2013 Chevrolet Volt: Gas Mileage, Electric Range Test

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2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

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It had been almost two years since we'd driven a Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, and the new 2013 model has been slightly modified to boost its electric range.

We took a new 2013 Chevy Volt on our usual weekend test route, which covered 360 miles that included about two-thirds freeway driving and one-third local errands.

That's not an ideal duty cycle for a Volt, which can run electrically for weeks on end if you keep your trips between recharges to 30 miles or less.

But it's probably reflective of why many owners buy a Volt; it's the electric car that you can jump into and drive a few hundred miles.

After the 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack is depleted, the Volt's range-extending 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine switches on to generate electricity that keeps the car running indefinitely.

The EPA says the 2013 Volt's electric range is 38 miles, and it rates the gas mileage at 37 mpg in gasoline mode--which adds 342 more miles per tank.

The bottom line is that temperature and driving style mattered vastly more than the slightly bigger battery, which raised this year's Volt range to 38 miles from the 35-mile rating of the 2011 and 2012 models.

Heading out of New York City, we were able to travel 33.1 miles electrically before the engine switched on, almost imperceptibly.

We recharged overnight at home on 110-Volt power, all but refilled the pack at a theoretically-closed but perfectly functional Chargepoint Level 2 charging station nearby, and then twice more at home.

The maximum electric range projected in the Volt's dash display with a completely full battery rose from 36 to 41 miles after a long downhill stretch (the projection is based on recent driving).

And after covering 25 miles, we had used 19 miles of that "range," leaving us with 22 miles remaining (which is when we plugged into the Level 2 charging station during lunch).

In weather from about 50 degrees F at night to a mild 65 degrees in the day, a full battery gave us from 33 to 39 miles--especially when we were able to recharge at the top of the hill.

The overall gas mileage for our 360 miles, combined between electric and gasoline modes, was 67.2 mpg.

For the record, that's better than a conventional Toyota Prius hybrid will deliver; it's rated at 50 mpg.

While some readers feel we shouldn't derive overall gas mileage from blending the two modes, we think it's fair.

It is, frankly, the amount of gasoline (5.3 gallons) we used to cover 360 miles. That gas would have cost us roughly $20, whereas our multiple recharging sessions cost less than $3.

We can't yet compare our real-world 2013 Volt efficiency to the plug-in Prius just launched this year by Toyota; that's this weekend's test, though our routes won't compare identically.

But based on having driven both cars several times, we can confidently say the Volt was nicer inside and more fun to drive than the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

And many, many Volt owners who confine their use to shorter trips report lifetime gas mileage of "250+ mpg," which is the most that will show on the Volt's in-dash display.

Our 2013 Volt test car had four options, which brought the base price of $39,995 up to a bottom-line sticker price of $43,275.

They were the Premium Trim Package, at $1,395, which not only covers the seats and steering wheel in leather but adds heated front seats and a rear-seat armrest; a navigation and MyLink radio, at $895; a Bose premium speaker system at $495; and the striking Crystal Red Tincoat paint, at $495.

Chevy has also sporadically offered generous dealer incentives to help Volt sales, so if you're interested in a Volt, do your research to see what lease or purchase deals are out there.

The car qualifies for a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit, a California electric-car purchase rebate of $1,500, and a variety of other state, regional, local, and corporate incentives.


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Comments (53)
  1. We have just under 20,000 miles on our 2011 Volt (VIN #679) and we are right at 107 lifetime mpg. We use it at least once if not twice a month to make the trip from Sacramento to Daly City (about 94 miles each way) and that is where we drop from the 250 mpg potential to our real world, mixed power, 107 mpg. We HAD a 2006 Prius and our "lifetime" mileage on that was just under 50 mpg, so the Volt is more than double in mpg performance, more fun and more comfortable to drive, and with solar PV our nightly recharging costs us Zilch.

  2. Was that 33.1 miles with a full charge? With or without "heat"?

    I drive pretty "aggressively" (hard accerlation and 75+mph) and I haven't been able to get less than 36.7 miles (the worst I got so far). But I don't use heat and my tires are set to 40 PSi instead of 38 PSI.

    I also drive exclusively in "L" mode. (Recommended by Chevy for max efficiency).

  3. One can never tell about a single trip..... Any number of factors including driving more uphill sections than downhill sections can affect the EV range on a single trip.

  4. I second that opinion. I think it is great that journalists give feedback about the features, performance and feel of the car, but e-range and mpg numbers are relatively meaningless under journalistic conditions.

    I think EPA or Fuelly (or other data aggregators) are much better sources of information.

  5. My best range was 52 miles; my average range about 43. From what I can observe, the biggest variables for me have been: going up hills, high heat cold weather while climate set to comfort mode; high speed on the freeway; and AC in comfort mode (although the affect of AC seems to be minimal). Based on the odometer, that I reset to 0 when I first left the dealer's lot, my current experienced mpg is over 800 mpg. And yes, I'm a very satisfied Volt owner.

  6. I totally agree. I haven't been able to evaluate the Heat impact on my Volt range yet. But A/C impact is very small, maybe 2-3 miles in range at max.

    However, I found that hills and speed are the two biggest impact. Especially speed.

    I did a "Prius imitation" for the past two days by setting my Volt's cruise control to 60mph and drove the same commute route for the last 2 days. I end up getting 49-50 miles in range. Typically, I only get 39-40 miles in range with my 75+mph commute (hitting above 85+mph at least couple times per trip)...

    I love the fact that you can drive in "Sports" mode and still use "L" for max regen. That is one thing you can't do in the Leaf (which is really unreasonable).

  7. Most people don't fully appreciate the effect speed has on mileage in all cars. I experimented once on a highway trip form Nashville to Atlanta (hilly) in my 2.0L Mazda 3. I set cruise on 60 and got 42 mpg in a car with a highway rating of 32. Aerodynamics are the key plus the Mazda is not really geared properly for speed - it needs a 6th gear for highway duty in my opinion.

  8. The 67.2 mpg for the Volt is an absolute BS number and should not be compared to the 50 mpg Prius. It is just sloppy journalism.

    In engineering, we have these things called "units" that keep us from making mistakes. In the case of the Volt and the Prius numbers, these mpg units are NOT the same and they should not be called the same. Let's make the Volt units be mpgBS and the Prius are mpg.

    What will GCR start doing in the the future, report LEAF MPG as INFINITY? Because that is the same scale that the Volt is on. Volt MPG can range from zero to infinity the way GCR is doing it.

    Did they even bother to report the electricity used? Nope, can't be bothered with that. Just sad.

  9. If MPG doesn't work for you...

    How about $ per mile?

    After 10,000 miles I averaged $35 for every 1000 miles (gas at $3.50 + electric cost).

    A 50 mpg Prius at $3.50 per gallon would spend $70 to go 1000 miles, or twice the cost of what I spent in my Volt.

    A 25 MPG passenger car would cost $140 to go 1000 miles, or 4 times the Volt cost.

    A 15 mpg Pickup would cost $233.33 to go 1000 miles, or 6.7 times the Volt cost.

    BUT..... It is not bad journalism reporting MPG....

    MPG is an important number when calculating foreign oil dependency. Electricity comes 100% from domestic sources, while gasoline comes from over 60% foreign sources. So MPG tells you exactly how much foreign oil you are consuming.

  10. Actually "gallons" tell you how much gasoline you are consuming. As to whether it is foreign or domestic, that would be harder to figure out. Also, do you care which "foreign" country it comes from? Well only about 12% of our oil comes from the middle east, if that is your concern.

  11. Best of luck with your hummer or watching Faux or whatever it is that put that bug up your a**

  12. Yes keeping our dollar in America does matter. Trade deficit mean anything? Well keeping our energy dollar here is good for our economy. Diversifying our transportation energy is healthy for our economy. How can we have true competitive energy prices when the oil companies have a monopoly on transportation energy. It's a win win for all

  13. The only environment that a Prius would beat a Volt is if you consistently drove over 150 miles with out charging the Volt along the way. In everyday driving (90% of people) charging only at night when your sleeping, the Volt is far more economical than a Prius. You can count electricity if you want, I don't because its only 2.5 pennies/mile vs Prius 13.5 pennies/mile. Unless your a traveling salesman the Volt wins by a long shot in economy

  14. Oops - math error, Prius is 8 pennies/mile

  15. Calm down, John. I understand your point and agree somewhat with your point on the "fake" MPG numbers. But, JV was trying to express a point of which Volt can greatly increase your "mpg" number if "NOT using" gasoline is your real intent.

    Some people drive Prius b/c it saves money. Some people drive Prius b/c it "saves gas". So, for the second group, the number has some value to them.

    JV did note the electricity charge cost of $3 in addition to his gasoline cost of $30.

    Miles per gallon in its "simplest" form is the number of "miles" used per "gallon". By your "complain", it is also valid for Diesel fan to complain that Hybrids used "less" gas because of the electric assist (which is "free")...

  16. correction, "$3 in addition to his gasoline cost of $20"

  17. Let's take the last point first. Are you serious. The Diesel MPG and Hybrid MPG comparison are very good. Both take in a liquid fuel and output miles. The fact that one has an "electric" middle step does not invalidate mpg as a metric.

  18. Sure, but hybrid beats diesel b/c its "regenative" braking which I love and believe it is a good thing. But that is why Hybrids beat Diesel in the city in terms of MPG and sometimes loses on the hwy when the regenative braking are NOT part of the equation...

  19. I agree $/miles is probably a better gauge in this case.

    Even in this particular case, the Volt is cheaper than Prius. In JV's article, it said the Volt covered 360 miles that cost him less than $23. That is $0.064 per mile. A 50MPG Prius would be about $0.08 per miles if gas is $4/gallon, $0.075/miles if gas is $3.75/gallon. With recent CA gas price of $4.40/gallon, A 50 MPG Prius would cost $0.088/mile.

  20. There are more comments in this thread
  21. I have to agree with John B.

    If your goal (as it seems to be) in using "MPG" to compare the Volt to Prius is to discuss their relative *cost* of use over a given distance, then that's what you should do: report total $/mile or equivalent from all energy sources. Simply reporting MPG isn't right.

    I've genuinely come to appreciate GCR as being a cut above other auto blogs (many of which are still fumbling "kW" and "kWh"). Deciding that reporting "MPG" from blended energy use is "fair" dumbs down this site. I really hope you'll reconsider this approach!


  22. Thanks for the support. Honestly, I am being very critical here because GCR knows what they are talking about and I have hope that they understand what is being said and find a solution to the confusing way mpg is being reported.

    Other car sites don't understand these details, so there is no point arguing with them.

  23. I agree with you. I call them "fake" MPG. In fact, I wish my Volt would display the real MPG in gas mode and miles per KWh in Electric mode...

    But even in terms of $/mile, Volt is cheaper in Voelcker's article.

    Give him credit though, he did make this "disclaimer", " While some readers feel we shouldn't derive overall gas mileage from blending the two modes, we think it's fair."

  24. My commute was costing $115/mo @28mpg now it costs $17 of electricity in the Volt. That same commute wold cost about $60/mo in the 50 mpg Prius.
    36 miles a day commute - actually saving more because I use the Volt for more than commuting.

  25. Leased a Volt after looking at PIP in Sept (I have a 3rd gen Prius also). It is definitely a better built car. Slam the door or go over a bump and you will notice the difference. Acceleration will beat any hybrid, including PIP. With over 600 miles on the odometer, over 500 of those are on electric. The tank still has dealer filled gas. ;-) It so quiet it rivals all luxury cars and it makes the Bose sound so much better. The app is a nice touch: can monitor charging status, remote lock/unlock/start the car as well. A fully loaded Volt is actually cheaper than a fully loaded PIP, factoring in the incentives. Now the cons: seating for 4 is limiting. Front spoiler is way too low, scratching almost every garage entry. Console is still buggy.

  26. BTW, I was able to drive 45 miles to work from SF to SJ all on electric. Do need to stay between 60-65mph though. HTH

  27. Nice review. I liked the Volt too but no one can be sure if it's a better built car then the PIP yet...it's only been around for a couple years. It is a solidy fine car regardless. Volt did perform and function well with good acceleration but not better then "any" hybrid. That's a claim you can't prove as the current Sonata hybrid(9.1), Fusion hybrid(8.9), Camry hybrid(7.6) to name a few all beat the Volt(9.4) at zero to 60. Think next time before making such a broad claim.

  28. Well, 0-60MPH numbers are all over the place for the Volt. I have seen as low as 8.5 second and your 9.4 is the highest number I have seen...

    But it is the FASTEST EV/Plugin car under $45k.

  29. You are right, any is probably too broad. Know for sure it's better than my 3rd gen Prius. Thanks for the correction.

  30. I really would like to see the gas-only mileage. The blended number doesn't tell much. For all I know it could be hyper-efficient on electric and awful on gas.

  31. I think expecting 35mpg to 42mpg is reasonable, heavily depending on speed and condition...

  32. I wish Chevrolet would release the volt mp5 concept already!

  33. I've only had my Volt for 2 weeks, but I've been playing around with it and have gotten from 33 EV miles with the hot Florida sun and air running, to 43 EV miles without air just doing some city driving when we had a couple low 80's days. It does make me drive nicer than I did before which is a good thing :) On the highway around 73 mph for about 20 minutes on gas mode it was right around 40mpg per the car. Definite quality ride and great stereo for a stock unit!

  34. Have you tried driving in "L"? It takes a while get used to it. But I found that once I get use to it, even with my aggressive driving, I rarely use brakes on my daily driving.

  35. Yes, just discovered that and always use it now. Thanks!

  36. In my experience, the biggest factor that affects the Volt's electric range is outside air temperature. Unlike the Leaf,it seems to like hot weather; I get my maximum range when the temp is 80-85 degrees.

    Under those conditions a few weeks ago, I got 42 miles of mostly high-speed 70-75-mph freeway driving, with A/C on. Driving virtually the same route this morning, at the same high speeds, with the temp around 50 degrees, I got 29 miles, with heater on.

  37. Heater is the biggest "energy drain" beside driving on any EV...

  38. After 1 year, 13,500 miles, I got 327 mpg....


  39. The 50 mpg for the Prius is correct, but you cant call the 67.2 number you listed for the Volt MPG, it is MPGe, which you do know the difference since you had to calcualte it yourself.
    MPGe might be ok to simply compare efficiency, but it doesnt help anyone understand the actual cost or ranges of a Volt. The electric range and the cost of the electricity used matters. The est. mpg when in gas mode matters. But trying to mix the gas and electric numbers in a blender and calling it... "mpg" isnt actually correct or helpful.

  40. It's not possible to do on the Volt because the real average mpg depends on many factors. I would say the 67 is a very conservative number. Simply stating 40 mpg on gas is not fair either. You have to use real world driving ( not EPA lab). Example a guy at work drives 61 mile commute average is 115 mpg. I drive 36 commute and I'm at 800 mpg and rising. You have to use average driving habits to get a number. volts 40 mpg gas means nothing in my commute. But if I drove 80 miles my average would be 80 mpg. Now that means something and beats the pants off the Prius

  41. After almost 6000 trouble-free miles I'm averaging 160+ MPG, about 42 miles on a charge, about $18. in electric cost for 1000 miles of driving, and about 37 MPG when running on gas. My driving is about 70/30 highway/city. The roads are pretty much flat and the temps are hot where I live, so the AC is on almost all the time. I drive moderately and average about 67 MPH on the highways. So far, not a thing has gone wrong with my Volt. My biggest wish? An electric driver's seat option.

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