One Owner's Chevy Volt Running Cost: 2 Cents Per Mile

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Chevy Volt Owner's adjusted EPA sticker [Image:]

Chevy Volt Owner's adjusted EPA sticker [Image:]

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Chevrolet Volt owners love their cars.

That's one thing we've realized since the Volt hit the market in December 2010. It's subsequently topped customer satisfaction surveys, saved a supertanker worth of gas, and driven over a hundred million miles on electricity alone.

Now, one year after buying his Volt, one owner has calculated just how much he's saving in fuel and maintenance costs--and the Volt is costing him only 2 cents per mile.

It's likely that many Volt owners are saving to a similar degree, but the blogger behind My Chevy Volt has shown his workings for maximum impact.

A few numbers need laying on the table in order to calculate the savings. 2012's average gas price of $3.60 per gallon provides the baseline, as does an electricity cost of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.

97 percent EV mode!

19,938 of the Volt's total 20,642 miles in 2012 were driven on electricity--a staggering 97 percent. Electric efficiency was calculated at 31 kWh/100 miles, and gas mileage topped 36 mpg on average.

That meant the owner's total electricity cost was $371, and gasoline cost a measly $71--for a total fuel cost of $442. Cost per mile? Only 2 cents.

For comparison, a 50 mpg Toyota Prius would cost 7 cents per mile over the same distance, with a total fuel cost of $1,486. The average 30 mpg car would use $2,477 in gas, at 12 cents per mile.

Maintenance was low too, with the car not requiring any oil changes, and the owner's real electricity cost was lower than $371 as about half the charges were free, at work and at shopping malls.

Read it and weep, EPA

Perhaps our favorite aspect of the owner's calculations is the adjusted EPA sticker.

While this wouldn't be the same for everyone--most Volt owners do use at least some gasoline, even if it's only for about a third of their total driving--it shows just how much an owner with a short commute could save in gasoline costs, compared to the average new vehicle.

Only the mpg on gas is lower than the official sticker (denoted by the red text), something the owner puts down to the engine barely ever cutting in for long enough to warm up to an efficient level.

2013 Chevrolet Volt

2013 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

Naturally, there are caveats.

One, 6 cents per kWh is a fairly low electricity rate--12 cents/kWh is more common--something the owner admits. Few owners will be able to achieve the same 97 percent electricity use as the Volt owner either, though some undoubtedly will.

Perhaps the blog's most pertinent point is that with cars like the Volt, the actual running costs can vary hugely depending on your usage--possibly more than any other car on sale.

The potential for huge savings is there though, and running costs of only 2 cents per mile are probably enough for a few more people to sit up and take notice...


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Comments (30)
  1. Hi all. I'm the author of Thanks for posting! One comment. I definitely do NOT have a short commute. My commute is 70 miles roundtrip. I am able to stay almost all electric because I get to 'fill up' at work with a charging station. Thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for chiming in!

  3. Hi Ryan, thanks for stopping by and clarifying.

  4. I wonder if this guy really knows how to read an electricity bill.

    If I take a quick look at my bill, the "electricity" cost is 6.7 cents/KWH. But a closer look shows and added 8.3 cents/kwh just to get the electricity delivered to my house.

    So even if my "electricity" was free, it still costs 8.3 cents/kwh to deliver it.

    All together, my electricity is 15 cent/kwh plus 6.43/month fee.

  5. I don't know where Ryan lives, but here in northern California, PG&E offers an electric car rate that allows charging between midnite and 7 AM at 6 cents per kWh including delivery charges. The down side of this rate is peak power charges over 30 cents but then the upside is solar panels! And if you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

  6. Norm, I'm one of the few here who may have gotten the "flowers in your hair" reference, very nice...! My off-peak rate here in Michigan is only $.04/Kwh and that's when I do 95% of my charging. It's $.08 and $.15 for the other times, but the $.15/Kwh is only for weekday times when I'm at work, anyway.

    But as I noted above, I'm quoting the raw rate and am probably missing the delivery charge so I'll check that and see what my "real world" numbers are. Solar panels will be coming, too, but probably next year so I can do my homework this year first.

  7. John, I was about to respond before I saw your post and realized that I'd better check the same thing myself. My off-peak rate is only $.04 Kwh but I'd better check the delivery charge before really commenting on my costs to date. Without it, I'm actually under $.02/mile...

  8. I wish I had a dollar everytime someone asked this of me. yes, I know how to read it :) My 'delivered' rate is about 6.7 on peak and 5.3 off peak. There is an additional component called a demand factor which adds about $30 to my bill. The demand factor is not included with my Volt energy costs, because the demand factor is not raised with the way I charge my Volt, and the only ADDITIONAL COST IN ELECTRICITY IS THE ACTUAL ENERGY CONSUMED. I bolded that just to make it clear.

    You can google Progress Energy TOU-D Rider for NC and see the rate schedule yourself. I also have snippets from my bill in previous blogs.

  9. Ryan, thank you for making this clear and reminding me to check my own since, unlike you, I'm not so sure that I've been using accurate numbers. It's not going to make a huge difference in my case, anyway, but I'll still use this opportunity to confirm my actual costs, if for no other reson than to make sure I'm accurate when explaining that plug-in vehicles aren't really that expensive at all...

    Nice blog, too!

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. My electricity is 31 cents/KWH in California thanks to some bureacrats. My gas is always 20-30cents higher too.

  12. Is that average rate or "peak" rate?

    If it is average rate, then you are using above 1,000KWH/month and maybe thinking about installing solar to offset it.

  13. If you're going to blame the convenient bureaucrats for the high utility costs, do you also want to credit them for the much higher than average pay in California? Yeah, gas is 10% higher than the median but the pay is also far more than the median too, isn't it?

    The voters in CA have voted in things that cost money and inflate prices, is that also the fault of your bureaucrats? I'm actually fine with higher utility costs, but seriously, blaming every inconvenience in your life on those bureaucrats...?

    Do they also make land more expensive and force citizens to pass referendums that increase costs? Obviously, there's more to the story, of course. And I lived in NoCal for years and never paid anything close to $.31, barely even half.

  14. The ONLY way he can average $0.31/KWh if he uses FAR MORE than 1,000 KWh/month. I don't know what he is doing but at that rate, he is probably being monitored by the DEA for pot growers. Typically, unless you have a medical need or a large swimming pool that uses electrical heater, you would rarely go above that usage unless you are running a pot farm in your house.

    Tier 1 is about $0.132/KWh. (from 8 to 18 KWh/day)
    Tier 2 is about $0.150/KWh. 130% x
    Tier 3 is about $0.300/KWh. 200% x
    Tier 4 is about $0.340/KWh. 300% x

    You would have to exceed 1,000 KWh to be in the Tier 4 rate. But that is ONLY the amount above 1,000 KWh. A typical 800 KWh usage is about $0.18/KWh on average.

    Of course, those are PG&E E-1 (fixed time) rate.


    Here is the link to explain the "northern California" electricity rate.

  16. I am in Silicon Valley (PG&E Territory X), which gives a baseline of 11kWh/day in summer and 11.7kWh in winter. Your table above is labeled in a confusing way. Tier 1 is up to 100% of baseline, Tier 2 is 101%-130%, Tier 3 is 131%-200%, etc. Therefore, in my area, the $0.30/kWh rate kicks in at 429kWh. So, if you are using more than that without an EV, your incremental cost of EV charging is $0.30/kWh. Using the total average cost of electricity in a baseline system to calculate your charging cost is disingenuous. If you didn't have the EV, you would be saving the most expensive electricity - therefore, you should calculate the $/mile based on the top tier you actually hit in any given month.

  17. My Volt has its own meter and its own account with the power company.
    I pay 6 cents/kwh if I recharge at night, 12cents/kwh most other times, and 19cents/kwh on Summer afternoons.
    I recharge at night!
    The total cost, including the power company add in fees is about a dollar a day.

  18. "...actual running costs can vary hugely depending on your usage..."

    This point is hugely important and the reason I believe one-size-fits-all EPA numbers do more harm than good. I'd prefer to see the EPA blended number stated at three usage levels: 25/75, 50/50, and 75/25.

  19. One size fits all works for typical ICE/Hybrid cars and it does NOT work for BEV or EREV or any "strong" PHEV.

    EPA's current numbers for those cutting edge technology is outdated.

  20. I am an avid reader here in the UK where Petrol cost an astonishing £5.00 [$8] average adjusted for a US gallon in 2012. So A volt's 36 (US) MPG equates to 22.2 cents per mile here in Blighty. If I was able to achieve 80% miles on electrics, the cost here using same calculation is 6.85c per electric mile. 8,000 x 6.85 +2,000 x 22.2 = $992 for 10,000 combined miles. Purely on petrol and it's 10,000 x 22.2 = $2,200. The saving is $1,208 per 10,000 miles. Multiply up to this review's 20,642 miles covered and in the UK I would have saved $2,493.55. If I managed to achieve 97% then the savings on the same mileage here in the UK would be about $3023. Put that up to 5 years and it's $15,115. Back to UK currency is £9,447 (1/3 car purchase cost)

  21. Joe, thanks for the comparison, since most here can't easily compare for other countries. For me, my Volt has been far cheaper than any recent care I have owned/leased, but that's due not only to the reduced fuel costs, but also subsidized leases; I'm paying only $371/month and later leases are often even cheaper. I save about $155/month (little lower now since based on $4/gallon (3.76 l.)and spend about $14/month of electricity. I can easily live with a net cost of $230/month and it's even cheaper for me since I get reimbursed for work driving at a rate far higher than it costs me.

    I hope the numbers work for you and you can get a Volt or something else you want...

  22. Thanks Robok2, The additional factors I can consider is I do have Solar PV installed at home - generated 3,600kwh from July to July. So I can get "free" evergy at least some of the time. Also someone else mentioned using the car Battery as a Solar PV "store" and this really appeals to me as well, As I often work from home and the car would be sat doing nothing. last thing to consider is TAX. The reality of the high gas prices here in the UK is almost entirely the TAX. Latest figures show we pay 142% tax on fuel. if everyone opted for electric cars, guess what? The TAX would move to electricity. As has happened in the past with Butane gas conversions here in the UK. The tax on butane just rocketed as people switched. so That has ceased.

  23. ...and applying the 142% to my original 22.2c per mile, it drops the cost (without tax) to just 9.2c per mile. Only 25% more expensive than electric. Basically, petrol is still a cheap source of energy but Governments use the "environmental" card to lump on the tax. I agree with the principles on the environment but the approach won't work if it is only driven by levying or avoiding tax...

  24. Some other nice things about EVs: Use domestic energy therefore help USA trade balance; You can plug in at millions of locations instead of just 115,000 gas stations; you can fill up at home or work instead of having to drive to a location (this saves about seven hours a year in filling up)
    Congratulations Ryan I hope to catch up to you!
    You can lock in your electric rate for multiple years with PV or wind or with a provider like Next Energy,7 years @ 7.5 for generation in many states. Try to lock in a rate from Exxon, yeah you can by futures but expensive.
    Ryan, congratulations I hope to match your achievement.

  25. Another nice thing about plug in cars is that they can be thought of as a way to store power generated from wind during times of low demand.

  26. As someone running a Leaf on solar via a battery, I can relate to that. I use manual "power management" to charge more on sunny days and less on cloudy ones... anything to not pay 40 cents US a KWH from the mains!.

  27. I think his 36 MPG in the "extended range" could be much higher if those "extended range" trips are longer. The short "gas" (aka extended range) trips are the MPG killer.
    Most Volt can average easily in the 42-45mpg range if you take the "extended range" trips 1 tank at a time. But if you only burn 0.1 gallon at a time, then its MPG is going to be pretty poor.
    My co-worker's recent trip from Bay Area to Vegas and back in his brand new Volt returned 40 mpg when set his cruise control at 75mph and this included all the hill climb and heat usage. That is DEAD ON with the EPA rating.
    Another Volt owner at work took her Volt to Seattle from Bay area and averaged 46 mpg but she set her cruise control at 60mph.
    I averaged about 39 MPG in my extended mode (mixed driving) but I have a lead foot. On few of the longer trips, I averaged about 42 MPG. It slipped a bit recently with colder winter and it dropped to 40mpg on the hwy trips. Those MPG are also b/c I use the Costco gas with 10% ethanol. If I use Chevron's 100% gas, I can get about 2 MPG better.

  28. I would like to know what it costs to drive 10 miles. Every EV of PHEV will be different. That's what counts. It's not fair to use others electricity and then claim no cost. just like if where I worked got free gasoline and said it only cost me a dollar a year.

  29. In the Volt, 10 miles will cost you about 3 KWh or less.

    So, whatever it cost you to charge 3KWh. Feel free to add 15% for potential charging loss. That would be 3.45KWh.

    @ $0.07 per KWh, it will cost you $0.25
    @ $0.10 per KWh, it will cost you $0.35
    @ $0.15 per KWh, it will cost you $0.53
    @ $0.20 per KWh, it will cost you $0.70

    @ 50mpg and $3.50/gal, it will cost you $0.70
    @ 45mpg and $3.50/gal, it will cost you $0.78
    @ 40mpg and $3.50/gal, it will cost you $0.88

    With Solar, I pay $0.09 per KWh.

    Solar City has a no money down Solar PPA plan for $0.18 per KWh.

  30. My friend has a Volt, and uses it so much on "electric" mode, that the car computer reminds him to run it on "gas" mode to prevent the gas from going bad in the tank. Sweet ! He is charging it off of his home solar system, which he installed several years ago. I wonder, if when the solar system is amortized over time, he will be in fractions of a cent per mile for the Volt.

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