Green Operations

Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius: a Lifecycle Cost Comparison

August 20, 2009

Although the Chevrolet Volt may get 230 miles per gallon and cost only 40 cents to charge up the car, Volt owners might not save enough on fuel costs to compensate for the higher sticker price, according to an article at

The Volt is designed to go 40 miles on battery power alone. But for the Volt to beat out the hybrid Toyota Prius on cost -- or even traditional gas-powered vehicles -- GM will have to price the car far less than it costs to build it. And gasoline prices will need to go higher and stay higher.

Demand for the Volt will likely increase if buyers experience concerns about where gas prices might go in the future and because of a growing number of consumers to drive a "green" vehicle.

Some other considerations:

  • Three out of four drivers drive 40 miles a day or less, so most drivers could get by on electricity only and wouldn't use the gasoline engine at all.
  • GM said it might cost consumers in Detroit paying off-peak rates only 40 cents to recharge the vehicle, which can charge on normal household outlets. But not many utilities offer off-peak residential rates. During the course of year, a typical Volt owner's electrical bill would increase by $321. The hybrid Prius' electric motor, however, is charged from the excess energy thrown off by the gasoline engine, as well as the energy generated from braking the vehicle.
  • Even if gas goes back to the record high of $4.11 and stays there, filling up a Prius would cost about $1,150 a year, giving the Volt an $830 a year cost savings. But a Prius costs $25,428, on average, while GM will probably have to spend $40,000 or more to build each Volt.

The Prius, however, has been a big success. U.S. sales reached a record 181,221 in 2007, before declining 12 percent last year as auto sales overall dipped. So the Volt could become a sales success, even if the strict dollar analysis does not work out for it. 


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