Wednesday, July 2, 2014

50,000 miles with a 2012 Chevy Volt

I recently hit a milestone...  50,000 miles with my 2012 Chevrolet Volt, almost entirely on electricity.  That's about 2.5 years of my ownership.  There are very few owners of Chevy Volts that have already hit 50,000 miles.  What makes my experience even more special is that I've managed those miles in such a short period while maintaining 93% of that driving under pure electricity.

I had a lot of worries when I first bought the car...  I'll try and answer them one at a time given my 2.5 year perspective.

Can the fuel savings alone make this car affordable to drive?
In short, yes.  If you drive the number of miles that I drive, the efficiencies you gain from switching to a low electricity rate from high prices gasoline can save you massively.  Below is a report I generated just after the 50k mark.  To explain how I get the 6 cents per kilowatt/hour (about half the national rate), you'll have to look at previous blog entries.

To compare those numbers above to my previous vehicles...  The previous two cars I owned was a Mini Cooper that got around 32 MPG and a BMW Z3 2.8 that averaged a little less than 23 MPG.  So, had I kept driving either of those two cars, ignoring all other costs, I would have spent anywhere from $200-266 a month in fuel costs.  Comparing this to the Volt, I am only spending about $40 a month in total fueling costs, netting me a savings of $160-$220 a month on fuel alone.  You should also add in the cost of oil changes.  I changed my oil around 7,000 miles (using synthetic) for both my previous cars.  Oil changes averaged around $90 a change.  After 50,000 miles, I would have changed the oil 7 times with my other vehicles.  I have only changed the oil once with my volt, netting me an additional $540 in savings, or $18 a month.

Will the car be expensive to maintain?  Will I have a lot of problems?
Well, this is a major jinx, but I don't know any other way to say it.  I have brought my car into the shop one time.  My car was one of the early Volts that needed the battery reinforcement upgrade.  Short of that, I haven't had any issues that required service.  I have connected to a bad electric vehicle service supply that threw some error codes, that had I not known better, would have resulted to me taking the car in.  But nothing that required dealer service.  My brakes appear to be almost new, as I drive in Low almost all the time (it reduces the use of brakes to almost nothing).  My front two tires, which I have shamelessly ignored with only one rotation, will likely need replacing in about 6 or 7k miles.  I did my one and only oil change last month.  So far the car is not expensive, nor have I had any problems requiring dealer intervention.

Will I notice battery degradation?
I nervously watched the Leaf owner forums when owners in hot climates started seeing their batteries degrade in hotter climates.  As someone who charges 1.5 cycles a day, I was worried I would be pushing the limits of the battery and would be one of the first Volt owners to see less daily range...  While this still might be the case, at nearly 50k electric miles, my daily electric range is precisely where it was when I bought the car.  And in actuality, it is better, as I have learned to drive the car more efficiently.   So I am still getting 40 miles of range, give or take 5 or 6 miles depending on conditions, throughout the year. I have still yet to see anyone online convince me they are seeing any range degradation on a Volt, and I doubt I'll see anything until past 75k miles.

Will I be able to maximize my electric range?
Way back when the Volt was introduced as a concept, I was curious to know how a Volt would fit my commute.  My roundtrip commute is anywhere from 64-75 miles, depending on if I carpool with anyone and if I need to run any chores.  I never envisioned being able to charge at work, but by working with the county, I have been able to charge every day, at work, for free.  It has allowed me to go thousands of miles before burning a drop of fuel.  It has been the best possible arrangement for electrical efficiency.

Will the range extender meet my needs?
I went almost 2 years without knowing the answer to this question.  I was nearly 97% all electric at the 2 year mark (with a combined MPG of over 1,000 MPG), with the most gas I had used at one time was to get the car home from a distant dealership immediately after purchase.  However, I found myself in the need of renovating a 110+ year old  house, over 100 miles away, in the last 4 months, and have been able to exercise the gasoline range extender quite a bit.  It has worked flawlessly, and I feel very fortunate that I don't have to trade cars with my wife to make those long runs (because a regular electric car would be impractical, at best, to travel the distances I needed to make in the time allotted).  This has convinced me that until 300+ miles of electric range is affordable and practical, a range extended electric vehicle is going to be the most practical single car solution if you want to drive electric and not feel the adverse effects of range anxiety.

Will I enjoy getting into the car, everyday?
I loved my BMW.  After 10 years of ownership, I still got excited to drive it, to take the top down, to sport around the town pushing the speed limit.  That car was special.  Large amounts of maintenance, and high miles (256k) finally pushed me into a new car.  I purchased a Mini Cooper, as a stopgap for the Volt, and I had lost any love affair with the Mini after the 6 month mark.  I still have an enormous affinity for the Volt after 2 years, and suspect I'll be very happy with it through 100k miles.  I will admit to flirting with the BMW i3, but for now, the Volt is still the car for me.  I know that if I end up with a BMW, I'm just going to be throwing a lot more money into maintenance and needless inspections designed to pad the wallets of the dealerships.

Am I going to be buying a car that just won't make it?
I was worried more about the entire sector...  "Will electric vehicles make it?" was a really good question at the end of 2011 and early 2012.  To some degree, it still is...  But with May's new record of over 12,000 electric cars being sold in one month, I think it is a safe growth market for now.  I am confused about GM's commitment to the Volt and electric cars in general, as the advertising has been non existent for over a year, and by introducing an ELR that is vastly overpriced, but I think they'll get on target with a cheaper and better second generation Volt for 2016.  So far, buying an electric car doesn't feel like I purchased a Betamax.

The car still looks and drives like new.  I still have great pride of ownership.  And I still have my friends ask me questions about it all the time.  I love it.  Owning this car has caused me to challenge my personal political beliefs, the leaders of our country, and what we are told through the media.  It has been as transformative as any material purchase can be, and I feel honored to be considered an electric vehicle pioneer.

Please feel free and ask my any other ownership questions, and I'll be happy to update this entry with the answers!


  1. I like all chevrolet model, but specially like chevy volt because it's really wonderful feature and look wise superb. like it's special feature are : electric when you want it, gas when you need it.

  2. I'm at 40k miles in my Volt and I haven't experienced any battery degradation either. The engineering behind the battery is one of the things that separates it from the Leaf. The Volt is an amazing piece of engineering.

  3. Congratulations for hitting your 50,000 miles! It’s a great milestone for every car to achieve, and it probably will last for more years, as it still looks and drives well. Also, thanks for sharing some of your experiences. These serves as good tips for people who might consider buying the same type of car.

    Cecil Watkins @ Beineke Cars

  4. This site is good because they give us a new thing and new ideas and new topic how good all of they are we should appreciate them because of these good thing.

  5. We've had our Volt since Feb 2012 and love it. Our electricity is wind-powered from Green Mountain and about 45% solar from panels we installed last Aug.

    We figure we are saving about $800 to $1000 in fuel each year. Our lifetime mileage is 14,914, with 77% on electricity and 23% gasoline.

    We (esp my husband, who really wanted a Ford Taurus) wanted to drive it according to our "regular" inefficient practices. He told me right from the start not to look at that little efficiency ball on the dash screen when he's driving -- it goes up or down when we accelerate or decelerate too fast.

    I've gotten as much as 46 miles on a charge when everything (AC, radio) was off and I was hypermiling.....keeping that ball in the middle as much as possible. But our usual range during summer (when temps here are almost always above 100F and we need the AC) is about 29 to 33 miles. During spring & fall with less AC use we get about a 36-40 mile range.

    As mentioned in the post, we have not noticed a decrease in range, but what happens is the projected range keeps varying with our most recent (inefficient or efficient) useage.

    We drove it all the way from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston (some 380 miles) on cruise control at 73 mph. The ball hovers above efficiency level if one goes above 60 mph (which reminds me of the 70s program when they set national speed limits at 55 mph to conserve fuel).

    Our Volt drives as smooth as silk. When it shifts to gasoline for recharging the battery there is a slight vibration which we can feel at lower speeds. (The Chevy guy explained to us the little motor is sort of like a lawn mower motor.) However, it isn't near the vibration of an ICE car.

    We love our Volt, and my husband is totally sold on it now.

  6. I have never bought a vehicle from a car dealership before, but I wish I would have after seeing all the amazing things a newer vehicle can do. They are a lot more gas efficient and the fact that you can also get electric vehicles as well is even cooler. If I could own an electric vehicle myself, I could be a very happy person. The next time I am in the market for a new one, I am definitely going to go to a dealership.

  7. That Chevy Volt is such a great car. I think with this car alone we can really save the planet from emissions. I am really considering getting one for my wife for those short commutes. The battery power is not that good but more than enough for her needs around town. Thank you for this information makes life easier deciding.

    Lonnie @ Viva Chevrolet

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