A question of efficiency.

I’ve been driving a 2013 Chevy Volt for the last 7,000 miles.

The Volt has a ton of electronics that measure everything, I can log onto the OnStar app on my smartphone to see the air pressure in each tire, the amount of gas in the tank and the exact charge on the lithium ion battery.

This is the most technologically advanced machine I’ve ever owned. My daughter Grace calls it the “space ship”. When my Volt is plugged into the charger it won’t shift into reverse or drive. I can even program the Volt app to notify me when the car reaches a full charge!

The Volt is truly a smart car.    

I get 36 miles per electric charge before the gas generator kicks in, so I’m still using gas anytime I have to run to the other side of Tampa Bay. If I drive somewhere in the morning I’ll plug the car in again when I get home. My electric bill went up $20 last month, but that was cheaper than putting $20 in the tank 3 or 4 times each week.

The new 2017 Volt has a 53 mile electric range, a little better than the 2013 model.

The Volt is more convenient than the Tesla, it takes 2 minutes to gas your Volt but several hours to charge your Tesla. The Tesla has a 230 mile range, but that’s not far enough to drive from Tampa to Miami, or Atlanta.

Until electric cars can go 500 miles on one charge its nice to have the gas option.  

One key metric I’ve been tracking is how far my Volt goes per 10 gallons of gas. On one cycle I got 770 miles, or 77 miles per gallon. There are Volt owners on YouTube who drive less than 35 miles per day… they can get 5,000 miles or more on ten gallons.

My experience is probably more typical. If I get 65 to 70 miles per gallon my Volt is far more efficient than my wife’s (non-plug-in) Prius, which averages 45 miles per gallon.

A four cylinder Honda Civic gets 34 mpg, most 6 cylinder cars get about 25 mpg. Any larger vehicle with a V-8 gets less than 22 mpg.

The big variable in Volt ownership is the longevity and maintenance costs of the vehicle, compared to the excellent reliability record of the Prius. There are a few Volts on YouTube with 300,000 miles on the odometer, this was one of my deciding factors in taking the leap to a Chevrolet product. GM put their best engineers on the Volt, knowing that they would look bad if the car was a failure.

The Volt sold new for $35,000, mainly because of the cost of all the technology baked into the car. If you get a used Volt for less than $20,000 you are getting a ton of value per dollar. I got my 2013 Volt for $14,500, with just over 15,000 miles on the odometer.

I enjoy driving the Volt every single day, the sound system is excellent, the front seats are great for my janky back, and I love how I can gas it up for $15 and drive all week.

The back seats are too small for larger passengers, ok if you have younger children. By September of this year both my daughters will be in college, so I’m alone in my Volt or taking my wife out on a date.

If you drive something old and you’re looking for a great commuter car look for a 2013 or 2014 used Volt online. Some people might have not considered the Volt because they were put off by the price of the new car, but the used Volts are really worth it.

If you’re a Prius driver get over yourself and go drive a Volt.  

You can find a low mileage Volt for around $15K, about the same price as a comparable used Prius, but you’re getting a faster and more efficient vehicle.

I tolerate my 2010 Prius, but I love my 2013 Volt.

Ben Alexander

February . 2017

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