This is my one year review of the Chevy Volt. It’s been an exciting year. From the battery fire hype of the Volt to the Right being against the car that is American made and uses very little oil, the Volt has even outsold more than half of all car models in 2012 in the states.

Hey, is that Got Solar Girl? Let’s review the numbers. Exactly a year ago I said, “The charger at work should put me over the 200 mile per gallon plus range, we’ll see how that plays out”. I exceeded 200 miles per gallon. Let’s see by verifying the gauges inside the car.

I drove 13,428 miles. I actually only purchased from a gas station 27 gallons because the dealer filled up the car a couple of times during some free check-up services. I got 327 mpg the first year.

During the year I had about 50 people test drive the car, actually get behind the wheel. All of them loved how refined, quiet and well built the vehicle was. Oddly, the two people who didn’t like the car refused the actual test drive. The solar surplus gave me 6,000 miles of EV driving or 1,500 KWH. Now I could have gotten credited by the power company, at a low wholesale electric rate or about $75, but instead I used that surplus to drive 6,000 electric miles.

Remember, you get about 4 miles of electric drive for each KWH. Probably the number one question of the year is, “What happens when the battery depletes?”

Of course the answer is, the generator comes on and you keep driving. As far as my fuel costs, I purchased 27 gallons or $123. I drove over 13,000 miles so I got more than 100 miles per dollar (MPD) or just under a penny per mile. Just for comparison, the average Prius driver gets about 13 MPD and that will drop as the price of gas goes up. One of the benefits of having a heavy battery is the car has a low center of gravity so it takes the turns very well. It really grips the road. Also, it accelerates off the line very fast.

One of the things I enjoyed during the year was the massive hard drive where you can store up to 10,000 songs. I got almost 1,500 stored.I found myself pausing and rewinding the live radio or XM. I liked how the Volt handled in the snow this past winter, probably because it has a 400 pound battery running through it.

A great surprise was the enjoyment of one pedal driving. I don’t use my brakes that much so I expect to change my brakes at around 175,000 miles. My best EV range was 51 miles, the record is over 70. I like that it takes 2 seconds to begin re-charging. The rare gas station visit is short since a fill-up is only 8 gallons. The only maintenance required were a couple of free tire rotations.

Since I drive over 90% of the time in electric mode, I only drove just over 1,200 miles using the engine. My first oil change isn’t until 24 months. I expect my first tune-up to come at 300,000 miles or when I’ve used the engine for 30,000 miles. The Chevy Volt fits nicely into my comprehensive preparing for peak oil plan. It’s a form of energy insurance. The average Volt driver gets over 100 mpg. I didn’t like the factory floor mats and recommend the Lloyd mats.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Volt’s battery. It’s liquid cooled, thermally manager and over engineered. You only use about 10 out of the 16KW in the battery. You can’t overcharge it above 80% and the charge won’t drop much below 30%. After 8 years or 100,000 miles, you should expect the battery will lose 10-30% of it’s capacity. If the average Volt driver gets 40 miles electric range now, in 8 years they should expect a 28 mile range if they lose 30%.

Why anyone would replace the battery after 5 or 10 years, makes no sense. If you get 28 mile range after 8 years, that is still double of what a plug-in Prius gets in electric only range. The Volt meets my goal of using the least amount of oil possible. Based on my driving habits, for a car up to $40,000, there is no other car that would use less oil and not have any range anxiety. That is why a Chevy Cruze or Toyota Prius isn’t the right car for me, that doesn’t help me reach my goal.

13 Comments

  1. ?BUY OR LEASE THE VOLT?

    Hey Mr. Energy Czar!

    Already a big fan as I have watched your videos, read your blogs and forum posts, etc. I am in LUST with the Volt, and may be picking one up in less than 24 hours.

    Maybe I missed where you said this, but my parents and in-laws think that I ought to buy the Volt instead of lease it. My wife and I believe that for our price point, we’re probably in more of a market to lease.

    If we buy, do we get a $7500 check in April (if we don’t owe extra taxes)? If we lease, we get the $1500 in 30 days or so.

    I’m looking at leasing the 2013 base model for $5000 down and 35 payments of $275/month (tax included). If I buy, numbers will be very different, obviously.

    Sorry so long to ask so little! APPRECIATE YOUR INPUT!

    Thanks,

    Zac

    • If you lease, the dealer keeps the tax credit no matter what they say. Several dealers have outright lied about this. That deal is reasonable, but I would always get a competing offer from another dealer. As you probably now, the promotions have gone down from a few months back, hence the Nov sales drop.

      MrEnergyCzar

  2. I am a Leaf owner and now have 20,000 miles on the clock in a year and a half. I fully charge and never fully discharge and still have pretty much my original range. Not as much in the winter but when it warms up I will be back to full range again. The scare for the Leaf is no different than the scare for the Volt. For me the Leaf is an investment and has bypassed the peak oil issue. I also have full solar on our home and have no electric bill. I pretty much only charge at home and use the car daily to commute to work and back and don’t have to charge at work. I do 95% of my driving in my Leaf. The rest is in our gasser that rarely ever gets used any more. Covered with dust and spider webs and I must remember to keep the battery charged. I almost go the Volt but decided to go fully electric. I do like the Volt and for many it will be the way to go. I’d buy or lease a Volt before getting a Prius. Your right. Those that don’t drive usually complain. You must have seat time to know the value and power of electric.

    Pete :)

    Thanks for the video. My first look or post on your site.

    • Well done Pete, you’re prepared for Peak Oil better than most. I’m glad they added the battery capacity warranty for the Leaf, one EV issue can cripple another i.e. the Volt battery fire hype probably hurt the Leaf last winter too…

      MrEnergyCzar

  3. I am averaging 94 mpg in my Volt. My RT commute is 52 miles, four days a week, with no charging station at work, though they said they would look into it. The EV Project is providing free Blink 240 volt charging stations in some states (look it up), with a credit of $400 toward installation for consumers and $1,000 for businesses. Still cost me $519 for installation (which was disappointing). Now it takes under 4 hours for a full charge as opposed to 14 hours on 120 volts. With the shorter charging time, I can do a commute to and from work, recharge, and then do all EV miles for another drive somewhere else at night.

    So I’m using at least 2 gallons of gas per week. Hate that, but that’s the best I can do. Am trying to maximize EV range for the 14 or so miles that are on gas. Sometimes I do the entire 26 miles to work on EV, then use Hold mode during the highway drive portion on the way home and go back to EV for the remaining 9 miles of city traffic. That way, I heat up the gas engine only once, perhaps saving some gas that way. The Volt loves city traffic miles and gives better mileage in the city. At highway speeds, there’s probably only a 34 mile range, I guess (and I am not a fast driver).

    Question: In Hold mode, while using gas, what do those different colors mean on the battery visual? Say I have 9 miles EV left, the top portion of the visual will be gray, the EV portion will be green, then there will be a red line, and sometimes a green line, and sometimes it changes color as I go along.

    I’m generating most of my own electricity with solar panels and will likely add more panels soon. Also did major air sealing and insulation projects, bringing my yearly energy cost down from $6,000 per year in 2009 (not counting gas for cars) to $2,600 in 2012. My goal is for my home to produce more clean energy than I consume, including transportation. Not there yet. Next project: ground source a.k.a geothermal.

    • You’re living my dream with geothermal or getting it. I don’t know what those colors mean because I have a 2012 Volt without the hold button…. Remember, in the 2013, you can switch the charge amps on the 120v cordset from 12 to 8 to decrease the charge time to 10 hours. Unfortunately, you have to program it in the center stack each time before you charge. moot point now since you have the 240v…

      MrEnergyCzar

  4. Great site! Information videos! Finally pulled the trigger and bought a Volt. Have had it 5 days and love it so far. Its heavier than I expected, but acceleration is not compromised. Wondering about your opinions about the need for an extended warranty up to 100,000 bumper to bumper. Thx.

    • I probably won’t get one but people that do get the GM Guard later on before they reach 36K miles. It’s a big mark-up item. the range people pay is $900 to $1400.
      MrEnergyCzar

      • Czar,
        I seem to have problems charging for extended periods of time, but only when using an extension cord. Plugging my 110 charger directly into the wall charges fine. Any thoughts?

        Paul

        • It may not be a dedicated outlet and shuts off for safety when something else comes on connected to that outlet or the extension cord isn’t oversized, like a 10 gauge. I think extension cords are only supposed to be used sparingly…. be careful.

          MrEnergyCzar

  5. 2 Questions. Do you think that we will run out of raw materials for EVs, as more and more get produced in the next 10 years?

    I just got solar panels… Yay… I can’t wait for my lease to end up next year. Do I have to charge my car during the day in order to take advantage of the surpluses of the free electrisety?

    • No, we’ll never run out of the raw materials, society will just recycle or salvage more and they’ll get more expensive to extract. If you are net metering your solar panels it shouldn’t matter when you charge the car. During the day you build up the surplus to be used during the lean months or at night when you charge the car. If you are truly off grid, rare, then you’d only be able to charge during the day because you’d kill your battery bank quickly otherwise…

      MrEnergyCzar

      • Thanks. I lease my panels for a fixed price. So, I’m trying to get the most out of them. What about battary storage? What do you reccomand? It’s my next thing on my list to get off the grid.

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