2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test


2011 Chevrolet Volt: October and November Fuel Economy Update

December 07, 2011

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This month is two months worth of 2011 Chevrolet Volt summary because, well, I had a logbook problem to sort out and I simply couldn't disentangle October from November.

No matter.

During this period we made an effort to hand the Volt over to folks who live closer to work in order to increase the percentage of electrically-driven miles (aka the Utility Factor) up closer to where it should be. A plug-in hybrid with 35 miles of electric range should theoretically spend 58% of the time running on battery power in the hands of a typical buyer.

Many of our editors live too far away to make best use of the Volt in terms of its UF, so we've been struggling to keep the electricity/gasoline ratio real.

That said, we have a very solid grasp of the Volt's consumption of each fuel on its own. Here then is the summary of the Volt's performance so far over 11,989 miles of data with October and November included.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

Electricity (kWh/100 mi)

20.6

58.4

34.1

36

Electric Range (miles)

54.6

23.5

37.6

35

Gasoline (mpg)

42.6

21.8

34.2

37

As usual we're doing better than the EPA's estimates in terms of electricity consumption and range. And on gasoline our Volt is doing about 10% worse than its EPA rating.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Aug

Sept

Oct/Nov

Overall

Utility Factor (% EV miles)

35%

49%

53%

42%

Apparent MPG (ignore electricity)

56.3

71.9

70.8

63.8

Cost per mile (US average prices)

8.1¢

7.1¢

5.8¢

8.0¢

(Cal. average prices)

8.6¢

8.1¢

6.4¢

8.8¢

As you can see we brought our Utility Factor up to 53% this time, and lead directly to lower operating costs. Increased use of electricity = less money per mile.

This is true despite slighty a higher electricity consumption rate this time. Last month we used 34.1 kWh for every hundred miles of electric operation. This time we used 35.8 kWh per hundred miles. Our average mpg on gasoline dropped from 36.9 to 33.0 mpg, too, which is why Apparent MPG went down a tick despite an increase in the percentage of electric miles.

Why? Our effort to increase the electric miles put the cars into the hands of editors that live close to work. Anyone who knows West LA knows that means more off-freeway traffic of the impacted nature. This city is not the city of city mpg fame. It's far worse. The freeways are a picnic in comparison.

Still, on an overall cost basis, the increased Utility Factor more than made up for the increase in per-mile electricity consumption because electricity is that much cheaper than gasoline.

Popular hybrids, for reference

Aug

Sept

Oct/Nov

Overall

2011 Toyota Prius (US average prices)

7.2¢

6.8¢

6.6¢

7.2¢

(Cal. avg prices)

7.5¢

7.6¢

7.3¢

7.7¢

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid (US avg prices)

9.2¢

8.7¢

8.4¢

9.2¢

(Cal. avg prices)

9.6¢

9.8¢

9.3¢

9.9¢

Note also that the Volt's per-mile cost dipped below that of the all-gasoline Prius (a theoretical Prius, it must be said, that is nailing its EPA prediction) for what may be the first time during this long-term test. It seems it takes a Utility Factor of 50% or higher to get to the crossover point, something that's a piece of cake for a real-world buyer who drives the predicted 58% of his or her total miles on electricity.

To the surprise of no one, the cost-based case for the Chevrolet Volt hinges absolutely on a prospective buyer's ability to drive within the car's electric range as much as possible and at least 50-something percent of the time.

UF is easily the biggest knob in the equations. Here, in a month where gasoline mpg, range and raw electricity consumption all got worse, a higher Utility Factor was able to offset it all and bring our ultimate per-mile costs down anyway.

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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