Thursday, 24 February 2011

How well does the Volt really work for saving gasoline?

Those of you who read this blog know I'm a big fan of electric cars to displace oil usage from the soon to be declining oil production.

Those who buy an electric car will be laughing all the way to the bank as the nay-saying F150 (and similar) will be whining about gas prices north of $5 a gallon.

So let's look at a real-world example of this:

Lyle Dennis, who lives in New York state and owns was given one of the first pre-production volts back in November last year. I'm going to report on how it went.

Lyle had the vehicle for 90 days and drove it 5100 miles. It has to be noted that this period was during the frigid weather we've been having so it was a fairly good winter test. (Though I'd like to see an equivalent test in the summer time in Arizona but let's not quibble).

Anyways, the results were he drove 5,100 miles and used 46 gallons of gasoline. It should be noted that his commute was greater than the all electric range of the volt so someone whose commute is less will be mostly all electric.

Now if we assume 36KW/h per 100 miles driven that gives us 36x51 = 1836 KW/h. The average price for electricity in the US varies between 10c/KW/h up to 20c/KW/h. Let's take the high end.
20 cents times 1836 gives us $367 plus $3 per gallon @ ($3x46=$138) gives us a total fuel cost of $505. Now it's somewhat less than that because I don't know how much extra he drove outside the electric range, but let's assume it was 10%. So that means the total cost was in the region of $470 for 5,100 miles at today's price of $3 per gallon.

If, instead, he had driven a diesel sub-compact such as a VW jetta, whose fuel efficiency is about 45 miles per gallon we would have 5,100 / 45 x $3 = $340.

So at $3 per gallon, it's still about 20% cheaper to drive a high efficiency diesel (assuming we can get fuel) using the HIGHEST prices in the country for electricity. (Note, however, that most of the country will be around 15c per KW/h meaning we have breakeven but let's continue to be unfair to the volt by using the highest possible cost for electricity).

If we drive a more regular small car at 30 miles per gallon, then at today's prices the cost is $510. So we're ahead of the average small vehicle with "good" gas mileage in the USA today at current prices, just not a high efficiency diesel like a VW Jetta.

Let's fast forward into a future of higher gas prices and instability of supply such as we are temporarily experiencing with libya et cetera.

At $4 a gallon 46 gallons cost 4x46 = $184 and we still pay $337 for electricity (since electricity prices are not affected by oil supplies or unrest in the mideast). That gives us a fuel cost for the volt of $521 for the 5,100 miles.

For the high efficiency vehicle we get 5,100/45 x $4 = $453. It's now 10% cheaper to drive a high efficiency diesel than it would cost for the most expensive electricity in the country, but all the rest would now be cheaper.

For the average small vehicle at only 30 mpg it's starting to mount up. It's now $680.

So let's look further ahead, at $5 a gallon. (Note that $5 a gallon is a sure thing by 2015 even without supply disruptions based on current trends).

The volt will cost 46x$5 = $230 plus $330 is $560. As you can see, even at $5 per gallon the cost has only gone up slightly for the volt because part of the fuel usage is shielded from price rises.

Now let's look at the Jetta again: $566. Now even the Jetta costs more (one of the most fuel efficient production vehicles of it's size in the world).

For the average small car it's a whopping $850 a month.

The F-150 driver at this point will be screaming, because he'll be paying nearly $1700 a month in gas for the same commute. Ouch!

In any event, the doomers will say "well I'm better off with a jetta (until gas prices hit $5 a gallon)".

My response is, that's 2-3 years away at best. Unless you plan to lease a new Jetta NOW and then get another one at the end of the lease AND you pay top dollar for electricity, you're better off getting a volt.

Not just that: the moral smugness of driving a vehicle powered by electricity produced by Americans instead of paying for a war to maintain oil supplies in foreign lands.


Anonymous said...

Not just that: the moral smugness of driving a vehicle powered by electricity produced by Americans instead of paying for a war to maintain oil supplies in foreign lands."

This is the first time I've seen that admission from the corproconians. But its too late for smugness, the war is on and it's perpetual. We haven't begun to pay for the wars.

Better still, who needs an electric car? Why not get really smug and walk, bicycle or take public transit?

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Anonymous said...

Hey again mate

as always your article is a great and interesting one (though a bit heavy on the calculation part, never was a big fan of numbers ;))

I’d like to once more express my gratitude for the time and effort you put into your anti-die off work, such dedication deserves respect and a salute!

There are a number of things I’ve been wondering about though, it seems like we (humanity) has what it takes to march into a new none-fossil fuels future as soon as the oil age enters its decline stage.

But there is one area which remains, to my knowledge, which remains misty, and that’s the question of house/apartment heating.

How would this work in a post oil/gas age (if we ignore the fact that gas will live on for a considerably longer period due to large reserves and ever improving tech.

One thing that crossed my mind is, that solar power would be able to handle this as well, I don’t know or how effective it would be though, might be something to look into :)

Another, and far more personal thing on my part, is that one of my old friends (the oldest I have in fact), a nice and normally very rational guy, has fallen head long into the doomer camp.

He is however, a very interesting case, since he believes in our ability to adept when it comes to oil and other things, but maintain that over population, peaking resources (none oil) and running out of drinking water.

I took the liberty of directing him to your peak-minerals and excellent anti limits to growth and collapse of financial system articles, since they cover most of the ground.

The one area they don’t cover however is peak water. This doomer idea is completely new to me, so I was unable to engage my friend directly on this one. From what I can gather though, it’s based on a combination of global warming and population growth die-off.

1.That we are using way too much water because we are too many people (water becoming an finite resource)

2.This will lead to water wars (sigh), mass shortage of drinking water and damaged farming

3.Global warming (doh) will make things worse by draining lakes and rivers in places like Europe (by melting the glaciers supplying them with water) and add to the desertification of the world…

All in all it looks like the standard “thou shall suffer” doomer hype; I thought it might be interesting for you to look into, since it seems to be the only area missing on your debunking board :)

Anonymous said...

Hey mate (Anon nr 2 here) been a while since you last posted, are you working on a massive treat for us? ;)