Truth-Telling Snopes Site Goes To Bat Over Chevy Volt E-Mail

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

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Get any good e-mails lately? Maybe a chain letter that alleges how pathetically expensive the Chevy Volt is supposed to be?

Well, there's one going around--it's called "Cost to operate a Chevy Volt"--and yesterday, the investigative site dived into the ugly politics around the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car to refute it.

These e-mails tend to ricochet around the country as they're CCed among friends and contacts--no matter how incorrect they may be, since few people ever fact-check.

In this case, the Volt cost e-mail is wildly, astoundingly incorrect. The math in it, in fact, is off by a factor of 10. Ten times!

No one in the U.S. pays $1.16 per kilowatt-hour, the number used by the e-mail. No one. If you're paying that sum, GreenCarReports will come and generate electricity for you

Instead, the average cost per kWh in the U.S. is less than 13 cents. It varies a lot, and some lucky folks in the Pacific Northwest (which has lots of hydro) pay as little as 3 cents per kWh.

But the comparative calculations in the letter simply don't add up. 

Snopes, which fact-checks and often debunks urban myths, chain e-mails, and popular cultural memes, smartly demolished the Volt-cost e-mail yesterday.

Its pithy conclusion:

According to the criteria used by the author of this item, rather than being a car that "costs more that 7 time as much to run and takes 3 times as long to drive across country than a gasoline-powered 4-cylinder car, the Volt costs about one-third less to run (in electric mode) and takes the same amount of time to drive across country.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

And there you have it.

Snopes' conclusion uses very conservative assumptions, and it still proves the e-mail wrong.

Some Volt owners routinely report gas mileage of more than 100 mpg--because they run more of their miles electrically.

And if their electricity costs notably less than the national average, their cost per electric mile can be as low as one-fifth the cost per gasoline mile.

GM felt the need to jump in and explain the math errors as well, on its VoltAge blog, though we think the Snopes piece is pithier and graphically easier to understand.

The e-mail stemmed from a segment aired two weeks ago by Fox Business reporter Eric Bolling. After watching it, we could only conclude that Eric Bolling doesn't understand how the Volt works--even after driving one for a week.

It appears, by the way, that Bolling and his cohorts on his Fox show, "The Five," continue to repeat the mantra, "The Volt broke down in the Lincoln Tunnel."

That's not true.

What happened is that the battery depleted and the engine seamlessly switched on to generate electricity to power the car. Unless a driver pays attention, the process is smooth enough that drivers may not even known it has just happened.

As electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton said at the time, it's remarkable that a news segment "could trash a car for working exactly as advertised."


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Comments (17)
  1. I have posted my opinion on my blog at

  2. Do you think Faux News will ever be able to bring the Volt down to their low life standard? Just because Faux News is bashing the Volt makes me want to go out and get one and use it to protest outside their station every day. If they see 20 or 30 Volts driving around in circles in front of their TV station, they may get the point.

  3. What kind of low life snakes are these people that they would bully a car. They better hope that the Volt never see them walking in a dark alley anywhere. I think the GOP just ruined their chance of getting back in the White House.

  4. Attacking the Volt the way Fax News does either guts made of steel, or brains made of rice pudding.

  5. While those emails are inaccurate in their details, they may be closer to the truth than the costs estimated here, which must be very inaccurate, as they ignore battery replacement and initial purchase cost. Last time I heard anything, GM personnel were claiming that the Volt battery pack cost roughly $14,000, which has to be close to correct, considering the high cost of the vehicle. The battery will likely last 8 years, making the battery replacement costs roughly $1750 per year, plus the cost of installation. Cost of ownership must also include the initial cost of the vehicle, which I estimate to be roughly $25,000 more than an equivalent gas powered econobox. I can't accept arguments claiming the Volt a cheap way to go. It ain't.

  6. Let's see, Ramon... If it lasts eight years and it's warrantied for eight years, that makes battery replacement costs zero for those eight years, right? We all know how much you hate GM, the Volt, the government, and facts, but why would it cost anybody $1,750 a year to NOT replace the battery or have it replaced for free via the warranty.

    Again, what part of warranty don't you understand? And again, it's not $25k over the Cruze. After tax credit, about $13k, but as always, you refuse to ever acknowledge even one cent in fuel savings.

    Yes, pretend there's no battery warranty, ignore the tax credit, ignore the fuel savings... Typical RL logic, or lack thereof, of course...

  7. Actually, LG Chem claims the battery will last for 40 years. Chevy's goal was 10 years/150,000 miles before it reaches 70% initial capacity (the target for replacement). How much do you think the battery will cost in 8 to 10 years? Once production is ramped up and the tech matures, the price will drop. Besides, many people don't keep their car for that long.

  8. Sorry John, but I have to correct you about what happens when battery power is depleted. The gas engine drives/powers the wheels. It doesn't just charge the battery pack.

  9. @Garry: Thanks for your comment, but that's what I wrote. I said "...the engine seamlessly switched on to generate electricity to power the car." That is, the generator sends that power to the drive motor. It's actually partly buffered through the pack, but you're correct, the generator does not recharge the pack (beyond a couple of percentage points to permit that buffering).

  10. If you mean mechanically drives the wheels, this only occurs at some high speed, the number varies, but commonly I have heard 65MPH bandied about for when this occurs.

  11. GM has mentioned that they are talking with utilities to re-purpose the used batteries as grid buffers/storage once they are removed from cars.

    70% is about where the available range would start to be reduced, but I assume one could continue to drive the car with a reduced range, and avoid replacing the battery until the range was less than you were comfortable with.

    Oh, and the GM replacement battery cost is currently $2994.64 (price is in their parts system @ This for out-of-warranty replacement, without labor or core charge of course.

  12. I pointed Ramon a few weeks ago on here to the same site for battery replacement cost yet now he is still insisting battery will cost about 5 times over current MSRP by 2020 when the first Volt battery will be out of warranty...If this is not intentional misleading people, I don't know what is.

  13. Wow. Was not aware the battery was that cheap. I was thinking $3-6K. Thanks for that info, guys.. Makes me feel even better about my Volt!

  14. First of all, there were many nay-sayers claiming the battery pack in the Prius wouldn't last more than a few years.  A cab company in S.F. Drove their fleet for over 200,000 miles each and had only 1 failure under warranty.  Some cars hit 300,000 miles.

    Secondly, battery packs are not the only added cost of the Volt.  Have you even taken the time to look at the engineering involved?  SAE, international, the world renowned group of automotive engineers, named the Volt best engineered car in 2011.

    Thirdly, M.I.T. engineers have developed a lithium battery that can be charged in 10 seconds and can hold up to 100 times the capacity of today's L.I. batteries.  They predict E.V.'s with a 1,000 mile range.  A company named Envia has developed an L.I. battery that will give a 300 mile range.  Who knows where we will be in 8 years, when the Volt battery still has about 4-6 years of lifetime left.  I may not wait for mine to die!

    Fourthly, the average American ICE vehicle emits 1,000 lbs. Of co2 per year.  Even if I break even, I don't care!

    Finally, have you seen the price of gas lately?  My savings just went up 15% in one week!

  15. You could switch to Mountain Mode to get some charge back into the battery, or to save some battery charge for later.
    The Hold button on the Ampera is even better. It allows you to say, warm up the car using the ICE to avoid draining the battery just for heat, or to use the ICE on the highway where it is most efficient, saving the battery for in-town driving. Apparently we are not smart enough to use such a function "properly" here in the U.S.

  16. @Volt Owner, good points. Of course, the Ampera is also about $17k more expensive, too. I'm still baffled why the development of a low-volume car has these differences, but perhaps you or someone else can address that. I love the look of the Ampera, too.

  17. Faux News "reporters" are payed by big oil, their # 1 sponsor. Lauren Fix created a YouTube video in which she claims she test drove the Volt for one week and her electric bill went up $100! I have had my Kill-A-Watt meter in line with my charger for 3,000 miles+ and it still has my cost under $100!

    The name of the Video is "Chevy Volt Sales Or Dolt". You can't post a coment. I posted a rebuttal video which pretty much exposes her for the liar she is. My video comes up with hers when you search for hers, should you care to see it.

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