Slighly OT - Does the Volt Make Sense?

sniffdogJanuary 6, 2009

I am holding on to my 98 and 99 Honda Accords for as long as I can - hoping to buy a next generation fuel efficient car. I heard about all the hype of the Volt escpecially as I watched the boobs from the Big 3 ask for and get our tax dollars to bail their butts out. Saw the hype on the Volt and thought - hey - that looks like something that makes sense. Then I started doing the math - it doesn't add up.

I can buy a Honda Prius Touring right now for 25 grand (Toyota web site price). I assumed it would get 42 MPG for me since my 70 mile round trip commute is mostly highway driving. That is a daily cost of $5 assuming 3 bucks per gallon (gas can't stay at 1.50 forever).

The Volt hype says 40 grand for that car. First 40 miles consumes 8 kWh of power. My average loaded electric rate (includes all charges) in VA is 10 cents per kWh - so it would cost 80 cents per day to charge. Then the specs say the Volt will get 50 MPG on the charging motor - so that would cost $1.80 to cover the remaining miles - for a total of $2.60 per day. So at best, the volt saves me roughly $2.40 per day IF it delivers at spec.

Lets say I drive the car for 10 years (only for work) - the Volt saves me around $6200 in fuel. But it cost 15 grand more to buy! And the Volt battery costs 9 grand!!! What if I need a new one of those in those 10 years - it is a GM after all?

Am I missing something? How is the Volt going to save GM? Is this another scam or is my math hosed up.


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Your are right but....

Gas at $10 a gallon changes the equation.
The volt is a much faster car (and speed costs mpg) than the Prius.
GM will probably convince the Federal govt for a huge credit - they are talking $7500.

So add all that in to the equation. Also - you should factor in getting far better than 42 mpg from a Prius - unless you drive 80 mph. If you are all hwy - a Honda Civic Hybrid will get you 50 mpg and costs closer to $20k.

If you are just looking at $$ - you know the answer. Keep the Accords. If you are just looking for the environment ... really the same answer (unless perhaps you can charge with solar). Eventually - if the grid gets cleaner and the costs come down - the decision will be easier.

Right now a purchase of the Volt is a statement and a voting with $$$, not a practical decision. But actually, for now, you are looking at a essentially bankrupt company building a car that doesn't exist yet.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 1:28PM
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I will keep those Accords - my goal is 150,000 miles on each and then I will decide to either do major rebulding on them or buy a new Honda, Toyota, or Nissan. My 98 Accord 4 cyl gets 31 to 33 MPG, the 99 6 cyl gets around 25 hwy. All we do is change oil & tires when needed - they are low maintenance cars except for the darn timing belts which really tick me off - that is my only complaint about the Hondas.

I reran my spreadsheet - factored in the 50 MPG on the Hybrid Civic and 10 bucks per gallon (and assuming my electric cost stays constant - which it won't) then the costs are comparable. But then if I double my current electric rate to 20 cents per kWh, the Civic wins again!

My guess is that the Lion batteries will only last 5 years at best. So if you add in another 9 grand for a replacement battery over the car life (I keep cars until wheels fall off) then the business case for the Volt just doesn't close - even with a 7500 tax credit.

I really want to buy an American designed, fuel efficient, 21st century car. I used to be a proud GM owner (I loved my Olds Delta 88) but have not had one since the early 80's. But I will not buy a Big 3 product unless it makes good financial sense, is rock solid reliable, and has an execellent safety rating - which probably means never.

Looks like I need to write my senators and congressman again because I am sure they are clueless on this. The Volt is just a smoke screen. If that is the car that GM is basing its entire future on - it is doomed.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 2:41PM
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I agree. But how the heck can GM (and the press) tout this thing as the car that will save them? I just saw a show on GM and they are getting ready to roll out the new Camaro. Camaro? Are they kidding? Then they talked about the Volt - how they are betting the farm on the Volt to save them. How?

The only way they get there is if they can offer a comparable product at a comparable price. if I can get a hybrid Civic for 20K, why would I spend 40K on a Volt. If all I want is cost effective and safe transportation to and from work, the Volt would be a dumb purchase.

Thanks for the help. I need a beer.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 3:45PM
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Speaking in the abstract there are other considerations besides mpg. Under your analysis their would only be a few choices. There is more than an esoteric benefit to reducing our demand on foreign oil. Using your numbers the volt in your commute would use less than have the gas as the Prius -- Thus, if everyone had a Volt we would really reduce our dependence on foreign oil, And if we invested in renewable electricity production it could be more important to have electric cars.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 1:48AM
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For me it is all about mpg and the cost of the car. The Volt gas engine is spec'd to get 50 mpg. Why would I spend more for a car the gets essentially the same mpg as a Civic or Prius - when those cars cost 15 to 20K less?

All I want is a reasonably priced, fuel efficient method of of transporation. I would be willing to spend a little more than a comparable car with pure combustion engine - but not 15 to 20K more. I would like to buy the Volt - but not at a 40 grand price tag. And I will not be lured in by the tax credit. Not going to happen.

I have bills to pay. If I cannot afford the car, I will not buy it. My next car will be another Honda or Toyota.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 9:11AM
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It doesn't really make sense for you because your still using half gas for feul.

Another thing to consider, if electrical cars take off, I would expect electric providers to offer off-peak prices at night. They already do in some areas for water heaters with special meters. We pay 10 c/kwh in the summer, but in the winter it drops to 2.8 c/kwh (after 800 kwh). Up unitl last year, people with all electric heat paid 1.5 c/kwh. There is alot of unused capacity siting ideal at night, so the electric cost could be cheaper. But it would still be best suited for someone with a commute less than 40 miles.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 11:47AM
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even if my commute were reduced to 35 miles per day - the higher cost of the Volt still doesn't allow me to break even unless the cost of fuel is 8 dollars per gallon or 11 dollars per gallon depending on what i choose to compare to (prius or civic). And this presumes that the cost of electricity stays constant AND that Honda or Toyota don't come out with a more efficient product (and you know they will).

Sure - if the electric companies offered nighttime rates that could change the equation but who is going to pay for all that infrastructure? When will that be done? Surely not by 2011 when the Volt comes out. And that happens if they start imposing CO2 taxes on electricity from coal fired plants - the rates will go up.

The Volt doesn't make sense at 35 miles or 70 miles. The business case does not work! I am all in favor of electric cars (I want one) but not when it costs 40 G's.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 5:24PM
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hi gary

do you sell the bumper stickers?


    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 7:31PM
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Hi Gary,
Never been asked that before :)

I had a custom one made for my car at the last county fair.
You could do the same -- please send a picture!


    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 10:19PM
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