A Chevy Volt can save money on gas. The Volt can do this because it can drive 35-53 miles on a battery alone before its gas engine has to kick in. Electricity is cheaper than gas, so the more driving on battery power, the more any commuter will save.
But there are a number of variables that potential buyers have to look at before deciding whether the savings holds true for them. The price of gas in the commuting area, the price of electricity, access to charging stations and what kind of Volt one drives can all effect those numbers greatly. The distance of the commute in a Volt will also have a big impact on savings.
What is the Chevy Volt?
The Chevy Volt is a combination of electric and gas-powered car. In electric mode it runs off its battery. Once the battery is exhausted, the Chevy Volt switches over to a small engine that powers it. Chevy calls this the ‘range extender.’ The first generation of Chevy Volts offered a battery-only, all-electric range of 35 to 38 miles before the range extender kicked on. Once the gas engine kicked on, the car would go another 340 or so miles for a total of 380 miles. That’s comparable to a regular sedan’s 400 or so miles of range on a full tank of gas.
The second-generation Chevy Volt [pictured above] rolls out to consumers this Fall. The new Volt, which debuted at the January Detroit Auto Show, offers a battery-only all-electric range of 53 miles. Once depleted, the gas engine can take the car about 377 miles for a total of 430 miles. That’s comparable to a regular sedan’s 400 or so miles of range on a full tank of gas.
The new Chevy Volt doesn’t use premium gas, while the first generation does. This means consumers will save even when the Chevy Volt has to switch over to gas power on drives longer than the car’s battery range.
Here’s a look at the range of the Chevy Volt from year to year in a table form:
|Model Year||Cost (w/out $7,500 tax rebate)||Range (miles)||Battery (kWh)|
|2012 & 2013||$39,995||38||16.5|
|2014 & 2015||$34,995||38||17.1|
Will the Average American Save Money on the Chevy Volt?
The US Dept. of Transportation says 85% of American commuters live within 25 miles of where they work. The average gas bill is about $139 a month, though it was about $198 in 2009 when gas prices were higher. Since the new Volt can drive 52 miles, depending on model, 85% of American commuters would be able to get to work and home without recharging.
Replacing that commuting with battery-powered commuting isn’t free of course. The battery needs recharged at home. A look at average cost of electricity to an American of 12 cents per kilowatt hour and the cost recharging the car for 1,000 miles of commuting a month is a little over $44. Compared to the average $139 cost of a gas a month at the cheapest gas has been in a long time, it saves $85 a month in gas.
Of course, the ratio of all-electric driving in a Volt to combined driving once the gas range extender kicks on will determine the total fuel efficiency. Someone who does mainly just all-electric driving will certainly be able to shave almost $100 off their monthly gas bill. But long distance commuters will be saving less, though the 41 miles per gallon the Volt gets on all gas power is still nothing to sneeze at.
Furthermore, some utilities offer ‘time of use’ discounts, where power is cheaper at off-peak hours. Some Volt owners report prices much lower than $44 a month.
Chevy states that first generation Volt drives usually went about 900 miles without refilling their car and says that 2016 drivers can expect 1500 miles to go without filling up. That means going to the gas station once every month and a half for the average American driver.
A Chevy Volt Might be Cheaper to Maintain
In addition to the savings on fuel, electric car owners point out that electric cars have less wear and tear on them. There are fewer moving parts and less explosive gases being moved around to create power with spinning shafts. Chevy Volt owners in forums have claimed much lower costs per mile over the life of their cars.
However, the battery technology and computer chips in cars like this are more advanced. The Volt is a newer technology and some people argue that the savings are washed out when owners have to replace expensive batteries or components. The jury is still out.
Is a Chevy Volt More Expensive than the Average American Car?
According to Experian the average car payment in the US is $471 a month. GM’s website estimates $13.89 per $1,000 in financing costs, so a brand new 2016 Volt would cost a consumer with good credit $450-470 a month with nothing down. That’s in line with the average American car payment. The Volt’s all-electric 53 miles of range means that the car does qualify for a US government tax deduction of $7,500 off the sticker price of $33,170. That can lower the monthly payment.
That means the Chevy Volt is on par with the average American car payment.
However, the Volt is more expensive than comparable cars. A four door Corolla is $18,000 to $20,000. A 2016 Chevy Malibu, which is pretty much the gas-powered Volt in design and function, is $22,000-$28,000. That gives one a pretty good impression of how much extra a Volt costs: about $10,000.
Is $10,000 extra worth saving $85 a month and getting a $7,500 tax break? That depends on the driver.
But Wait, There are Older Model Chevy Volts!
Right now Chevy is selling and leasing older model 2015 Volts. Deals include $254/month leases on an older model, $2,500 cash allowance or a $1,500 bonus cash and 0% APR for 72 months deal. Those deals, combined with the $7,500 government tax break on the Volt bring the car down into ranges very close to a similar gas-powered 4 door car. But one you can drive after charging up overnight. The 2015 Volt doesn’t get 53 all-electric miles, but 38. However, if a commute fits within that profile, or even close to it, the 2015 Volt becomes attractive.
Additionally one can buy a used Chevy Volt. Prices start around $14,000 for a 2012 Volt with 20-30,000 miles according to a quick scan of listings. A 60 month used car loan would put the cost of a used Volt at around $260 a month, but then would save the driver nearly $100 a month over gas prices.
$160 a month for a newish car with protection against rising gas costs? That’s not a bad deal.