• Dec 13th 2010 at 7:56PM
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2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for high-res image gallery

To gauge the 2011 Chevrolet Volt's energy consumption under real-world driving conditions, staffers at Consumer Reports took turns piloting the plug-in hybrid on their daily commutes. Throughout the test, drivers logged fuel usage and recorded the amount electricity required to recharge the vehicle's batteries.

Though it's virtually impossible to say that the Volt's operating costs will always be lower than other vehicles – due to factors that vary widely across the nation (i.e. electrical rates, fuel costs, etc.) – it's safe to say that when operating in electric mode, the Volt's energy consumption is lower than that of any other hybrid or diesel vehicle on the market right now. However, when the battery runs dry (after 25 to 50 miles) and the Volt's gasoline engine kicks in, Consumer Reports found that many competing vehicles are far more fuel efficient.

With batteries fully charged, the CR team found that the Volt typically returned a "six-figure mpg display of 120 miles per gallon or so." But, as the staffers soon discovered:
Such a fantastic number is misleading since it ignores the cost of the 12 kWh of electricity we were "pumping" into the car every 33 miles or so. Here in the Northeast, or in California, that ends up being about $2.38 (With the national average of 11 cents per kWh, it would be $1.38.)
So, how does the Volt's 33 miles of travel for $2.38 compare to other autos? CR points out that the Volt whizzes down the road at a lower cost per mile than vehicles such as the Honda Insight, VW Jetta TDI and Honda Civic Hybrid. But, the Volt is more expensive to operate per mile of tarmac than the ever-popular Toyota Prius. Furthermore, the Volt's $41,000 ($33,500 after the $7,500 federal tax credit) price tag makes the Prius' base MSRP of $22,800 seem like a raging deal. We await a similar test with the plug-in Prius.

[Source: Consumer Reports]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      And all of that fails to mention at all that toyota has been selling prius for a decade now with an excellent rep for reliability and over 2M out the door.
      Where-as the volt is a 1st gen vehicle.
      And, while I don't wish to be rude, history also recommends that I point out it's a first gen car from GM.
      I would give GM at least 3 or so years to prove themselves a little with this thing before I'd sink my money into it I think.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So, how does the Volt's 33 miles of travel for $2.38 compare to other autos? CR points out that the Volt whizzes down the road at a lower cost per mile than vehicles such as the Honda Insight, VW Jetta TDI and Honda Civic Hybrid.

      Actually as CR points out it's more like $1.38/ which is the national average per kWh. I see this as a rave for the Volt. Besides as readers of a site called "Autoblog Green" you would think readers here would welcome any well-engineered EV/PHEV.

      Unless the need to grind axe is greater than goals.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Volt won't initially be sold nationwide and the problem is that a lot of the launch markets have rather pricey electricity.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Should say $1.38 average for 8kWh!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey not bad, they say the Volt averaged out to 48mpg over 200 miles with only one full charge at the start, while the Prius gets 47mpg on the same route. They end the article by mentioning two key points that really shouldn't be forgotten in this little survey, 1: they're electricity price is way above the average, and 2: does anybody expect gas to stay this cheap forever?

      "It goes without saying that if gasoline prices go up significantly, or if you live in a region where electricity is cheap, then any cost-based energy-use calculation will tip the scales more in the Volt’s favor—but there is no getting around the high purchase price and modest fuel economy if straying beyond the EV range."
        • 4 Years Ago
        The problem is that if you look at the launch markets that the Volt will be available in you'll see that the average price of electricity in those areas is relatively high compared to other places. With the huge variance in electricity costs the Volt is going to be slightly better than the Prius in some regions, while being worse in others.
        Of course the problem is that it comes with a huge cost premium compared to the Prius, so no matter how you slice it there's virtually no scenario in which it'd make purely financial sense unless gas went to like $30 a gallon, lol.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So for an extra 15K to buy the compact four seater Volt, you can get one mpg better than a Prius.

        So, how many decades will it take for you to recoup that extra 15K to get 1mpg more?
        • 4 Years Ago
        47mpg represents a more realistic "worst case scenario". The likely hood of actually getting your average mpg down to 37mpg or below requires you to drive well over 200 miles without plugging in, and if you're doing that on a regular basis, you definitely bought the wrong car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yep. Doesn't make an iota of difference to me. Prius still has the unshakable smug liberal aura that I can't stand. Maybe in time, the Volt will too, but it's better-looking, sportier, and more fun-to-drive. And yes...I've actually driven one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, Zoomie, if you can't stand it, why are you here?
        (turns up Smug Liberal Aura to full brilliance) Begone!

        As for Abasile (turns off Liberal Aura) Welcome!
        Always glad to see a Conservative that actually Conserves! We may not agree on everything, but what we do agree on is enough.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It has nothing to do with libera smug aura....it has more to do with your own insecurities. If you can't buy a car the most fuel efficient car on the road because some idiots buy it also, that's wholly a problem that lies with you.

        I hope you can rectify that issue so you can enjoy one in the near future.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The South Park "Smug Alert!" episode was five years ago, you need to get a grip, grow out of your prejudices, and move on. The factual content of the Prius aura is "I bought a dull practical reliable mid-size hatchback that gets 50 mpg"; the other voices and sensations are in your head.
        • 4 Years Ago
        exactly noz. I can't understand why people can't stand a $25K car with 50MPG economy but cool to a 40K leather-ized entry (faux?) luxury with 25MPG.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm a conservative Republican and Bible-believing Christian, in a mountain town full of 4x4s and pickups. And I drive a Prius and light my home with LEDs. If anyone has a problem with that, let them examine themselves first.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I drive 18 miles to work each way in NY. This means that out of 33 miles I will not be using gasoline. But to be honest that's not why I would get a volt. If there was no Volt on the market, I still would not buy a prius because I don't like them; nothing to do with liberal, conservative, geek or anti-geek or anything else. I just don't like the way they look, but I like the way the volt looks. I'm just glad there are more options. To me the best green car was the ford fusion because it showed that green cars don't have to fit into a predetermined mold.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It doesn't add up. They drove the Volt for 202 miles and got 48 MPG with only one charge -- got 29 initial EV miles.

      202 miles / 48 MPG = 3.11 gallons consumed

      202 - 29 EV miles = 163 miles on gasoline

      163 miles / 3.11 gallons = 52.4 MPG in CS mode

      They said they average 30 MPG in CS mode so it doesn't add up.

      If you apply 30 MPG in the 163 miles under CS mode with the initial 29 EV miles, the total comes out to 37.2 MPG. Prius got 47 MPG.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No. It doesn't add up.

        CR has 3 ways they could be reporting the numbers:

        1. Using the info from the Volt's display (some manufacturer's are notoriously optimistic -- Ford, Toyota, ) others are pretty accurate (Honda, BMW), I don't know about GM

        2. Checking the info at the pump

        3. Splicing in a fuel meter -- this is what CR does on their full tests.

        /I would guess CR didn't splice anything in on the loaner Volt (their full tests are on cars they've purchased), so the discrepancies probably come from a mix of utilizing both 1 and 2 --- would like to see CR explain
      • 4 Years Ago
      As someone who drives a 2010 Insight, I can tell you CR is cracked when it comes to the Insight's handling. This thing is a hybrid-sport's car, with excellent brakes.

      As for the Volt, my daily commute is only 20 miles. I could easily drive a Volt and almost never fill up.

      You can pick multiple reasons to buy a Volt.
      - Kick oSama in the azz.
      - Kick Exxon in the azz, as they CONTINUE to outsource jobs to India and China. Why should Any American think they own Exxon one ounce of Loyalty.
      - And how about BP? Did they really make whole the fishermen they put out of business? Not even close.
      - Who paid more in taxes last year, you or Exxon? Guess what? You Did.
      Exxon paid ZERO.

      The Volt is Your Chance to free yourself from the servitude of the Oligarchy.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Best case for Volt would be driving it only on electricity, right? Here is my calculation for that best case. Does the Volt ever make sense?

      Volt 40 mile cost = 12 KWH per day * .05 per KWH = $.60 per day (on cheapest electricity. It's .13 to .20/KWH where I live.)
      Prius 40 mile cost = 40 miles / 48 MPG * $3.50 per gallon = $ 2.92 per day (expensive gas)

      Volt advantage (best case) is 2.92 - .60 = $2.32 per day

      Volt price - Prius price
      $33599 - $22800 = $10,799 more for Volt (+ extra interest + lic. fees + insurance)

      Days to earn back that $10,799 is 10799 / 2.32 = 4655 days = 12.8 years ABSOLUTE BEST CASE if you drove 40 miles a day, every day.

      If gas is $3 per gallon, and electricity is .05/KWH, it is over 15 years to break even.
      If gas is $3 per gallon, and electricity if .13/KWH, it is 31.5 years to break even.

      Good luck with that.

      Can you do more than just feel? Can you think?
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you're concerned mostly about total cost of ownership (purchase price and fuel), any small budget car (e.g. Ford Fiesta) will be cheaper than the Volt.

        But those cars may be too small for some people's needs. If you want lots of room for your family, the Prius and Leaf still come out ahead of of the Volt.

        If your motivation is the environment, the Leaf produces lower emissions (even if you compare electricity from coal, verses well-to-wheel gasoline), unless you keep the Volt under 40 miles.

        But if you drive over 40 miles of highway driving, you should probably look at a diesel.

        There is not one category where the Volt comes out on top.
        • 4 Years Ago
        These calculations are such nonsense. Put a 2010 Prius up against a 2010 Ford Fiesta and I guarantee you the Fiesta will come out on top for "value". But that negates the purpose of the Prius.

        You also chose the least expensive model for the Prius. If you want to compare actual amenities to the Volt, the Prius gets as high as $35k!! The point of the Volt is to use no fuel at all for almost all of your driving needs but still gives you the range you need if want to go any where.

        Again the Prius with all the features of the Volt will run you over $35k

        Straight from Toyota's own website:

        Your Toyota Prius
        Date: December 14, 2010
        Zip Code: 94703
        Estimated Amount Financed
        Estimated Monthly Payment
        1.8 Liter 4-Cylinder, Prius V, Gas/Elec Hybrid (ECVT)
        Prius IV/V - Leather in Dark Gray
        Paint protection film [33] (3P) $395
        Rear bumper applique [33] (EF) $69
        Wheel locks (alloy) [33] (WL) $67
        Lower Rocker Molding [33] (BM) $209
        Door Edge Guard [33] (D5) $109
        Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat [33] (CF) $200
        Toyota Care featuring Complimentary Maintenance Plan & Roadside Assistance †

        Delivery, Processing & Handling Fee
        Request a Quote Customized Brochure Apply For Credit
        • 4 Years Ago
        You may have made a huge mistake, how about considering the Gas prices NOT constant in those 12 years ?? Maybe affects your math a bit.

        And how about considering that the gas price may not everywhere be as cheap as you lucky US citizens? Were I live (Germany), we pay the equivalent of 7.62 USD/Gallon. That is a factor of 2.17 higher than your gas cost calculation (3.5$/Gall).

        I guess (even making the same wrong assumption that this price is constant), your calculation produces now a break even time of 5.9 years. So what?

        Professionally we are designing/testing also a RangeExtender. For the time being, and the coming 5/10 years, it is by far the best option for commuters/all-round cars. If you only drive long distances, but a TDI, otherwise a Volt is probably the best solution.

        Once battery chemistries (or supercaps) become cheaper and mass available, then you can throw away the internal combustion engine (or let a little one as reserve).

        My 2 cents.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Khadgars @ 32,

        I didn't realize the Volt had:
        - radar cruise control
        - pre-collision system
        - lane keep assist
        - parking assist

        How much is the fully loaded Volt? That's over $45,000 isn't it?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Even when the Volt runs under full electricity, the Leaf has lower emissions. The Volt is rated at 36kWh/100miles, Leaf is 34kWh/100miles.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you expect the amazing feature of "You plug in in!" to pay for itself, go stand at the back of the line behind all the people who value it for dozens of other reasons.

        Cost does NOT equal value, otherwise we'd all be driving the 1992 Geo Metro XFi.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All of you who are touting the Prius
      must not be keeping up with the problems Toyota has had for well over a year now. I wouldn't drive something made by Toyota if they gave it away at this point. And Ibefore you say driver error on all those accidents, it would take a whole lot of stupid people to mistake gas and brake pedals. My biggest problem with Toyota is the deception and lies. Couyldn't GIVE me one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Please elaborate on what GM lied about. I'm interested. It's been a long time since 80+ people parished in a GM vehicle because they refused to issue a recall, choosing instead to hide it for a decade. Even as we speak, Toyota is issuing recalls for 2011 vans. Yep, they're working on that quality and safety, alright!
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's all good, skierpage, but I'm not a tree hugger and if I were I'd still choose to drive a car that stops when I want it to. I see you are one of the "oh, it was the floormat" guys. First of all, who "installs" floormats? You put them in, period. People have been doing it for a hundred years. Why has no other company had a problem with unintended acceleration due to "improperly installed" floormats? I'm laughing as I type that. Then there was the "people confused the gas and brake pedal" theory. Even bigger joke. To my knowledge, the two have not been interchanged as long as cars have been being built. Why would so many folks suddenly get confused about it, and why were they all driving Toyotas?

        And as for the American made part, would you like to talk about the recall for steering issues on the Chevrolet Cobalt that was due to a japanese made part from a company owned by, you guessed it, Toyota?

        I get that there are import lovers and domestic lovers, and nothing I say will change your mind just as nothing you say will change mine. I do think, however, that standing behind any company who has been as dishonest as Toyota has been is just silly. I want my money to stay here in the US and help develop American technology, not send it to a country who could care less how many American lives are lost due to their negligence.

        BTW, I think if you check, there was a recall on the Prius. Not sure of the years included or the problem, but I do think there was one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you think Toyota is full of "deception and lies"... then you must absolutely LOVE GM... right?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Many car models suffer from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_unintended_acceleration .

        Toyota's behavior over recalls was bad, but the Prius remains an exceptionally reliable car in Consumer Reports, TruDelta, and J.D. Powers surveys. And presumably after a recall, your car is MORE reliable than it was before. The two Prius recalls I find are for air leaks in the cooling system and inconsistent brake feel from the ABS; the Prius was not part of Toyota's recalls for the floor mats interfering with the accelerator and the faulty USA-made gas pedal. See http://www.lemonauto.com/complaints/toyota/toyota_prius.htm

        You're free to punish an automaker for its sins by not buying from it, but if you choose nearly any other car over this particular model, you'll be putting literally TONS of extra CO2 in the air over 120,000 miles of driving.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yeah, with this initial model and with today's gas prices, the Volt is not going to be cheaper than a Prius. At this point, the Volt is more for EVs fans, national security hawks, and tree-huggers than for people looking hard at the economics.

      But it is a great start.
        • 4 Years Ago
        exactly... "today's gas prices"... assuming petrol spirals back up to $4.50 a gallon, then the Volt will be more appealing... too bad one must pay a premium for an American hybrid! And if Subaru released a hybrid, all bets are off, since many of us are waiting for an AWD hybrid automobile.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just another consumer reports plug for asian automobile manufactures... reading consumer reports is like being a toyota fan and reading super chevy. i'll never forgot the whole saga about automatic high scores for toyota when quality was actually sucking for 3 years.... classic foot in the mouth.

      hey CR do you buy a suburban to commute 2 hours a day to work to save gas? NO, so you don't buy a volt to do what a cruise can already do. It's an urban car, designed for 30 minute commutes, see how your prius does against the volt when you use the volt the way it's designed.

      this is as lopsided as the test they did putting the under sized silverado against the brand new 5.7L tundra when it came out.... no they couldn't use big chevy, they had to use a little v8 engine with the econo gears and all season tires against the tundra setup perfect for the test

      CR is a scam.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You don't like the message, so you blame the messenger, eh!

        Sorry, but Consumers Union is the most unbiased product testing group there is. They do not accept any advertising in their Consumers Reports magazine or on their website, and they buy the products they test retail, like everybody else. That means they are not beholden to any manufacturer to "juice up" their ratings or downplay the competition.

        Their reliability ratings are taken from a survey of over 6 million car owners, they are the ones complaining about the reliability of some Detroit products and extolling the reliability of Toyota and Honda. If you've got a bias complaint, take it up with those 6 million car owners.

        CU isn't biased in favor of Japanese cars, they've panned several Japanese models for various reasons, the most notorious was the Suzuki Samurai that was dangerously prone to roll over in the emergency maneuvers test. Suzuki sued - and lost. They've also mentioned recalls on various models, including the Toyota recalls.

        The real scams are the groups that issue "awards" to just about anyone who pays them enough money, even if they have to make up a category to give the "award" in.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Whether CR is a scam or not is irrelevant.

        What's relevant is how well the Prius performs for a hybrid and how much utility is has overall.

        Do you think Toyota is standing still in development while GM develops the Volt?

        Honestly...is anyone really that impressed with car that's received so much hype and had so much money poured into it for so long?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I live in the state where the test track is and where the testing is done. Don't tell me manufacturers have no influence on CR, you should see the photo's we've accumulated over the years of that "unbiased" point.... pffff what a joke. They are about as "independent" and "unbiased" as Super Chevy is. Dig around you'll figure it out. When there is testing, people find out, people find out there is data, and then the data is translated, then the data is published... People who know cars and know testing know what CR does and there is a consortium of individuals who "come to a consensus".

        anyways, the point is simple:
        The volt is not a prius. The prius is a hybrid, not an extended range electric car. the prius is designed to use gasoline as it's primary fuel. There is nothing to compare the volt to, unless you are comparing it to a diesel locomotive, for which, the locomotive is far more efficient based on the mass it can move per gallon of diesel.

        Is the marketing bad... yes. The point is simple, GM could do a commercial like this:

        "GM is leading the way in electricity as your fuel, while Toyota builds hybrids that only run on gas. Make gas your second fuel, be ahead of your time, buy a Volt and plug in.

        We designed a vehicle ahead of it's time... for the second time.... that uses electricity as it's primary fuel. Waiting for something?

        and then this comes up:
        In breaking news from Toyota, Toyota brings back the RAV4 electric, and next year you can plug in your prius.

        GM.... leading the way."

        The Volt is designed to be an ELECTRIC car you can drive 60 miles or whatever you end up getting with the OPTION of driving further to get you back on a charge. The prius doesn't change the fuel, it doesn't change the mind set, it doesn't change a damn thing and you could do better than a prius with a diesel Jetta if you want petrol fuel as your fuel.

        Classic worry about it later syndrome... and then gas goes to $6 a gallon... now what. gas is a fragile source.... electricity is not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Inside Line came to the exact same conclusion, so basically anybody who's sat down and done the math has pointed out that the Volt makes no financial sense compared to the Prius, but somehow it must be a conspiracy by Consumer Reports? Ridiculous.
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