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The Chevy Volt–The Car For People With More Money Than Sense

June 4, 2012

By Paul Homewood




The electric Chevy Volt, has been voted (politically correct) Car of the Year, but how do the economics stack up?

The Volt is similar in specification, size, engine power etc, to the Vauxhall Astra. So how do the two compare in the UK?

Volt Astra
Cost £34995 £12995
Total Finance Cost Assuming 20% Finance Charge £41994 £15597
Maximum Power 86 PS 87 PS
Maximum Speed 99 mph 105 mph
Length 4498 mm 4419 mm
Luggage Space 1005 litres 1216 litres
Fuel Economy 235.4 mpg 51.4 mpg
Electricity Consumption 16.9 kwh/100 km n/a


Currently in the UK, petrol is about £6.00/gallon and electricity 11 pence per kwh. Plugging in these costs, we get the following running costs.


Cost of Petrol/Electricity pa Volt Astra Annual Saving
10000 miles pa 550 1170 620
20000 miles pa 1100 2340 1240
30000 miles pa 1650 3510 1860


(The Astra is based on a petrol engine. Diesel would be more economical and reduce the Volt savings by about a half, though the purchase cost would be about £5000 more than the petrol engined version.)

So where does this leave us? On a typical mileage of 20000 pa a driver could save £1240 pa, but would have paid more than £26000 extra to purchase the car. (As the second hand market for Volts has not really got going yet, it is too soon to work out depreciation costs). So, to break even, he would need to keep the car for 22 years and drive 440000 miles!

Perhaps I am being unfair, as I have not mentioned all the other advantages of the Volt. Things like the stunning range of 300 miles or the charging time of only 6 hours.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

  1. dave ward permalink
    June 4, 2012 6:26 pm

    That “Stunning” range requires use of the on-board petrol engined generator. According to the Wiki page the GM figures for purely electric mode range from 25-50 miles.

    In order to get the full 235 mile range it would use up the 35 litre contents of the fuel tank. This has to be filled with super grade unleaded, as well…

  2. TinyCO2 permalink
    June 4, 2012 9:53 pm

    Aren’t the batteries of electric cars supposed to be junk after about 8 years? You wouldn’t get 22 years out of it without a replacement which is a large chunk of the original car price.

    • June 4, 2012 10:19 pm

      Yep. The batteries are guaranteed up to 100,000 miles or 8 years, whichever comes first.

      • June 7, 2012 5:25 pm

        I have an 8 year old lap-top here. The lithium-ion battery can hold about 15% of its original charge. My wife just bought a new lap-top last year & while that battery currently holds a charge far better than the old machine, I doubt that the technology is amazingly better.

        I’m sure, though, that the Chevy Volt, made by the cutting edge technology firm known as General Motors, has far better batteries than a silly old lap-top computer.

      • DirkH permalink
        June 16, 2012 8:48 am

        Stark, the Battery Management in laptops is usually abysmal; only the old IBM Thinkpads and the professional line of Lenovo thinkpads employed a charge management that makes sure you only charge the battery up to 80% which increases lifespan dramatically. (you were able to go to 100% optionally, say when you knew you were going to travel).

        Most other laptops didn’t offer that and don’t offer it to this day. It is a bit complicated to actually determine the percentage charged so they leave out that bit of hardware and software.

        All the serious large batteries absolutely need to be managed that way otherwise you’d never achieve serious lifetime. Even Government Motors knows this.

  3. DirkH permalink
    June 16, 2012 8:51 am

    BTW, currently I’m getting tons of internet advertisement for electric cars and hybrids here in Germany. Might be just my user profile but it really started like a deluge a week ago. Obviously they’re not selling ANYTHING – no wonder, all of the EU is in a wait and see and don’t trust politicians mode so nobody goes for the green pipedream ATM – they must be desparate. BMW, Renault, Nissan, you name it…

  4. I am replete permalink
    June 24, 2012 9:57 pm

    Peugeot & Citroen are offering diesel hybrids (probably identical units), which
    might compare quite favourably with the Astra on a whole-life-costing calculation.
    Has anyone done such?

  5. Trevor permalink
    July 4, 2012 1:53 pm

    This is not a fair comparison – the Volt is nothing like an Astra, so the entire comparison is false. Yes it’s pricey, but it’s much more high-end like a BMW. Go on – you haven’t even driven one, yet you feel entitled to make up this stuff. I’ve driven one and was blown away.

    I wouldn’t buy one myself because of the price, but if you’re going to write this stuff you should at least know what you’re talking about. It will sell, but it will sell to people who were going to spend that money anyway but want to drive green. No-one pays £30k+ to save money on their petrol. A fairer comparison would be something like a Renault Zoe EV and a Renault Clio, both about £15k. The Zoe EV will save you petrol money but cost you battery rental, so there’s a discussion to be had about what mileage you need to do to break even.

    • July 4, 2012 4:00 pm

      LOL – do you sell them?

      The Astra is comparable in performance and dimensions. If you’ve got £35K to spare, I can’t see many preferring the Volt to, say, a Jaguar XF.

      But ,as you say, there are people out there who will buy it just because it is green. Question is whether manufacturing them is a viable concern at such a low level of sales?

    • iamreplete permalink
      July 4, 2012 8:38 pm

      “….but it will sell to people who were going to spend that money anyway but want to drive green.”
      Interesting, this. What exactly are the standards of “green”?
      Electric powered anythings are not necessarily green at all except in some cases, such as countries with massive nuclear (please don’t ask about decommissioning costs!), countries with massive hydropower, and even individuals with solar power units heavily subsidised by the state. In all other cases, the shade of green depends on the primary power source.
      The Volt is presumably recharged in between outings, recharged from the city power supply. Suppose the owner lives in Shanghai, then he would be recharging from city mains electrical supply which ultimately derives from the combustion of our old, reliable, safe friend, coal. Measured by Trevor’s standard, that Shanghai owned Volt gets its volts from the most non-green power in the world. And so it can go on, city by city, the “greenness” of the power varies as the ultimate power source in use.
      One thing is certain, it is that the thermal efficiency of our old and trusted friend, the internal combustion engine (especially the diesel) is the highest available. To be sure some exotics such as fuel cells show promise, and are to be encouraged. Power generation plants based on cogeneration, do approach diesels, but their complexity of construction and operation do not approach anywhere near to the simplicity manufacture and operation of the turn-the-key diesel. French car makers are offering a new generation of hybrid diesel cars, which may well show the way forward.
      The future is not full electric propulsion, it is hybrid.
      It is not heavily subsidised, it is private enterprise. Ask yourselves this, “Just how much government money did Henry Ford receive?”

      • February 18, 2013 1:17 am

        “One thing is certain, it is that the thermal efficiency of our old and trusted friend, the internal combustion engine (especially the diesel) is the highest available.”

        Especially Common Rail TDI.

        Reportedly, average diesel consumption is now down to 0,56 litres per mile (that is 10 kms) on Volkswagen Transporter BlueMotion 115 hp 2,0 litres CR TDI.

        I’m considering purchasing one of those myself.

  6. February 18, 2013 1:01 am

    “So, to break even, he would need to keep the car for 22 years and drive 440000 miles!”

    And including the cost of replacing batteries..?

    And compared to a diesel car..?

    What about differences (if any) in vehicle tax and insurance expenses?

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