Just how efficient is the Chevy Volt?

The Volt combines many of the benefits of an electric vehicle with the ease of owning of a normal car. When an electric car runs out of electricity it has to be recharged. This can typically be done from a standard electric outlet in your home, but that can take hours. Special charging stations can dramatically reduce the time required, but there are currently very few available.

The Volt solves this by using a small gasoline-powered power generator to recharge the batteries as they drained, and when that ran out you could just refill at a gas station and continue your journey. But this irregular switching between electric and gasoline power can make it very difficult to pinpoint an exact miles per gallon figure for the Volt.

To help figure it out, Chevrolet is tracking the experiences of current Volt owners.

Kory Levoy is one of the owners that Chevrolet picked to tell the Volt?s story. ?I was tired of spending roughly $200 plus a month on gas,? Levoy said. ?The ability to not even consider finding a gas station or worry about fuel pricing is a phenomenal experience.?

According to Chevrolet, Levoy has owned his Volt for six months, has driven 7,500 miles and has only had to fill it up three times. For those of you doing the math at home, that is just north of 200 miles to the gallon; way beyond Prius territory.

Levoy can achieve this because his work commute is within the range of the Volt?s fully charged batteries. Chevrolet said Levoy can go up to 40 miles without using the gas engine.

Of course the all-electric Nissan Leaf can do the same 7,500 miles as Levoy?s Volt and use no gasoline at all. But without a range-extending gasoline motor, a Leaf driver is either limited to going places that provide charging stations or has to budget time for recharging the batteries.

Chevrolet also looked at another Volt owner who drives beyond the range of the car?s batteries daily. Carey Bailey drives 75 miles round-trip to work each day. According to Chevrolet, Bailey was able to cut his gas bill from $500 a month to $100 a month by switching to a Volt.

The glowing reviews aren?t just limited to cherry-picked Chevrolet customers. Sites like Edmunds.com allow users to review their own experiences. Edmund?s Volt page is full of happy owners who say they really appreciate the extra mileage of their cars, especially when driving shorter distances.

The Volt offers efficiency-minded drivers a middle ground between a traditional gasoline hybrid and a full electric car. When driving shorter distances, the Nissan Leaf does provide a more efficient package, but it comes with a host of range anxiety related issues. On long trips, a traditional hybrid can be more efficient, but it can?t do a gasoline-free 35-mile trip.

For those who want the efficiency of an electric vehicle on their daily commute plus the freedom to drive beyond a limited range, the Volt is currently the best option.

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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