Would you rather own 2 Toyota Priuses or 1 Chevy Volt?

June 20, 2008

Would you rather own 2 Toyota Priuses or 1 Chevy Volt? Despite GM’s moving price point for the Chevy Volt, it’s becoming clear that it will retail for $40,000 or more. That’s nearly the same price as buying TWO Toyota Priuses. So which scenario makes more sense economically: one Chevy Volt, or two Toyota Priuses? The numbers tell an intriguing story.

First, it’s important to note that some hypothetical points are necessary to create a level playing field. In the calculations below it’s assumed that both vehicles could be purchased with a 0% 5-year loan, and that a previous vehicle was in use providing an average of 24 miles per gallon. After that, the numbers dive into how long it would take for the gas savings to pay for the purchase price.

At first glance, buying a single Toyota Prius seems to pay for itself in less time than a Chevy Volt. But, that’s assuming the driver is traveling further than 40 miles per day and is realizing the 150 mpg estimate. The Chevy Volt has the potential to use no gas in a typical commuting situation and that would skew these numbers significantly. At that point the variable would become accessibility and changing prices for electrical energy.

Comparing the purchase of two Toyota Priuses with a single Chevy Volt, the savings trend slants sharply toward the Volt. It takes almost twice as long for the two Priuses to pay for themselves, but that scenario provides each adult with his or her own vehicle.

This example also assumes that GM will stick with its estimate of $40,000 for the Chevy Volt. Bob Lutz, vice chairman of GM seems to confirm that when he indicated “the first-generation Volt will retail for about $40,000 and generate no profit for GM. The company hopes to make money as it rolls out later versions of the vehicle and other plug-in models,” according to the Seattle Times.

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5 Responses to “Would you rather own 2 Toyota Priuses or 1 Chevy Volt?”

  1. jerry Cherry:

    Use the wrong assumptions and you get the wrong results. Matt Jansen is quoting 150 MPG for the Volt from who knows where. There has been NO bona fide estimate of the Volt’s MPG, IN THE GENERAL CASE. That requires data concerning the trips distances made by the car between recharge points. Such data only exists for U.S. commuting. THAT data (commuting accounts for well over half gas consumption)shows that in the all-important commuting mileages, the Volt will average at least 300 MPG over all commuters, with 80% using no gasoline whatsoever. That also shows that each Volt commuter average using only about 1/12th the gasoline used by a Prius.
    In this scenario, one Volt equals 12 Prius cars in the ability to avoid gasoline. Jansen simply isn’t competent to discuss such matters, as should be obvious.

  2. Thomas C Gray:

    The Volt’s mileage is nowehere near 150 MPG : it is far, far greater than that. Using DOT commuter trip data, it is simply math to show that a fleet of commuting Volts would achieve close to 300 MPG while commuting, even if none could recharge at work. Allow for just 15% to recharge, and the VOLT mileage average jumps to 668 MPG. If 40% can recharge, the figure approaches 1000 MPG. And since commuting accounts for over half of gasoline consumption, and there are many non-commuters (retirees, housewives) who can reasonably be expected to do better than the commuters, plus the fact that even while running on gasoline the Volt achieves 50 MPG, and it shoulsd be clear even to Mr Jansen that a figure of 150 MPG is totally impossible for the Volt. I haven’t a clue where he got that number he is using for his comparisons. The comparison data he provides is obviously totally wrong. I suggest that Mr Jansen sit down and ponder the question of MPG estimates for a plug-in. Before he embarks on any further
    such nonsensical estimates.

  3. Matt Jansen:

    This article is based on a number of assumptions that are clearly acknowledged at the outset. By adjusting those numbers it’s certainly possible to manipulate the outcome.

    There are a variety of places on the web that have offered up estimates of 150 mpg for the Chevy Volt. The mileage estimate varies depending on how far the vehicle travels on any given trip. Here are few examples: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2007-01-07-volt_x.htm, http://www.egmcartech.com/2007/01/08/gm-unveiles-chevrolet-volt-concept-150-mpg-electric-car/, http://www.chevy-volt.net/chevrolet-volt-specs.htm, http://onlocation.consumerreports.org/AutoShowDetroit/2-Model.asp?ID=348

    On GM’s web site, Bob Lutz says “if you lived within 30 miles from work (60 miles round trip) and charged your vehicle every night when you came home or during the day at work, you would get 150 miles per gallon,” http://www.gm.com/explore/technology/news/2007/fuel_cells/volt_010707.jsp.

  4. Jeff Sutter:

    To do a more apples to apples comparison there’s a PHEV upgrade for the Prius using A123 Lithium batteries that sells for $10k. The dealer installed 5kwh battery pack increases mileage for the first 40 miles to 100mpg.

    To spend the same you’d buy two packs, if they can be rigged together, that would take up more of the “trunk” area and increase the first 80 miles to 100mpg – conceivably, if the the electric-only option on the Prius is enabled and used, with two packs, the A123 Prius could come close to the Volt’s all electric range.


  5. mlaiuppa:

    Well, since the Prius exists and the Volt does not….I’ll choose the Prius.

    And I’ll drive it until a true EV is available and then buy one of those. A model will probably be available the same year GM finally gets the Volt into production.

    (Too bad GM crushed all those EV1s. I would have BOUGHT one, but they were only available to lease.)

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