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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