Chevy Volt

Category: Auto

I like the idea of electric cars, but the new Chevrolet Volt is so expensive. What's your opinion -- are electric cars ready for prime time, and are they really cost efficient when compared to gas-powered alternatives?

Chevy Volt electric car

Is The Chevy Volt Really a Green Machine?

General Motors, struggling back from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has announced plans to launch an electro-hybrid car in 2011. Dubbed the Chevrolet Volt, this car will feature lithium-ion batteries – the same kind found in laptops, cell phones, and other portable devices. The 16kWh batteries can be recharged from standard 120/240v household current, or from the internal combustion engine that does not power the car but only recharges the batteries of the electric motor. GM makes several claims for the Volt.

With fully charged batteries, the Volt will go up to 40 miles on battery power alone, which could satisfy the commuting needs of 75% of Americans. When the batteries run down, the gas engine kicks in to drive an electrical generator and extend the Volt’s range up to 640 miles on a tank of gasoline.

The Volt will cost about $40,000 when it debuts, a great deal more than the average American car. And according to what I've read, the features and amenties are comparable to cars that cost about half as much. Even so, GM does not expect the Volt to be profitable, even unto its second generation. (Ouch... isn't that the kind of thinking that got the car companies into the mess we have now?)

GM estimates that the Volt will save about 4.4 metric tons in CO2 emissions annually compared to a typical American car. If you are really into saving CO2 emissions, the Volt’s price and cost of ownership may not be an insurmountable obstacle. You may be the type of person who shops at Whole Foods and pays more for distilled water than for gasoline. It all depends on which you value more.


One cost analysis suggests that one would have to drive a Volt over 200,000 miles to break even on its price tag versus a typical gasoline-powered car. Furthermore, that analysis did not count the cost of electricity to recharge the Volt!

However, a government rebate of $7,500 is expected to shorten the Volt’s payback mileage to about 158,000 miles. Whew! But you know where that money comes from, right? So whether you want a Volt, or buy a Volt, you are going to help pay for Volts. Might as well get one.

Generating electricity at power plants creates pollution too, of course. But power plants are much less polluting per unit of work their power output does than are automobile engines. Even "dirty coal" burning plants emit a fraction of the air pollution per unit of power generated that a car does, and more modern power plants do even better.

The Volt seems to be a great concept for people who insist on eco-friendly products, and have the cash to back it up. Perhaps in a few years, the technology and manufacturing costs will come down. But for most of us now, the Chevy Volt is not even going to be in the running.

I'm sure you have your own opinions about the Chevy Volt, green cars, and related issues. Post your comments and questions below...

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This article was posted by on 20 Aug 2009

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Most recent comments on "Chevy Volt"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

20 Aug 2009

No one seems to care that Tesla Motor company has had a working electric car available for more than a year now. It costs a lot but they didn't get my or your money handed to them for free.
Tesla will be producing a commuter car, for about the same price as the Volt without any subsidies, next year. No Lithium batteries either.
When Obama was throwing our money away on the "Big Three" because they were "too big to fail" he gave GM billions of dollars so they could continue to make overpriced, poorly built, cars.
A couple hundred thousand dollars were tossed to Tesla even though they actually have an all electric car that doesn't explode and that people do want. Seems Obama is more interested in paying off UAG than putting people to work building for the future. I don't have $100,000 (the cost of Tesla's sportster model), I don't have $40,000 (the price of the Volt and Tesla's commuter car), but if I was in the market for a new car I wouldn't even drive by a GM dealership. The fact that some of my money was already stolen from me and wasted on GM confirms my resolve to have nothing to do with them, ever.

Posted by:

20 Aug 2009

For a serious view of the future of the automobile and worldwide sustainable energy, check out this Charlie Rose interview with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors.

Also, Musk is a founder and Chairman of a company, SolarCity that produces and provides homes and businesses with complete solar energy systems.

Posted by:

Doral Hemm
21 Aug 2009

You'd have to be out of your mind to buy an electric car unless you only drive 10 or 15 miles per day. Even then the batteries will deteriorate and the cost per mile will skyrocket.

Man made global warming is a fairy tale that cannot have a happy ending. Take the CO2 out of the air and smother plants, thereby creating food shortages, higher cost of living windfall profits for fraudsters like al gore and their stupid CO2 Cap and trade schemes. Wake up people. Follow the money trail.

Posted by:

21 Aug 2009

Wow, I'm honestly surprised... I really expected the responses of the sensible would be squashed by the treehuggers (please don't take that as meaning to be offensive, I grew up camping, spending summers canoeing in northern Canada... I really respect and appreciate nature, that doesn't mean I at all agree with the "green" movement, there doesn't appear to be much correlation there). It makes me wonder if it's your audience or if people are starting to look at these things critically.

Now we need the politicians to start listening

For the "global warming is just around the corner" crowd... Yes, it could be, and if it happens it will no matter what _we_ do. On the scale of things the earth is nowhere near the warmest it's been well before humans existed. Global temperatures tend to follow solar activity, which is somewhat cyclical, but also unpredictable, and then can be strongly affected by a number of other natural events.

Related to that, CO2 levels are nowhere near the highest that they've ever been, and average global temperature doesn't follow CO2 levels anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

Posted by:

Helen Isensee
21 Aug 2009

I own a hybrid car, made by Toyota. So far it drives like any other car and gets 49.2 mpg. I don't know if the battery will have to be replaced soon, as the car is 2 years and 5 months old, but my friend recently replaced her Toyota hybrid (Prius) with another just like the first car (which she had 5 years with no problems.) BTW, I received $5000 trade in on my 7 year old PT cruiser and ended up paying only $17,000 for my hybrid.

Posted by:

21 Aug 2009

I will not buy any more American made junk. It is too soon to tell what problems/issues this rig will have-and they are inevitable.

Japanese quality rocks the house. For green economy the Prius is second to none in availability, price and value. It is roomy and state of the art in every way. There simply is no vehicle I can see which touches it. I prefer the Insight but numbers don't lie. It uses electric as well.

My husband gets 50-55 mpg. The 280 mpg figure is a crock and if you read the blogs the savvy have debunked GM's bs. So nothing has changed, still trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.

Buying American amounts to a subsidy to the automakers as they are designed to self destruct. Sorry! Not on my nickel. If they want us to be patriotic they can start the patriotism by building a quality rig which surpasses the rest for their fellow Americans.

Way overpriced, not practical for the way most ppl drive. If it sticks around there will likely be improvements. I would not trust the beta version. This is uncharted water for GM.

Posted by:

22 Aug 2009

Helen Isensee: I drive a 2001 Prius-original battery btw I have heard they are thousands but unsure.

There are 2 batteries. The one in the front that is the main source-engine and one in the back which is for the electric motor. That is rechargeable w/2 posts like a regular battery too. They are expensive to replace-$170. is the price I was quoted.

Posted by:

bill wald
23 Aug 2009

We are not told the KW draw per charging time. At 15 amps, 220 volts, 8 hours and 10 cents per KWH it would be cheaper to drive my '88 Chev Sprint.

Posted by:

27 Aug 2009

Japanese quality rocks ... that's why Toyota is the leader in recalls and problems three years running. Even their magazine division, Consumer Reports, has trouble with them.

With the subsidy, the Volt will only be a few thousand more than the Prius, which is so totally outdated it isn't funny. Worth it? Debatable. But it will kill the Prius, other than for the people who refuse to notice what crap Toyota has been building the last few years.

With my driving, I would never need to buy gas for the Volt except perhaps twice a year.

Posted by:

27 Aug 2009

Being an Electrical Engineer, and a bit of a pedant, the statement "120/240v household current" is incorrect.

The numbers quote are the voltage, not the current. The current is what flows (measured in Amperes, or shortened to Amps) when you connect a load to the electrical system, the voltage is the potential difference across the load.

Posted by:

27 Aug 2009

So so much misinformation/misapprehension. Where to begin? I only have 4 paragraphs, so:

The Volt was actually announced in June 2007. GM has been unusually transparent and forthcoming in the project's developments for those of us willing to follow it.

The large format Lithium Ion cells chosen for the Volt's battery pack are not subject to thermal runaway and explosions. The pack itself is carefully monitored and balanced, and there is an active cooling system.

The battery actually uses only half of it's 16kwh capacity; it is never fully charged or discharged. As the car ages, more of the battery's capacity is made available so that you continue to get the 40 mile range for 10 years or 150,000 miles. The engine does not recharge the battery, it turns a generator to prevent the battery from discharging any further. The idea is to displace gasoline, using fuel to recharge the battery is the last thing you would want to do.

Posted by:

Kelly J
28 Aug 2009

Wait wait wait, hold on! Didn't they already do this? Does EV1 ring a bell to anybody???

Watch the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car for the real truth. Car companies DO NOT CARE what we want!

$40K, I dont think so!!! But hey, we are 60% owners in this failure!

Posted by:

31 Aug 2009

I suspect the strategy is"Buy a Volt and get a night in the White House".

This seems to be a race to see if GM can make a Volt before the end of the world from Climate Change, which begins on 31 December 2009., according to certain "experts".

But if the world doesn't end as planned by Al Gore, James Hansen and cronies, at least we have a good idea of when GM will need its next taxpayer bailout.

Posted by:

02 Sep 2009

I suspect the strategy is"Buy a Volt and get a night in the White House".

This seems to be a race to see if GM can make a Volt before the end of the world from Climate Change, which begins on 31 December 2009., according to certain "experts".

But if the world doesn't end as planned by Al Gore, James Hansen and cronies, at least we have a good idea of when GM will need its next taxpayer bailout.

Posted by:

02 Sep 2009

I am very concerned by this car. Nuclear power plants are only 34% efficient, if you want to put this in practical terms, for every Volt that is charging from a household outlet, there is energy in the form of heat being dumped into a heat sink somewhere equivalent to two other Volt's (making up the other 66%)

Also, comming from a canadian climate which is very cold, how will the winter months affect this vehicle. Cold kills batteries. Also, the heat in a standard car comes from the coolant in the engine that runs through a heater core. When there is no coolant, and no heater core, how is the cabin heated? If it is heated by an electic coil, you are effectively killing your mileage.

Another concern is the battery bank. What are the emmissions from mass producing these batteries? batteries also have a lifespan, how much will it cost to replace them? essentially I would like to see a life cycle analysis on all aspects of the Volt.

Posted by:

Frank Starr
06 Sep 2009

Having seen "Who Killed The Electric Car", I'll never buy another GM, or American, car. When I think of all the taxpayer money used to erase that car from the market, including the Bush administration suing California over their air quality standards, I wish there was a RICO investigation to imprison everyone guilty in this travesty.

Posted by:

Richard Martin
08 Feb 2010

After reading all these comments I am saddened by all the lack of American pride GM gave us what we wanted big cars and suv's and most of them served us well. Not till the big gas crunch did we all of a sudden want small boring economy boxes. And to anyone that wouldn't buy or even drive by a GM dealership,I guess you don't care about the thousands of fellow Americans out of work and would rather support foreign economy's For me I am a Proud American and will support American company's that are trying to make a difference GO GM!

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are LOTS of people who won't buy GM, but it has nothing to do with a preference for foreign-made cars. They just don't want to support a policy of government owning private businesses. Ford, for example, did not take bailout money, because they made tough decisions in the years prior to the meltdown. As a result, they are not under the thumb of the government.

Posted by:

Richard Martin
08 Feb 2010

Ok say you have a volt..You are on a trip and have no place to charge your car,so now you are running on gas only.. My question is what will the gas mileage be while running long distance with a depleted battery.....

Posted by:

10 Apr 2011

I've owned the GM Chevrolet Volt for over a month and have 2500 miles on it. I bought it in NY and drove it back to IL since they are not sold yet in IL. My local dealer is servicing it without any problems. Last week I went over 260 miles and used 0.5 gallons of gas. I only used gas because I went to a sporting event after work one night. Did I care I used some gas? No, because that is exactly why I love this car and the technology behind it ... mainly uses electricity/battery and when needed uses small amounts of gas. This car is a lot of fun and has a SPORTs mode even. It handles great and is smooth. I give test drives multiple times a week and everyone is astonished at how well this car is put together and the features they put on it including how they thought it out so well with an engine running infrequently. BTW, this is the *first* GM/Chevrolet product I've ever bought and rarely buy a new car. This car is that unique and that good.

Posted by:

Froggy Out on Saltspring
16 Apr 2011

"One cost analysis suggests that one would have to drive a Volt over 200,000 miles to break even on its price tag versus a typical gasoline-powered car. Furthermore, that analysis did not count the cost of electricity to recharge the Volt!"
I don't think that the guy that wrote this was buying gas where I live. It hit $5.66 (US) per gal. yesterday and is going up not down.Currently my Pick up (3/4GMC) costs $204 to fill when empty and my Dodge Caravan is about $100. That Volt is starting to sound quite good!

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