2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test


2011 Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf: May Fuel Economy Update

June 06, 2011

2011_Volt_1600_chargepoint_oa_feupdate.jpg

It's time to add the May data into our 2011 Chevy Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf fuel consumption summary.

Yeah, I know. Some people don't like my persistent use of the word "fuel" with respect to electricity. Sorry, but it's still the best shorthand there is for stuff you put into a car to make it go -- especially in the case of the Volt, which can be filled up with two kinds.

Above you may also notice that the Volt is plugged in via its 120V home charge cord. That's because the Leaf gets dibs on the 240V charger owing to its utter lack of a range extender, otherwise known as a gasoline back-up engine. If the Volt's battery isn't full, it's no big deal. The same cannot be said of the Leaf.

Once the Leaf is full we swap the Volt onto the 240V charger to make sure it gets topped up, too.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Best

Worst

Average

Electricity (kwh/100 mi)

20.6

52.0

33.6

Electric Range (miles)

54.6

25.8

38.8

Gasoline (mpg)

39.0

27.9

33.3

2011 Nissan Leaf

Best

Worst

Average

Electricity (kwh/100 mi)

24.2

53.8

32.0

Projected Range (miles)

104.0

65.8

85.5

Observed Range (miles)

76.7

As always, lower is better for electricity consumption in kWh per 100 miles.

Big changes this month include a new best range for the Volt of 54.6 miles. That's me, and I was able to back it up with 54.3 miles so it's a real thing. The Volt's average electric range therefore rose from 37.5 to 38.8 miles.

The Volt's lifetime electricity consumption improved along with this, falling from 34.8 kWh/100 to 33.6 kWh/100. Gasoline mpg improved from 32.7 mpg to 33.3 mpg.

Yeah, we had more lightfoots in the car this month.

As for the Leaf, nothing much changed. Electricity consumption did rise slightly, from 31.5 kWh/100 to 32.0. There was a recording error for the last charge of the month that should correct itself when June is added in, but there's something else at work, too. We came close to breaking our 76.7 mile single charge observed range, but close doesn't change the chart.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

Electricity (kWh/100 mi)

20.6

52.0

33.6

36

Electric Range (miles)

54.6

25.8

38.8

35

Gasoline (mpg)

39.0

27.9

33.3

37

2011 Nissan Leaf

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

Electricity (kWh/100 mi)

24.2

53.8

32.0

34

Projected Range (miles)

104.0

65.8

85.5

73

Observed Range (miles)

76.7

The lifetime averages of our Leaf and Volt are still beating EPA estimates for electricity consumption and range. The Volt still lags behind the EPA's estimate for gasoline consumption, which is odd because it's the same drivers driving the same car on the same trip.

Maybe not, though. We have heard Jekyll and Hyde stories of folks driving sedately to get a good electric range number to appear on the Volt's screen, after which they try to make up for lost time once the gas engine comes on.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Mar

Apr

May

Overall

Utility Factor (% EV miles)

58%

20%

52%

42%

Apparent MPG (ignore electricity)

80.2

39.1

76.2

57.3

Cost per mile (US avg prices)

7.0¢

11.7¢

7.0¢

8.3¢

(Cal. avg prices)

8.0¢

12.6¢

7.8¢

9.3¢

(at my house)

11.0¢

13.7¢

10.2¢

11.5¢

May saw the Volt rebound from its trip to San Francisco as its Utility Factor rose from 20% to 52% as it spent more time on electricity this month. This nudged its lifetime UF from 40% up to 42%, but as every baseball hitter knows it takes awhile to raise your average after a slump.

Apparent MPG was 39.1 mpg in April and 76.2 mpg in May, a turn of events that bumped the lifetime average up from 54.5 to 57.3 mpg.

Take the Volt on very many long trips and the average gasoline cost-per-mile and apparent mpg will reflect it for a long time thereafter. With only one out of town trip under its belt, our overall cost-per-mile dropped from 8.6 to just 8.3 cents even though this month's cost was 7.0 cents on its own.

2011 Nissan Leaf

Mar

Apr

May

Overall

Utility Factor (% EV miles)

100%

Apparent MPG (ignore electricity)

Infinity (zero gas used)

Cost per mile (US avg prices)

3.5¢

3.2¢

3.8¢

3.5¢

(Cal. avg prices)

4.5¢

4.6¢

5.0 ¢

4.7¢

(at my house)

9.8¢

9.0¢

10.5¢

9.8¢

Average electricity prices stayed about the same this month, but the Leaf did use a bit more juice per mile. We're starting to suspect that plugging in every day isn't desirable if the last person drove it a very short distance, say 4 or 5 miles. It seems that recharging in these circumstances is rather inefficient for reasons we can't yet explain. Of course anyone who ventures less than a few miles from the office is doomed to heavy west-side traffic, so it may also be the driving pattern. We're going to try and disentangle these factors.

Even so, the Leaf equaled the EPA consumption rating of 34 kWh/100 miles for the month.

Popular hybrids, for reference

Mar

Apr

May

Overall

2011 Toyota Prius (US avg prices)

7.4¢

8.0¢

7.5¢

7.1¢

(Cal. avg prices)

8.2¢

8.5¢

8.0¢

7.7¢

2011 Fusion Hybrid (US avg prices)

9.5¢

10.2¢

9.7¢

9.1¢

(Cal. avg prices)

10.5¢

11.0¢

10.2¢

9.9¢

National average gas prices fell slightly at the end of the month, improving the cost-per-mile projections of the traditional hybrids we're following for comparison.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt in VA is:

$121 per month*
* Explanation
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