Volt’s 5-year ownership cost is much cheaper than Prius?
Five Year Ownership Costs for a Chevy Volt
Like a lot of headlines, the one I chose for this article isn’t true. I borrowed it from a website I found in a link in another article called True Cost Of Owning A Chevy Volt Might Surprise You.
When I went to the same Edmunds Cost To Own website used by the original article and plugged in my zip code and quotes from my own insurance company, I found the following out-of-pocket expenses including purchase price after five years at 15,000 miles per year:
Volt = $57,974 – $7,500 = $50,474
Leaf = $50,501 – $7,500 = $43,001
Prius = $44,876
Cruze = $44,328*
Versa = $39,941*
*The Volt and Leaf are derived from the Cruze and Versa models respectively.
So, no, the Volt’s five year ownership cost is not much cheaper than a Prius, and neither is the Leaf’s. An inexpensive economy car is still the cheapest way to go if your overarching concern is cost. The adage “the most environmentally friendly car is the one you already own” is also still true. Buying a new car every five years may be good for car dealers, but not so much for the environment.
I was surprised to see that the Prius only costs $324 more per year for energy than a Volt and that the Leaf only costs $126 less for energy per year than the Volt ($450 less per year than a Prius). The Prius used about half as much fuel as the Cruze and Versa.
Some cities give a significant electricity rate discount to electric car owners if they charge them at off-peak hours. Using an Indianapolis zip code instead of a Seattle one for example would drop the five year fuel costs for a Leaf from $3,562 to $2,202. On the other hand, Indianapolis gets its electricity from coal, so an electric car there still has about the same carbon footprint as a Prius.
I realize that this is a relatively unimportant topic, but years ago an automobile research company published a study claiming that the Prius actually used more lifetime energy than a Hummer.
I wrote an article about that study in Grist but it was too late. The story was making headlines all over the place. I thought I’d jump on this one before it got loose.
In hindsight, the Hummer/Prius study proved to be wrong because of an assumption they made when trying to predict a future trend. Assumptions about the future are the most powerful tool we have to bias a study in a direction that suits us.
They assumed that Hummers would be driven for far more miles in their lifetime than a Prius. They might have been right had they been comparing a Hummer to a Pinto but I recently rode in a Prius taxi with over 400,000 miles on it.
My intent wasn’t to knock the Volt or Leaf. It was simply to correct misleading information before it hit the internet echo chamber. I’m fortunate to live in a time in modern history where I could buy an affordable, practical, electric car produced by a major automobile company. Hopefully, the cost of these cars will soon drop low enough to compete with other economy cars on cost. They are not there yet.