Two Years In A Chevy Volt: 12,000 Miles, 26 Gallons Of Gas

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First 2011 Chevrolet Volt delivered to retail buyer Jeffrey Kaffee, in Denville, NJ, December 2010

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt delivered to retail buyer Jeffrey Kaffee, in Denville, NJ, December 2010

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Two years ago tomorrow, Jeff Kaffee took possession of his keys and became the very first person in the U.S. to buy a Chevrolet Volt.

Since then, the retired pilot from Parsippany, New Jersey, has put almost 12,000 miles on his range-extended electric car--using just 26.1 gallons of gasoline while doing so.

That works out to a lifetime average of about 460 mpg, since most of those miles were covered on grid electricity.

That's lower than the average distance covered by most cars, but Kaffee notes that he spends up to half the year in Florida and can fly free--so he does few long-distance road trips.

Generally speaking, Kaffee says most of his daily travels fall within the electric range of his 2011 Volt.

He pegs that at 38 to 40 miles in the summer, and 30 to 35 miles in colder months, but notes that owners of 2013 Volts have reported higher ranges due to the slightly larger battery pack.

No bugs at all

The most unexpected facet of his Volt, he admitted, was that it has had no bugs or service issues at all.

"For such a new kind of car," he said, "I expected that I'd be in the dealer every month or two for something or other."

But aside from a faulty tire-pressure sensor, replaced under warranty, he's had no need to ask the dealer to look at or fix anything.

2011 Chevrolet Volt 5dr HB Rear Seats

2011 Chevrolet Volt 5dr HB Rear Seats

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If he could change one thing about his Chevy Volt, Kaffee said, it would be to add 2 or 3 inches of legroom to the rear seat.

He knew he was buying a four-seat car, so that wasn't an issue, but the rear seats are just a little tighter than he and his friends would prefer.

Few charging stations

Kaffee says he mostly plugs in his Volt at home, and doesn't make any effort to locate or seek out public charging stations.

He said that he's seen charging stations here and there on his travels--he mentioned six or eight at the PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, New York--but isn't a member of ChargePoint or any other network of stations.

His only disappointment with the Volt, he said, was that public charging infrastructure on the East Coast is relatively less developed than in other regions, particularly the West Coast.

He recalled driving down the coast in Oregon, seeing multiple charging stations every 25 or 30 miles.

Environment and energy security

What led Jeff Kaffee, a 20-year military pilot before entering commercial aviation, to buy his first Chevrolet since the 1970s?

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

Enlarge Photo

"Two things, really," he said. "First, using less gasoline is simply better for the environment--that's why I bought my first Prius."

"But second, I want to help reduce this country's oil consumption," he continued.

"I was thrilled with the 45 mpg that Prius gave me, but the Volt is everything that car was and a lot more--better driving, and with more overall range."

Soon, plug-in to replace hybrid

The other car in the Kaffee family is a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which routinely gives his wife 37 mpg.

That's the same real-world fuel economy that the Volt delivers when running in range-extending mode.

Because the two cars are equally efficient in gasoline mode, he said, when they do take a rare road trip, the couple takes the Camry--because it's bigger.

When the family Camry's time is up, will Kaffee replace it with a second plug-in car?

"Oh, absolutely!" he laughed. "There's no question. I've been looking at the Ford [Fusion Energi] plug-in--and I'd love a Tesla Model S, but a $100,000 car isn't in my budget."

So, two years to the week after the first mass-produced plug-in cars went on public sale, chalk up Jeff Kaffee as one more convert in the expanding group of electric-car owners.


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Comments (15)
  1. When all is said and done, on a dollar per mile basis, it will be the most expensive car he has ever operated.

  2. I think you have a typo there. It will probably be the most INEXPENSIVE car he has ever owned. Every major credible study out there )not sponsored by an oil company) has shown that these types of cars are a money saver in the long run. Just ask the people that own them.

    The reduced or nonexistent costs of all the types of things that are not in an EV compared to a gas engine makes up for the upfront higher costs of an electric vehicle. This combined with the fuel savings is a winning combination. Again, just listen to people that own them.

  3. Except he could have bought a lat 90s super reliable well maintained econobox for $3500 and he would have saved a lot of money in the long run. I like the Volt don't get me wrong but I'm just stating a fact.

  4. @ow layfaye,

    Is that a statement backed up by calculation or just something that comes out of the other end?

    How do you know what kind of cars he has operated before? How do you konw what the cost per miles is if you don't know how long he will keep the car.

    Are you good at using the Fox News method of calculating the cost per mile based on his purchase price divided by his MILES driven SO FAR?

  5. Thanks for the brilliant analysis... Based upon what, exactly?

    I leased mine in March, 7,600 miles at 141 MPG. Lease is $371/month. Compared to my previous Audi A4, I've saved $158/month on gas. I've averaged a whopping $13/mth. for electricity and hope to have solar in the next year or two. So, I'm spending about $226/month... Yes, it's killing me...

    Actually, I drive it for work and get reimbursed for my miles. Since I get paid far more than I spend on gas, I've made an additional $371 in the last seven months alone (I didn't track it when I first got the Volt) on "extra reimbursement," which my company is fine with. I won't include here since most can't do this, but still...

    Care to explain your "logic"? Or is it non-existent?

  6. Excellent article.
    It is nice to hear that the Volt has been reliable, well done GM. And it is great to see that most of his driving has been done on electricity, even without public charging. This also shows the advantage of GM's EREV technology and surely something not possible in the PiP.

    Of course, I have to make my usual comment that the 460 mpg should be 460 mpgBS as it has nothing to do with the normal mpg numbers that we are used to. But still, impressive.

  7. The 460 MPG is helped by the Camry Hybrid, according to the article.
    "Because the two cars are equally efficient in gasoline mode, he said, when they do take a rare road trip, the couple takes the Camry". If they use the Volt for long trips, they can't get anywhere close to 100 MPG.

  8. " If they use the Volt for long trips, they can't get anywhere close to 100 MPG. "

    That depends on how many "long trips" they take vs. their daily driving.

    12,000 miles in 2 years is FAR BELOW average cars miles per year....

    I cover that distances in about 9 month... My "fake" MPG is still in the 147 range.

  9. I drove 18,000 miles in 12 months. All but 2395 was on electricity, and 98% of gasoline miles were on 5 road trips of 250-725 miles. My "fake mpg" is currently 291, but the real number, taking into account gasoline (MPGcs=38) and electricity use (MPGe=112) is 89MPG. Zero maintenance cost (I rotate my own tires, and I will need to do an oil change at 2 years: about 40,000 miles) In one year I have already saved $3300 in NET fuel cost (gasoline plus electricity) compared to my previous car.

  10. I have 9287 miles ( in just 6 month), I have used 62.8 gallon of gas...

    More than him. But b/c my wife takes 189 miles trips with the Volt. I have used about 0.2 gallon of gas for the last 6 month in my daily 45 miles round trip commute.

  11. Thanks Jeff for leading the way.

    We live in a culture where 40+ miles a day is almost "expected" while in other countries of the world, 40-miles is an extreme extravagance. Lately, my commutes have been longer - 50-miles each way, sometimes 70-miles each way. The only thing that makes it good is that sometimes, I can telecommute. But these drives are not sustainable in our culture decades into the future as oil and gas wind down in their availability. We are living in a cheap-energy "blip" of history. Until renewables can power all of our cars - these miles we talk about will just be notes in history books.

  12. don't have to be a member of the ChargePoint network to use the public stations.

  13. YTD; I have received just under $1000 in auto allowance (mostly at 42 cents per mile) tax free. about 80% of those miles were done in my LEAF. So I have 25,000+ miles and ZERO gallons of gasoline.

    FYI; I could have done a higher percentage of my work travel in the LEAF but I dont always win the "Taking the LEAF today" battle

  14. I drove a volt when they first came out and was very impressed. At 6'2" and 265 pounds the car was a bit tight and with two teenage boys the back was tight for them as well. If they come out with a Volt with a little more room I would be very interested. My current car is a Hyundai Sonata.

  15. For what you get, the Volt is one of the most expensive cars on the market (not even including the billions the taxpayer is fronting as part of the bailout, that we ultimately will get screwed on; see latest GM stock buy). It's less functional than a Cruze as two 4ft midgets would struggle to fit in the back seat, let alone two adults. Those that compare the Volt to a luxury vehicle are flat out wrong. The white plastic interior is gaudy and frankly looks cheap. No BMW or Lexus would dare present itself that way. The 10k premium over the Cruze will never be made up in fuel efficiency.

    If you simply want to get off foreign oil and be kind to the environment then the Volt is a very solid buy. If it’s to save $ you need to go back to school

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