Is the 2011 Chevy Volt worth it?

The 2011 Chevy Volt has a release date of November 2010, and has a battery capable of powering the car for 40 miles before a gasoline engine is used as a generator for an additional 260 miles. The battery itself is made up of many lithium ion cells stacked together, and is rated at 16 kWh [1] Since 75% of people drive less than 40 miles per day, the battery alone should be enough for most people, with no gasoline necessary. Here the price of mile is calculated for electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt, and compared to the price per mile of both gasoline engine cars as well as hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius assuming that the daily driving is less than 40 miles.

In this cost analysis, the price of electricity and gasoline must be known. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the following prices for both Los Angeles and the United States in May, 2010[2].

Los Angeles United States
Cost of Electricity (per kWh) $0.203 $0.10
Cost of Gasoline (per gallon) $3.116 $2.915

Using the data in the table, fully charging the Chevy Volt would cost $1.60 average for the US, or $3.248. Consequently, the cost per mile would be $0.08 / mile in Los Angeles, or an average of $0.04 / mile in the United States. Some of the best car repair prices are also in LA.

Lets do the same now for the price per mile of hybrids and gasoline only cars. Lets assume the car is the Toyota Prius 2010, with a mpg of about 50. At the LA price of gasoline, the price per mile is ($3.116/gal)(1 gal/50 miles)$0.062, or at the average US price of gasoline, the price per mile is $0.058. It is interesting to see how small the price per mile difference is in Los Angeles vs America in general. This can be accounted for the price of gasoline being relatively constant in America, while the price of electricity in Los Angeles is nearly twice that of the average in the US. Of course, these prices per mile assume the best fuel efficiency available today in the Toyota Prius or 50 mpg. Lets see how well pure gasoline cars fare at 20, 30 and 40 mpg. The same calculations were performed, and are summarized in the following table.

Price per mile in LA Price per mile in the US (average)
Electric car (Chevy Volt) $0.08 $0.04
Hybrid Car (Toyota Prius 2010) $0.062 $0.058
Gasoline Car (40 mpg) $0.078 $0.073
Gasoline Car (30 mpg) $0.10 $0.097
Gasoline Car (20 mpg) $0.16 $0.15

From the table, it is clear that in electric cars make little sense in Los Angeles, while they make a whole lot of sense on average in the United States. The Volt may end up giving Toyota a run for its money.

If the Prius is excluded simply on aesthetic grounds, electric cars like the Chevy Volt make economic sense in LA when compared to 20 and 30 mpg cars.

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2 Responses to Is the 2011 Chevy Volt worth it?

  1. “From the table, it is clear that in electric cars make little sense in Los Angeles,”
    That makes absolutely no sense. Your data even shows that electric cars are better than gasoline cars.

    “electric cars like the Chevy Volt make economic sense in LA when compared to 20 and 30 mpg cars.”
    and then you go ahead to contradict yourself in the next sentence…

    very confusing…

  2. philosophyparadise says:

    The units are different in that table. What really matters is the cost per mile. “Consequently, the cost per mile would be $0.08 / mile in Los Angeles, or an average of $0.04 / mile in the United States.”

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