I recently had the opportunity to test drive the Chevy Volt as part of Drive for Innovation, a partnership between UBM Electronics, the parent company of Design News, and Avnet Express. During the test drive, EE Times' editorial director, Brian Fuller, asked what it would take for me personally to buy a Volt. I talk about that in the video below.
Source: General Motors.
It's a good question. The short answer, though, is pretty simple: money. The Volt's MSRP is $40,280, which is high, at least for my pocketbook. If you subtract the $7,500 tax credit, it comes to $32,780, which is still about $7,000 more than the base price of a Nissan Leaf.
For me, though, the money issue is also inextricably tied to another matter: all-electric range. At first glance, that might seem like an odd statement, since the Volt has a gasoline backup and an overall range (electric and gasoline) of more than 340 miles. But, right now, I own two cars with more than 150,000 miles on them.
My annual mileage clocks in at well over 30,000 per year, with a high percentage of my trips exceeding the Volt's 40-mile all-electric range. For me, the $12,000 penalty imposed by the Volt's 16kWh battery doesn't make sense, since so much of my time is spent well beyond the all-electric range. In much of my driving, I'd be lugging around a depleted, 400-pound battery that would actually cut my fuel efficiency.
That driving profile is unusual, of course. But Fuller's question raises some valid issues: If you buy an electric, does it become your first car or your second? If it's a second car, is the price within your means? Finally, what driver profiles are well-suited to the Volt's capabilities?
If you want to learn more about the Volt, we recommend you go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow Fuller's cross-country Volt journey. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire engine red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
In the meantime, let us know what you think: What would it take to make you buy a Volt?
Well done. I have neglected to do the calculations, but this shows pretty clearly that if we continue using fossil fuels for electrical energy production, which we will, then electric cars at this point in time are not a good idea.
I am content to let the "early adapters' find the reliability and serviceability issues with the Volt. As a retired engineer with experience in reliability and design of electronics, including the initial launch of vehicle electronic engine control systems, I am impressed with the complexity of the battery management system, the batteries themselves [especially the high voltages involved], and the radically new drivetrains on this vehicle. How many of you have had a "Service Engine Soon" light come on in your existing car?? Ask me again in 5+ years!
Okay you guys win. Disregard my initial post (GMStoffa 8/10/11 11:21pm). I bought a Volt because: 1.) It is damn quiet and has a great Bose sound system. 2.) It looks sharp. 3.) It is extremely comfortable 4.) It has FANTASTIC acceleration. (It also gets great mileage, supports hybrid technology to move away from dependency on total combustion engines cars, and has a greater range than any pure electric car on the market.... but I don't want to go through those arguments all over again). You are all right - the Volt is expensive. But hey, there is a wide variety of cars on the market: you can spend a little, like with a Kia, or go high end with a Lexus, Hummer, or Vette. Buy whatever floats your boat. For me it suits my taste and needs: It is a quiet, comfortable, good looking car that is fun to drive (with minimal trips to the gas station).
I don't really have to do much math here to say that I would never buy a Volt.
My 8 year old Pontiac Vibe has 208,000 miles on it, averages 30-32 MPG and cost a little under $16000. If gas is $4 a gallon and we use 30 MPG for a Vibe/Matrix or something similar, then assuming the electricity is free, it would still be almost five years before the Volt started to pay itself back. The cost to borrow an additional $16,000 to buy the Volt is just a slap in the face on top of that.
Driving a larger, more comfortable car with a 400 mile range and $16000 in the bank sounds like a better idea to me.
By the way, my tax dollars subsidizing (through Federal Tax Credit) someone else's bad math is a slap in my face even though I made the right choice.
I had the Chevy Volt for a week and drove it long distance from Boston into the Catskill Mountains. You can read my Driving Impressions report (and find out if I would buy one) on Automotive Designline, the UBM site for automotive electronics design engineers.
All this high mileage sounds really great, but I haven't heard anyone say how much their electricity bill has gone up from the charging. Any Total Cost of ownership analysis would have to include that. Curious to know what it is.
The Volt has exceeded my expectations of a hybrid automobile. It is a comfortable, solid automibile that puts out. My family has a 2004 Prius, a 2010 Honda Insight, 2009 Pruius and now a 2011 Volt. Getting in and closing the door, the car sounds and feels solid. The car is roomy (I am 6'3") and I fit comfortably. There is room to manuver in the seat, and the seats are supportive and comfortable. It is quiet, and rides and manuvers well. The aaccelleration is incredible - unlike the sluggish, noisy performance of the Insight or Prius. I have driven over 300 miles, and have used only 1 gallon of gas (averaging +250mpg) . I am averaging 44 miles on a 10 hour charge with the 110 volt charger every other night. IF I want to go beyond 40, 80 or 150 miles - I can- and have (unlike the less expensive LEAF). I have zeroed out the trip odometer and watched my highway driving when running on the gas engine generating the electricy for the battery. I averaged 39 miles per gallon on gas. I agree the price is excessive - a ploy by Chevy to get as much from the consumer as possible (justifying the cost by saying you are only paying $33,500 becuase of the $7,500 federal tax credit). But I plan to drive this at least 120,000 miles like I have with my past vehicles. I figure if I compare the 120,00 miles to the Prius or Insight getting 45mpg, the gas requirment would be over 2500 gallons. Assume over the coming years an average cost of $4.00/gallon, the cost for gas for 2500 gallons to provide the 120,000miles would be $10,000. I am sure I will be purchasing some gas, so I will assume a savings of $7,000. Applying this "cost avoidance" with the current $7,500 tax credit, the cost of the car at 120,000 miles works out to a "purchase price" of $26,000 - more than the Insight, but in line with the Prius. The trade off of having accelartion (to quote my wife "I feel G forces - not like the Prius or Insight!"), pure quietness, comfort, and the ability to go beyond an 80 mile range is worth the investment compared to the other choices currently available in the hybrid/ electric market.
Volkswagen AG is developing a lithium-air battery that could triple the range of its electric cars, but industry experts believe it could be a long time before that chemistry is ready for production vehicles.
Californiaís plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isnít the first such undertaking and certainly wonít be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
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