in Hybrids : Chevy Volt versus Prius Plug-in versus Ford CMAX Energi

When considering what plug-in electric vehicle to purchase, its often difficult to make good comparisons.  Each manufacturer will generally only highlight what makes their particular model look best, and omit factors in which they don't compare very well.  I'm going to help you in this quest to make some good comparisons, and even though I don't compare every model out there, if you dig deep enough, you'll be able to compare other offerings to this grouping.  I am NOT focusing on pure electrics today.  I will do that in another entry.

But first, let's take a look at why you have to be careful using manufacturer websites to make good purchase decisions...

This is from the Prius Plug-in webpage:

From looking at this, who the hell wouldn't want to own the Prius over the Volt?  I mean, its over $7,000 cheaper than the Volt?  Look at all that extra room! 

Examined a little more closely, the price difference between the Volt and Prius is only about $2,100 when you factor in that the Volt gets a $7,500 tax credit and the Prius only gets a $2,500 tax credit.  And with that extra $2,100, the Volt provides you with an EPA estimated electric range of 38 miles when the Prius only offers you 6-11 miles of electric range, depending on if you blend the EV mode with some gas or not (the Prius will burn gas above 62 MPH or if you accelerate too hard: the volt doesnt burn gas in either of those scenarios during your EV range).  But people purchasing electric cars don't care about that stuff...  Its the legroom, right? ;)

I figure most people wanting to buy an electric car actually want some significant electric range, so that's a pretty big important point to omit on your advertisement.  Many people are going to fully qualify for the tax credit, so looking at the pretax cost as a comparison is also a bit wonky.

So, let's take a look at some comparisons, done 'Voltowner' style...  I am absolutely biased.  But I've done my best to show the differences between three cars in a similar price range, and highlight things that I believe will be important to people looking to buy electric cars.  I am making a comparison between the 2013 Chevy Volt, 2013 Prius Plug-in, and 2013 Ford CMAX Energi.  I have done my absolute level best to provide accurate information below.   If there are typos or technical inaccuracies, all you need to do is comment below and I will fix them.

I think you'll find enormous value in the Volt, even though it's slightly more expensive than the other 2 vehicles, but depending on your circumstances, picking one of the other two could be the best choice for you. I have colored a cell green if I deem that car to be the category winner.  The cost per mile metric is just for electric miles.  Obviously you get a lot more electric miles with a Volt than you do the competitors, so while the Volt may not be 'as' efficient on electricity (the difference in monetary terms in minimal), it is 'efficient longer' than the others that convert to burning gasoline much sooner.  I probably don't have to tell you that gasoline is going to cost a lot more than 4 cents per mile.


* The Cost Per Mile of EV Capacity is a metric I came up with that should give you an idea of what you are paying for each mile of EV capacity.  It should be able to give you a value comparison of the 'bang for your buck' of EV range.
** Thermal Management Systems are important in extending the life of a high voltage battery.  The Volt wins as its thermal system is considered superior in laboratory tests for maintaining a constant temperature.
*** GM has established the gold standard of HV battery warrantees.  They actually warranty the battery for capacity loss, which is a huge protection.  The other manufacturers generally state that degradation in batteries is to be expected, but they don't pin down an exact capacity loss which will result in a replaced battery.


  1. You should do another one comparing with similar metrics the Volt and the Leaf. Nice job here!

  2. Great job with an honest appraisal of what things should be important, instead of what the manufacturer wants to highlight to sell cars!

    I like the way you think!!

    Another Volt Owner

  3. Nice job. I started on of these two. Want to add the Accord and Ford Fusion. See:

  4. According to the EPA, the C-Max didn't use any gas for the 21 miles of EPA testing. But it said blending could be possible depending on how you drive. Is that what you meant by "21 miles(Possibly Blended"?
    Keep in mind too that the C-Max has the "EV-Now" selection where it tries really hard to keep the car in EV mode. Although keeping the C-Max in Electric mode should be easier than with the Prius.

    1. Jesse, yes that is what I meant by 'possibly blended'. While the ford does have that EV, it will still be overridden by strong acceleration and speeds over 85. Given that there are now some highways with an 80 MPH speed limit, that isn't a stretch. Also, the 0-60 number I put for the Ford is a gas electric mix. I like that my Volt will stay in pure electric no matter how hard I punch the throttle all the way up to 100 MPH. Until Ford and Toyota put larger battery packs, they won't be able to get the amount of energy necessary from the electric motor alone.

  5. Very interesting! I have been trying to compare all these new electric cars. I just recently test drove the volt at the Chevy in Grand Rapids and loved it. Thanks so much for helping me in comparing the different cars. I didn't know ford made one.

  6. I get more than 6 ev in my 2012 Plug-in prius; closer to 11.

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  8. Looks like the Chevy has the best mileage range out of the three cars plus also the fastest 0-60 speed which is nice. It may be a good idea to look for a Used Chevy Volt if you are looking for something more affordable.
    Ford Dealer Corpus Christi is a dealer offering great prices on efficient Ford cars in TX.

  9. Great comparisons! I am a Chevy Volt owner and i absolutely love it. When it came down to deciding the make of the make of the car I had to look at the companies, for instance I always had such wonderful experience at my Chevy service center that I have become loyal to the brand. Regardless I think I made a great choice.

  10. I prefer PRIUS rather than other! I like the design each and everything! And same thing my car financing in houston company has suggested.

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  12. I see where the press is predicting the demise of Volt. I hope not. The extreme problem with Volt is its selling cost. So much higher then most hybrids or electrics. Get the selling cost down and you will see it take off.

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