Scientific American recently ran an interesting post on a Chevy Volt case study, examining whether or not the car was really cheaper and cleaner than others. Bottom line: yes and yes. But if you want more, here are the key excerpts”
As of Wednesday, when I looked up the information, my parents had traveled 10,102 total miles in their Volt, 9,186 (90.9 percent) by electricity and 916 (9.1 percent) by gas. They had used 2,437 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 24.4 gallons of gas. They can usually get about 43 miles on a full battery; my dad’s office was 19.5 miles away from home, so he could usually get to work and back on one charge.For individuals, the cost per mile is an important measurement. The car came with a full tank of gas, so my parents have only bought 18.9 gallons of gas for a total of $66.70 (my mom jots down the amount of gas and price whenever she refuels). For the other 5.5 gallons, we’ll use $3.50 per gallon as an estimate for the typical premium gas price for the area in October 2011, giving us another $19.25 of gas costs for a total of $85.95. They have a 12-month fixed rate energy plan. Their rate has changed a little bit in the time that they have had the Volt, but on the more expensive plan, they paid $0.0885 for each additional kWh. Using that price, we get $215.67 spent on electricity. That brings us to a grand total of $301.62 for the 10,102 miles they drove, or three cents per mile. For comparison, with an estimate of $3.50/gallon gas, a 2012 Prius that gets 50 miles per gallon costs seven cents per mile, and my 2004 Saturn station wagon costs 14 cents per mile on a good day
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy in Texas is 45.4 percent natural gas, 36.5 percent coal, 10 percent nuclear and 7 percent renewable, with small contributions from other sources. Using the EPA estimates on carbon emission, this energy mix means that every kilowatt-hour of electricity generates 1.336 pounds of carbon dioxide. For my parents’ electricity usage so far, that’s 3,256 pounds of CO2. The EPA estimates that each gallon of gas releases about 19.59 pounds of carbon dioxide, so the Volt has also emitted 478 pounds of carbon dioxide from gasoline for a total carbon footprint of 3,734 pounds of carbon dioxide. If they had driven the 10,102 miles using only the 37.5 mpg gas engine, the Volt would have released about 5277 pounds of carbon dioxide. A Prius would have generated 3,958 pounds of carbon dioxide over the same number of miles.
With their typical driving, my parents pay less per mile than they would in a traditional hybrid or gas-powered car. They also emit less carbon dioxide. Overall, they are happy with the car, and we had a lot of fun running the numbers together. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
This article was orignally published on cleantechnica. Re-published with permission.