April 09, 2011
Chevy Volt Cuts Gasoline Use Two Thirds?

Early Chevrolet Volt buyers are going a thousand miles between refills.

Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director for the Chevrolet Volt, said that early sampling has found that Volt drivers go an average of 1,000 miles before they have to refuel. The company is on track to sell 50,000 cars in 2011.

Since the car goes only about 35 miles and then about 340 more miles on gasoline this suggests the users are rarely letting the batteries go all the way down. Only about a third of those 1000 miles would be on gasoline power. So the Volt is cutting gasoline consumption by early adopters by two thirds. Mind you, that's a rough calculation since the drivers might be buying more gasoline with a few gallons still in the tank.

Since the Volt has a 9.3 gallon gas tank and drivers are probably refilling with over a gallon still left in the tank this suggests Volt drivers are probably going about 120 miles per gallon of gasoline.

Ideal early adopters for the Chevy Volt drive about 35 miles to work, can recharge at work, and then drive home into a garage with a power plug for overnight driving. People who fit that pattern are the ones who can save the most from a Volt.

So can the Volt become cheap enough to hit a price point for mass adoption? Its battery has been Experts think battery costs are going to dive. Of course, you are left wondering when.

"The question is: Can these guys make a battery that is five times cheaper? I think yes. I think we can do it," Eric Isaacs, the director of the Argonne National Laboratory, said in an interview. Argonne, outside Chicago, is the Department of Energy's lead lab for advanced battery research and development.

Even if we ignore battery costs in areas with high residential electricity prices (e.g. much of SoCal) the Volt only saves money when gasoline prices are high (like right now).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 09 02:18 PM  Energy Electric Cars

morpheus said at April 9, 2011 6:25 PM:

chevy volt to little to late

mean time
Rossi Cold Fusion Validated by Swedish Skeptic's Society

Yet another test of Andrea Rossi's Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat) has been performed on a 4.5 kW version near the University of Bologna. This time a new set of observers were present, one of which is the chairman of the Swedish Skeptics Society, who confirmed that Copper is being formed from Hydrogen and Nickel -- cold fusion!


looks like even people living in there small dark boxes of there own little minds are waking up
case in point Swedish Skeptic's Society cofirms cold fusion in Adrea Rossi`s ecat device

Fat Man said at April 9, 2011 8:55 PM:

"Experts think battery costs are going to dive."

Balderdash. There is reason to think this will happen. Li-Ion batteries are not new items in commerce. They have been manufactured by the millions for laptops, cameras, cell phones, etc. for years. There will be no sudden price changes for the cells. Automobiles use a lot more cells than computers, but that is not the source of the cost.

Not only that, but the tax credits and subsidies are doomed. The country in bankrupt and will stop, sooner or latter, most likely, sooner.

xxd said at April 9, 2011 11:12 PM:

Interesting comment "the volt only saves money if gasoline costs are high".

Randall: Do you expect gasoline prices to drop? If so, why?

john personna said at April 10, 2011 3:26 AM:

That's a really good result. I'd assume that most buyers are multi-car families, and choosing the car for the trip, but still that works. Use the volt for

Dan said at April 10, 2011 8:14 AM:

"the Volt only saves money when gasoline prices are high "

According to the web, the Volt gets 200wh/mile, which gives 132kWh used for the 660 miles (2/3 of the 1000). Even at ridiculous SoCal electricity rates (0.25/kWh), this is only $8.25 in electricity for over 600 miles. With the same ridiculous SoCal gas prices, you'd be lucky to buy 2 gallons of gas for that.

That said, I'm skeptical of the 200wh/mile number (my smaller Tesla averages around 230wh/mi) and you can buy years worth of gasoline for the premium the volt is currently fetching over similar-sized cars.

Anyone know why the Volt's only sold a few thousand units? production issues? lack of demand?

Brett Bellmore said at April 10, 2011 8:50 AM:

"and you can buy years worth of gasoline for the premium the volt is currently fetching over similar-sized cars."

And there you have the explanation: In order to save money with an electric car, gas has to be expensive enough to pay for the battery, not just the electricity...

My guess would be they're selling them at a huge loss, and need to keep the losses down, which involves keeping the sales down. But that's just a guess...

Randall Parker said at April 10, 2011 12:14 PM:


SoCal rates go higher than that. SoCal has many rate districts and in some of those districts someone living in a large house in the right areas face even higher rates than 31 cents/kwh. The important thing to consider is the rate tiers where you pay more for higher usage (e.g. from recharging an electric car). I've previously commented on southern California electric rates and some of the higher priced areas:

That tiered pricing is also an incentive for residential PV installs, especially on large houses in desert areas where the sun usually shines. Especially on a big house the solar PV electric power really competes against upper tier pricing of utility electric power, not lower tier pricing.

The peak electric power rate depends on where you live within California and varies quite a bit. As I understand this document from PG&E if you use 300% of baseline your marginal cost of electric power is probably about 34 cents/kwh. Big ouch.

I live in a SoCalEdison area. Their baseline rates vary by region, summer/winter, and whether your house is all electric. Their regions 13, 14, 15 are especially expensive even at base rates. I happen to live in one of SoCalEd's cheaper regions.

So incentives depend very heavily on where you live. If you live in San Bernardino County in a big house then you'd better install lots of solar panels and buy a diesel or HEV, not an EV or PHEV.


Yes, I hesitated to make that statement. But I was surprised the Volt's economic advantage per mile wasn't already real everywhere.

Gasoline price drops: In the next recession I expect gasoline prices to drop from, say, $5 per gallon to maybe $3.50.

What I'm actively trying to figure out now: how high will oil and gasoline prices have to go to throw us back into recession? Peak Oil Recession 1 was only partially caused by the oil price spike. The next recession (Peak Oil Recession 2) will be chiefly caused by an oil price rise with other commodity price rises contributing. Ditto for Peak Oil Recession 3 most likely. It gets rough from here on out.

Bruce said at April 10, 2011 12:54 PM:

"Utah now has its first filling station that dispenses liquefied natural gas."


And it only cost 3 million dollars.

The part that interests me is:

"The station, which also sells the more widely used compressed natural gas, represents that latest extension of a new LNG fuel corridor that extends from the Port of Los Angeles, through California and southern Nevada to Salt Lake City."

The Port of LA has been a leader in cleaning up trucking, which has meant an increase in CNG/LNG vhicles.

UPS recently announced a big purchase of LNG rigs for a route to Las Vegas.

Think of this way. You could probably create a big rig LNG route for the whole of the continental USA for 1 billion or so.

And then offer incentives to switch to LNG.

And it the US government had done that instead of squander 1 trillion dollars, the amount of oil consumed by trucks could have been significantly reduced by now, let alone in the next 5 years.

Engineer-Poet said at April 10, 2011 4:34 PM:

At $41,000, they're not going to lose money unless the car is gold-plated.

A 2/3 reduction in fuel consumption over the entire fleet would slash roughly 6 million bbl/d from gasoline demand (and make ethanol targets impossible to meet even with universal E15, no doubt scaring ADM).  That's approximately half of US petroleum imports.  Further, vehicles travel about half their lifetime mileage in their first 6 years.  This suggests that adoption of PHEV drivetrains across the entire new-vehicle fleet would drop our oil imports by about 25% in 6 years even if nothing else was done.  It's not the whole job and it's not the only thing that we can do, but it's a large part of a shotgun shell of silver pellets.

Randall Parker said at April 10, 2011 4:36 PM:


I hadn't thought of it before but LNG probably works best for long haul trucks because they can burn up the fuel before it warms up and evaporates.

UPS can arrange for their own refueling stops for higher traffic routes. So one can see LNG taking off on some high traffic routes for some big operators first.

Bruce said at April 10, 2011 5:07 PM:

"At $41,000, they're not going to lose money unless the car is gold-plated."

Aren't all GM cars money losers?

Bruce said at April 11, 2011 7:46 PM:

This is hilarious ...

"Oregon lawmakers are actually considering a road-usage charge of 1.43 cents -- not dollars -- per mile for drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles."


Don't panic EV owners. It won't stay at 1.43 centa mile, it will go up.

Nick G said at April 14, 2011 1:29 PM:


What about charging at night? Both PG&E and SCE have night time rates, which are much lower. I'd be curious about the procdure to get those rates - would a separate meter be needed in CA?

Bruce said at April 14, 2011 2:06 PM:

Nick, LA gives you a 2.5 cents/kWh discount if you rent a TOU meter for 8$ a month from them.


Nick G said at April 14, 2011 3:00 PM:

Thanks, Bruce.

It looks like the 2.5 cents/kWh discount more than pays for the $8/month for the meter, so the meter is free.

So, in LA an EV can be charged for about $.095/kWh.

Anybody know about PG&E, SCE, SDG&E or SMUD?

Randall Parker said at April 14, 2011 8:03 PM:


So to drive 10000 miles per year would cost you $143 [Edit: fixed this number] just in road usage costs. Wow. Plus, you'll pay more for the car and play for electricity.

LADWP rates: TOU only saves you during the warmer months. They've got a flat rate for the other months.

Last month I used more electricity and I got up into the SoCalEd 31 cents/kwh range for a small portion of my total usage. Ouch. I do not usually get that high. But I was averaging over 13 kwh per day (versus typically half that) and that was enough to put me into the high rate range. Bigger households must pay that rate all the time.

Solar panels make sense for big houses in SoCal because of the high marginal price for electricity in higher usage brackets.

Nick G said at April 14, 2011 10:13 PM:


That would be $143 per year in Oregon.

The LADWP EV rate in winter is only $.102/kWh. That's not bad.

What does SCE offer for TOU?

Nick G said at April 15, 2011 2:43 PM:

I found the TOU-EV-1 rates for SCE: http://asset.sce.com/Documents/Shared/Rate_Assistant_Assumptions.pdf

A separate meter for an EV is free, and the off-peak rate (the one you'd use) is $.11/kWh.

So, EV charging is only a little more expensive in CA.

Given that gasoline is substantially more expensive in CA, I'd say that Californians will save as much with an EV as the rest of the country.

Randall Parker said at April 16, 2011 11:50 AM:

Nick G,

Good find on the SCE rates. Thanks. Smart of them too.

Gasoline substantially more expensive in Cal: $4.25 per gallon at the Shell station near my home. Meanwhile the national average is $3.80 according to gasbuddy.com.


I expect high oil prices will drop US oil imports by a quarter possibly as soon as 6 years. What's going to be the price of oil in 2017? $300 per barrel seems like a real possibility.

I'm still left wondering how fast battery prices will drop. The Chevy Volt battery is going to get smaller and cheaper just by GM modifying their battery management algorithms to go over a wider range. That might cut costs a third. But we need another $5k pulled out of the cost of the Volt.

Nick G said at April 16, 2011 4:12 PM:


If gas in Cal is $.45/gallon more, in Cal driving a 30mpg Corolla would cost 1.5 cents per mile more.

I'd guess that the average off-peak rate in the rest of the US is $.055 (50% of the average rate) - so in Cal driving a 3kWh/mile EV would cost 1.8 cents per mile more.

So, an EV produces about the same savings in Cal.


GM says they plan to pull $10k in costs out of the Volt in the next 3-4 years. Given that the Volt is now GM's corporate symbol, I think we can assume they know that they really can do it.

And...it just makes sense. A Prius costs about $25k, and the only difference is the larger battery.

Nick G said at April 16, 2011 4:22 PM:

US oil imports actually fell by 3M bpd (25%) in just the last 3 years. I think the same thing might happen again in the next 4-5 years, which would be a 33% decline.

That would come roughly equally from production increases and consumption reductions.

anonyq said at April 17, 2011 3:35 AM:

"and you can buy years worth of gasoline for the premium the volt is currently fetching over similar-sized cars."

A BMW 3 serie is a similar sized car. You can drive a volt for years for its premium, but only if you use a few gallons a year

Engineer-Poet said at April 17, 2011 6:14 AM:
What's going to be the price of oil in 2017? $300 per barrel seems like a real possibility.
Not to me.  The US economy isn't efficient enough to be able to pay $300 (adjusted compared to other commodities, like wheat and steel) for a barrel of oil; the economy will collapse and slash demand first.  If the entire country drove Volts, it would be a different story.
James Bowery said at April 17, 2011 8:02 AM:

Morpheus, the only site that I've found worth reading about the Rossi E-CAT is this empirical analysis by Alan Fletcher. The rest the commentators are doing little more than posturing.

Nick G said at April 17, 2011 9:57 AM:

I'd agree with E-P for a different reason: a lot of demand will go away at prices well below $300: conservation, efficiency, substitution.

One example of many: water freight can reduce it's fuel consumption per mile by 50% by reducing speed by about 20%.

This is true for all countries - just because someone in China can afford to pay $300 doesn't mean that they'll want to when alternatives are cheaper.

Randall Parker said at April 17, 2011 10:26 AM:


I take your point. But suppose the supply of importable oil goes low enough due to declining exports and rising Asian demand. At the same time, imagine US oil production stays flat or rises. We might not be importing all that many barrels at $300 per barrel.

Can the US keep oil production flat for 6 years?

Will the rest of the world support $300 per barrel? I look at China making more cars than the US and think their demand will skyrocket. At the same time, Saudi exports will be much lower. Ditto Kuwait and some other Gulf producers past their peaks and with rising internal demand. Can Iraq compensate?

In 6 year I expect at least $150 per barrel as the floor. Look where we are now. The floor might even be $200 per barrel.

Nick G said at April 17, 2011 3:34 PM:

Can the US keep oil production flat for 6 years?

I think it's very likely to rise - the same thing that happened with shale gas is happening with shale oil (true shale oil, not Green River shale oil). Very likely it won't be quite as dramatic as shale gas, but it will be pretty big.

Will the rest of the world support $300 per barrel?

No, for the reasons I gave above. $7/gallon fuel has kept European per capita fuel consumption to 18% of US levels. Even there, most driving is recreational, and could go away easily.

I look at China making more cars than the US and think their demand will skyrocket.

Their CAFE is higher, and their average vehicle miles driven is much, much lower - heck, there's no room for much driving.

At the same time, Saudi exports will be much lower. Ditto Kuwait and some other Gulf producers past their peaks and with rising internal demand.

That's only if they're too stupid for words, and I don't think they are. They'll substitute NG and CSP for oil generation.

Can Iraq compensate?

Slowly - it does look like their plan is somewhat realistic.

In 6 year I expect at least $150 per barrel as the floor. Look where we are now. The floor might even be $200 per barrel.

I don't think we'll ever see inflation-adjusted oil prices stay above $150 for a whole year -it's just not worth it, compared to the alternatives (conservation, efficiency, substitution).

Engineer-Poet said at April 18, 2011 9:08 AM:

Saudi Arabia is substituting oil in electric generation because it's running out of natural gas.

Nick G said at April 18, 2011 10:55 AM:


As best I can tell, KSA has quite a lot of NG, but it hasn't been developed because they have capped domestic pricing at a very low level in order to subsidize domestic industry. This makes as much sense as growing wheat in the desert.

"In addition to facing domestic supply shortages, Saudi Arabia has also come under pressure internationally for its subsidized natural gas prices. Generally, the price for natural gas for industrial and petrochemical use is set by the ministry at $0.75 MMBtu, some of the lowest in the Gulf. This low price was set when most of Saudi Arabia’s gas production came from inexpensive associated gas, but is inconsistent with the much more expensive high-sulfur gas production coming from offshore fields expected to cost from $3.50 - $5.50 MMBtu. The low natural gas price is also a challenge to the foreign operators in the Kingdom looking to discover and exploit resources in the Empty Quarter. "


These subsidies are very expensive and counterproductive.

The UAE’s implicit fuel subsidies amount to 7-8 per cent of the country’s GDP, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) points out in its just released Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia.

“Energy subsidies are prevalent across all MENAP [Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan] oil exporters,” the IMF notes. “For example, in 2008, implicit fuel subsidies relative to GDP are estimated to have amounted to 15 per cent in Iraq, 12 per cent in Iran and Yemen, 7-8 percent in Kuwait and the UAE, 4-5 per cent in Libya and Qatar, and 3.5 per cent in Oman,” the regional outlook highlighted.


The divergence of pricing/scarcity for oil and NG is very, very recent. It probably didn't make any difference to the Saudis historically whether they burned oil vs gas. Historically NG was considered less useful than oil - harder to store, much harder to transport. It was relatively recently in a lot of places, in historical terms, that NG was flared rather than collected for sale (or just released to the atmosphere - flaring was an improvement). Some still is flared, of course. Nigeria is apparently quite well lit at night.

Here's an article on the expansion of NG production:

"Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Seek Gas to Supplant Use of Oil for Power "

"Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and neighbor Kuwait seek to add natural gas supply to avoid burning crude and refined products to generate power, officials from the two nations’ state oil companies said.
“We are picking up gas exploration,” Ahmad Al-Sa’adi, vice president of gas operations at Saudi Aramco, said today at a conference in Doha, Qatar. “Any liquid fuel we are burning comes at the expense of our exports.”"


Apparently, KSA is relying on foreign firms:

"Upstream Activities in the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali)

The Saudi domestic natural gas market, traditionally the sole domain of Saudi Aramco, is slowly being opened to private investment both in exploration and distribution, and increasing competition in the market. The backbone of the non-associated gas exploration strategy relies on foreign consortiums exploring for onshore gas and condensate (natural gas liquids) in the Rub al-Khali, which officials hope will produce some 2 Bcf/d by 2011, although success has been limited."


Other substitutes:

"Forecasts suggest that by 2050, up to half of the Middle East's required energy will come from renewable sources, of which solar is expected to make up a large percentage. The Middle East receives 3,000 -- 3,500 hours of sunshine per year, with more than 5.0 kW/m2 of solar energy per day. Solar energy has the potential to equip the Middle East with centuries of sustainable, clean electricity. A solar power plant the size of Lake Nasser has the capacity of supplying the electricity needs of the entire region."


Another discussion:

"As oil supplies decline, Saudi Arabia’s own electricity is becoming expensive. By one estimate, it’s as much as 25 cents a kilowatt-hour, at wholesale. Saudi Arabia gets all of its electricity from the oil field. Flared gas provides 45%, heavy fuel oil provides 13%, diesel; 22% and crude provides the remaining 20%. So as oil prices rise, its domestic desalination and electricity costs rise too.

But the kingdom has solar insolation that is the envy of the world. So the Governor of the state power company ECRA (Saudi Electricity and Cogeneration Regulatory Authority) is hoping to get state approval for incentives to help solar begin to power some of the kingdom’s 50,000 megawatt electricity needs, according to ArabNews."


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